More than 100 miles of powdery white sand greeting vivid-blue ocean make up Oahu’s idyllic coastline, part of which includes the North Shore’s “seven-mile miracle,” where surfing tales are the stuff of legend. The finale at the northernmost end of this miracle is Turtle Bay Resort. Surging with activity and aloha spirit (a vibe that’s evident upon stepping from the porte cochere and into the lobby), the island resort is in its honeymoon stage following a $40 million-plus makeover, under the direction of Replay Resorts. While surfers are in search of the perfect wave in Oahu’s North Shore, Turtle Bay has already discovered a “new wave” with this complete rebrand and renovation.
I had the chance to ride this new wave on a recent visit to the resort, where I soon realized the renewed property is an amped up version of its decades-old self I had once read about—all five miles of dreamy beachfront, 36 holes of Fazio- and Palmer-designed championship golf, and 12 miles of coastal and woodland trails (some of which are recognizable from films and TV shows like Pirates of the Caribbean and Lost). It is an 840-acre realm of resort and island discovery, where one is encouraged to experience not only Turtle Bay and its offerings, but Hawaii as a whole, submitting wholeheartedly to the isle culture, from the food to the traditions to the sports.
Here is a resort that effortlessly flows between past and present. Travelers are enticed to encounter beloved, authentic customs—like lessons from watermen (surfers) at the Hans Hedemann Surf School or joining in on a Hawaiian oli (chant) during a sunset ceremony—whilst they utilize hip, state-of-the-art amenities, including interactive screens at the lobby’s Guidepost Experience Center (expect an atmosphere not far off from Apple Stores’ genius bar, with a crew of expert local guides readily available to help plan daily itineraries). The rhythm of activity is constant and swells: At this destination, it’s not unusual to stroll outdoors and see a crowd of yogis in a synchronized warrior pose participating in the Wanderlust Yoga, Music, and Surf Festival, or wander into a packed house at Surfer, The Bar, where pro surf guide and Banzai Pipeline fixture Kala Alexander is sharing a “talk story” (informal chat)—all happening under the watchful eye of Tutu (grandma) Janet who’s strumming her ukulele in the lobby.
For four days I slip easily into glocal* mode at Turtle Bay Resort, feasting on farm-to-table bites to engaging in exhilarating escapades by land, sea, and air (horseback riding from the on-site stables to Kawela Bay, snorkeling the crystal waters steps from the property, and helicoptering to view aerial shots of Oahu [side note: Magnum P.I. fans can reserve “The Chopper”]), to, in a less thrilling moment, showing off my awkward moves in a traditional Polynesian-inspired dance at an evening luau. And when it’s time to relax, there is Nalu Kinetic Spa, whose name—Hawaiian for wave and ocean surf—is appropriate, and where indulging in indigenous-inspired rituals strengthen my immersion into the Hawaiian culture, including: the Undaria Body Wrap, which uses fresh white algae to firm my skin; the Lilikoi Citrus Polish, a lavish, syrupy-smelling cascade of Hawaiian cane sugar and organic honey that exfoliates my skin; and the signature Nalu (Wave) Therapy, which steadily sweeps me into deep relaxation with rocking motions reminiscent of the ocean. The latter treatment is truly innovative; dressed in yoga pants and a tank top, I’m reminded of a pendulum, as I rest on a uniquely designed rotating massage table that swings one way as my therapist stretches my legs and arms in the opposite direction, until the bed and body meet once again in the middle.
Nalu sits on a rocky outcrop, overlooking mesmerizing views of the surf breaks from various locations, from the window walls in treatment rooms to the full-service fitness center to the standalone treatment cabana. It’s a setting I take complete advantage of following each spa service: As I unwind in the outdoor relaxation area, I watch as each new wave crashes and creeps to shore.
Glocal: Global experience-seekers driven by the desire to “see the ways of a place through the eyes of the locals,” as defined by Turtle Bay Resort.
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