Where to stay: Turtle Bay (period). It’s the “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” hotel on the N. Shore of Oahu. It’s where “The Bachelor” and his ladies stayed on “The Officer and The Gentlemen” series. It’s also where most of “Blue Crush” was filmed. And if you’re going to do Oahu, IMO, it’s the only place to stay.
Pools with waterfalls and scenic ocean views, beautiful swimming beaches, horse back riding, helicopter flights, golfing, and surfing lessons are all on the offer at the resort; and they are all the picture of Hawaii… “Las Olas” is the casual beach front restaurant and it’s one of my (and Jack Johnson’s) favorites. They also have a spa… ah… ah. If you get the lomi-lomi massage in the beach hut … it. is. heaven.
But, you should know, besides the view, the rooms are nothing special. In fact, they don’t even have fitted sheets! Which drives me crazy! I learned to pack one and ask the cleaning people not to remove it (did you know I’m neurotic?). Ask for a balcony room (same price, better sunset seating!). Or, you could be like Sarah Marshall and stay in a beach cottage ($$$ and oooh, la, la gorgeous).
I think it’s possible, especially as honeymooners (!), to never leave the hotel. BUT, that would mean you’d miss so many great things Oahu has to offer!
I recommend you rent a car and do any one (or two) of these things:
TURN RIGHT out of the hotel drive and …
1. Waimea Thrills: Jump off Waimea Rock into the sea! Then, cross the street towards the mountain side and swim in the Waimea Valley Waterfall! This was my favorite thing to do on the entire island. “Waimea Valley” was formerly the Autobon society, so the stroll to the waterfall offers lush and BEAUTIFUL tropical gardens. Get a BASH smootie at the snack shop.
2. Swim with GIANT sea turtles at Turtle Cove Beach. (or you can just go see them sunning on the beach).
3. Shark’s Cove – easily the best snorkeling spot on the island. You can rent snorkeling equip from T Bay, or they have snorkel shacks up there. Shark’s Cove is across from the grocery store, where you might want to stock up so you can bring snacks and drinks back to your hotel and/or for your day trip(s). If you take the road that goes up the mtn behind the grocery store, it leads to the ruins of an Old Hawaiian sacraficial / worhip site. Beautiful views and also kind of an interesting history lesson.
4. Haleiwa = the charming surfer town and home of Jack Johnson. Good food, cute boutiques (sundresses at The Guava Shop are TDF). It’s like the Big Sur of Hawaii.
5. Keep driving North … past Dillingham Air Field (where you can go sky diving), until the road ends. Along the way there will be pull offs where you can park and be the only people on the beach. Or, you can park at the end of the road and then hike to the light house (4 hours round trip). There’s NOTHING out here – so bring water and food.
OR, TURN LEFT from the hotel drive and .. head towards the people of Oahu!
The road between T Bay and the South Shore is beautiful. First lush rain forest, then green Jurassic Park Mountains, and finally rocky cliffs with ocean views. It’s like the PCH on steroids on the ocean side, and like a third world country on the mountain side (the houses are … evidence of the high cost of living / tropical living challenges?)…
Along the way you might want to stop and do a few things (I listed them in order of their appearance as you drive from T Bay):
1. Laie Rock (past the Morman Church): these are the cliffs they jump off in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It’s kind of extreme. Don’t do it unless there is a local there to tell you where/ when to jump and how to climb back up. Laie Rock out in the ocean is a photo op. It’s a little past the Polynesian Cultural Center (skip the PCC, it’s overpriced and not awesome).
2. Across from China Man’s hat (the island that looks like a China Man’s … ) You can go on a movie set ATV tour / horse back ride into the Mountains at Kualoa Ranch … it’s a little over priced and touristy for me. I’d drive a little further into Ka’a’awa. On the left hand side of the road (ocean side) there is a big American Flag and a little sign for the “Mac Nut Farm.” Here you can get free samples of coffee and mac nuts and see how coffee, mac nuts, and pineapple grow (strange, they grow in the ground! I always assumed trees!). My favorite thing to do with visitors: the Ali’i Tour at the Mac Nut Farm! It is fantastic. For $11.00 you get on a cute little bus; go back into the jungle; watch a fire dance and coconut cutting, drink coconut milk; go out on a little fishing boat to see a few ER, Lost, 50 First Dates, and Along Came Polly movie sets, and then go on a botanical bus ride where you’ll be dripping with fruit juice and flower leis as you eat star fruit right off the vine. It feels very “Hawaii.”
3. Kaneohe! Turn Right on Haiku Road and then Left into Haliwa Joe’s (after 4 pm) for drinks, great food, and a tranquil garden and mountain view. (Look across the street from Haliwa Joe’s parking lot … that’s our old house!). Koolau Golf Course is calling your name Marie! It’s like golfing in Jurassic Park (because the course is set into the base of big, green, waterfall’s down the side Jurassic Park Ko’olou Mountains). It’s a little marshy ( you may wish for golashes with spikes), but really, really pretty. Behind the course, in the far left corner of the course parking lot, there’s a trail that leads to a secret waterfall. It’s like a 20 min hike. And, it’s SO worth it. Ask in the clubhouse about where to turn, because it is NOT marked at all.
4. Lanikai Beach (in the town of Kailua)! Literally translates to heaven (lani) and sea (kai). It is consistently rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and it is where the celebs have houses and vacation (I’ve seen Pierce Brosnin, Evangeline Lilly, and Michelle Pheiffer on Lanikai beach a few times). Hike up Lanikai Ridge to take in the view from the top.
5. Drive WAY South down around the tip of the South Shore for some spectacular views that make the PCH seem almost wimpy.
The little cropping of red and blue roofs in the photo is Sea Life Park, where Adam Sandler worked in 50 First Dates! We had a season pass to SLP and it was never once crowded. They have fun dolphin and sea lion shows, and for some $$ you can snuba in their aquarium tank or be like my cousin Malgosia and swim with flipper and friends (in captivity).
- Across from Sea Life Park there’s a light house on the cliff. You’ll see a parking lot on the ocean side. It leads to an easy paved path up that offers spectacular vistas and ends at the light house (Makapuu). The walk is a breezy uphill trek with (January / February) views of whales breaching in the distance. If you do this walk, wear a bathing suit and take the dirt trail that starts at the whale look out telescope things. It leads down to beautiful tide pools that are perfect for soaking as you look out towards the big surf and the ocean.
Keep Driving around the tip of the South Shore Tip and you’ll get to Hanama Bay, the way crowded snorkeling spot. (Skip it). Soon you’ll be in Hawaii Kai where John Travolta has a house. If you’re thirsty / hungry Mitch suggests Hawaii Kai’s Kona Brewery. The Kahala is the SUPER expensive (20 dollars for a hotdog?!), and beautiful hotel where you can swim with the dolphins ($$$). It’s in the hood if you want to see some dolphins pop into the hotel (no charge for dolphin viewing!).
Keep driving round the bend of the South Shore and you’ll be cruising into Waikiki .. Waikiki gets all the publicity and it is beach-towel-to-beach-towel crowded. Mitch and I once stayed in The Hilton Paradise Village and also visited the Hale Koa – I’d liken both to gigantic office parks with really nice views. Tantalous and Roundtop drive outside Waikiki = awesome real estate and views of the big city and the ocean beyond.
Up (way up) the beach from Waikiki is the Ko’o’lina Resort… it has the best beach lagoons for kids (no waves), but it is’s all man made and has a more more generic (less authentic) feel.
BUT, at Ko’o’lina, my mom and I went on the Dolphin Excursion. Wow. It’s a day trip out on a boat and we got to snorkel over some amazing coral, swim with big sea turtles and a shark (!), and swim with wild dolphins …
And speaking of swimming with dolphins …
Let’s hop over to LANAI next!
(I am having so much fun spending my blogtime Honeymooning in Hawaii!)
Oahu? I could live there for like four years.
or … you could just stay in your room at Turtle Bay the whole time ..