Turtle Bay Resort, the place to chill out on Oahu's North Shore


Turtle Bay Resort – Chillin’ Out on Oahu’s North Shore

This is one of a continuing series of posts from a visit to Hawaii’s four main islands that Alison and I took a few years ago. It has been updated for accuracy as of 2021. In the last post we visited Foster Gardens and the Byodo-In Temple before moving on the Oahu’s North Shore and Turtle Bay Resort. After the hustle and bustle of Honolulu we were looking forward to spending a few days relaxing, playing some golf and generally acting like tourists. There was no agenda other than the tee times – everything else was going to be spur of the moment.

We were scheduled to play the Fazio course later in the day, but first we needed to stock up on supplies  (a.k.a. beer, wine, gin and maybe some food to go along with it). Just as there is only one resort on the North Shore, there is only one grocery store, the Foodland at Pupukea which is a fifteen minute drive from Turtle Bay Resort. We didn’t know that when we left as our inquiries of the locals produced the response that it was “Just down the road”. (In the interests of journalistic integrity there is another Foodland to the east of Turtle Bay which is actually closer, but it is owned by Mormons and you know what that means – no booze!

In any event it didn’t really matter how far it was because we kept coming across and stopping at the fabled beaches of North Oahu. First up was Sunset Beach where big wave surfing was invented. It is an astonishingly beautiful beach with soft sand and a gentle curve that belies its underlying ferocity.

Sunset Beach near Turtle Bay Resort
Sunset Beach

The big wave season was pretty well over by mid-March, but the seas had not subsided to the point that swimming or snorkelling was a viable option, which does happen in the summer months. Despite the picture above showing a deserted beach, there were plenty of surfers either on the water or on the highest point of the beach looking seaward for the next break.

After Sunset Beach we came across Ehukai Beach Park where the infamous Banzai Pipeline breaks just offshore. The waves here did look ominous and there were decidedly fewer surfers willing to take the risks associated with big wave surfing. Finally, after almost an hour we got to the Foodland.

Grocery stores in small Hawaiian towns tend to be far more than just places to shop – they are the centre of communal activity and this Foodland was definitely that. There was a fascinating mixture of native Hawaiians, surfers of all ages (like bikers who seem to be getting visibly older as a demographic so to with surfers) and just plain tourists like us. The expression “Don’t worry, be happy” would be a very appropriate fit for the clientele of the Foodland. No one was in any kind of hurry and no one cared that they weren’t. I never thought being in a grocery store could be a relaxing experience until I went to Hawaii.

We stocked up on the potables, added a few selections of the store made poke, grabbed a handful of brochures on things to do in the area and headed to the checkout. While the prices at these small town Foodlands are high, we learned from our visit to the one in Princeville that if you give a phone number, any phone number, to the cashier that you get an automatic discount of up to 20%. So too with the Foodland at Pupukea.

Fazio Course, Turtle Bay Resort

Fazio Course, Turtle Bay Resort
6th Green with Turtle Bay Resort Hotel

After chowing down on the poke, which was excellent, we were ready for some golf. Turtle Bay Resort has two courses, the first designed by George Fazio was opened more than fifty years ago and has hosted LPGA events and the very first Senior Skins Game, so we were going to follow in the footsteps of Nicklaus, Palmer, Snead and Chi Chi Rodriguez. Unfortunately the only thing we had in common with them was that we were seniors. The Fazio course is one of the few we played in Hawaii where walking was a viable option. The course is quite flat and the distance from green to the next tee negligible, probably a reflection of the era in which it was built.

It always amazes me how a course can feature a signature hole on its website or scorecard that is so startlingly different from the rest of the course that you have to wonder “what’s up with that?”. Such is the case with the Fazio course which features a beautiful shot of a very green hole against a backdrop of the blue Pacific, waves breaking only yards away. This hole exists, but it is one of only two holes that go anywhere near the ocean. Most of the course winds in and around the condos at Turtle Bay Resort in what is a good, but certainly not great layout. However, when we did reach the oceanside holes all was forgiven as these are spectacular. The view of the hotel from the beach beside the 10th hole was almost as nice as the view of the Princeville Hotel from Hanalei Beach.

Turtle Bay Resort Hotel
Turtle Bay Hotel

The upside of the Fazio course is that it is not intimidating, friendly price wise by Hawaiian standards and not too busy. After the round we had a drink in the bar at Lei Lei’s the restaurant beside the pro shop and then walked back to the condo. Our plan was to return to the restaurant in a few hours as we noticed that prime rib was the special that night and after freshening up and donning our Hawaiian garb that is exactly what we did.

Now getting excited over prime rib in Hawaii might seem like a formula for disappointment, but that was not the case. Hawaii is a big beef producer that used to ship most of its cattle to the mainland for final processing, but in recent years restaurants have bought into the ‘buy local’ mantra and that has included the beef industry. We had reserved an outside table and by now the sun had gone down and the torches were lit, giving a very South Seas ambience to the place. The prime rib was served perfectly medium rare and tasted as good as we had hoped. Sated we returned for nightcaps on the condo patio and replayed in our conversation all the good shots we had made and forgot about the bad ones. Hawaii makes you do that.

UPDATE: Turtle Bay Resort closed for a complete renovation during Covid and is scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2021. That will provide the perfect excuse for a revisit.

Please join us in the next post as we go swimming with sharks. Really!