Updated: May 21, 2015
Turtle Bay Resort Review - Best Northshore Oahu ResortComments, pictures, and video from our 2010 visit to Turtle Bay...
If you are planning a trip to Oahu, you don't have a ton of options on where to stay. You can count the resorts outside of Honolulu on one hand, meaning you either stay in the crowded, loud, big-city scene of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach (where there are TONS of hotel), or you head for a spot like Turtle Bay Resort on the much quieter North Shore of Oahu. Turtle Bay caters to those looking for a more secluded, peaceful Hawaiian vacation -- calm bays to play in, set right on the ocean, golf, tennis, horseback riding, pools, you get the picture. The Turtle Bay Resort consists of:
- the main resort hotel with almost 400 rooms and suites
- 42 beach cottage units just to the west of the hotel
- and a small group of villas just to the east of the hotel
Turtle Bay Resort Location and Map/ Getting There..Turtle Bay is located on the legendary North Shore of Oahu, known for it's great surfing in the winter and very mellow waters in the summer. The map below shows the location on Oahu. Honolulu, Waikiki, and the airport are all located towards the bottom right corner of the island (southeast) -- that's where most people visiting Oahu stay. Turtle Bay is on the far north side where the blue markers are, about as far from Honolulu as you can get.
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You can zoom in on the map for more details. From the Honolulu Airport (HON), it takes about 1 hour to get to Turtle Bay. You take the H1 heading west, then get on the H2 heading towards the North Shore - this eventually dumps into 99 and 80 -- just keep following the signs to Haleiwa which is the first main city you come to on the North Shore. From Haleiwa, you follow the Kamehameha Hwy (or Hwy 83) heading northeast - after a few miles you'll pass the beautiful Waimea Bay and then pass through Sunset Beach (you'll pass a Foodland Market, one of the few retail locations for many miles along here..). Another 6 miles or so (mostly at 35-45MPH, which is why it takes a while) and Turtle Bay will come up on your left. Watch out for some bumps in the road and look for the golf course on your left -- both warn you that your turn is coming up. There is a guard house as you enter the property - once checked in you will get a parking pass for your car that lets you come and go as you please. Past the guard house, the second right leads to the parking lot and the entrance to the reserved villa parking lot (if you are staying at a villa), or continue straight ahead to registration for the hotel.
Turtle Bay Resort Hotel - Rooms, Amenities, Pools, BeachesThe map below shows the general layout of the property. The ocean is the cream-colored area at the top of the image, while the arrow in the middle points to the center of the hotel. You can see Turtle Bay to the left and what they call "Bay View Beach" to the right. You can also see the layout of the cottages and villas, described in more detail below.
A massive ground-floor, open-air lobby greets you when you drive up to the hotel, with a number of shops, spas, and restaurants. The entire resort property covers over 800 acres and offers 5 miles of beaches. Three 6-story towers make up the main hotel building at Turtle Bay, called the West, East, and South Towers. Since the hotel is built out on a pensinsula surrounded by water, all rooms offer ocean views, some better than others, and some with larger lanais (what is a lanai? a balcony..). The rooms at the Turtle Bay Resort Hotel range from about 500sf Oceanfront and Oceanview rooms with 1K or 2Q beds to 1 and 2BR suites (700-1200sf). The hotel is on the older side, and rooms may not quite live up to the luxury standards of some more recently built properties, though they are being upgraded bit by bit it appears (under new ownership as of Feb. 2010). They do come with a small refrigerator but no mini-bar (and there are coin-op washer dryers on the 3rd floor). A $20/day "resort fee" covers Wi-Fi internet access, self parking, local calls, etc. In terms of room rates, as an example we found the first week in Dec. going for $260 for oceanview, $280 for oceanfront, and $300 for oceanfront deluxe.
For the latest rates and reservation info you can visit the Turtle Bay Resort website at TurtleBayResort.com. Guests at the hotel and cottages can use the main pool and keiki pool (complete with water slide) situated on the west side of the hotel (guests renting villas direct from owners are not allowed access to this pool but have their own separate villa pool) -- they check you in and out for towels to enforce this, which is kind of a hassle. There was ample beach chair availability here in August, and the Hang 10 bar next store was a convenient spot to grab a drink or snack. There is also a small sundries/gift store on the lower level of the hotel right next to the pool where you can buy more reasonably priced drinks and snacks.
You can also rent kayaks, rent mopeds, work out in the fitness center, walk 10 miles of nature trails, play golf and tennis, learn to surf or stand up paddle surf, ride horses, take helicopter tours, or take Segway tours. When it comes to golf, green fees are around $140 for resort guests on the Palmer Course ($90 for later afternoon times), and $85-100 for the Fazio Course ($60 twilight). For non-guests, rates are $110-$175 for Palmer, $75-$125 for Fazio (we even saw rates as low as $15 in August of 2010 for visitors to the Fazio course in the afternoon - that is unbelievable!).
Turtle Bay CottagesWe were a little shocked when we saw the front sides of the cottages - they looked a little like austere army barracks -- no ornamentation, no welcoming island design or decor. Inside and from the rear, the cottages are much warmer. The King units have a king bed and bathroom area, a small sitting area, and then an outdoor lanai (all units are one floor on the ground level, around 800sf). The Queen rooms substitute 2 queen beds in place of the king. With deep-soaking tubs, walnut floors, marble bathrooms, the cottages are well appointed on the interior (also include mini-bar and small refrigerators). The cottages all open onto a grassy area (see photos below, complete with hammocks hanging from palm trees) above a lava-strewn beach in front of a bay famous for its turtles. This beach on the left side of the hotel (west) is really not usable -- it is mostly covered in very jagged lava benches at the tidal level, leading into the ocean, with some sand behind the lava. We never saw anyone sitting on or along this beach or swimming in the ocean here. You'll want to head for the hotel pool or the calm cove to the right of the hotel. For those looking for even more seclusion than this secluded hotel offers, the beach cottage might be just the thing. In terms of price, a sample in December was $531/night. In terms of proximity to the rest of the resort, a 1 minute walk past the cottages will bring you to the horse corrals, the tennis courts are literally across the street, the golf courses are a 2 minute walk, the calm swimming cove on the east side of the hotel is a 3 minute walk, and the main hotel building with restaurants and shops is just 2 minutes away -- all very close.
Turtle Bay VillasBuilt recently (2005), the Turtle Bay Villas replaced another set of cabins that used to sit in this location. The Villas are a vast improvement. Mostly privately owned, the villas range from studio to 3-4 bedrooms, located in a handful of 3 story buildings overlooking a common, gated pool. This pool is only for the use of Villa owners and guests and a gate code is required to get into the parking lot (TIP: when entering the gated parking lot, you need to push the key button at lower right TWICE, then input your gate code), the pool area, and the beach area. There are also 2 BBQs near the pool area, available for use. The pool itself was warm enough for kids to jump right in and enjoy, and an attached hot tub is an added bonus. Twenty to thirty cabana-style lounge chairs (with retractable hoods) surround the pool, offering more than enough spots to sit (we never saw more than 1/3 in use at any given time). Right outside the gate is the calm cove that offers relaxing on the beach, minor snorkeling, and swimming (see photo above right). See our separate, very detailed review of the Turtle Bay Villa Rentals, with plenty more photos and helpful information. In terms of price, you can rent villas direct from the resort for around $1100/night for a 3BR, $675/night for a villa studio. If you rent from owners, you can expect to pay more like $400-$700 per night.
Turtle Bay Restaurants and Dining OptionsGood or bad, when staying at Turtle Bay, you will find yourself pretty well removed from stores, restaurants, etc. Decent dining options outside the resort are all 15 minutes or more away, meaning you are pretty much forced to eat most meals at the resort. And meals here are mostly priced like resort meals - $20-$40 buffets, $25-$45 entrees for dinner, $10-$15 burgers and sandwiches at lunch, etc. Lei Lei's is the little restaurant/bar at the golf center - lunch is served until 4:30, giving you an option for an early, less expensive dinner if a BLT fits the bill. Ola's sits right on the beach, with all the ambience you expect, and prices to go with it. We had one dinner there, with entree's from $20-$40 -- great views at sunset (hidden behind the hotel, but still a lovely view), but be ready to pay for it. The Palm Terrace is located off the left of the main lobby, and it offers buffet dining experience for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ($25 buffet breakfast or lunch, about $35 for dinner). As mentioned before, the little poolside bar and grill is called the Hang Ten, just what you want and expect (fish tacos $14, cheeseburger $15, shrimp salad $16, beer $6). Finally, Twenty-One offers fine dining, tucked away along an indoor path through a mini-tropical forest. With views of Turtle Bay and a rich wine list, entrees average about $30-$35, appetizers about $16. Other dining options involve heading about 20 minutes back westward into Haleiwa, where there are a number of dining options (Cholos, if you like Mexican food, was very good..).
Turtle Bay Resort ReviewsWe always like to compare our experience with what other users are saying online. We checked in with TripAdvisor and Expedia to see what their users were saying about Turtle Bay. At TripAdvisor, Turtle Bay Resort gets a 4 out of 5 rating, with more than 800 reviews. Visitors agreed that the hotel rooms were a bit dated (older style TVs, older bathroom fixtures, etc.), but loved the cottages with concierge service and the overall resort amenities.
On Expedia, nearly 500 guests had rated the Turtle Bay Resort 4.4 out of 5. On a good note, we were happy to see many management comments on Expedia, showing they read and respond to user comments, smart in this internet age -- kudos to Turtle Bay management and marketing. Suffice it to say, if you are looking to escape some of the craziness of big city Honolulu/Waikiki, and you want to stay at an Oahu resort, Turtle Bay is pretty much the place to go. Great for families or couples, it's a safe choice when planning your vacation. Yes, rooms are more than Waikiki rooms, but you are paying for a different kind of Hawaiian experience when you stay at Turtle Bay. Personally, I'm a bigger fan of Maui, but if I was returning to Oahu, I'd keep Turtle Bay on my list of top places to stay.
More photos below..
|Looking out from the windowed-walkways from the 5th floor, you can see the pool and part of Turtle Bay which lies to the west of the hotel..
|Here's a scene of the cottages from the grass area that sits between them and the rocky beach..
|A view over the first tee box... Turtle Bay offers 2 golf courses, the Palmer course and Fazio course..
|A view of the large, open lobby as you enter the hotel area...
|Another view of the main pool area, there is a decent size (not huge) adult pool, and a smaller kids pool with small waterslide..the Hang Ten bar/grill is literally right next to the pool and a great spot for a snack or drink..
|View from the "beach" in front of the water called Turtle Bay to the left/west of the hotel -- the beach here is quite rugged and rough, lots of lava benches and no real ocean access.. still pretty, just not real user-friendly. The cottages are just out of screen to the right..