Channeling Our Inner Celebrities at Turtle Bay

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Originally we were set to leave the Big Island and fly to Honolulu with go! Mokulele, a mistake I’ll be sure and never make again. We had purchased our inter-island flights for $79 (each way) two months prior, having heard that was the cheapest option. Six days prior to our departure, go! canceled our flight, citing…mechanical difficulties. What, does God run the airline? How else would one be able to predict mechanical difficulties that far in advance? And with such notice, why on Earth could they not fix the plane?

We called the airlines every day for the next four days, and they refused to help us. They had rebooked us on a flight later that Saturday night, which was not acceptable as we were originally set to arrive at 9am and had activities lined up that afternoon on Oahu. Go! could have easily put us on another airline and still get us there on time, if not earlier, as we checked the flight schedule and there were 30 or so flights traveling that same route on the same day, all of which had open seats. But they refused, no matter how many times we called and how many times we asked to speak to management. In the end, we finally got the airline—which is operated by Mesa Airlines, a company I will never again book with thanks to their terrible customer service and their overall rudeness toward us, oh and not to mention the fact that they are terribly unaccommodating—to refund our money and we bought tickets to Honolulu for $65 one way on Hawaiian Airlines the day of the flight.

That was a blessing in disguise. I would encourage anyone who is traveling among islands to fly Hawaiian. They’re incredibly efficient—our flights each way arrived early—the staff is super friendly, and they operate so many flights a day. That’s your public service announcement of the day, folks.

The good news is that we actually saved money during the whole kerfuffle, and we still arrived in Honolulu in enough time to pick up our rental car, drive the hour to the North Shore, check in and enjoy an afternoon at the resort. It was our first time on the island, and I went into our visit to Oahu with little knowledge of the place and absolutely no expectations. Of course, I’d heard a lot about the island’s famed North Shore, so before arriving at Turtle Bay Resort where we would spend the first two nights, I guess I just assumed it would be like most resort areas: hotel after hotel lining the coast, tourists filling every empty spot on the horizon. What I wasn’t prepared for was this:

No other property in sight; no people either, for that matter. It was truly what one would hope to expect from a luxury Hawaiian resort. When we checked in and saw so many families roaming the premises, I was a bit worried that I would be annoyed with so many kids running around and the screaming that that entails. (When I’m on vacation and trying to mentally check out, I have little tolerance for a lot of noise.) But that wasn’t the case at all. Turtle Bay is the kind of place that caters to all guests: young, old, families, couples. You see the long, rocky beach that fringes the water? We went on a walk out that way and didn’t run into a soul—curious, as there were definitely a couple hundred guests at the resort while we were there; it was at 100 percent occupancy.

And if you’re thinking, “hmm, that looks familiar, which is odd given that I’ve never actually been to Turtle Bay,” you’ve probably seen it before. It’s been the site for many movies, including Forgetting Sarah Marshall, nearly all of which was filmed on the resort’s grounds. I remember interviewing the cast back in 2008 and hearing them rave about what a great time they had at this Turtle Bay place in Oahu—how it was essentially one big island party for three blissful months—and I can’t believe three years later, I found myself eating lunch in the exact same spot where Jason Segel had a super awkward dinner alongside Kristen Bell and Russell Brand. (You know I love me some celebrity coincidences.)

The week before our trip, I was flipping through Us Weekly (yet another of my former employers) in the supermarket checkout line and saw photos of Courtney Cox shot at the resort’s pool that was just below our balcony. The whole cast of Cougar Town had been there filming. Hey, if it’s good enough for Monica Gellar, it’s good enough for me! Other films and TV shows that have shot here include Soul Surfer, Cougar Town, Lost, The Bachelor and Wedding Wars.

There’s not a lack of things to do on the grounds either, which is a good thing: Given that the North Shore traffic is so bad—at least at the time we were there, which was a weekend in April—we found ourselves staying put at Turtle Bay much of the day. On the first afternoon, we took a sunset horseback ride (more on that tomorrow), and the next day, we surfed. SVV, a born-and-bred San Franciscan, has been surfing half his life, and while my surfing experience is extremely limited, I have had a couple lessons from a surf champion in Barbados, so we decided to forgo a beginner group lesson at the famed Hans Hedemann Surf School and take boards out on our own instead.

That lasted all of 20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, the waves on the North Shore—particularly here on Kahuku Bay—are incomparable. But with surfing in Hawaii often comes a rock bottom. After I fell a couple times and subsequently scraped up the bottoms of my feet, we decided to call it quits for the day and lounge by the pool instead. I had quite a few races on the calendar for 2011, including a half marathon I ran just after we returned from our trip, and I just didn’t want to risk hurting myself any further (particularly as I’m somewhat of a klutz, you might have noticed). It’s definitely a great place to hop on a board for a first time, though, thanks to the ever-present waves. When I first took lessons in the Caribbean, the water was much flatter, making it difficult to ride, particularly for a beginner.

But if you don’t surf and laying by the pool isn’t your thing either (in which case I ask, what is wrong with you?!), there’s plenty more to do without leaving the grounds: There are two championship golf courses (how did I grow up in the South and never take up golf?! that was a big mistake), clear bottom kayak tours, an exercise room (which SVV utilized and I…did not), a spa, tennis courts and copious hiking trails. You can rent mopeds, scooters, segways and electric bikes—all without leaving the property. And while we didn’t go up in one, we did frequently see the Paradise Helicopters land at the pad nearby.

But my favorite part of the resort was just beyond the main building. The land came to a rocky point that you could walk out onto and that was perfect for photo opps. SVV and I scampered over the rocks with the tripod on our final night there to do a few long exposures (unsuccessfully, thanks to the wind). Once again, we practically had the whole area to ourselves, which felt like much of our time at Turtle Bay. It was as if we had a faithful minion who would run ahead of us and clear out all the other civilians wherever we went. It was awesome.

The only other people out there were a couple who had just gotten married and their photographer, maid of honor and best man. What an amazing spot to say your vows and take your wedding portraits.

We got our iconic Hawaiian resort, we got our sunset…what more could we ask for?

*****

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COMMENTS
  • May 8, 2011
    Amanda

    I was at Turtle Bay in April 2010! Your post brings back good memories. Love the North Shore & its solitude & beauty. Glad everything worked out with your flight eventually and you were able to get there.

    • May 9, 2011
      Kristin

      I love that so many other people have been there! If there weren’t so much traffic between the North Shore and Honolulu, I think I could live up there in Haleiwa.

  • May 8, 2011

    I’m glad it all worked out great in the end. Turtle Bay is beautiful! but I can’t get over your experience with Go! Nothing worse than a company with poor customer service. it’s like why are you in service business?

    • May 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Bad airlines are the worst! That’s why I have a blog, to rant about the airlines and give the deserving ones a bad online reputation, ha =)

  • May 8, 2011

    Now this is how I envision Hawaii. Love that you could be so alone there.

    • May 9, 2011
      Kristin

      I think you would like it there…you could just saddle up a horse and take off into the sunset and never have to see another soul! =)

  • May 9, 2011
    Laurel

    I have to say that I completely agree with Hawaiian Airlines being awesome. They’re very easy-going (to the point that when two people showed up for one seat next to me, they calmly found another seat on the full flight without anyone raising their voice) and the frequency of flights is great. And I felt like a celebrity when I boarded the plane via stairs on the tarmac in Kona (clearly it doesn’t take a lot for me to feel like a celebrity).

    • May 9, 2011
      Kristin

      I do love how festive Hawaiian Air is…like, you really feel you’re in the islands. While my American flight from LAX to Kona was seamless, I didn’t feel like I was going to Hawaii until I was actually IN the Kona airport.

  • May 9, 2011
    Ris

    How do you keep up with training with your travel schedule? I have a few races on the calendar this summer but am traveling a lot (not as much as you, I’m sure) and am having trouble fitting in my long runs, which I usually do on the weekends.

    • May 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Not very keenly! I tend to train every day when home, then not at all when on the road. It’s not ideal, but when I’m traveling for work, they keep my days jam-packed and don’t leave much time for working out. However, I do try to be as active as possible when I’m traveling and engage in any activity (hiking, swimming, surfing) that will give me a bit of a workout. Scott and I have started taking our swimsuits, caps and goggles with us on all trips, but it’s so hit or miss whether there will be a pool for swimming laps or not.

  • May 9, 2011

    Happy sigh. And Cougar Town was filming there?! Can’t wait for that episode! It’s brain junk food, but The Hills has also shot there and was shooting there a few days before we were there when Lauren Conrad was still on the show. Even just them filming there a few days prior made me giddy excited.

    • May 9, 2011
      Kristin

      I’ve never seen the show but there were photos of Courtney on the slide at Turtle Bay in Us Weekly! And, um, I totally LOVED The Hills…how do I not remember them going to Oahu??

  • May 9, 2011

    I believe it was in 2009 for one of the last of the shows with LC. It was when Audrina and Brody had their fling where they ended up spending the night together–which was in one of the little Turtle Bay cottages. I was like a crazy person shouting out during the episode, “I’ve been there! And there! And there!” I had to tell the girls I watched it with, “I’m just so excited you get to see where Brandon and I were on TV!” Fortunately, they were totally excited for me, too. Absolutely love being able to say all that to you without sounding crazy, knowing that you’ll actually understand it.

    Here’s more info on it: http://www.timryansreelhawaii.com/?p=1246 .

    • May 9, 2011

      Oops that was meant to be a reply to your previous comment. Fortunately, it landed right below your previous comment any way πŸ™‚ .

  • May 9, 2011

    Yeah, The Swede is not so much a lay-by-the-pool-and-read-books-all-day kind of guy, which makes me seriously question his commitment to vacations. (Heh. Just kidding!)

    Also, these photos make me very happy just looking at them.

  • May 10, 2011

    Glad to see you had a good experience. We were checking it out a couple of months ago when we were on Oahu, and we weren’t sure what it would be like to stay there.

  • May 10, 2011

    I am constantly amazed at companies who don’t understand how far a little customer service will get them.

  • May 10, 2011

    I love that resort! I did a site inspection several years ago. They had me tour the property via helicopter…the only problem was that there were high winds so they took the doors of the copter because it was “safer”. It turned out to be a lot of fun and gave me a great over view of that wonderful property!!

    • May 10, 2011
      Kristin

      I love that you did a site inspection via chopper! That is about the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.

  • May 13, 2011

    This is probably one of the most gorgeous hotels & surroundings I’ve seen in Hawai’i. The sweeping grandeur…awesome! Yes, if it’s good enough for Monica Gellar, then it’s good enough for me πŸ™‚

    • May 16, 2011
      Kristin

      I think your girls would love it =) You should take them when they’re a bit older!

  • May 15, 2011

    Such beautiful photos! I am just dying to go to Hawaii…partly due to my obsession with Lost. How nice that Turtle Bay was quiet and kid-free! I visited a resort in the Texas Hill Country recently (some family was staying out there, and it was only 30 minutes away so I spent the day out there with them) and it was kid mania. At least two kids per adults. Pools full of screaming kids. So that must have been so nice to not have that πŸ™‚

    • May 16, 2011
      Kristin

      I’ve always thought at big resorts like that there should be a family pool and one for adults only…then again, at Keystone, there were “adults-only” hot tubs and there were ALWAYS tons of kids in them, so maybe that wouldn’t work! There’s nothing worse than trying to relax, read a book, get a tan and have the shrill screams of someone else’s kids ruin that all!

  • June 29, 2011
    Mary

    I am planning a family trip to Hawaii for next April. Definitley going to stay at Turtle Bay based on your review.

    • June 29, 2011
      Kristin

      Oh yay, I’m so glad! April’s a great time to visit Oahu. Most Spring Breakers seem to be gone by then, and the island is relatively quiet.

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