Unveiling Oahu's Magic: Our Unforgettable Adventure and a Call for Support
In August of 2023, my family and I decided to dive into the serenity of Oahu. And let me tell you, it was an absolute rollercoaster of emotions. While we soaked up the sheer joy of our trip, we also couldn't help but feel a gut-wrenching sadness as we witnessed Maui, our island's neighbor, being devoured by the worst fire of the past century. That shook us and further made us realize how crucial tourism is for all these Hawaiian islands to keep thriving.
The Fora Difference
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Where to stay
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
This palatial resort on Waikiki Beach was renovated in 2020 and offers something for literally everyone, with modern suites, diverse restaurants and family-friendly amenities like a kid’s splash pool.
Serene and elegant Waikiki accommodation with top-tier service, award-winning cuisine and unique amenities in a beautifully designed space.
$100 resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Turtle Bay Resort
A revamped North Shore favorite, with an emphasis on showcasing Hawaiian culture, cuisine and the beautiful coastal scenery.
$100 hotel / resort credit towards spa, golf, or stables.
$60 daily breakfast credit.
Upgrade, based on availability.
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Unveiling Oahu: Beyond Expectations in the Hawaiian Paradise
Now, I've got a confession: when it came to Hawaii, I've always had this soft spot for the other islands, including Maui. For whatever reason, Oahu didn't exactly have me jumping with excitement, but curiosity got the better of me this time. And well, am I glad it did! Oahu totally shattered my expectations in the best possible way.
Picture this: the hustle and bustle of city life with a turquoise ocean backdrop that meets up with the laid-back vibes of the North Shore. In Waikiki, you've got shopping galore, from fancy stores to local boutiques. And let's not even start on the food scene – gourmet dining mingling effortlessly with those chill, toes-in-the-sand kind of joints, all right by the beach. And those beaches! Oh my, they're like postcard material, especially as you venture towards the legendary North Shore, a surfer's paradise.
We split our stay: three nights soaking in the Waikiki vibes and five nights living the dream on the North Shore. And guess what? It was like hitting the sweet spot between adventure and relaxation. Seriously, the mix was just perfect. So yeah, Oahu, you've completely won me over, no questions asked. It's not just the sun and the waves; it's the whole package that makes this place something else. And right now, these islands could really use our support, more than ever.
Let’s Start with Waikiki
Like I said, I was never really intrigued by the prospect of vacationing in Waikiki. When I thought about Hawaii, it was more about the sprawling resorts, sipping cocktails and reading books seaside. Why would I want a bustling city when those stunning resorts await. I was wrong. Waikiki is its own unique Hawaii experience. It’s fun and different and offers a ton of action that you can’t find anywhere else in Hawaii.
Our First Home in Paradise- Waikiki Marriott Resort and Spa
The Waikiki Marriott Resort and Spa emerges as a fantastic option that seamlessly caters to families, couples, and groups seeking a top-notch experience without reaching for the high-end label. This mammoth of a hotel boasts not one, but two towers. One stands just a stone's throw from the beach, while the other is a short block further inland. For our family vacation, we booked the Kealohilani Tower, the one closest to the beach, securing two Premium Ocean View Rooms. You know how hotels often label their rooms as "premium" and "ocean view," but the reality doesn't always quite match the hype? Well, not the case here. These rooms treated us to breathtaking views in all directions.
During a guided site tour, I got the inside scoop on the array of room options across both towers, and I must say, I was thoroughly impressed. No matter the category, each room oozed contemporary flair, a relaxed beachy vibe, and balconies that either offered a step-out experience or a full-fledged balcony setup. And for those after more room to stretch out, the hotel has an array of suite categories that cater to such desires.
Speaking of what's under the same roof, you're spoilt for choice. There's a family pool and an adults-only pool, a well-equipped fitness center, a handful of restaurants ranging from casual to upscale dining, a number of boutique stores, a spot for wholesome smoothies, and yes, you guessed it, even a Starbucks. The hotel lobby oozes that typical open-air Hawaii charm, with an effortless check-in process, valet and self-parking options, plus an adult game room – soon to be joined by a kids' version, too.
What’s more we practically had our own slice of paradise at our doorstep. A mere three-minute saunter downstairs, and we were at Kuhio Beach Park – a sheltered cove that seems like an infinity pool right next to the crashing waves, courtesy of a sturdy sea wall. Armed with ocean tubes from the on-site ABC Convenience Store, we whiled away hours basking under the sun's warm embrace.
Venture into downtown Waikiki, and you'll quickly realize the magic of it all lies in the stroll. Walking along Kalakaua Ave is like soaking in the very essence of the place – from acai bowls to your morning java fix, from surf shops to high-end designer boutiques, every step you take reveals another facet of this vibrant tapestry. And don't miss out on these must-see spots and experiences:
Diamond Head State Monument
Hanauma Bay Snorkeling – a hotspot with stunning protected reefs
Pearl Harbor Memorial
Tantalus – for views over Waikiki that'll leave you awestruck
Royal Hawaiian Center – an outdoor hub for dining and entertainment
International Marketplace – a one-stop destination for mainstream shopping
Island Vintage Coffee – hands down the best, and you'll find them in several spots
Sweet E’s – a breakfast haven that hits all the right notes
Cheeseburger in Paradise – a classic burger joint in a paradise setting
House Without A Key – a splendid restaurant at the Halekulani hotel (which is equally stunning)
Veranda at the Moana Surfrider hotel – a timeless property with an unbeatable atmosphere for a meal
So, there you have it – now you're privy to all the reasons behind my unexpected affection for Waikiki.
Our Next Adventure - The Enchanting Revamped Turtle Bay Resort
Now, if any of you still have the notion that the Turtle Bay Resort up on the North Shore is an aging, lackluster property, then it's time to reconsider. This place underwent a total transformation, and let me tell you, the outcome is absolutely mind-blowing. So once again, we snagged two ocean-view premium rooms with a convenient connection and full balconies. These rooms aren't just roomy; they come with hardwood floors, beds that you practically melt into, plenty of storage, and spacious bathrooms. And get this – every single room boasts an ocean view, because this resort sits right on a peninsula with the ocean enveloping it from all sides.
During my guided tour, I got a peek into different room categories, suites, and even those swanky bungalows – standalone, luxurious havens for those travelers who crave privacy and a touch of extra pampering. Personally, I adored our room setup and would pick it up again in a heartbeat. My teens, husband and I found it (especially the full balconies) perfect for lounging, reading, and soaking in those jaw-dropping views. However, if you're rolling with younger kids, those bungalows could be just the ticket. They offer a spacious communal space with direct access to grassy play areas and a smaller private pool. But, parents, take note, this hotel does not yet have a kids club.
Now, let's talk about pools. The main hub of the resort boasts not one, not two, but three pools all lined up beside each other. There's an infinity pool for the grown-ups that overlooks a kiddie pool with a couple of pint-sized waterslides, which in turn overlooks the main pool with its shallow edges and super comfy in-water loungers. If I had to nitpick, the adult pool does sit right atop the kids' one, so it might not be the most tranquil corner. But honestly, that's digging for flaws. They've got cabanas around the pools that you can rent – they might pinch the wallet a bit, but they're totally worth it. We cherished having a dedicated retreat to escape the crowds and stretch out in our personal sanctuary. Trust me, it's a splurge that delivers.
Just a hop and a skip away, you've got a stunning beach with chair and towel service, plus the Roy's Beach House restaurant for easy takeaway eats. Though they offer beach umbrellas for rent, we found the provided loungers and umbrellas more than enough. On the flip side of the resort, surfers are in for a treat – you can paddle out right from the resort and catch those waves. And if you're not yet a pro, don't worry, they've got surfing lessons right there on-site.
But it's not all about the water activities here. This place takes it up a notch with two championship golf courses, horseback riding, a spa, a fitness center literally perched atop the ocean, reformer pilates classes, (a real treat to find in a hotel), evening entertainment, a bunch of restaurants to tickle your taste buds, a grab-and-go coffee shop that dishes out delicious eats all day. A mini grocery store, and light bites in the sprawling, open-air lobby. And if you're feeling a bit fancy, you can opt for the exclusive Club experience. In the Club, they've got breakfast, lunch, and some hearty hors d'oeuvres on tap all day, not to mention a limitless array of treats for the sweet-toothed. This resort is a definite winner, and it should definitely be at the top of the list for anyone headed not just to Oahu, but anywhere in Hawaii.
Venturing around the North Shore? Well, here are a few spots you shouldn't miss:
Dole Plantation - the pineapple haven
Haleiwa - your typical Hawaiian town with a laid-back vibe, offering restaurants, shopping, shave ice, and more
Kahuku Farms - the source of island-wide produce, including Turtle Bay's supplies
Polynesian Cultural Center - a unique educational experience delving into island culture, plus a luau
Alaia - Turtle Bay's flagship restaurant with a banana bread pudding dessert that's out of this world
Seven Brothers - a gourmet food truck chain serving up indulgent burgers, fries, shakes, and more
Climb Works - a ziplining adventure for all you adrenaline junkies
Shark's Cove Beach
Waimea Bay Beach Park - the calmest waters, perfect for snorkeling in its crescent-shaped bay
Turtle Beach (also known as Laniakea Beach) - not the best for swimming, but teeming with turtles
The North Shore of Oahu is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered, and I'm eagerly counting down the days till I can return. If you're itching for assistance in crafting the perfect getaway to this magical island, don't hesitate to reach out. I'd be thrilled to sprinkle a bit of that undefined magic undefined your undefined way.
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