by Diana Lambdin Meyer
As the 50th state of the United States, Hawaii is a delightful opportunity to introduce your children to a unique culture, language and lifestyle within the English speaking world.
For an idea of where Turtle Bay Resort is located, take a look at a map of Hawaii and the island of Oahu. Look for the farthest point north on the island, jutting right out there in the Pacific Ocean. That’s Turtle Bay Resort, all 880 acres of it, including five miles of gentle white sand beach that never becomes crowded. The setting couldn’t be more ideal for families wanting to enjoy the North Shore, while becoming immersed in Hawaiian culture.
The location of the resort along three bays rimmed by soft sand beaches and tranquil tide pools is the ultimate child’s playground. The Kuilima beach cove, a sandy inlet located adjacent to the resort, is perfect for swimming and snorkeling with the family.
For anyone who was a fan of the show “Lost,” it was shot in the areas and beach surrounding Turtle Bay. Another popular medium that you may or may not wish to watch with your children is the 2008 movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” The movie clearly shows the rooms, the lobby, the pools and beach area of Turtle Bay Resort. Right at the end of the movie, Jason Segel slides down the slide into the kiddie pool, a great scene to share with your children and a great place for your kids to play. You can check it out for yourself via the live webcam on the Turtle Bay Resort property. The camera is generally focused on the pool area.
No matter what your preference in accommodations, you’ll find what works best for your family here. There are 433 rooms on five floors in three towers and there’s just not a bad view from any of them. Each room has a balcony from which you can see the ocean.
Then if you like, there are 42 beachfront cottages with their own private patio looking out over the bay. And to really spoil your family, the suites and oceanfront villas are the top offered. They provide an on-site chef upon request.
The resort underwent a major renovation in 2006, but daily maintenance programs keep the grounds and rooms in pristine conditions. For those adults who must do business while in Hawaii, the business center did receive a major redo in 2010.
The North Shore has so much to teach children. Just a few miles from Turtle Bay is the Polynesian Cultural Center where you could easily spend a couple of days experiencing the seven villages that represent life in the Pacific islands. The Dole Pineapple Plantation tour is fun, as are helicopter rides over the island. In addition to the movies shot specifically at Turtle Bay, the nearby Kualoa Ranch and Activity Club showcases movie sets for Jurassic Park and other films open for tour.
In teaching your children about the Hawaiian culture, the two words that should become common in your family vocabulary are “aloha” and “mahalo.” The latter means thank you and the former is both a greeting and farewell and an overall expression of the good life in Hawaii.
Our Editor Loves
- Horseback riding on the beach
- Adult and children's pools
- Surfing lessons
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The choices in accommodations are one of the strong points of Turtle Bay Resort. No matter which accommodation you choose, cribs and bed rails are available at no charge. The entire property offers Wi-Fi.
Guestrooms and Suites
Most guests find the amenities that meet all of their needs in one of the three buildings of the hotel. With three wings of five floors each, families may choose from suites or adjoining rooms, and all have views of the ocean from private balconies. They feature king or two queen beds and a sitting area with a sleeper sofa. With the rare exception of a few handicapped rooms, all rooms here have bathtubs, showers and refrigerators. Coin-operated laundry facilities are on the third floor of each building. Rooms here provide easy access to most restaurants. The spa, gym, the little sundry store and a game room are also within walking distance.
For more intimate accommodations, beachfront cottages offer larger bathrooms, more living space and a private lanai. Some present hammocks that overlook the beach. However, if you have toddlers, you'll need to keep a close eye on them because the ocean is literally just a few steps away. If you've chosen to rent a car, parking is conveniently just outside the front door.
The ultimate at-home comforts are available in the oceanfront villas. Oversized kitchens, living rooms and multiple bed and bath combinations are available. Teenagers can get away with their own televisions and gaming systems. Each villa comes with its own washer/dryer combo and daily housekeeping services. For a special treat, you may also engage the services of a personal chef to provide a family dinner.
This hotel was perfect for some days of leisure. Lots of facilities and plenty of things to do. The sea and the beach furniture (you can rent a lounge bed) were just perfect.
The food at LeiLei’s was great and the staff was very friendly
First time staying here (and last). The whole trip felt like we were on a stationary cruise ship .. and not a premium one, but one that you can book a week all-inclusive cruise to Mexico for like $200 for the week. Lines of people, understaffed, overpriced frozen Sysco food. Get the drift. Except, that Turtle Bay runs $500-1k all-in by the time you account for the fees and hidden luxuries like using pool towels, beach chairs and umbrellas (which they charge for!).. or parking your car in a self-park lot.
The main complaint i have is service, product and overall maintenance of the property is inconsistent with the price. No one is outright mean, but it's just average all around. Small example but they don't maintain the pools well which is the key attraction. Guests on repeated occasions asked for the pools to be netted in the morning of a layer of a ton of dead insects and leaves. The filters were dumped of leaves on the fake grass and sat there all day. This is in the context of pool staff standing behind the towel shack and just hanging out. Walk around and help clean up the mess and maintain the pool area! It is just really odd, but there's clearly a management or process issue at this property.
The location is beautiful. But it really stops there. The lobby feels like bus station from the 70s, the hallways have room service trays in the hallway for long stretches of time and begin to smell, and you need to fight for lounge seating at the pool since the hotel doesn't have enough supply to meet the need. They count towels and require a room number and name to get a towel and then there's a fee of $35 per towel if you don't return them. So you're scrambling for a pool chair, protecting your towel at all cost, making sure to return it, and then can order direct-from-frozen-Sysco hamburgers on the pool menu. If that sounds like your flavor of relaxing vacation, you've found your place!
The $49 daily resort fee doesn't cover lounge chairs, umbrellas or literally anything on the hotel's private beach. The sand is free. Parking is $15 per day and valet is $20 per day. I've never heard of not having access to beach chairs at "luxury" resort. Most not only give you access, but they have enough for all the guests, they setup the towel for you and generally are there for guest service vs selling extras.
All of this is inconsistent with a resort which charges $500+ per room (all in) for a decent room.
We booked a vista floor ocean view room which was all-in with taxes and fees $650 per night. Piece of advice, don't book this upgrade since the free "breakfast" entails Costco muffins and pastries, cereal and fruit setup literally in the hallway by the elevator. People reaching over each other in their pajamas at 7am when it opens as if they have not eaten in a week. Then people sitting on chairs setup in the hallways overlooking the hotel's roof or on the floor eating off little paper plates with plastic cutlery. All quite depressing to be honest, but no judgment if that's your jam.
Housekeeping and general hygiene throughout was not good. I think they are understaffed.
Turtle Bay hosts weddings on the beach side and unbeknownst to you, you're also invited! The room windows and walls aren't insulated well since the property is old ... so you'll hear and feel the bass if there's an event. The band was rocking, but getting the toddler down required some serious white noise.
Last day there, a note was slid under the door that the water would be turned off intermittently throughout the day due to a repair to the main. What does that mean. No shower before the flight home. This maintenance is scheduled in peak July vacation season during the middle of the day. Seriously. What does this mean? The one toilet at the pool with one stall would have multiple people use it with no ability to flush. When mentioned to the pool staff, clearly they did not care.
It summed up the whole experience.
Turtle Bay was probably pretty incredible back in the 70's. Sadly, the deferred maintenance, penny pinching policies of new ownership, and decades of financial turmoil and multiple owners has once and for all caught up with the property. I'd stay there for $250-300 a night. At $650, it is a complete rip off.
PS - when guests check in, they are likely getting off long flights, so a simple, "welcome or aloha" would be very appreciated. Likewise on check out. "I hope you enjoyed the stay, can we help with anything else" is nice. The front desk staff is not friendly and there's a constant line to check in and out. Get used to lines. Hire more people and some basic hospitality training would go a long way!
With 12 miles of hiking trails around the 880 acres of Turtle Bay, guided nature hikes throughout the week and dozens of little tide pools and opportunities to watch sea turtles in their natural environment, your family vacation here will be an educational experience. Eco-friendly kayak tours with plexiglass bottoms are another way for children to learn about the marine environment, although this is limited to children older than 5 years old. Golf, tennis, basketball courts are also located throughout the property.
Kids will love talking to the parrots each morning and feeding the fish and turtles in various ponds around the property. Lei making classes for $5 are among the many craft programs that parents and kids can participate in together.
The children's program is called the Keiki Turtle Club and it is an additional cost. The drawback is that the program (mostly for ages 7-14) is offered only on Saturdays and sometimes on Thursdays in the high season. There is no break for multiple children in a family.
Pools and Beach
The children's pool is one of the more beautifully-landscaped kiddie pools you'll ever enjoy. Although just a foot and a half deep, it meanders amidst tropical plants and includes a fun splash slide just right for toddlers. Of course, children of all ages are welcomed in the larger pool.
A variety of toys are available from beach vendors, but if your children are 14 years and older, they can rent little motor scooters to explore the property. Of course, surfing and scuba diving lessons are a highlight of any North Shore vacation. Horseback riding on the beach and guided pony rides for children under seven, also appeal to many families. If you've enjoyed chuck wagon cook-outs, offered at various western resorts, try one Hawaiian style. Hawaiian cowboys are called paniolas and they too, provide a delightful dinner outing for the family.
There's no such thing as a private beache in Hawaii, so be aware that the five-mile beach at Turtle Bay is open to the public. It rarely gets crowded, but you will be sharing space with sunbathers who are not registered guests at the hotel.
Hawaii's North Shore is renowned for offering the best waves and teens from 13 and up and get lessons from a pro. The Hans Hedemann Surf School offers group, private and semi-private lessons for beginners to experienced. For kids 8 and up, surfing camps also get them moving on the waves. The school also teaches boogie boarding and paddle boarding.
Shopping is limited at Turtle Bay to a few gift shops and a sundry store. Serious souvenir shopping takes place in Historic Haleiwa, a place you'll want to experience just for the local color, if not for hand-crafted souvenirs and delightful boutiques featuring authentic Hawaiian clothing. Haleiwa is also the home of Matsumoto's Shave Ice, a former grocery stores turned ice cream shop that is a must do while on the North Shore.
If you would like to introduce more fresh fruits into your children's diet, Hawaii is the place to be. Many snack options throughout the day highlight fruit and a tour of the nearby Dole pineapple plantation will surely get them to enjoy fresh pineapple.
With six restaurants to choose from Turtle Bay provides a number of options for families. Of these, only two offer breakfast service, and to be quite honest, they can be a little pricey, especially if your children are picky eaters. If you've chosen a room arrangement that includes a refrigerator or kitchenette, stop at an area grocery store, buy a few essentials there and save your expenditures for something more enjoyable for everyone. Most of the restaurants feature a children's menu as well.
Serving breakfast and dinner, Kula Grill offers a magnificent breakfast buffet, as well as made-to-order pancakes, waffles and just about anything you choose. A children's menu includes pancakes in fun shapes and extra efforts by the staff to make the presentation of their meal choices more entertaining. Some dinner menu items include flatbreads, ribs, pot pie, ribeye steak, pasta, burgers and seafood.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Lei Lei's, is a good place you can grab a lighter breakfast. Lei Lei's, which overlooks the golf course, also serves sandwiches, salads and snacks throughout the day, and then really kicks it up a notch for fine dining in the evening.
Pa'akai, which means sea salt, features sea-to-table cuisine for dinner only.
Roy's Beach House
Roy's Beach House serves lunch and dinner and has a take out counter. Reservations are required. The restaurant is casual but still upscale and offers plenty of land and sea options.
This casual, sunset and pool bar, is open most of the day and offers things like burgers, salads, Hawaiian-style bowls, wraps and more.
Surfer, The Bar
Open from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., children are not likely to visit this bar/restaurant but a few menu items include things like burgers, wings and onion rings.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
Children receive candy lei's upon arrival and will be delighted to find adopt-a-turtles in their rooms.
The concierge can help make arrangements for onsite childcare or in-room babysitting services.
Spa Luana offers packages for teenagers and for "keiki" -- the Hawaiian word for children and teens.
The Art of Smart Timing
It's Hawaii. The weather is always perfect; however, a less-expensive time to visit is during the early autumn months of September and October. January is going to be high season for more reasons than people wanting to escape the cold and snow in the northern U.S. January brings the best waves to Oahu's North Shore and therefore, surfers from around the world come here to compete. If you'd like to get in a little whale watching, schedule a trip in February or March. If the whales are cooperative, it's quite possible to see them from your hotel balcony.
The Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is located on the south side of Oahu. The drive is about 45 minutes to the resort. Turtle Bay does not offer an airport shuttle, but can make arrangements for limousine transportation. However, you may wish to simply rent a car at the airport. Although an Enterprise rental car desk is at the resort, it is probably cheaper to get one at the airport. And although there are plenty of activities at Turtle Bay to keep your family entertained, you may want to take a day or so to explore Waimea Falls, the Polynesian Cultural Center and nearby Haleiwa -- a very cool surfing town.
The resort is easily walkable.
For Mom and Dad
Face it folks, you're in Hawaii. The romantic possibilities for parents to enjoy themselves surround you everywhere.
Or just stay at Turtle Bay and enjoy a couple's massage on the beach or a horse drawn carriage ride through the property.