Whether this is your first time visiting Hawaii, or you’re a returning sun bird seeking warmth, a few days in Oahu is always a good idea. From historic estate properties turned luxury hotels to not-so-secret celeb hideaways and all-inclusive family-friendly resorts – no matter which you choose, paradise is on your doorstep. Here’s our round-up of some of the best luxury resorts Oahu has to offer, bookable with Culture Trip.
The Four Seasons experience doesn’t come cheap – for good reason. At Four Seasons Ko Olina, the elegant beach-chic rooms are expectedly luxurious and come with wraparound ocean views. Within the resort, there’s a flurry of extras: an adults-only infinity pool, with cabanas kitted out with Kindles and Bose headphones; an activities desk that organizes everything from adrenaline-raising helicopter tours to turtle spotting with former Navy Seals; and creative gourmet concepts, like Mina’s Fish House by chef and James Beard-awardee, Michael Mina. If we have one complaint, it’s that they make it impossible to leave.
As the former location of the Outrigger Canoe Club, it’s no surprise that the hotel’s open beach access, mere footsteps from its freshwater pool, is its outstanding feature. This relaxed Waikiki resort has all you need for a week in the sun, including light-filled rooms with balconies to enjoy the gentle Hawaiian breeze and access to a private lounge for Voyager 47 Club rooms. There are always good vibes going at Duke’s Waikiki restaurant, especially on lazy Sunday afternoons when the smooth vocals of Hawaiian musician, Henry Kapono, entertain. For romantics, the hotel hosts a traditional Hawaiian vow renewal ceremony weekly as a complimentary service for guests.
Oahu’s famed North Shore is fully deserving of the hype. The pace is more chilled, the water pristine and the waves, awe-inspiring. One resort that has all the highlights is Turtle Bay. The self-contained property has ample distractions (horseback-riding lessons, an on-site spa, a golf course, two saltwater pools) and because it sits on Kuilima Cove, you’re in for a treat when it comes to snorkeling and turtle-spotting. The generously sized rooms have all the expected creature comforts, with most looking out to the ocean.
For a quieter, activity-based getaway, the secluded Paradise Bay Resort is a compelling choice. Facing picturesque Kāneʻohe Bay, spacious self-catering cottages look out to the majestic Koolau Mountains and Chinaman’s Hat Island. Yoga and meditation classes are included with the resort fee, as is snorkeling and kayaking equipment. You will have to shell out extra for a chartered boat excursion to the nearby sandbar for an afternoon of snorkeling and a volleyball session, but it’ll be worth it.
Vacations are meant to be relaxing – not always easy with a couple of kids in tow. But the family-friendly Aulani resort buys you some breathing space, so you can at least finish your coffee while it’s still warm, thanks to its myriad attractions: waterplay areas, the Rainbow Reef for snorkeling, photo ops with Moana and Mickey, and fire-pit storytelling. For a proper escape, park them at Aunty’s Beach House while you take a breather at the adults-only Wailana Pool or tee off at the neighboring Ko Olina golf course. Come sunset, gather for snaps at Ko Olina Lagoon One, on the Aulani Disney Resort’s doorstep. Mickey might even swing by for a selfie.
Sixty steps. That’s all it takes to get from this hotel to Waikiki’s sandy shores. Renovated in 2018, this 839-room hotel is all about the wow factor. There’s the 280,000gal (1,000,000lt) aquarium in the lobby filled with tropical fish, two restaurants from Masaharu Morimoto (of TV fame), an infinity pool that’s popular with local scenesters, and rooms decorated in an understated luxe style (all cream hues and warm wood accents). Shell out for one of the nine suites, and all-day access to the Longboard Club is thrown in, plus deep-soaking tubs and an expansive lanai for extra bragging rights.
Pierre de Villiers contributed additional reporting to this article.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
If you’re looking for more beach luxury, check out our guide to the best luxury hotels in Maui, or read about the top luxury hotels in Hawaii. Alternatively, find out about the best resorts in Honolulu, or the best beach hotels to book on Oahu– now bookable on Culture Trip.
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