Turtle Bay: 10 reasons to explore Oahu's North Shore at this refreshed and renovated Hawaiian resort

KAHUKU, Oahu -- You don't have to surf to love Turtle Bay Resort.

The big waves of the North Shore are the heart and soul of Turtle Bay, but riding them is too difficult for most of us. There are other ways to spend an active and relaxing vacation at the resort.

Turtle Bay, under the guidance of Replay Resorts, has been re-energized with $40 million in capital improvements since 2011, including 410 stylishly renovated rooms in its main hotel, and new programming that revolves around experiencing the culture and beauty of the North Shore.

Traditional Hawaiian vacations sitting by the pool or lounging at the beach are possible, although admittedly not encouraged by the staff of Replay Resorts. Turtle Bay, set on 840 acres and five miles of pristine beach, gently nudges guests to intimately connect to the North Shore. Everybody should explore the shore's stunning beauty, which has been featured in more than 150 films and TV shows such as "Hunger Games," "Catching Fire," "Pirates of the Caribbean IV," "Blue Crush," and the original "Hawaii Five-0," "Magnum P.I.," and "The Amazing Race." Guests can take ukulele lessons, learn to hula or make beautiful flower leis.

Here are 10 good reasons to stay and play at Turtle Bay:

10. Workout with a view

By moving the Nalu Kinetic Spa Fitness Center from the basement to a former meeting room with glass walls, Replay Resorts has created an inspiring setting overlooking the ocean. A variety of wellness classes cost just $10, from "Rise n Shine Yoga" in the gym to "Wet Sweat" on the beach.

9. Hang at Surfer, The Bar

This unique nightclub, re-branded in a partnership with Surfer Magazine in 2011, lets locals mingle with resort guests. On any given night, a local musician can unleash a live show of traditional Hawaiian, modern rock, hip-hop or reggae music. Or guests can settle in for the Hawaiian tradition of "Talk Story," listening to a storyteller weave tales that might be real or folklore.

8. Eat like a local

Turtle Bay has honored the region's rich agricultural roots by making efforts to protect 469 acres of agricultural-zoned open space land, partnering with the nearby Kahuku Farms for educational tours and by opening several "farm to table" restaurants. Pa'akai, the resort's signature dinner spot, specializes in fresh local fish, farm-raised lobster and Kauai prawns. Local flavors such as macadamia nuts, pineapple and coconut inspire the meals at the North Shore Kula Grille (which also cooks up a killer breakfast buffet). Dining at the golf clubhouse (Lei Lei's Bar & Grill), the beach (Ola Restaurant) and pool (The Point) continue these "eat Hawaiian" themes.

7. Hit the trails

Need a little solitude? Try the 12 miles of trails around the resort, whether it's hiking, running, riding a bike or a horse or even zipping around on a Segway.

6. Beyond the resort

The best way to get to know the locals is to meet them on their home turf. There are a handful of food trucks within five miles of Turtle Bay. I can vouch for the goodness at Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. Haleiwa, a historic surfing town pronounced "hah-lay-EE-wah," is known for its shaved iced treats for children and eclectic art and restaurant scenes.

5. Play in Kawela Bay

For those landlubbers too afraid of wild waves of Turtle Bay, the secluded cove of Kawela Bay away from the main resort provides the perfect place for water sports in calmer waters. Kayakers on a two-hour tour can peer through a window in the bottom of their boat to spot sea turtles gliding gracefully below the surface. Stand up paddleboarding, while a great workout, is quite easy to master, even for beginners.

4. Seaside massage

Those who open the door to their room every night sleep soundly to the rhythm of the crashing waves. The Nalu Kinetic Spa, which doubled in size in 2013, takes this multi-sensory experience to the next level with secluded outdoor treatment rooms on the water's edge. The purr of the waves induces a higher state of Zen.

3. Fly away

As a Detroit Tigers fan, I was thrilled to fly high above the North Shore in "The Chopper," a replica from the TV show "Magnum P.I." (Not even former players sporting the Tigers' old English 'D' hat looked as good as Tom Selleck did). Paradise Helicopters launches tours right on resort grounds for all budgets and tastes. Worried about your first ride? Take the 10-minute "North Shore" Tour, an affordable $50 jaunt featuring the Bonzai Pipeline, Shark's Cove and the resort. The 20-minute tour, though, is well worth it, hovering over the amazing "Sacred Falls" in the Ko'olau Mountains.

2. Play Golf

Teeing it up on the Arnold Palmer Course at Turtle Bay offers the cachet of playing a former host to Champions Tour and LPGA Tour events and Golf Channel's "Big Break" reality program, but the George Fazio Course at Turtle Bay is a solid secondary option for a second round. Both offer at least glimpses of the ocean.

1. Surf the North Shore

You've come this far. Why not give surfing a try with the Hans Hedemann Surf School? My family still has the pictures of our lessons hanging on our wall. Don't stay on the sidelines for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The surfing lessons start on land, where instructors teach the proper steps to standing up. Once you're comfortable, it's off to Kawela Bay, where the waves are big enough to ride but not enough to intimidate. Even the fittest person will struggle paddling into position. You'll be exhausted after five or six attempts. That's okay. The memories will be so worth the effort.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Turtle Bay: 10 reasons to explore Oahu's North Shore at this refreshed and renovated Hawaiian resort