The janitor thinks I can do it. Turtle Bay Resort, which spans a peninsula along Oahu’s fabled North Shore, is four miles from Ted’s Bakery, known to dessert lovers for its chocolate haupia cream pie (haupia is a traditional Hawaiian coconut pudding).
You can borrow a bicycle for free for up to 45 minutes. I check Google Maps. It will be tight, but the app confirms that the drive to the Sunset Beach Bakery and back is doable in that time frame. So I time my adventure down to the minute, aiming to check the bike to get to the bakery as soon as it opens.
Some things, however, got in the way of my (two) wheels. First, the concierge desk is unstaffed when I show up. Then I take the advice to stay off the busy Kamehameha Highway for as long as possible, instead blazing the more enjoyable off-road trail that winds past the golf course and resort stables.
I arrive a few minutes after the bakery opens at 8 a.m. but already about ten people are queuing (in addition to pies, the bakery also sells hot dishes such as Spam and egg breakfast sandwiches and prawns with ‘garlic). Obviously, I won’t be back and forth, but I didn’t come all this way to fail in my mission. I join the queue, and soon enough, a piece of Ted’s most famous pie flavor is in my hands.
The wrapped pie goes in my bike basket and I pedal as fast as I can. “Do I leave the bike here?” I ask the valet parking my wheels and trotting, huffing and huffing and flushed in the face, towards reception. “Yes – and you can leave that to me too,” he said, nodding at what was in my hands.
Ha! Good humor wafts through the resort like a gentle sea breeze. After all, the resort, which turned 50 this year, is enjoying the results of an extreme facelift. It used the pandemic downtime well, shutting down entirely from March 2020 to July 2021 and spending $250 million on a makeover (the job finally wraps in September).
Previous guests will recognize the bones but that’s about it. The lobby is lighter and brighter, thanks to the bay windows that offer views of the Côte-Nord. The vibe is barefoot luxury – it’s only fitting considering this place is all about hooking up with surf culture and you’re likely to walk around with saltwater hair and a bit of sand still glued to your feet. The resort is only an hour’s drive from Honolulu but feels a world apart.
When I checked into my room in one of the towers (the resort also offers discretely located clusters of bungalows), my fellow traveler messaged me, “How beautiful the rooms are!” Uh, mine isn’t particularly noteworthy. Later, I realize that she is in renovated excavations and I am not. Guest bedroom makeovers include an expansive surfing image pasted along one wall (photography is by North Shore artists), ombre curtains, neutral textiles, and flooring.
Not that you spend a lot of time in your bedroom when the great outdoors beckon. In addition to biking and wading in the pools, you can take a lesson with house outfit Jamie O’Brien Surf Experience (the North Shore pro surfer occasionally shows up to surprise guests). The beginner surf spot is accessible by golf cart. The waves break, soft as a lullaby. After my arms got tired several times, my instructor stuck his big toe on my board to tow me back. His instructions are so clear and the board so wide that I ended up standing up and riding a wave (I can now claim to have surfed the North Shore of Hawaii).
Earthlings can try their hand at horseback riding, play a round of golf, or linger at the indoor-outdoor restaurant Alaia. One of the signature cocktails here, a mix of vodka, passion fruit puree and prosecco called Don’t Touch the Turtles, is served in a copper turtle so heavy you can barely lift it (especially if you have tired arms). The drink is a nod to the Hawaiian green sea turtle – or honu – which is Turtle Bay’s namesake. It also reminds us how to behave if you see the animal that, according to Hawaiian legend, represents the eternal bond between land, sea and humanity.
The writer was a guest of Hawaii Tourism Oceania.
Rooms from USD 688 per night, including EV charging, Wi-Fi, gym access and bike rental.