Turtle Bay Resort Continues It’s Crawl on Oahu

<i> Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section</i>

The surf rolls in with tumbling white crests over the sculptured coral on the far north coast of Oahu, capital island of Hawaii.

Kuilima Point, a finger of land reaching out into the Pacific Ocean, catches the surf and keeps a small private bay serene for quiet snorkeling. The warm sands along the beach invite sunbathing.

Out on the point, 400 guest rooms and suites in three low-rise wings overlook the challenging surf.


Guest cottages are nested in tropical greenery above the surf, with a tennis club in its own greenery behind the cottages. Surrounding the resort is the 18-hole Arnold Palmer golf course.

Honolulu and Waikiki are an hour’s drive away, across north Oahu’s fields of sugar cane.

In 1972, Oahu’s only North Shore resort opened as the Del Webb Kuilima Hotel on Turtle Bay, encompassing 808 acres of ocean-front land near the town of Kahuku.

In 1984, after a $17-million renovation, the resort reopened as the Turtle Bay Hilton & Country Club.

New Hotels Planned

Asahi Jyuken, an investment and development company based in Osaka, Japan, paid about $127.5 million to buy the resort from Prudential Insurance Co., which has been the owner since the Del Webb era of the 1970s and early 1980s. Hilton Hotels will continue to operate the resort.

The Japanese firm intends to build another hotel on adjacent Kawela Bay, a project that had received all necessary permits before the sale. Two more hotels, another 18-hole golf course and a second equestrian center also are planned, along with 2,000 condominium units.

Will Turtle Bay continue to seem area codes away from Honolulu and Waikiki?

The same kind of question was being asked by local people and environmentalists when we first came here 16 years ago, when the Kuilima Hotel was less than a month away from its grand opening.


Later we heard that Del Webb had reached out from Las Vegas to north Oahu with the belief and hope that casino gambling would soon be legalized in Hawaii.

Looking Ahead

It never happened. Kuilima is no longer a destination name. The postal address is still Kahuku, but the resort area has come to be known as Turtle Bay, which is the wide bay open to the sea, not the private bay protected by the point.

As we arrived from Waikiki, surfers were out waiting for the big waves. Some of the best surf in the world is found at the “Pipeline,” just beyond Kawela Bay and off Sunset Beach.

The golf course is home of the Arnold Palmer Golf School and is managed by the Arnold Palmer Golf Management Co. The Arnold Palmer/Sam Snead “Legends of Golf” tournament is held here in January; top women pros compete in February.

For guests there are complimentary golf clinics Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Greens fees with carts are $45 for guests. The Turtle Bay Twosome golf package is $95 per person per night, double occupancy; it includes ocean-view accommodations and a round of golf.

Tennis Clinics

The Peter Burwash professional tennis organization manages the tennis club and has complimentary clinics for guests three mornings a week. The Tennis Holiday package is $77.50 per person per night, double occupancy, for accommodations, court time and a private lesson.

Other sports on the North Coast include horseback riding, windsurfing and scuba diving. Quilting, lei-making and leaf weaving are quieter options.

Dining is in the Cove restaurant and out on the Palm Terrace, with Sunday champagne brunch in the Sea Tide Room. Evening entertainment can be found in the Bay View Lounge.

Construction of the next hotel on Kawela Bay is scheduled to start in 1 1/2 years and will take about two years to complete. Two others, plus the condos, will follow in the mid-1990s.

View of Growth

The Hilton people believe that the three additional hotels and condos will not overdevelop an 808-acre resort area that is more than 200 acres bigger than all of Waikiki.

A short drive eastward and south along the coastal Kamehameha Highway is the Polynesian Cultural Center, one of the island’s biggest attractions, with a cast of more than 125 islanders performing the songs and dances of the South Pacific in a setting of old Polynesia.

About the same distance westward and south along the coastal highway, Waimea Falls Park preserves nature and historical sites in its 1,800-acre valley and presents entertainment that includes the daring cliff divers.

Guest rooms for two at the Turtle Bay Hilton & Country Club start at $120.

You can make resort reservations through your travel agent or by calling toll-free (800) HIL-TONS.