Yearning for a tropical adventure filled with sun and rich culture, we found utopia on Oahu’s coast. —Katie Nanton
STAY + PLAY
When planning a trip to Hawaii’s largest island, Waikiki may seem like the obvious area to stay. But, hey, we’ve never gravitated toward the predictable. Follow our lead and find paradise at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, a 30-minute drive from hectic downtown Honolulu on the rugged western coast of Oahu. Embedded in the Ko Olina resort area—where a smiling greeter waves through every car that enters—the Four Seasons’ footprint is prime beachfront property known for the best sunset views, perfectly calm-watered ocean lagoon in front, and an all-star concierge crew to make any fam getaway as easy as can be. Arriving on-property is a breath of fresh air from the get-go, especially after a long day of travelling with a toddler. The valet draped us with fresh orchid leis before we headed up to our top-floor suite, stepping out on the lanai to take in the 180-degree ocean view and bask in the tropical air. Our 16-month-old loved stepping into her very own pair of mini slippers, playing with a set of sponges set up in the bathtub that spelled out her name, then swaying her hips along to the traditional live Hawaiian music that greeted us on the TV. Indeed, this is the type of luxury that welcomes kids with open arms while maintaining total decorum and serenity; from plates of fresh fruit that arrive early for hungry mouths to nibble on (while mains are prepared by a Michelin-starred chef) to amenities like an on-site kids’ club (ages 5 to12), allowing parents to steal away for a spa, sun, or soak. Not travelling with kids? No problem. There is plenty of room away from little ones, like the jaw-droppingly beautiful adults-only infinity pool, for one. Fourseasons.com
RELAX + RECHARGE
First things first: massage break. Snag some precious solo time with a Swedish-style Makana Massage down by the water in a private hale. A therapist guides you down a path leading from the on-site Naupaka Spa & Wellness Centre to your very own cabana for a personalized treatment—we picked the “Ocean” oil, rich with aromatic green tea, pineapple, and rosewood—where you’ll emerge revitalised to sip on lilikoi passion kombucha in a private outdoor garden. Follow it up by connecting with your inner artist through one of the many #FSWayfinders Program artisan workshops offered. We opted for a resin surfboard workshop, led by local artist Christian Bendo, where he guided us in etching an octopus on a mini surfboard made of monkeypod wood, which we then painted and poured resin upon to create a shiny take-home keepsake. Craving a potentially life-changing experience? You’re in luck, because the enigmatic Pi’iali’i Lawson is on hand. As an ancestral and intuitive energy re-alignment healing practitioner, Lawson offers private one-on-one and group healing sessions through the Four Seasons, along with a Muhala Sound Healing Ritual. “I serve as a vessel through which others can channel their energy,” he shares with us, “to help realign and balance the discordant energy that is stored within.” (It clears the way for a little manifestation, so while we’re at it, we start adding to our bucket list of future travel plans which includes returning to this property—only next time, we’re bringing friends and booking out an entire floor through the Four Seasons’ Penthouse Collection Buyout. That’s 13 rooms and 800 square feet of terrace space for things like al fresco yoga and patio meals prepared by a personal chef. One day!)
EAT + DRINK
On-property at the Four Seasons you’ll find everything your culinary heart desires, from “line-to-table” dining on the freshest Hawaiian butterfish puolo at Mina’s Fish House, to sipping an ube colada—that’s a piña colada, made with local purple potatoes—which appears on most of the hotel drink menus. (Pure bliss? Ordering one beachside.) If you’re craving something different after a few meals of Hawaiian fare, Noe is the place to make a reservation; the Italian restaurant is led by Michelin-starred, Japanese-Italian chef Ryo Takatsuka. Opt for decadent favourites like the tagliatelle with seasonal truffles, or a veal Milanese that is said to draw guests from all over the island. If a kid-friendly brunch with a side of Disney is on your kids’ bucket list, make a reservation at the next-door Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. Its Makahiki Restaurant hosts a daily Character Breakfast where Disney-costumed staffers roam among tables for photo ops aplenty. Going farther afield on the island, everyone sweet-toothed must seek out malasadas, deep-fried Portuguese donuts, from Honolulu’s iconic Leonard’s Bakery. (If you can’t make it there, order them at Mina’s instead, where they arrive drenched in strawberry guava sauce and served in a Hawaiian palm boat.) And, of course, any great trip deserves some on-a-whim dining. That’s how we found Bob’s Bar-B-Que, a 45-year-old fixture beloved by locals that serves up Hawaiian-style plates of ribs under a yellow vintage sign, along with a multitude of tasty local shrimp shacks and fresh coconut and pineapple stands on our coastal drives.
LEARN + EXPLORE
Remember when we said we didn’t gravitate toward the norm? The Dole Plantation is one exception. What started operating as a fruit stand in 1950 is now one of the island’s most popular tourist destinations (and it gets busy). Here, you can order a cup of the “world-famous” Dole pineapple soft-serve ice cream, stroll the grounds to learn how the fruits grow, buy tickets to hop aboard the Pineapple Express Train Tour for a more immersive experience, and even BYOP to take on the flight home (that’s “buy your own pineapple”, of course). Also worth the drive, is the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is all about showcasing authentic Polynesian culture to those eager to learn. It’s on the opposite side of the island from the Four Seasons, but you may well be treated to rainbows rising from the dense mountain foliage and scenic oceanscapes aplenty. There’s lots on offer at the centre, including an evening performance featuring 100 dancers from across the Pacific, but do not miss the Polynesian Island Villages experience. A day pass gives you full access to a lush, 16-acre outdoor area of unique cultural villages representing places like Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and many more. The choose-your-own-adventure exploration includes traditional performances and cultural experiences, such as learning about how taro root is made into poi, and canoe rides. Another day, we did something possibly unexpected for a Hawaiian vacation: we visited an indoor museum. Honolulu’s Bishop Museum is a world-famous collection of over 25 million historical, cultural, and natural treasures—from taxonomy (seek out the insects and butterflies), to precious cultural artifacts (hunt for the feather capes and leis from the 19th century) and so much more. After a few precious hours well-spent here, return to the beach, slather on some SPF, and reflect upon it all with a cold drink in hand.