Places to Explore in Oahu This Summer

Beyond the crowds of Waikiki, Oahu offers secluded beaches lost among the lagoons and eroded volcano on the island’s leeward coast.

By: Sheean Hanlan

After nearly a year of being closed off to visitors, the Hawaiian Islands—and their sought-after resorts—are reopening. However, vaccinated or not, post-pandemic travel still has us all looking at things differently. Crowded beaches, packed pools, and group activities are far from most people’s wish lists.


If you’ve been overlooking Oahu for the state’s more resort-focused Big Island and Maui, it’s time to discover the 642-acre Ko Olina resort community, just 35 minutes from downtown Honolulu. The relaxed destination, whose name translates as “place of joy,” was a favorite getaway of Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, who resided in the Iolani Palace until 1893. Here, the turquoise waters, once thought to be sacred by Hawaiian royalty, ebb and flow in a melodic ripple suitable for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling. Three perfectly crescent, swimmable coves dot the coast, where only a handful of hotels occupy the shore, including the preeminent Four Seasons.


This less developed west coast is also home to the largest native Hawaiian population in Oahu and has all the idyllic white-sand beaches of Waikiki and the North Shore—only unspoiled by the tourist crowds. Instead, respected artisans, watermen, and cultural storytellers continue ancient traditions in these rural parts, imbuing the area with meaning. While the region’s isolation from urban life is a major draw, there’s no shortage of experiences to be had at the Four Seasons Ko Olina itself.


Originally designed by architect Edward Killingsworth in 1998, the resort underwent renovations by Philpotts Interiors in 2016, when it reopened as a Four Seasons. The resulting 371 rooms and suites fall in line with the timeless decor and Hawaiian accents of the public spaces—banana-leaf wall coverings, hibiscus throw pillows, and wood furnishings, along with garden-side lanais and ocean-view balconies.


Four swimming pools and the expanses of coastline mean that there’s never a wait for a lounge chair. The circular main pool is as welcoming as it is architectural, while the kids pool invites play. A spa pool accommodates lap swimming, and the adult pool feels like a resort in itself. The sleek, lava rock–colored infinity pool extends along the property’s northern end. Just beyond it is an extended grassy lawn for lounging, and then the ocean. A teak deck, ample chairs and cabanas, and full staff make you fully feel on vacation—even if you can only escape for a few hours while your kids are at the kids club. There’s even the swim-up bar helmed by Dr. Mai Tai, who can prescribe guests the perfect cocktail.


There’s no shortage of dining options, but Mina’s Fish House, led by chef Michael Mina, and Noe, a Southern Italian restaurant led by Japanese Italian chef Ryo Takatsuka, are the standouts. Guests staying at the property will want to dine at each more than once, as the diverse menus will leave you wanting to try more. When it comes to the Sunday brunch the Four Seasons brand is known for, the property has successfully pivoted from buffet to prix fixe, offering the perfect assortment of traditional favorites with Hawaiian flair: surf and turf with prime rib, Hawaiian poke, fresh seafood, and the property’s own take on eggs benedict, featuring pork and a poached egg.


The spa includes outdoor treatment rooms where you can hear the waves crash, while the fitness center goes beyond just a traditional gym, offering a cardio room (complete with Peloton bikes) and weight room, as well as rooftop facilities for soccer, basketball, and tennis. Just outside the property is the Ted Robinson–designed Ko Olina golf course. Add consistently warm, sunny weather, and it’s the idyllic, naturally social escape that couldn’t be better this season—and next. Rooms from $1,195;

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