From The Straits Times    |

It was my first time in Hawaii but it’s been a destination on my travel bucket list forever. Even though this was my first visit, I knew that I did not want to stay in Waikiki although it was one of the most frequented locations in all of Hawaii. Sure, it’s famous for its white sandy beaches, a hub for the majority of hotels in the island, and home to the largest open-air shopping center in the world, Ala Moana, but I wanted to experience the Hawaii that was quiet, tranquil, undiscovered, and just soak in the natural beauty of the island.

That’s when I discovered the Four Seasons Resorts Oahu at Ko Olina. The resort is on the southwestern shore of the island and Ko Olina is also home to the sacred beach at Lanikuhonua (where heaven meets earth, but more on that later).  The  Four Seasons Resorts Oahu in Ko Olina (which means “place of joy”) is surrounded by picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and the Waianae Range (a mountain range forming the western coast of the Oahu island. The range is the oldest area of volcanic activity in the island and is thought to have last erupted about 2.5 million years ago). 

On the subject of history, Ko Olina was considered a sacred place by Hawaiian chiefs and royal families. It was a retreat for King Ka’mehameha (1736 to 1819) and his wife, Queen Ka’ahumanuas as well as the last monarch of Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani (1838 to 1917). 

In 1877, Ko Olina was purchased by Irish immigrant and industrialist James Campbell who had water wells drilled for irrigation, and built a plantation for sugar-cane production. His daughter, Alice Kamokila Campbell, moved to what was then a secluded shore in the Ko Olina area in the late 1930s, and named her corner of paradise Lanikuhonua, the Hawaiian term for “where heaven meets the earth.” Today, these 10 acres of impeccably maintained grounds remain an inspiring place to visit on your own or to host special events (yes, weddings are on top of that list).  

Lanikuhonua, which overlooks 3 ocean coves where rock formations trap spring water, is located in the Ko Olina Resort, right behind the 5-star luxury Four Seasons Resorts Oahu. The 371-room resort stands majestic over a turquoise lagoon. Previously an independent hotel in the mid-1980s, it was rebranded as the JW Marriott Ko Olina. When JW Marriott closed in 2015, it reopened as the Four Seasons (after an extensive renovation) a year later.

The resort is a mere 30 minutes from Honolulu International Airport the concierge can arrange private transfers by car, yacht and helicopter (yes it’s as fancy as it gets). It’s also pretty remote (which if you ask me is a breath of fresh air from bustling Waikiki) from the rest of the island – you would definitely need a car if you’re planning to get out and explore other parts of the island. 

There are 4 pools in the resort: Ohana Pool (for families), Keiki Pool (for kids),  Adult Infinity Pool and the Spa & Wellness Pool.  The Adult Infinity Pool is by far the most gorgeous pool at the property, and it also has a hot tub. This was built when Four Seasons took over the property, and it really is a stunning space — the pool is huge, it has plenty of seating, and there’s even a swim-up drink truck. 

With comfortable chaise lounges and umbrella lining all the 4 pools and a view of the ocean, lounging and relaxing poolside is a must. I spend most of my days basking in the sun while sipping my mocktail and enjoying a good book. Around me, the the palm trees are swaying in the breeze and the soothing sounds of the ukelele and the gentle waves from the ocean are my background music. That pretty much sums my stay at the Four Seasons Resorts Oahu at Ko Olina. 

And that’s the Hawaii I always imagined it to be. 

The rooms

The decor pays tribute to the island’s natural beauty and rich culture with banana leaf coverings and natural-wood finishes but maintains a modern and minimalist feel. 

One of the best things about the Four Seasons Resort Oahu is that all their rooms are massive. Their standard room starts from 640 square feet. The one bedroom suites are about the size of 2 full guest rooms so they’re ideal for families. The bonus? There are 2 full-size bathrooms. I strongly recommend the oceanfront king rooms with private balconies and oceanfront one-bedroom suites.

Nothing like waking up to the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean. 

The food

There are 5 restaurants on the property so that will surely satisfy every type of palate and dietary preference. When in Hawaii you got to try the island’s famous poke bowls so your go to restaurant is definitely the La Hiki Kitchen. 

Another must visit restaurant is Mina’s Fish House – the charbroiled shellfish is absolutely delicious. And you better believe it because this restaurant whose head chef is James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Mina, has a fish sommelier who will introduce you to the array of local fish to help you select your perfect meal.

But my absolute favourite is the Italian restaurant Noe. Its head chef Ryo Takatsuka may be Japanese but he spent a decade in Italy perfecting pasta making. There are so many must-trys but if I had to edit it down I would say the mushroom tagliatelle with fresh-shaved black truffle, the Italian classic veal Milanese (the best I had was in Milan and this was on par with that),  short ribs with foie gras… and so much more. It is hands down the best Italian restaurant in Oahu and for me personally one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to.

To be honest, I did not find many exciting restaurants in Oahu (perhaps my time was too short) but I would definitely recommend a booking at any of the above mentioned restaurants at The Four Seasons Oahu even though you’re not a guest.  

It’s too good to give it a miss. 

The neighbourhood

The Four Seasons Resort Oahu is located in the city of Ko Olina is Oahu, and it’s approximately 38 kilometres from downtown Honolulu and 32 kilometres from the Honolulu airport (about 30 minutes without traffic). 

Ko Olina is known for its 4 lagoons (the Four Seasons Resort Oahu’s lagoon is known as Lagoon 1) and there are plenty of water sports to enjoy from snorkelling to sailing and paddle boarding.  

If you love hiking, there are plenty of hiking routes like the Mā‘ili Pillbox hike or the Barbers point lighthouse walk: An easy walk to a beautiful lighthouse just a 15 minutes drive from Ko Olina. For waterfall hikes, rent a car and drive towards North Shore which is the east side of the island.   

Because Ko Olina has its own marina, you don’t have to travel so far to indulge in open-water activities like a sunset sail, a snorkel trip, or a dinner cruise. If you’re excited to get out on the water, this is the spot for you. 

And, when in Hawaii you need to experience a luau which is a traditional Hawaiian party that is usually accompanied by entertainment and native Hawaiian cuisine. Paradise Cove, which is located by the Four Seasons resort, offers a beautiful location to eat, be entertained and learn more about the rich cultural history of Hawaii. 

Lastly, because you are on the west side of the island, here’s where you can witness the most beautiful sunsets. So don’t forget to make a date to watch the sunset every evening on your stay there. And take lots of pictures!

Editor’s tips

As I mentioned earlier, you should rent a car to explore the island and the hotel can definitely arrange car rental services for you. 

One of the towns you must make a trip to is Haleiwa town on the North Shore. This charming little town is home to many local shops and restaurants. I love how walking down the charming streets of Haleiwa feels as if you’ve taken a step back in time to a small town in the country. 

This laid-back hipster town is also known to be the surfing capital of the world which is why when you walk down the streets of Old Town Haleiwa, you’ll notice many surf shops. 

Don’t forget to enjoy the local shaved ice drenched in homemade syrup from Matsumoto’s – said to be the most popular place to get shave ice on the entire island.  

And last but definitely not least, oneof the most surreal experiences in Oahu was cage-free shark diving/snorkelling. One Ocean Diving is located in Haleiwa and you can make your reservations through the Four Seasons Resort concierge service. 

This picture from the One Ocean Diving professionals is exactly what it looked like with the sharks swimming under us. We didn’t dive but snorkelling was just as spectacular. I didn’t feel threatened or in danger at any time, crazy since the sharks were literally swimming under us. I did feel strangely calm and peaceful underwater though and really enjoyed the experience.

If you ever make a trip to Oahu I highly recommend you book the shark encounter tour with One Ocean Diving for a two-hour program, led by shark marine biologists and conservationists to learn about these incredible creatures and how to share the ocean with them safely.