Turtle Bay, Oahu

More than 40 miles and the Ko’olau Mountains separate the “fabled North Shore” of Oahu from the crowds and craziness of Honolulu and Waikiki. The far end of Hawaii’s most populous island is a tropical world unto itself, what National Geographic calls “one of the Earth’s most awesome places.”

The North Shore is cozy, quaint, and usually pretty quiet, except when the waves are up and it becomes a salt-water magnet for the world’s top surfers, who come to such iconic sites as Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline. In the middle of it all is Turtle Bay Resort, the only such destination for miles around, a luxury resort in tune with the casual vibe.

The resort’s 840 acres include five miles of beach, 12 miles of oceanfront hiking trails, and offer non-stop activity if desired, from horseback riding and helicopter tours to every manner of watersports—pools, hot tubs, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and, of course, surfing—plus tennis courts, Segway rides, even free ukulele lessons. There’s a salon, fitness center, and the year-old Nalu Kinetic Spa (get a treatment in the oceanside spa cabana with the roar of the Pacific the ultimate aural backdrop). All 410 guest rooms were recently upgraded; the half-dozen restaurants and lounges are big on local foods and signature drinks.

All of the above is within a short walk, as are the two golf courses. The Arnold Palmer Course is a beauty, especially on the more secluded back nine where there’s water on nearly every hole and the topography is diverse and diverting; especially with a little wind—which is almost guaranteed as the course is almost, but not quite, on the ocean—this layout is as aggressive as Arnie in his prime. The George Fazio Course is more docile and straightforward, but no pushover. Both start and end at the same clubhouse, which also houses a great post-round bar and grill called Lei Lei’s.

There’s fun stuff to do just off property, like a visit to the town of Haleiwa, with its Old Hawaii feel and Matsumoto Shave Ice, one of the islands’ leading purveyors of the local dessert delicacy. The Polynesian Cultural Center isn’t far away, either. But you’ll be perfectly content never straying too far from home. Just like a turtle.