While the iconic sands and energy of Waikiki Beach are alluring, there is another destination on Oahu that was once a place for rest and relaxation for Hawaiian royalty. Ko Olina is a resort community on the sunny west side of Oahu. A roughly 25-minute drive from the airport, this is an alternative for visitors who prefer the luxury of an amenities-filled resort vacation. With fewer crowds and a centralized location, this is a place to kick back, relax and discover some peaceful fun in the sun — with everything you need in (practically) arm’s reach.
Relax in the lap of luxury
There are four main resorts at Ko Olina. The most famous – depending on your age – is the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. For Disney fans, the Aulani doesn’t disappoint, mixing Hawaiian culture with the Mickey Mouse magic they’ll love. The young at heart can also choose between the Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina, Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, and the Beach Villas at Ko Olina. These are luxurious resorts to unplug and unwind, equipped with suites for families and longer stays, amazing restaurants and amenities, and lots of open spaces for you to explore. Also, check with your concierge for unique activities, like the “Stars Above Hawaii” stargazing show at the Four Seasons.
For the perfect family beach day, grab a floatie and relax at one of Ko Olina’s calm lagoons.
Cool down in the water
The most iconic feature of Ko Olina is its lagoons. There are four white-sand, man-made lagoons, perfectly protected for swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, or playing with the kids. The Kohola Lagoon (Lagoon 1) fronts the Four Seasons and the Aulani, the Honu Lagoon (Lagoon 2) sits before the Ko Olina Beach Villas, and the Naia Lagoon (Lagoon 3) is closest to The Marriott. The Ulua Lagoon (Lagoon 4) opens up to Ko Olina Beach Park and the nearby Ko Olina Marina. While these lagoons are beautiful and open to the public, parking is very limited if you’re not staying at the hotels. Lagoon 4 is your best bet for public parking at the south end of Ko Olina.
If you want to get out of the resort and into some ocean adventures, the Ko Olina Marina is located right next to Ulua Lagoon 4. This full-service, 342-slip marina opened in 2000 and won Marina Dock Age magazine’s Marina of the Year Award. Catch a sunrise or sunset sail with our partner Ko Olina Ocean Adventures; try sport fishing, or charter a boat for a romantic sunset cruise.
Enjoy a day of golf at Ko Olina Golf Club.
Tee off at the course
Golfers don’t have to go far to hit the greens. Ko Olina Golf Club, one of Golf Digest’s Top 75 Resort Courses in the U.S., is conveniently located across the street. Rent a complete set of TaylorMade clubs and play on this stunning 18-hole course designed by renowned architect Ted Robinson. This was the home of the LPGA LOTTE Championship from 2012-2019 and where LPGA star Michelle Wie, who grew up in Honolulu, developed her game. The course features multi-tiered greens, a driving range and beautiful water features. You may even spot a black swan swimming in the lake as you drive by. But you don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy the Ko Olina Golf Club. The clubhouse is also home to Roy’s Ko Olina, the popular home of James Beard Award winner Chef Roy Yamaguchi. Make your reservations for cocktails outside on the Bridge Bar or inside for Roy’s honey mustard braised beef short ribs overlooking the 18th hole.
Attend a festive luau
One might argue that no visit to Hawaii would be complete without attending a luau. Traditionally, the ahaaina was a gathering for a meal. In modern times, the luau became a festive feast that allowed visitors to immerse themselves in Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. Ko Olina is home to Paradise Cove the Star Advertiser’s Best Hawaii Luau for nine years running. This is one of the Islands’ biggest luau shows, covering 12 oceanfront acres with stunning, west side sunset views. The Disney Aulani features its own family-friendly luau called Ka Waa while on Tuesday nights, Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club takes you on a South Pacific journey with the Fia Fia Polynesian Dinner Show. Whichever luau you choose, you’ll enjoy a fun night of great food, music, dancing, and culture — just remember to take it easy on the mai tais.
Hawaii's only operating railroad museum traces a historic track near Kapolei.
Hop over to Kapolei
If you want to venture out of the resort to check out some local stops or to load up on groceries or snacks, Kapolei is just a 10-minute drive away. Known as Oahu’s Second City, Kapolei is a growing community on the west side. It has plenty of essentials for shopping, from the new Ka Makana Alii Shopping Mall to big box stores like Target, Costco, and Walmart. Get your thrills at Wet ‘n’ Wild, a popular local water park, or explore Oahu's rich train history by riding on the Hawaiian Railway Society train in neighboring Ewa Beach. While Ko Olina resort life is comfy, you won’t regret checking out the hidden gems nearby.
Know before you go
Whether you’re visiting or staying at Ko Olina, avoid the heavy weekday rush hour traffic from Honolulu in the mornings and afternoons. But the destination is worth the journey when you see your first breathtaking sunset from the lagoons of Ko Olina.
Note: Due to web limitations, the use of diacritics in the Hawaiian language are omitted from this article.