The 40-minute trip from hectic Waikiki Beach to the serene enclave of Ko Olina takes visitors through the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, around Pearl Harbor and into the pure green of Oahu’s southwest coast. The 642-acre development, dominated by the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa, feels like an entirely different, entirely self-contained archipelago.
The Ihilani is the favored destination of NFL Pro Bowl teams and powerful pols precisely because the amenities, activities, and privacy it offers justify not venturing out toward more crowded beaches. President Barack Obama hosted a conference at the Ihilani in 2011, but the 387-room resort is perhaps better known as the backdrop to the chick flick ‘Blue Crush’ and Jason Segel’s awkward wooing of Mila Kunis in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall.’
The on-site attractions are a bit higher-end than traditional North Shore ports of call like Turtle Beach and Matsumoto’s shaved ice stand; Azul, an Italian eatery, offers beet-red ahi tuna and the Ted Robinson-designed 18-hole golf course has been meticulously peppered with volcanic rock. The 35,000-square-foot spa draws the tired and wrinkled to the resort, which is garnished with the prerequisite tennis courts and lap pools. Visitors are also offered a variety of marine life excursions where they can observe and interact with the private aquarium’s sharks, stingrays, starfish, and sea urchins.
Rooms in the recently renovated hotel integrate old-fashioned creature comforts with modern tech: The wall mirror transforms into an LCD flatscreen and small bedside touchscreens summon everything from lighting controls to room service. These breezy, modern spaces nod at the tropical surroundings without losing their elegance – no small feat on an island dominated by hibiscus kitsch.
While not every room is as palatial as the appropriately named Presidential Suite, most of the Ihilani’s suites boast expansive balconies, the perfect place to sip a mai tai and forget about the girl, the job, the cars and horns – everything except the view.