Surf Schools, Water Sports, and Ocean Conservation: 7 Hawai’i Hotels for Connecting with the Pacific

All across Hawai‘i, hotels are helping travelers dive deeper into the islands’ ocean traditions and adventures. Learning to surf is just the beginning.

Mauna Lani

Mauna Lani

Photo by Nicole Franzen

The Hawaiian islands are filled with cultural traditions tied to the Pacific Ocean—and the best hotels and resorts offer experiences that help visitors uncover them. Whether it’s a guided exploration of tidal pools or a surfing lesson in the waves, read on for seven hotels in the Hawaiian islands that help travelers connect more deeply with the ocean.

1. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

A portrait of Hawaiian navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka.

Hawaiian navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka helms Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea’s “A Wayfinder’s Journey” program.

Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

The 383 rooms and 72 suites at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea channel the ocean, which is on display through large windows. Guests can learn more about the sea through such adventures like the Wayfinder’s Journey, a catamaran trip for up to six guests hosted by respected navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka, whose skills come through her Polynesian forebears and her father, a master navigator.

2. 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

A bedroom with an ocean and mountain view at 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is in the process of becoming LEED certified.

Courtesy of AVABLU

This garden-filled, 252-room hotel opened in February 2023 along the two-mile-long Hanalei Bay. The property’s Seedlings program helps younger guests ages four to 12 understand nature and marine ecosystems through hands-on activities. The Marine Life Magic class takes them through tide pools to talk about fish and other wildlife and to introduce ecofriendly ideas like using reef-safe sunscreen.

3. Fairmont Orchid

The Fairmont Orchid features 540 airy guest rooms on 32 landscaped acres, all with private lanais, but it has a cultural focus too. The Kalahiki Canoe Experience takes place on the open ocean at dawn, when the resort’s Hui Holokai Beach Ambassadors, all of native Hawaiian descent, share cultural tales, blow the conch, and perform an oli, or chant, to welcome the sun as it peeks out from behind the active Mauna Kea volcano.

4. The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

Exterior of entry to the pink Royal Hawaiian hotel

The Royal Hawaiian

Photo by Michelle Mishina-Kunz/The New York Times/Redux

Once a week on the shores of Honolulu’s Waikīkī Beach, a cultural guide at the Royal Hawaiian leads a Hi‘uwai, a traditional Hawaiian sunrise ritual intended for cleansing and purification. As the guide begins a blessing, the group steps into the ocean, then returns to shore, faces east toward Diamond Head crater, and chants “E ala e,” a call for the sun to rise and to mark a new beginning.

5. Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection

The Mauna Lani resort has 333 rooms (most with ocean views of the Kohala Coast) and strong on-site cultural programming. Their Intro to Underwater Rock Running course centers on a practice that surfers use to build mental and physical stamina for bigger winter waves. Participants wade into the water carrying a rock that keeps them anchored on the ocean floor; as they get deeper, they hold their breath, then let go of the rock and resurface. The idea is to get a workout and be fully present in the surroundings through breath work.

6. Kona Village, a Rosewood Resort


Courtesy of Kona Village

The iconic Kona Village, which was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011, was completely reimagined by Rosewood Hotels in 2023 with 150 hales (rooms) along the beach and a lagoon. The resort partners with the Ke Kai Ola monk seal rehabilitation center to educate visitors on endangered species conservation and invites them to help with the seals’ recovery.

Two people headed into the Pacific Ocean with a surfboard.

Turtle Bay Resort is the only luxury resort on O’ahu’s North Shore. It’s also the home of Jamie O’Brien’s Surf Experience.

Courtesy of Jamie O’Brien Surf Experience

7. Turtle Bay Resort

The only hotel of its caliber on O’ahu’s less developed North Shore, Turtle Bay Resort sits on 1,300 acres, half of which are set aside for conservation. The 408 rooms and suites feature ocean views and artwork reflecting the area’s natural beauty. The hotel’s commitment to environmental sustainability can be found everywhere: Meals are prepared with leafy greens, beets, and other crops from the resort’s own Kuilima Farm, a plot of land five minutes from the hotel; meanwhile, the 18-hole golf course is maintained with gray water treated by the resort’s own plant.

The resort partners with North Shore native Jamie O’Brien, a world surfing champ whose surf school is located on the property. One easy stroll and you’re outfitted with a surfboard, an instructor vetted by Jamie, and often an encounter with the champ himself.

Related: This Amazing Resort on O‘ahu Is Your Go-To Spot for Nature, Surfing, and More

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of AFAR.
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