Are you looking for the ultimate guide to the Ko Olina Lagoons? This guide from a local has everything that you need to know about this picturesque area.
I grew up going to the Ko Olina Lagoons nearly every single week. That was our family’s go-to beach. I remember when there were just the lagoons, the Ihilani (which is now the Four Seasons), two (instead of three) buildings of the Marriott, and the Fairways. That’s it. No other hotels, no other town houses, and no shops at all. It was a little secluded paradise.
Now, the Ko Olina Lagoons have grown into a tourist hub on Oahu. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a little different than it was before. But my 20+ years of experience at the Ko Olina Lagoons prove that I know the area better than nearly anyone else. To give you a better idea of where to stay, relax, have some fun, eat, and have a wedding, I’ve created this ultimate guide to the Ko Olina Lagoons in Hawaii.
What Are The Ko Olina Lagoons?
The Ko Olina Lagoons (also known as Ko Olina Beach Park) are a set of four (official) lagoons on the West side of Oahu, Hawaii. Many people wonder if the Ko Olina lagoons are natural lagoons or manmade lagoons, and it’s really a combination of both. The lagoons existed naturally, but humans smoothed them out.
When Should I Visit the Ko Olina Lagoons?
If you’re staying one of the resorts at the Ko Olina Lagoons, you can visit the lagoons whenever you’d like. If you’re just visiting for the day, the parking for the Ko Olina Lagoons is open from sunrise until sunset. If your car stays in the parking lot too long after sunset (read: a few hours after sunset), it may get towed.
However, if you want to stay a little longer (if you want to eat at one of the restaurants in the area, for example), you can park your car for a fee in one of the hotel parking lots.
A Few Things to Know Before You Go
Dogs Aren’t Allowed
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed at Ko Olina. And there are employees roaming the lagoons to make sure that the dogs don’t stick around.
And Neither Are Bikes
Bikes aren’t allowed at the Ko Olina Lagoons either.
Parking Can Be a Struggle
Parking at the Ko Olina Lagoons is quite difficult. Most lagoons have only about 20 parking spaces. But Lagoon 4 has the largest parking lot by far! So if you’re planning on going to Ko Olina in the summer or on the weekend (the busiest times), your best bet to find parking spot is at Lagoon 4.
Where to Stay at the Ko Olina Lagoons
The Ko Olina Lagoons have quite the range of places to stay – from hotels to Airbnbs to town homes.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina (Lagoon 1)
The Four Seasons Resort is probably the most couple-friendly resort in the area. With multiple resort boutiques, a couple of pools, a high-tech health club, and rooftop tennis courts, this resort provides tons of ways for guests to unwind on their Hawaii vacation. Room rates start at $589 per night, although this price does depend on the season.
There are also quite a few restaurants and cafés at the Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina, which will be discussed later.
Book Here: Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa (Lagoon 1)
Disney’s Aulani is a miniature Disney park right on the Ko Olina Lagoons. Of course, Disney has packed their resort with tons of fun kid-friendly activities, including the keiki cove splash zone, a high-tech scavenger hunt, painting with light, and snorkeling in the rainbow reef. But they also have activities for adults as well, including spa treatments, hydrotherapy gardens, and the Pulu Bar mixology station. For a more complete picture of all of the resort’s amenities and activities, this Disney Aulani review is fantastic! Room rates start at $484 per night, although this price does depend on the season.
There are also quite a few restaurants and cafés at the Aulani, which will be discussed later.
Book Here: Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
Beach Villas at Ko Olina (Lagoon 2)
The Beach Villas at Ko Olina is the most affordable option if you’re looking for a place to stay directly on the lagoon. If you are looking for a place for a larger group, the Beach Villas have 3-bedroom apartments that can sleep eight people. The amenities include two pools, barbecue grills, a fitness center, a sauna, a steam room, and the Makai Hale Beach Bar. Room rates start at $300 per night, although this price does depend on the season.
Book Here: Beach Villas at Ko Olina
Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club (Lagoon 3)
Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club offers a combination of both hotel and timeshare options. The amenities include a spa, fitness center, and pool (with a waterslide!). Room rates start at $320 per night, although this price does depend on the season.
There are also quite a few restaurants and cafés at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, which will be discussed later.
Book Here: Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club
Rumor Has It…
Its rumored that in a few years the Atlantis hotel will be coming to the Ko Olina Lagoons. They plan on building an exact replica of their resort in Dubai. However, there is no evidence of construction work being started thus far.
If you are looking for short-term, potentially home-like alternatives, AirBnb is a great alternative at the Ko Olina Lagoons. While prices do range significantly, it is possible to find options for only $45 per night (which is fantastic for anywhere in Hawaii, especially a resort area)! If you are new to AirBnb and aren’t really sure what to look for, this post guides you through six steps to find an amazing AirBnb.
If you’re hoping to stay a bit longer than just a couple of weeks, there are also long-term rental options in Ko Olina, Hawaii.
Ko Olina Hillside
The Ko Olina Hillside is the newest development at the Ko Olina Lagoons. 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom accommodations are available. As for amenities, there is a pool and a barbecue area.
Book Here: Ko Olina Hillside
The Coconut Plantation is a gated community with two pools, a hidden spa, a recreation center, and barbecue areas. 2-bedroom, 2-bedroom with den, and 3-bedroom accommodations are available.
Book Here: Coconut Plantation
Ko Olina Kai
Ko Olina Kai is another gated development at the Ko Olina Lagoons. There is a pool and barbecue area. 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom accommodations are available.
Book Here: Ko Olina Kai
Kai Lani is known for having great ocean views. 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom accommodations are available.
Book Here: Kai Lani
Ko Olina Fairways
The Ko Olina Fairways were the original town home development at the Ko Olina Lagoons. There is a pool, recreation center, and barbecue area. 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom accommodations are available.
Book Here: Ko Olina Fairways
Where to Relax at the Ko Olina Lagoons
You’re on vacation in Hawaii! Of course you want to find a great place to relax (and here’s a packing list for you so you don’t forget anything). And Ko Olina is the perfect place to do so. With calm waters, bright sunshine, and swaying trees, you really can’t ask for a better environment.
There are four main lagoons to Ko Olina, and many people will ask which Ko Olina lagoon is best. And my answer will always be that each lagoon has a slightly different experience to offer.
Ko olina Lagoon 1: “Kohola”
The first lagoon tends to be pretty packed with the guests from both the Four Seasons and the Aulani. The parking for this lagoon is split into 1A and 1B. I’d say this is the most kid-centric lagoon.
ko olina Lagoon 2: “Honu”
The second lagoon is usually slightly less populated than the others. It is also known to have quite a few fish for snorkeling. With the past couple of months, turtles have started to pop up on Lagoon 2 as well.
ko olina Lagoon 3: “Naia”
The third lagoon hosts the three Marriott towers and their guests. So it’s pretty busy, but there aren’t as many children as on lagoon one.
ko olina Lagoon 4: “Ulua”
The fourth lagoon is where the locals tend to flock when they come to Ko Olina. This lagoon also comes with significantly more public parking than any other lagoon.
Plus, A Few Secret Lagoons
If you venture out past the first lagoon (think of where “lagoon zero” should be), you’ll be able to find a few secret lagoons. Let’s just say that if you’re looking for a stunning view of the Waianae Mountains and snorkeling experience with quite a few honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles – here’s a post on all the local words you need to know before you head to Hawaii) in this area, you should find your way to one of these secret lagoons. But please be careful! The rocks in this area are quite a bit sharper than the ones on the rest of the lagoons. These directions should help a bit.
And a Couple Extra Bonuses!
At any of the lagoons, you could potentially see a Hawaiian monk seal lying on the shore. Please be sure to keep your distance from them though. They are wild animals, so please respect their space. Within the past year or two, sightings of Hawaiian monk seals in Ko Olina have been quite rare. However, instead, during the winter, the whale spouts have become more visible from the Ko Olina Lagoons.
The Ko Olina Lagoons are also the best place on the island of Oahu to watch the sunset (at least in my opinion). Find out why I believe that in this post.
Activities at the Ko Olina Lagoons
The Ko Olina Lagoons also have tons of options for you to have some fun – in the water, on land, and in the air.
Ko Olina Marina Activities
Just past Lagoon 4, there is the Ko Olina Marina, which offers a ton of in-the-water experiences. Choose between whale or dolphin watching ($149), snorkeling ($142), sailing ($142), sport fishing (price varies), or sunset watching ($142), all of course, while on a boat.
Pro Tip: keep an eye out for unusual boats docked there. Once I saw an actual pirate ship (like think Captain Hook and the Jolly Roger from Peter Pan) docked there.
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa’s Water Activities
The Aulani also has its share of water activities at the Ko Olina Lagoons. At Makiki Joe’s Beach Equipment Rentals, you can rent snorkel sets and stand-up paddleboards. If you are an Aulani Resort guest, you can also rent boogie boards, sand toys, and life jackets at no additional cost.
The Aulani also has a catamaran excursion ($154) available, where guests may catch a glimpse of dolphins, turtles, and humpback whales.
Paradise Cove Luau
Everyone who visits Hawaii ends up going to a luau at some point or another. While none of the tourist-catered ones are quite like the local backyard luaus, Paradise Cove does quite a good job. With traditional Hawaiian music and dance, arts and crafts, and delicious food, Paradise Cove truly provides a memorable experience. Tickets start at $97, depending on the luau package.
Ko Olina Golf Club
A huge portion of the acreage at the Ko Olina Lagoons is devoted to the 18-hole Ko Olina Golf Club. This golf course was named as one of Golf Digest ’s “Top 75 Resort Courses in the U.S.” and is home to the 2012-2017 LOTTE Championship. Tee times start at $175.
Fun fact: the course has several black swans and a tunnel under a waterfall!
Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club’s Tuesday Night Show
Whenever my family and I are on Lagoon 3 on a Tuesday night, we’d be sure to pop into the Marriott and take a peek at their show. Growing up, the most entertaining part was always when the host would climb all the way to the top of a 40-foot palm tree! (If you’ve ever even attempted to climb a palm tree, you know how impressive that is.) The show usually starts about an hour or so before sunset.
Hawaiian Railway Society
The Hawaiian Railway Society runs the only active historical railroad on Oahu. Starting in Ewa Beach, this small train takes guests on a tour all the way to the Ko Olina Lagoons. During the ride, a historical audio track plays to give viewers a sense of life in Hawaii in the past. Tickets only go on sale two hours prior to the start of the train ride ($15 for adults, $10 for children).
Boutique Shops at the Ko Olina Center
The Ko Olina Center is filled with little local stores that are selling products infused with relaxing island vibes, including Honolua Surf Co., Mahina, and Jams World. The shops that tend to catch my eye are Pineapples Boutique (and Pineapples Kids) and The Plantation.
While rather expensive, Pineapples Boutique sells lose-fitting island wear that is perfect to through on over swimwear before or after a day at the Ko Olina Lagoons. As for The Plantation, its selection varies a bit from the other stores at the Ko Olina Center, because it does not sell only locally-inspired clothing items. Rather, it also sells other locally-inspired items, including cards, jewelry, and lotions. I think I’ve even come across a vintage-esque Hawaii poster there a couple of times.
Art Galleries at the Ko Olina Center
I’ve noticed that the art galleries in the Ko Olina Center tend to come and go, but the only one there at the moment is Gallery Olani. With a tagline that states, “local artists celebrating local culture,” you’re sure to find some true local art pieces.
For a full list of the shops in the Ko Olina Center, click here.
Paradise Helicopters is the only tour company to offer tours on the West side of Oahu. Four different tour options are available: Oahu Sunset Experience ($459), Kualoa Expedition ($719), Oahu Circle Island Experience ($419), and Diamond Head Scenic ($189). There is a complimentary shuttle to pick you up from the Ko Olina Lagoons and take you to the Barbers Point Airfield for takeoff.
Where to Eat at the Ko Olina Lagoons
There are quite a few places to get a tasty bite to eat in Ko Olina. Which of these do you feel like visiting?
Island Vintage Coffee
If you’re a coffee drinker, Island Vintage Coffee serves up some delicious cups of 100% Kona coffee (around $5). If coffee isn’t your thing, Island Vintage Coffee also serves up some pretty solid acai bowls ($10 – $12) and a reasonably priced breakfast and lunch selection.
My favorite restaurant in Ko Olina, Hawaii is hands-down, Monkeypod Kitchen. Their wood-fired pizzas ($16.95 – $26.95) are definitely a crowd favorite, and their live music is a lovely addition. The fish and meat-focused dishes are quite a bit more expensive, as those average around $40 per plate. However, as an extra bonus, during happy hour (3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. – 11 p.m.), the almost all of the pizzas and appetizers are half-off – and, of course, they have a discount on drinks as well. I think it’s so good that it was one of only ten restaurants to make it onto my list of Oahu’s best restaurants.
Feel like splurging on a fancy, romantic dinner? Roy’s Ko Olina is the place to do it. While the menu does change quite frequently based on what local ingredients are available, Chef Roy Yamaguchi knows how to make delicious meals. Be prepared to shell out quite a lot of money though, as most dinner entrees teeter around the $50 mark.
MINA’s Fish House (Four Seasons Resort)
This fresh seafood restaurant is owned by famed Egyptian chef, Michael Mina. Enjoy some phyllo-crusted butterfish ($44), grilled opah ($38), or lobster pot pie ($95) at Mina’s Fish House. There are reduced prices at happy hour (3 p.m. – 5p.m. and 9 p.m. – 11 p.m.). Please note that happy hour prices may not apply during the holiday season.
Noe (Four Seasons Resort)
Noe is one of the only Italian restaurants on the West side of the island. Dine one homemade pasta, sip on Italian wine, and stare off at the beautiful Ko Olina Lagoons. This one also costs quite a bit of money, so click on the above link to make sure its within your price range.
Island Country Market (Grocery Store)
If you are looking to pinch a few pennies and prepare some of your own meals or perhaps grab some quick premade meals, head to the Island Country Market at the Ko Olina Center. You may even be able to find quite a few foods to check off Part 1 and Part 2 of the Hawaii Food Bucket List. As a heads up though, if you can find your way into Kapolei, the grocery stores there are quite a bit cheaper.
There are quite a few restaurants in the nearby city of Kapolei who will deliver food to the Ko Olina Lagoons. So if none of these nearby options pique your interest, do a quick search to see what nearby restaurants will deliver.
We also have a full list of the best (and worst) Ko Olina restaurants.
If none of these food options are making your mouth water, consider heading into the nearby town of Kapolei. Just ten minutes away, the growing city of Kapolei is known as Oahu’s second city. That means that there are a TON of food options, one of which is bound to excite your taste buds. And, if you’re on a budget, Kapolei is also a great place to go grocery shopping, as there is a Costco, a Safeway, and a local grocery store called Foodland.
Where to Get Married at the Ko Olina Lagoons
On any given day, if you sit at the Ko Olina Lagoon for a couple of hours, you are bound to see a newly married couple and the very small bridal party that also attended the ceremony. So I couldn’t have this ultimate guide to the Ko Olina Lagoons without a section on where to get married.
Ko Olina Chapel Place of Joy (Lagoon 1)
As the longest standing of the chapels, the Ko Olina Chapel Place of joy has been the choice of brides and grooms for decades. The glass-windows that look out at an ocean view and the light green rooftop make for some quite picturesque pictures.
Does this one catch your eye? Inquire about the space.
*Note: this chapel is temporarily under renovation.
Ko Olina Royal Chapel (Four Seasons)
As the newest of all of the chapels, the Ko Olina Royal Chapel is on the property of the Four Seasons Resort Oahu. With a capacity of 40 guests, this historically-inspired chapel infuses small elements of Hawaii’s history into its architecture and décor.
Interested? Inquire about the space.
Ko Olina Chapel at Aqua Marina
The Ko Olina Chapel at Aqua Marina is the most visually stunning chapel. With its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, both the ceremony and the pictures of it will be absolutely stunning. The capacity of this chapel is 30 guests.
Is this one more up your alley? Inquire about the space.
Lanikuhonua is where you want to look if you are planning to have an outdoor wedding. (*Spoiler alert: if you’re a Hawaii Five-0 fan, Chin and Malia get married here.) If this place seems to be catching your attention, be prepared to book this place WAY in advance.
Interested in more Oahu Ultimate Guides? Check out The Ultimate Guide to the North Shore!
Have you ever been to the Ko Olina Lagoons? Write about your experience in the comments!
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