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The Ultimate Guide to the Ko Olina Lagoons, Hawaii

Are you planning on visiting the beautiful Ko Olina Lagoons? This guide from a local has everything that you need to know about this picturesque area.

The Ko Olina Lagoons Secret

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 25+ 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, and eat, here’s the 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 at 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.

Where to Stay at the Ko Olina Lagoons

Stay right on the ocean during your stay in Ko Olina.

The Best Ko Olina Hotels

View of the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina from across the first Ko Olina lagoon

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.

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

view of the two reddish buildings of the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa at Ko Olina's Lagoon 1

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.  (The water-related amenities are so extensive, it’s basically a Hawaii water park!) 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! 

There are also quite a few restaurants and cafés at the Aulani, which will be discussed later.

Book Here: Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

the pastel clouds of sunset behind the Beach Villas at Ko Olina, one of the more affordable places to stay in Ko Olina

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.

Book Here: Beach Villas at Ko Olina

lagoon-like pool at Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club, filled with people and colorful pool floaties

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 a couple of pools (including one with a waterslide!). There are also quite a few restaurants and cafés at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, which we’ll touch on in the food section.

Book Here: Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club

Airbnb or VRBO

If you are looking for short-term, potentially home-like alternatives, Airbnb and VRBO are great alternatives. While prices do range significantly, it is possible to find options that are an absolute steal! Please make sure that your accommodation is legal and licensed before booking (there should be a registration number at the bottom of the vacation rental listing).

Still not sure? Here’s our deep dive into all of the best places to stay in Ko Olina (and nearby Kapolei).

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 Lagoons Sunset

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 — and most people don’t realize that the 1B parking exists, so that’s great when parking is tight. This is the best lagoon in Ko Olina for families and small kids.

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. This is arguably the best Ko Olina lagoon for a more peaceful, quiet atmosphere, since it doesn’t have a large-scale hotel or a huge parking lot.

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. Lagoon 3 is just as beautiful as the other lagoons on most days, but on occasion, a section of the water can get murky.

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.

At any of the lagoons, you could potentially see an endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Please be sure to keep your distance from them. They are wild animals, so please respect their space.

Things to Do at the Ko Olina Lagoons

There are so many things to do in Ko Olina, so you’re guaranteed to have loads of fun – in the water, on land, and in the air.

Go for a Swim or Snorkel

If there’s one thing you simply have to do in Ko Olina, it’s enjoy the lagoons. Swim, snorkel, suntan — it doesn’t matter. They’re all great options. And if you take a peek below the surface, you may see turtles, monk seals, eels, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and loads of fish in the lagoons.

*Note: If you do see turtles or monk seals while snorkeling, be sure to give them their space – it’s Hawaii law. While it’s safe to stay in the water with the turtles, if you see a monk seal swimming about, it’s best to get out.

Ko Olina Marina at sunset

Take a Tour from the Marina

Past the end of Ko Olina’s Lagoon 4, you’ll find the Ko Olina Marina and a couple of boat tour companies: Ocean Joy Cruises and Ko Olina Ocean Adventures. Both offer snorkeling tours (with wild dolphins!) and sunset tours — and both options are incredible.

orange and pink sky at Ko Olina at sunset

Watch the Sunset

In my opinion, Ko Olina is the best place to watch the sunset on Oahu. The angle is right, the colors are bright, and the lagoon setting is the cherry on top.

*Pro Tip: For the best colors, wait around for another 10 to 15 minutes after sunset. While this doesn’t happen every single evening, the colors often spread and brighten after the sun has dipped below the horizon.

Play a Few Rounds of Golf at Ko Olina Golf Club

Did you know that Ko Olina is home to a world-class golf course? The Ko Olina Golf Club has hosted internationally acclaimed golf competitions, including LPGA’s Hawaiian Ladies Open, the Ko Olina Senior PGA, and the LPGA Lotte Championship. Take on this gorgeous, yet challenging 18-hole course yourself!

Book an Evening Luau

Just about every night of the week, you’ll hear the faint percussive beat of an ipu (traditional Hawaiian gourd drum) at Ko Olina. That’s because there’s a luau!

There are three luaus in the area: the Kawaa Luau at Disney’s Aulani, the Fia Fia Dinner Show at Disney’s Ko Olina Beach Club, and the Paradise Cove Luau. Each of these options offers a little something different.

To no one’s surprise, Disney’s Kawaa Luau is fantastic for kids. There are lots of interactive and traditional pre-show activities, like kapa printing, temporary kakau tattoos, and taro pounding. There’s also a dedicated kids’ menu that comes in a nice, personalized bento box (as opposed to the slightly more chaotic adult buffet), complete with island-inspired, Disney-esque choices that kids will love.

The Marriott’s Fia Fia luau doesn’t just focus on Hawaii. It covers several Polynesian Island cultures. But at the end of the day, it’s the charismatic MC – who used to be the tree climber, though I think he retired from that particular gig – who’s the star of the show.

Then, there’s the Paradise Cove Luau. An all-around classic, this particular luau has been voted as the best luau on Oahu countless times. You’ll get the classic luau experience, complete with kalua pig, hula dancing, fire dancing, and a gorgeous sunset.

While Ko Olina is small, it’s jam-packed with things to do. Check out our full list of the best things to do in Ko Olina to learn about some hidden gems.

The Best Restaurants in Ko Olina

There are quite a few places to get a tasty bite to eat in Ko Olina.  Which of these do you feel like visiting?

two cappuccinos and one iced coffee clinking together. If you'd like to get a coffee in Ko Olina, check out the Hokulea Cafe at the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina.

Hokulea Cafe

If you’re a coffee drinker, Hokulea Cafe in the Four Seasons serves up some delicious cups of coffee, alongside ocean views. Add a few morning bites to the mix, and Hokulea Cafe has claimed its spot amongst the best breakfast places in Ko Olina.

(Currently, the only other coffee shop option in Ko Olina is Starbucks, which doesn’t really give you a taste of the islands. Although you can head to nearby Kapolei for a few more great coffee shop options.)

Monkeypod Kitchen

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.

fish dish from Roy's Ko Olina

Roy’s

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.

Spam Musubi in front of road and beach

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 the bites on our Hawaii Food Bucket List. (As a heads up though, if you can find your way into nearby Kapolei, the grocery stores there are quite a bit cheaper.)

These half a dozen restaurants are just the beginning of Ko Olina’s food scene. Take a look at our complete list of all of the best and worst restaurants in Ko Olina.

A Few Things to Know Before You Go

Because Ko Olina is technically privately owned, there are a few rules in place here that you won’t find at other Oahu beaches. While they don’t affect everyone, they’re helpful to know in advance, nonetheless.

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. You may see some workers riding their bikes, but that’s it.

And Umbrellas Aren’t Allowed Either

This one’s controversial, because while you aren’t allowed to bring and set up your own umbrella, you are allowed to rent one from hotels and other vendors for a ridiculous price. There also used to be a few thatched umbrellas on each lagoon available for anyone to use, but those were removed in favor of the aforementioned rental situation.

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.

Recently, the marina (near Lagoon 4) opened up its lot to visitors, for a fee. For $10, you can park your car for a few hours, which isn’t a bad deal.

Similarly, the parking in the Ko Olina Center used to be free. But they later implemented a parking fee (which requires an app) to park there. While you can get your ticket validated, it’s not the easiest process in the world.

And there you have it! The ultimate guide to the Ko Olina lagoons! We hope this comes in handy for you while planning your Ko Olina vacation.

Read More About the Best of Ko Olina

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102 Comments

  1. This is a very thourough post! I like that you have considered all budgets, and the bonus secret tips. What are you holding in the food photo? Looks a bit like sushi?

    1. Thank you!! This post was a lot of work, but I’m glad it paid off! And its actually a spam musubi. I’ve heard foreigners describe it as “spam sushi,” if that gives you an idea (but please don’t ever call it that lol). Here’s a link to another post if you want to read more about it!

  2. I’ve been to Oahu over 50 times yet have spent almost no time in Ko Olina! Just a quick brunch one time at Aulani. I’ll definitely check it out next time – it looks awesome based on all of your info!

    1. Wow FIFTY times?! That’s incredible. If possible, hit up those secret lagoons (like “lagoon zero” as I referenced it). Those are my favorite :).

    1. Aw thank you so much! I hope it’ll come in handy when you’re figuring out things to do if you come to visit :).

  3. OMG I am so jealous you live in Hawaii and get to call this your home! Thank you for this comprehensive post, I’m gonna have to keep your entire site in my bookmark so I can reference it when I finally make it to your island 😀

    1. LOL IT IS!!! I was on the hunt for Oahu’s best musubi for a long time, so I was searching EVERYWHERE. As pretty much every local will agree though, the best musubi isn’t from Musubi Cafe. It’s from 7/11 (I know, shocker, but you’ve got to trust me). But Musubi Cafe has the most aesthetically pleasing musubis lol.

  4. I have always wondered where Aulani was on the island! I love that you included Airbnbs, when I went to Maui last month I stayed at Airbnbs so I could move around the island!

    1. Thanks! When I travel, I pretty much always use AirBnbs, so I figured why can’t people do that on my island too? :).

  5. Great guide to Ko Olina Lagoons. Based on what you have listed, I would definitely want to stay at the Four Seasons and enjoy everything they have to offer, including those amazing restaurants. I love Michael Mina.

    1. ooh that one is definitely a good choice :). And Michael Mina is popping up all around Oahu lately! I can think of three of his restaurants right off the top of my head!

  6. Did you grow up on Oahu? Very awesome post girl! I can definitely see why it’s becoming such a big tourist area with the Aulani there!

    1. I did! I’ve basically always lived here, with the exception of college. And yeah, when we got the Aulani, Ko Olina really started to get popular.

  7. I would definitely be the one off in the secret lagoon in search of honu. Sea turtles are my favorite! This is such a comprehensive and helpful post! I’m pinning it for future reference. 🙂

    1. There aren’t actually a ton of locals that write about Hawaii, so I’m glad I could share some of the culture with my readers (like you!) on this blog :).

  8. Wow this was wonderful. I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii and this gave insights to everything important. I really appreciate the tips about the lagoons.

  9. What a lovely place to grow up! I missed this area when I went to Oahu, so it’s a good reason for me to go back. I loved Atlantis in the Bahamas so it is exciting there may be one in Oahu (at some point).

  10. Thank you for writing such a detailed post. Oahu is so beautiful! I was lucky to visit a friend twice while she was going to school there a few years ago. We spent most of our time in Kailua, but I would love to sneak away to Ulua the next time I visit.

    1. Kailua is so beautiful too! Some of my favorite hikes and beaches are near that area!

  11. Oh my goodness! Hawaii sounds and looks beyond gorgeous. I’d really like to visit the Ko Olina Lagoons one day. Love the fact that you included wedding venues, too! Haha…I might just forward this to the BF!

    1. LOL “hint, hint*. Love that. I actually didn’t have the wedding venues in the first couple drafts of the post. Then I realized that seeing brides and grooms taking pictures at the lagoons is like such a common thing to see at the Ko Olina Lagoons, so I had to include it.

    1. Thanks so much! The sunsets add all the beauty themselves 🙂 – if it helps put it in perspective, I took those shots with my iPhone 6 (not any sort of fancy camera, and there was little to no editing done on them), so you know the sunsets have to be gorgeous in real life.

  12. Wow! Brilliantly written post. I loved all the details where to eat, enjoy, shop, stay and even get married. All in all it really is an ultimate guide for Hawaii.

  13. the palm trees are giving me serious holiday blues right now! Love the attention to detail, great guide for Hawaii. I have followed you on instagram to see more via @chlocroucher 🙂

  14. Man looks like I am going to have to bring my lottery winnings to afford things in the Ko Olina Laggons cause it all looks amazing but expensive. I love Hawaii but you definitely have to plan to keep within your budget. However, if you are looking for a wedding set up like you shared then what better time to splurge! I was blessed to stay at the Four Season in Maui and loved it! So I bet the one in Oahu is off the hook.
    Definitely going to have to take Darcee to see the historic train of the Hawaiian Railway Society! Great guide to Ko Olina Lagoons!

    1. lol true. Ko Olina is quite the expensive place (especially for food). But if you ever make it over one day, I’m sure Darcee will love the train!

    1. Ah yes! The West side has so much too see! I’m glad that you were able to drive around and explore more of the island than just Waikiki though :).

  15. Haven’t heard of this place before coming across your blog. I am sure that it is something like Sentosa in Singapore where there are a lot of activities. If I am ever around this place, I would try to visit and spend a day or two.

    1. It was quite the hidden gem for a while! I personally haven’t heard of Sentosa, so perhaps!

    1. I know right?! It’s kind of crazy to hear people who are only like a decade older than me talking about booming parts of the island that used to be completely covered in sugar cane fields!

  16. Hope to visit Hawai’i one day and go beyond the beaches. I love that across body bag and the jewellery. That is what I look out for in travels to bring back home and rock.

  17. such a great guide to this enchanting place. I have been to Kauai three times but I have never visited other islands. I’ll follow you and your tips so I will have another amazing experience in that beautiful part of America.

    1. Kauai is beautiful, but so are all the other islands! I hope you get to visit a couple other islands one day.

  18. Wow! This is such a detailed guide on Ko Olina Lagoons. From the best places to stay and the secret lagoons to the restaurant and food suggestions, shopping and activities to the places to get married – you’ve covered everything. Ko Olina looks beautiful and I would love to visit the lagoons and enjoy their magical beauty someday.

  19. Hawaii looks absolutely stunning. Living in the UK it’s always felt so far away, but would love to get there one day. Really enjoyed reading your guide. It must have been an incredible place to grow up!

  20. So many options for accommodation! I love the place you shared for long term stay. I wouldn’t mind staying in Hawaii for a bit! 🙂

  21. What a great guide! I love that there’s so much to do around Ko Olina Lagoons, it isn’t a place I’d heard of before.

  22. Only managed to make it to Maui before but would love to go other hawaiian islands. Thanks for the inspiraton!

    1. Yeah, things change so fast! Once Disney popped up (I think it was 2011), more and more changes started happening as well.

  23. Nothing beats the sunset at Ko Olina Lagoons… I love staying at the Hillside…my fave is Lagoon 3…but we always park at 4 and walk to 3.
    I prefer the west side of the island instead of Waikiki side…. I think the food is so much better in Kapolei and Waipahu…

    Your post makes me want to go back to HI again…

    1. My favorite lagoon is actually lagoon 2 lol.

      And I totally agree about the food sitch. Waikiki does have a lot of good food, but it takes so much time to find it, because there are so many options (and yelp isn’t all the helpful on the islands lol).

  24. We are headed to Oahu in a couple months and so thank you so much for all this valuable info!! What is the setup for happy hour at Monkeypod? Would it work if we have children?
    Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much, Sierra! I’m glad you enjoyed the read! Monkeypod happy hour is totally doable with kids! I actually go just for the yummy food lol. I think kids would love the pizzas (which are half price during happy hour) – even if they aren’t adventurous eaters, there is a simple margherita pizza for them. Plus, the appetizers are half off too, so if all else fails, there are french fries and chicken wings for them to enjoy lol.

  25. Hi,
    Thank you for posting this. We are staying at Marriott Ko Olina Resort starting Feb. 19-24. Parking fee at Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club is $40/night. Just wondering if you know of alternative parking lot we can park that is walkable from Marriott? I read from another posting there is a public parking lot for employees and construction workers in a big field that’s gravelled. They sell a pass that I believe is $75.00 a month, you can buy it at the administrative offices in the small shopping center where Roy’s is located. Thanks

    1. Thanks for the great question, Sergio! As far as I know, there isn’t any cheap overnight parking in Ko Olina. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure if that pass is still in effect. That’s one downside of staying in Ko Olina.

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