Sunset at the Ko Olina Lagoons (Ulua)

The winter season is a favorite time of the year for Hawaii surfers, mainly because of the waves that the winter swells bring. However, if instead you are looking for idyllic and calm “beach” experience then look no further than the Ko Olina Lagoons located at the ritzy J.W. Marriott Ihilani. These mini beaches are actually four man-made lagoons (Hanu, Naia, Kolola, and Ulua). The rock walls surrounding the lagoons keep the waves from venturing in and therefore you’re left with a relaxed water experience. It’s like swimming in an open ocean pool – it’s chill, very chill.

After a recent stop at Kaena Point, Joel, Mark, and I decided to visit Ulua (Lagoon 4) at Ko Olina. The lagoons are located about 20-30 minutes (by car) from Yokohama Beach (where you’d park if you were to visit Kaena Point via the Waianae side). We arrived at the lagoon at around 5:00 pm and it was not crowded at all. I guess all of the tourist flocked to Waikiki.

Although located on a private resort, the lagoons are free to visit and open to the public. When driving to the resort you’ll need to drive past a guard shack. Simply let the guard know that you are headed to the lagoons. Do note that the lagoons do get busy during the weekends, so plan to go early during those times to score parking. The guard will turn you away if there is no parking available at the lagoons. Since it’s a private resort, you can expect a full range of services and amenities like clean restrooms, lifeguards, and concession stands.

Before we jumped into the lagoons, we sat on the warm sand and enjoyed our Spam musubis, fried chicken, and hash from my favorite okazuya [1] on the island, Gulick Deli in Kalihi. The sun began to set a few moments later. This is what we saw.

Explorers: Mark DeBlois, Coty Gonzales, and Joel Sabugo.

The sun begins to set over Lagoon 4 (Ulua). Photo by Coty Gonzales.

It’s hard to believe that this is all man-made. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

To the right of the stone wall in the above photo is this view. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

And even further right you can see the new Aulani Disney Resort nestled to the right behind those trees. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ko Olina Footsteps. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ko Olina Mood Lighting. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

When the sun goes down the sunglasses come off. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A sexy sunset. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Bye, bye, sun. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Directions: If coming from the Honolulu International Airport, take the H201 Freeway, heading west toward Waianae for approximately 15 miles. Take the Ko Olina exit. Enter the Ko Olina Resort and Marina property, drive through the security gate. If coming from Waikiki, take the H1 Freeway, heading west. Exit H1 West toward Honolulu International Airport. Continue on H1 West toward Waianae for approximately 15 miles. Take the Ko Olina exit. Enter the Ko Olina Resort and Marina property, drive through the security gate.


1. Casual storefront restaurants serving carry-out foods that reflect the ethnic mix of the Islands. Definition via Alternative Hawaii.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.