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The catamaran moves farther into the Pacific, into deeper water, now a dark blue, well off the other side of Diamond Head. In swells that are 8 feet or more, the open ocean beckons, and the catamaran surges through the whitecaps, then comes about, and we ride several large waves as if on a double-hulled 50-foot surfboard.

The coastline of Waikiki is a gleaming host of hotels at the base of brilliant green mountains. The Pink Palace stands out like a gem among its towering neighbors. We glide through a flotilla of surfers catching the outside break before reaching the shallows and the beach.

We reluctantly leave the Royal Hawaiian and head up the rural coastline of windward Oahu from Kaneohe through Kahuku, past Kaaawa and rugged, exotic Kahana Valley, the windward cliffs rising like jagged emerald knives to the sky. We pass scattered houses and the occasional general store along the scenic highway. The North Shore lies ahead, the gold coast of Oahu, a 10-mile stretch of beaches with indisputably the best surfing on the planet.

We stay at Turtle Bay Resort at the tip of the North Shore. Turtle Bay is a stunning complex built around a series of pools and surrounded by two championship golf courses, and it is the only luxury hotel at this end of the island. We are in a beachfront bungalow, just steps from the ocean. The pounding surf rolls in across the crescent bay in this tropical wonderland, which is splendid in its isolation and beauty. Our bungalow has hardwood floors, sumptuous platform beds, 20-foot ceilings and a sunken sitting room leading to a private lanai overlooking the beach, which curves along the bay for about two miles on each side of the hotel.

Dinner is in the hotel’s 21 Degrees North, a beautiful room with sweeping views. Waimea greens with macadamia-nut-crusted goat cheese is fantastic, and Wailua tomatoes with Maui onions and spicy crab in a mango-cilantro vinaigrette leaps across the palate.

The main courses are works of art. Kona lobster on an arborio risotto is amazing, but the peak is Kona kampachi (Hawaiian yellowtail) wrapped in nori and served with a coconut-curry sauce with jasmine rice. Delicious.

Chef John Armstrong has created an innovative, tasteful and not overly indulgent cuisine; 21 Degrees North is a magnificent restaurant and is among the best on Oahu.

The surf is pounding outside our bungalow as the sun rises for a picture-perfect morning. After breakfast, we enjoy an excellent deep-tissue massage at the Spa Luana on the grounds of the hotel. Then we’re off to a surfer’s paradise.

Ocean swells cross thousands of miles and hit Oahu’s North Shore unimpeded — winter waves can be 20 feet or more. Beach after beach lies in close to the other. Often just hundreds of yards apart, each has dramatically different breaks and waves.

These legendary shores draw hordes each December for the Triple Crown of Surfing, including the epic Pipeline Masters. We stop at famous Sunset Beach, a wide stretch of sand beside the road. The surf is small, but the scene is beautiful. Half a mile farther down Kamehameha Highway is Ehukai Beach Park, best known for the Banzai Pipeline. Here, literally down the beach from Sunset, the waves are breaking 4 to 8 feet, and surfers are out in two packs at different spots, riding the crisp surf in staccato bursts that explode with the fury of the ocean. It is mesmerizing.

Down the road at the mouth of idyllic Waimea Valley is Waimea Bay, with one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, a wide sandy expanse on an emerald-green sea that also is a legendary big-wave surf spot. It is flat today, with barely a ripple, but in winter, the waves can rise to 30 feet and more, beckoning the most audacious surfers. A giant rock at one end of the bay is calling out to be used for leaping into the shimmering water, and a cluster of locals is doing just that.

We continue past the surf spots Laniakea and Chun’s Reef to Haleiwa, a lovely place that once was a sleepy sugar-cane town full of locals. These days, it is the center of the North Shore surfing industry and is filled with quaint shops, restaurants, boutiques, old tin-roofed buildings and general stores with stands selling shaved ices.

We hear a blues band pounding out incredible music from Resurrection City, the art gallery of Ron Artis, a musician who has relocated to Haleiwa with his wife and 11 children and paints old surfboards, turning them into works of art. He also has painted numerous beautiful large-scale murals around the island. We have lunch at Haleiwa Joe’s, an iconic restaurant that has stood for decades at the foot of Anahulu Bridge, an art-deco landmark built in 1921.

Returning to Sunset Beach and the Pipeline at — when else? — sunset, we watch the surfers take the last waves at day’s end in the glistening twilight.

Dinner is at Jameson’s by the Sea in Haleiwa, a restaurant that has been here 25 years and never fails to delight. The signature curry chicken salad, served in a papaya, is always sensational, and we both have the fresh ono, my wife’s with a mild Cajun seasoning and mine with black-bean sauce. Our waiter, Pam Farr, a junior staff member, has been here 16 years. The casual atmosphere is very North Shore. The food is excellent, the view wonderful and the ambience superb.

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