Places Where You're Most Likely To Spot Celebrities In Hawaii

Many dream of traveling to Hawaii, only to be deterred by the long, cumbersome flights and the high cost of a luxurious beach vacation where nearly every item you'll need has to be imported from somewhere else. However, those also happen to be some of the same factors that keep celebrities flocking there. After all, the less accessible a place is for tourists, the easier it is for a celebrity to reside or visit without dealing with the paparazzi.

Surrounded by secluded beaches and tons of areas only touched by nature, the Aloha State has become a paradise for celebrities of all sorts, including athletes, actors, politicians, and more, where they can find a bit of peace and quiet away from big cities. Besides nature, Hawaii is also surrounded by something else — luxury. The islands are full of five-star resorts, experiences, spas, and restaurants, making it an ideal place to spend a fortune. These are just a few of the places where you're likely to spot celebrities throughout this island retreat. Of course, it is also possible to visit Hawaii on a budget, although we doubt that Oprah, Ben Affleck, Dwayne Johnson, and all the other A-listers are counting their pennies.

Banzai Pipeline, Pupukea, Oahu

You know that perfectly turquoise wave photo you've seen on screensavers, phone backgrounds, and beach towels? Turns out, it exists. It's called the Banzai Pipeline in Pupukea, Oahu, and it's where famous surfers and celebrities have headed for decades since it was "discovered" in 1960. As the location of the Triple Crown of Surfing and the Billabong Pipeline Masters, it's a surfing mecca, and surfers like Derek Ho, Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, and Jack Johnson have surfed there. And yes, we mean the singer-songwriter Johnson, who is most famous for songs like "Flake," "Break Down, and "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing." Johnson grew up just steps from the Banzai Pipeline and spent years surfing there before getting injured when he crashed into one of the area's reefs.

Unfortunately, that's not uncommon in this beautiful but dangerous pipeline, which has three reefs that can be catastrophic if crashed into. That's even more true during winter when the waves are rougher. In the years since it was first conquered by surfer Phil Edwards, the Banzai Pipeline has claimed the lives of more than a dozen people and injured countless more. However, that hasn't stopped it from enjoying celebrity status in its own right, as it has been featured in tons of films, including "Blue Crush." There was even a song about it that was ranked number four on the Billboard Hot 100 charts — "Pipeline," a 1963 hit by The Chantays.

Duke's Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu

Duke's Waikiki has celebrity in its bones. Its name is inspired by Duke Kahanamoku, a Honolulu native and iconic surfer who also earned several Olympic medals over two decades for swimming. In Honolulu, he also set a new record for riding a wave for the furthest distance. Today, Duke's Waikiki keeps that surfing history alive by serving Hawaiian comfort cuisine and tropical drinks. It even has its own "barefoot bar" outside overlooking Waikiki Beach. This down-home feel has unsurprisingly attracted common folk and celebrities looking to escape white tablecloths. "This is where everyone hangs out," a bartender told Hawaii Magazine. "Famous people, ordinary people — for me, that's the wow factor. They're just normal people and they feel at home here."

Some of those "normal people" have included Sean Penn, who loves to chat with the employees before bar hopping with them; Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam); and Jimmy Buffett, who has been known to get onstage at impromptu times and play a few tunes on a whim. With a house on the North Shore, Penn is frequently seen at Oahu spots, including, of course, in the ocean, and even an Ace Hardware. Vedder also has a home in Kailua, which has one of the best snorkeling beaches in the world.

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, Kihei, Maui

With an adults-only infinity pool, ocean-view suites on private floors, and personal assistants for VIP guests, the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea doesn't mess around regarding luxury and discretion. Even the check-in and check-out can be private, so no one will spot a celebrity lugging their bags. The superstars love this place, and A-list celebrities such as Oprah, Paris Hilton, John Stamos, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Felicity Huffman, Jessica Alba, and old flames Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee and Britney Spears and Kevin Federline have all had room reservations here. Spears was spotted there in 2011, checking out of the hotel's presidential suite (she must have forgone the private check-out).

The Four Seasons Resort Maui is full of other wow-worthy amenities suitable for high-profile guests, like an onsite private jet liaison, which connects visitors with a private jet company to get them to and from Maui seamlessly with carbon credits to minimize the impact on the environment. Plus, A-list guests staying in the hotel's 26 premium suites have access to their own club on a private floor, which is always stocked with food, drinks, and concierge, so Hilton and Oprah can mingle without anyone the wiser. However, they'll pay for it — the Elite two-bedroom suite, for example, averages a cool $16,500 per night. At least it's a whopping 2,400 square feet and includes a lanai, an indoor-outdoor covered porch with one open wall.

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, Princeville, Kauai

For years, what's now 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay was the St. Regis Princeville, and it enjoyed fame due to the laundry list of celebrities that stayed here. Those included Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Munn, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne, and Matt Damon. George Clooney stayed here while filming "The Descendants" (and parts of the movie were filmed inside the hotel). And Julia Roberts, Pierce Brosnan, and Ben Stiller loved their stays at the St. Regis Princeville so much that they bought homes nearby. Fashion designer Jason Wu even said that some of his designs were inspired by the beauty of the hotel, according to Elite Traveler, and he's a sucker for the butler service and the 360-degree views of Hanalei Bay from the ocean-view suites.

In 2023, the hotel became even more high-end thanks to a $300 million renovation and a rebrand to 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay. Now, the storied spot has much more greenery and a more natural feel, blending with the Hawaiian landscape, but some of its amenities are anything but natural. The hotel offers Audi e-trons so guests can take a ride to nearby village Hanalei, as well as a spa with state-of-the-art treatments like a sensory deprivation tank, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and meditation pods. But it'll cost you — the Nāpali House Suite, for example, costs nearly $14,500 per night.

Hana, Maui

If you can make it to Hana, a small seaside town in Maui, you might run into Oprah. The talk show icon has owned more than 200 acres there since 2005 for reasons that are still a mystery. Of course, we said "if" for a reason. Being one of the few rustic, untouched spots left in the Aloha State, it can take two to four hours just to get to Hana from Kahului. It's an immensely challenging route, with its many single-car bridges and tight turns, and Go Hawaii recommends that people only take the trip with a hired guide. It's worth the journey, however, to get to this destination. Hana is home to one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, as well as a black sand beach and the biggest Hawaiian temple in the state. We can see why Oprah, who attracts a photographer whenever she leaves the house, would gravitate towards this remote, quaint town. It's even been named one of the most underrated destinations in America that are perfect for couples

But Hana isn't the only place in Hawaii where you might run into Oprah. The television queen owns almost 1,000 acres in Hawaii, mostly on Maui, where she has 870 acres. While some of the land she purchased to keep safe from development, other parcels of Hawaiian land are home to Oprah's beach getaways. For example, her homestead in Maui is filled with antiques garnered from her travels and has world-class views.


Kauai is nicknamed the "Garden Island," and it isn't kidding. Swathed in lush greenery, tropical rainforests, and thundering waterfalls, it's a natural paradise that was featured in "Jurassic Park" and has parts so remote that they can only be visited by boat or plane. Perhaps it's all that privacy that has kept celebrities flocking here, and Kauai has become a hotspot for celebrity homes. Some A-listers that have found a home away from home on Kauai include Ben Stiller, Pierce Brosnan, Julia Roberts, Dwayne Johnson, Natalie Merchant, Bette Midler, Lisa Ling, and Richie Sambora. Mark Zuckerberg loved it so much that he spent an additional $17 million in 2021 to buy 100 Kauai acres, adding it to his collection of 1,350 acres on the island.

The demand to live on this remote island has become so intense — for both regular people and celebrities alike — that Kauai homes saw value increases that were more than any other Hawaiian island from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, house prices increased a mammoth 36%, making the median home price $1,750,000 rather than $785,000. The competition is steep, as Kauai is one of the less-developed Hawaiian islands, and fewer homes are available in the first place. If you can't afford to live here or book a luxurious hotel, you can stay on a beautiful Kauai beach shore without breaking the bank at this resort

The Kahala Hotel + Resort, Honolulu, Oahu

We would list all the celebrities who have stayed at the Kahala Hotel, but it would probably be easier to list the ones who haven't. Better yet, take a look at their Wall of Fame, which includes everyone from U.S. presidents to British royalty and rock icons to movie stars. Just a few of the most famous people on the planet to grace this member of The Leading Hotels of the World include Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, Robin Williams, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson. Visitors to the iconic wall will notice that Elton John wrote on his photo that the resort is a "paradise," and Rod Stewart's kids wrote the hotel a thank you note. Oahu is a great destination for a family vacation, and the Kahala Hotel is a fabulous option.

Although the hotel (established in 1964) has 343 rooms, most of its high-profile guests have opted for the suites, with the presidential suite offering 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean and Ralph Lauren-designed furnishings. No matter which room you choose at the Kahala Hotel, it suits those looking for discretion, as it's located in an isolated yet expensive residential neighborhood. President G.W. Bush once used it as a helicopter's landing pad when visiting a nearby golf course, so he didn't cause a commotion, although a helicopter is hardly innocuous.

Paia, Maui

We can see why laid-back actor Owen Wilson is drawn to Paia in Maui — the town is full of pastel colors, art galleries, and cool hangouts. Wilson's home, a $5.8 million Mediterranean-style estate, is just a short drive from the under-the-radar town. Wilson can often be spotted in Paia living like any other local, enjoying fresh catch at the Paia Fish Market — apparently, he's a regular. At this casual eatery (opened in 1989), diners line up — often out the door — for a hearty helping of fresh fish. For natural eats that hit all the marks for the environmentally-conscious community, Mana Foods is an organic spot for local vegetables and other bites. 

Wilson isn't the only big name you might spot in Paia, which is home to the planet's windsurfing capital as well as an intriguing history — it was once the heart of the island's sugarcane industry. Willie Nelson is also here a lot, and he was often found playing a tune for fun at his bar — Charley's Restaurant & Saloon — before it closed in 2021. Nelson is a longtime resident of Paia, owning a six-bedroom home that he bought for just $450,000 in 1993. Nelson can basically call Woody Harrelson a neighbor, as the actor also has a home near Paia, which he purchased for $1.95 million in 1999. Despite all the celebrities that now call Paia home, it remains delightfully authentic.

Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill in Honolulu, Oahu and Kahului, Maui

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar is known for his musical exploits, but the Maui resident also knows his food and drink. Hagar owns several Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill locations, including two in Hawaii at the airports in Honolulu and Maui. Do everything you can to avoid rushing for that flight — you just might see Hagar taking a sip of his branded rum, which is fittingly called Sammy's Beach Bar Rum. "Keep your eyes open because you'll never know when Sammy may 'rock in' for a visit," the restaurant website says.

If you have a glass or two and a plate of Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill eats, you'll be supporting a good cause. Proceeds from the restaurant support the Hagar Family Foundation, which backs a variety of Hawaiian children's charities, such as A Keiki's Dream, Hana Youth Center, and Maui Food Bank.

Sugar Beach Events, Kihei, Maui

You probably won't see him fixing a bride's veil or doing the chicken dance, but you just might see NBA Hall of Famer and former Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson at Sugar Beach Events, a Kihei, Maui wedding venue, resort, and catering company that has been hosting island nuptials since 2013. That's because it's next door to his home — he's been a Maui resident for years — and the venue is owned by his daughter, Lee Johnson. The 5,000-square-foot space has everything, according to Nelson. "There's nothing like it on Maui," he told Hawaii Business Magazine. "We've got everything indoor, outdoor, beautiful setting, sand beach, parking for almost 50 cars."

And when we said it's next door, we weren't kidding — Nelson told the magazine that the sand people get married on at Sugar Beach Events lines right up with his own property in Kihei. However, that's not even his only property on the island — he owns a few, including some used for rental income and one that's a nearly two-dozen-acre farm home to 1,600 olive trees.

Tahiti Nui, Hanalei, Kauai

You won't find a white tablecloth at Tahiti Nui, but you will find arguably the best mai tai you've ever had (made using a secret recipe), more than a half-century of history, family photos, and heaps of personality. That is what attracts celebrities and locals to this tiny local watering hole, as some of its well-known patrons have been Walter Cronkite and Elizabeth Taylor, the latter of whom got kicked out of the bar in the 1980s. The tiki bar was also where "The Descendants" filmed the scene where George Clooney and his cousin, played by Beau Bridges, decide whether or not to sell their family's Hawaiian property.

However, fame and a millionaire clientele haven't caused Tahiti Nui to lose its chutzpah. It's still an authentic destination for down-home Polynesian culture, just as it always was. It was founded by a French Polynesian woman known as "Auntie Louise," who was born and raised on Tubuai. It hosts twice-weekly luaus, where pork cooked in traditional Hawaiian underground ovens is served to accentuate a spectacular show. The luaus are a nod to Tahiti Nui's long history — it began as a dive bar with a few beers on the menu that hosted a weekly luau. Who would have thought that a few decades later, some of the most famous faces in the world would be gracing those same bar stools?

Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku, Oahu

Turtle Bay Resort has 1,300 acres of land in Kahuku, Oahu, but it might as well be Hollywood, California. This picture-perfect resort — dating back to 1972 — has featured in 150 movies and TV shows, so if you see someone famous here, keep quiet because they're probably on set. Just a few of the productions that have used Turtle Bay Resort include "Along Came Polly," "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," "Lost," and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Perhaps the most famous credit that the resort has to its name is "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which even uses the same name of Turtle Bay Resort in the movie. If you're a sucker for that movie, then check out these other gorgeous vacation destinations inspired by your favorite romantic comedies.

According to a Turtle Bay Resort staff member who was interviewed by SFGate, lots of fans come to stay at the bungalow where iconic "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" scenes were filmed. Jason Segel even returned after the movie to reminisce about the beloved comedy. So why do so many Hollywood productions clamor to be part of the Turtle Bay Resort scene? First, that colossal acreage makes it easy to fit in a staff's entire fleet of trucks and trailers, and it's also located less than an hour from the international airport. Plus, it has its own helipad so A-listers can arrive discreetly — and in style.