Best Oahu Beaches
This island is a veritable paradise of beaches – from sandy horseshoe shaped coves to rocky reefs to “hot tub” tidepools. There are 112 miles of coastline with approximately 130 different beaches, each one with its own special intrigue.
North Beaches South Beaches East Beaches West Beaches
North Oahu Beaches
Stretching for almost 20 miles, the North Shore beaches of O`ahu possess endless opportunities to catch some rays or take a dip in the turquoise waters. The wide sandy beaches make for a delightful stroll. During the winter months (approximately October to February) the North Shore produces monstrous waves reaching heights of 20 feet and higher. This can prove dangerous for even the experienced waterman/woman. Visitors are highly recommended to heed to warning signs on the beach and be cautious around the waterline. However, the summer (from May to September) brings tranquility to the North Shore, with gentle waves lapping the shoreline – making it ideal for fishing, swimming, and diving.
Kawela Bay/Turtle Bay
The gentle laps of waves and soft fluffy sand welcome all to Kawela Bay. Situated on the northeastern tip of O`ahu, the bay is protected from large surf, making swimming and fishing two popular activities there. The long stretch of beach makes for a nice stroll or jog, and can provide excellent shell hunting. Turtle Bay is located between the eastern point Kawela Bay and the Turtle Bay Hotel and Resort. Long ago, turtles (honu in Hawaiian) were often seen coming ashore to lay their eggs in the sand. No longer very abundant, one can still see their heads pop out of the water from time to time. The bay itself offers excellent snorkeling with little current movement. The broad sloping beach invites you to lie down and take a quick nap, all the while browning your skin from the warm Hawaiian sun. This beach is a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC), certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. It has fulfilled 60 environmental and service-base criteria and files monthly monitoring reports.
Technically, Sunset Beach is a two-mile stretch of sand from `Ehukai Beach to Sunset Point, but has been subdivided by wave breaks resulting in a dozen unique surf spots – Pupukea, Back Doors, Off-the-Wall, Log Cabins, Cloudbreak…all are considered in the Sunset Beach locale. This area of beaches is considered the longest stretch of rideable surf spots in the world. The wide sandy beach at Sunset provides families with a pleasant place to play in the sand and explore the shoreline.
`Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline)
In Hawaiian, `ehukai means, “reddish-tinged water” which refers to the color of the sunlight reflected of the spray from a breaking wave at the spot. The locals dubbed the break there, “Pipeline” because of the massive “tube” that forms from the curling wave. During the winter months, this beach is not for the inexperienced swimmer or surfer, as waves can reach heights of 10 feet and higher while breaking over sharp reef, no more than a few feet from the surface. Banzai Pipeline is one of the many famous surf spots on the North Shore and constantly attracts popular surfing events. This beach is a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC), certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. It has fulfilled 60 environmental and service-base criteria and files monthly monitoring reports.
If you like watching or surfing big waves, this is the place to be. Waimea Bay is notorious for producing monstrous waves in the winter. Big-wave surfers flock to the break every winter hoping to catch “the big one”. A popular big-wave contest, the Quicksilver Eddie Aikau Invitational, is held at Waimea every year, the only requirement for the contest being that the wave height must be 20 feet or higher for the contest to be held. The shore break at Waimea is one of the most dangerous shore breaks in the world, with lifeguards having to save numerous onlookers that got too close to the water’s edge and ended up getting sucked out. Waimea’s waters calm down and become flat during the summer months, allowing for excellent snorkeling, swimming, and fishing.
At the northwestern most tip of O`ahu lies Ka`ena Point. This dry, barren stretch of land is as far away from civilization as you can find it. For the avid hiker or trailblazer, Ka`ena Point offers an excellent trail that exposes a natural landscape of native plants and other desert flora. One can even see Kauai, on a clear day, in the distance. There are few sandy beaches available for swimming and the tidal currents can be dangerous. Nevertheless, Ka`ena Point is a beautiful specimen of life before human contact.
South Oahu Beaches
The South Shore of O`ahu holds the island’s most crowded stretch of sandy beaches in the state, stretching from Waikiki to Diamond Head. Ala Moana Beach Park is a favorite place for barbequing and picnicking and the area fronting the Wakiki hotels is known for its summer surf. From May to September, the South Shore is filled with surfers eager to catch that summer swell that annually frequents the shores.
Waikiki Beach is renowned for being one of the most popular beaches in the world and is host to over 4 million visitors every year. Recent reconstruction of the beachfront has brightened up the area, creating a better environment for visitors and locals. With upgraded facilities, a nearby police station, and rental equipment readily available, Waikiki Beach still maintains its popularity while preserving its beauty. This beach is a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC), certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. It has fulfilled 60 environmental and service-base criteria and files monthly monitoring reports.
Ala Moana Beach / Magic Island
Across the street from the Ala Moana Shopping Center, one can find the fun-filled Ala Moana Beach. A fringing reef protects this half-mile stretch of white sand, resulting in very calm waters that are shallow and safe for everyone to enjoy. During the weekend, Ala Moana Beach is filled with locals and visitors alike, both there to take pleasure in the clear waters, bask in the warm sun, and picnic in the adjacent park. Magic Island is a man-made peninsula that extends out from Ala Moana Beach. Massive seawalls protect a shallow lagoon making it a perfect place for toddlers to experience the ocean for the first time.
This gorgeous bay lies between two dormant volcanic craters in southeast O`ahu and has been a favorite leisure and swimming place for residents and visitors. Its clear and shallow waters teem with a multitude of tropical fish and other marine life, which creates a magical underwater environment to experience. The marine sanctuary has gone through substantial renovations in order to preserve the natural eco-system. With the added Hanauma Bay Marine Educational Center, improved parking lot, and periodic closures to ease the human interaction on the marine life, Hanauma Bay is assured to be around for children and adults to enjoy for a very long time. This beach is a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC), certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. It has fulfilled 60 environmental and service-base criteria and files monthly monitoring reports. We love these Hawaii beaches.
This popular beach is located at the southeastern tip of O`ahu, next the famous Halona Blowhole. The Blowhole “spits” out water high in the air as the waves crash against the rugged lava cliffs. “Sandy’s” combines gentle sloping shorelines with the pounding shorebreak for a unique experience. Add in the cool tradewind breeze and bright sun and you have a beach lover’s dream. During the summer months, Sandy Beach is filled with eager boogie boarders and bodysurfers waiting to catch that perfect wave. Visitors are cautioned as to challenging the dangerous shorebreak, as it has been known to seriously injure even the experienced waterman. Fear not though, lifeguards are on constant duty to snatch you from the turbulent waters.
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East Oahu Beaches
Minutes from Waikiki, the East Shore of O`ahu boasts its longest, most uninterrupted beach in Waimanalo. Feel the powdery sand crunch beneath your feet as you can walk for almost 4 miles. Northeasterly tradewinds create a daylong breeze that will cool you even in the hottest of days. The waters off the east coast are relatively calm all year long, making for excellent sailing, kayaking, diving, or windsurfing. The lush, green Ko`olau Mountains is the perfect backdrop against the white sand and blue water.
The nostalgic U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse sits atop Makapu`u Point, a towering 600 foot sea cliff that overlooks Makapu`u Beach and Sea Life Park, O`ahu’s world famous marine attraction and educational facility. The beach sits on a slope in between the rugged cliffs and jagged lava rocks that contain large tidepools. These large pools, filled with all types of marine creatures, offer vast exploration for all ages.
Waimanalo is a quiet, rural town with numerous horse stables, vegetable and other agricultural farms. The beach park holds ample parking and plays host to picnics, parties, and games, with a huge expanse of beach fronting the calm, clear waters. Almost 4 miles of beach are available for your use and there’s more than enough room to dig your feet into the sand and turn your mind off for a while. This beach is a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC), certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. It has fulfilled 60 environmental and service-base criteria and files monthly monitoring reports.
Close your eyes and imagine your perfect beach – complete with sparkling white sand, crystal clear water, abundant marine life, and tropical scenery. Now, open your eyes and you’ve found Lanikai Beach. Conde `Nast has rated Lanikai as the #1 beach in the United States and is regularly being featured in travel publications. This is a fantastic beach nestled within a quiet residential area of beach houses, with palms trees swaying in the cool tropical breeze. Parking is limited to the side streets but you’ll find many public right-of-ways that lead straight to the sand.
Just around the corner from Lanikai you’ll come across Kailua Beach Park, possessing the same qualities as its “sister” beach. A boat ramp and comfort station is available, unlike Lanikai, and rental equipment is present for you to enjoy the water, whether it’s on a sailboard, kayak, or canoe. The mile long stretch of beach is very safe for swimming and snorkeling and provides a picturesque view of the horizon. It’s no wonder why Kailua beach is always rated in the top ten beaches in America.
Kualoa Regional Park
Across the street from the famous natural attraction – Kualoa Ranch – is Kualoa Regional Park. This beautiful beach park offers a gorgeous view down the east coast of O`ahu and has a huge grass area, with picnic tables and a comfort station available. The beach is a mixture of coral rubble and sand and one can often find a beautiful shell that has washed ashore. Chinaman’s Hat, an islet off the coast, is clearly visible from the beach and can be accessible by kayaks or sailboats.
West Oahu Beaches
With the Ko`olau Mountains catching the rain clouds, the west coast of O`ahu is clear and dry. The sun is ever present, unlike the moist east side, but unfortunately, with the lack of rain comes the lack of lush, green scenery. Still, the Leeward side of the island provides great and relatively un-crowded beaches, fun surf, and sunny weather.
Ko Olina Resort & Marina
Situated on the sunny west coast of O`ahu are beautiful lagoons that were created for the Ko Olina Resort and spectacular JW Marriott Ihilani Hotel. These man-made lagoons are perfect for families to swim together and enjoy the ocean. You can also relax in the shady picnic areas beneath swaying palm trees with a sweeping view of the majestic Waianae Mountain Range. This beach is a member of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign (NHBC), certified by the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. It has fulfilled 60 environmental and service-base criteria and files monthly monitoring reports.
Nanakuli Beach Park
Traveling up the west coast towards Kaena Point, one can find the spacious Nanakuli Beach Park. The area boasts an array of facilities – from softball fields, basketball/volleyball courts, and a children’s playground. The wide sandy beach makes for excellent picnicking and basking in the sun. The waters of the beach park are great for snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as fishing and other water activities.
With the best surfing spot on the west coast of O`ahu, Makaha is sure to appease the surfing fanatic. Depending on the time of year, Makaha produces a wide range of wave heights, from an easy 2 feet, to a dangerous 10 feet. The sloping sand beachhead can cause backwash and catch an unsuspecting visitor off guard. Regardless, Makaha is a pleasant beach to go to and watch surfers try to tame the ocean waves.