Beaches of Oahu
Whether you’re looking for high adventure on the waves, romantic sunsets or a protected, family friendly swimming spot, Oahu’s beaches have it all. And while you may know world-famous Waikiki Beach and the high-octane winter waves of the North Shore, there’s even more to discover along Oahu’s 180 kilometres of coastline. Explore Oahu’s beaches below:
North Shore Beaches:
Kawela Bay/ Turtle Bay: Protected from large waves and surf, this beach, located on Oahu’s northeastern tip, past Haleiwa and near Kahuku, is one of the island’s best places to snorkel, occasionally offering visitors a chance to see a honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle).
Sunset Beach: Spanning in distance from Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) to Sunset Point and encompassing a dozen different reef breaks, this three-kilometre length of sand is considered the longest stretch of rideable surf spots in the world. This is also a venue for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November - December).
Waimea Bay: This legendary beach is notorious for producing monstrous winter waves and is one of the first places surfers in the 50s began to ride big waves. In the summer, the swells subside for great swimming and snorkelling. With full facilities, this is a popular beach for locals and visitors.
Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline): The powerful waves at Banzai Pipeline break over a sharp reef, no more than a metre or so from the surface. These massive tubes make this one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world and one of the venues for the Triple Crown of Surfing.
Windward (East) Coast Beaches:
Makapuu Beach: Located 35 minutes east of Waikiki, Makapuu sits below the Makapuu Lighthouse on a slope in between the rugged cliffs and jagged lava rocks that contain large tidal pools. This is a popular bodyboarding beach for locals.
Waimanalo Beach: 20 minutes past Makapuu Beach on the Windward Coast, this beach park holds ample parking and is host to many local picnics and parties. This six-and-a-half-kilometre stretch of sand, fronting calm, clear waters is a great place to learn how to bodyboard and bodysurf.
Lanikai Beach: Ranked as the world’s No. 1 beach by Conde Nast in 1996, Lanikai, nestled in a residential neighbourhood of Kailua, features white sparkling sand, calm waters and, for those wanting to be more active, two mini islands called the Mokuluas (Moks) that can be reached via kayak.
Kailua Beach: This beach is just around the corner from Lanikai and is known for its windsurfing, boat ramp and the opportunity to rent sailboards, kayaks or canoes. Ample parking and full facilities make this a popular beach for families.
Kualoa Regional Park: Across from Kualoa Ranch, this beautiful beach park offers spectacular views down the east coast of Oahu as well as Mokolii (Chinaman’s Hat), an islet off the Windward Coast.
South Shore Beaches:
Waikiki Beach: The Duke Kahanamoku Statue welcomes you to one of the most popular beaches in the world. Waikiki Beach is host to more than 4 million visitors every year and boasts famous views of Diamond Head (Leahi). Thanks to its small but long-lasting wave break, this is one of the best places in Hawaii to learn how to surf or paddle a canoe. Waikiki is actually made of a few beaches including Fort DeRussy Beach to the west, Waikiki Beach (fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Westin Moana Surfrider), Kuhio Beach (along Kalakaua Avenue) and Queen Surf Beach, home to quieter stretches on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki.
Ala Moana Beach Park/Magic Island: Just minutes west from Waikiki, this half-mile beach is protected by a fringing reef for calm waters. Extending out from the beach is Magic Island, a man-made peninsula with large seawalls and a shallow lagoon, making it a perfect place for keiki (children) to swim. Tables are available for picnics.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: A marine sanctuary, this gorgeous bay lies between two dormant volcanic craters on the southeast tip of Oahu. Its clear, shallow waters hold a multitude of tropical fish and marine life, making it one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. Gear rental is available on site.
Sandy Beach: A favourite of Oahu-born President Barack Obama, this stretch of sand is 10 minutes past Hanauma Bay near the Halona Blowhole. A popular local beach, the massive shore break here can be dangerous, so bodysurf at your own risk.
Leeward (West) Coast Beaches:
Ko Olina Resort and Marina: On the Leeward Coast you’ll find man-made lagoons created for the Ko Olina Resort, home to the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa and the Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. This is a perfect spot for families. Parking, public amenities and showers are available.
Makaha Beach: Makaha has the best surfing on Oahu’s west coast and was a place where big wave surfing was pioneered. Beware of the sloping sand beachhead that can cause backwash and catch unsuspecting visitors off guard.
Yokohama Bay: This is the last sandy stretch on the Leeward Coast, its curvy beach and turquoise waters a great spot to sunbathe as well as watch surfers and dolphins. For the avid hiker, nearby Kaena Point offers a trail with rewarding ocean views.
Note: Observe all warning signs and be aware of changing conditions, strong currents and reefs. Use your own best judgment to determine whether a particular beach is appropriate for you and your ability level.