Best Beaches in Oahu Hawaii – Our Run Down of Oahu’s Best Beaches

 

We think the first thing that springs to mind whenever Hawaii is mentioned is beaches. Lounging around on glorious golden sands lapped by azure blue waters sipping on Tropical Cocktails. We happen to think there is SO much more to Hawaii than just beaches but they are still on the top of most peoples lists. And with hundreds of beaches around the Island, you are literally spoilt for choice on Oahu. But you don’t want to waste your time on poor beaches when there are some absolutely spectacular places you could be lying. So our guide to the Best Beaches in Oahu Hawaii show you some of the Best from around the Island.

People always want different things from beaches and Oahu’s varied beaches offer an incredibly diverse array of qualities so we have shied away from rating the beaches but just objectively explained the Nature of our favourite locations. There are beaches for relaxing, beaches for luxury, beaches escaping and beaches for hi-octane surfing. Whatever you are looking for in a beach we are sure our guide to Oahu’s best Beaches will have a beach for you.

Best Beaches in Oahu Hawaii

We are going to Start at the Islands Most Famous beach, Waikiki, then head around the island in a counterclockwise direction. All Beaches are marked on the Below map. The List is not in order of merit but a geographical list. We point out the Pro’s Con’s and facilities on each beach.

So let’s kick off with a beach that needs no introduction…

Waikiki Beach

  • Good for – Showing off, Messing about and learning to surf!
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Restaurants
  • Life Guards

One of the most famous beaches in the world. Waikiki is the Stunning Golden stretch of sand lining the seafront of the Waikiki district of Honolulu. The Beach is packed with amenities and activities and almost always with people. In fact, the standout feature of the beach is the numbers crowded onto it! If you have come to Hawaii looking for the perfect secluded Paradise beach Waikiki is not that beach.

Waikiki Beach Honolulu

The Beach does have its charms though and for such a busy location it is incredibly clean, and there is still wildlife right off the shore of this packed city beach. We have seen turtles and Dolphins right from our Waikiki hotel Balcony!

The water is also beautifully warm and the shallow drop of the beach means you can wade for hundreds of metres out to sea. Reasonably large waves roll up the shallow waters and churn the water making it silky and incredibly soft feeling like bathing in Milk…Blue Milk.

These features make the beach PERFECT for playing in the surf. It is a great beach to learn to surf and the shore is lined with Surf Schools. Or just wade out in the bay and mess about body surfing in the waves. Obviously, the Snorkelling in these conditions is less favourable. The vis is terrible at times and it’s not worth bothering to snorkel. However, there are more sheltered areas at the sides of the beach and near the pier. There are even Coral reefs just off the shore. Not the finest reefs, heavily damaged and not healthy at all but they are there clinging on which is surprising. You can see a good number of reef fish and even turtles while snorkelling, there are much better locations on the island though.

There is an Artificial Wall on the southern end of the beach (Kuhio Beach) that creates a sheltered Shallow lagoon that is perfect for young Kids to splash and play.

Overall Waikiki is a love it or hates it type of beach. For fun and play it’s fantastic and full of beautiful people and a great place to be seen and take the perfect Instagram shot. But it can be insanely crowded and to simply find some spare sand to sit can be a challenge.

We love it but need to limit our time there and hunt out more placid beaches most of the time. It is just a bit too much for us most of the time, but still, love playing in the waves and people watching.

Other Honolulu Beaches

Before beginning our Island loop we want to quickly mention some other Beaches in Honolulu

Kahanamoku Beach

  • Good for – Families and Sunsets.
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Restaurants
  • Life Guards

Kahanamoku

Adjoining Waikiki beach at the northern end it is barely discernable from Waikiki beach and is very similar. A bit quieter as people don’t make it this far over. The water tends to be calmer and more suitable for snorkelling. At the northern end is the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon a shallow saltwater lagoon that is clean and clear and great for Kids to play.

The Reef / Pier that separates the two beaches is a favourite spot to gather to watch the sunset.

Magic Island Lagoon

  • Good for – Families and Picnics.
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables
  • LifeGuards

Magic Island Beach

This manmade chunk of land is open to the Public and has an enclosed Lagoon and beach at the end of the peninsula. The beach is a lot more peaceful than Waikiki and can feel a lot more like the Paradise than the bustle of Waikiki. The Shallow waters are protected from the waves and create a very safe swimming space perfect for families and relaxed beach picnics.

Being Manmade the Sand isn’t the best and can feel pretty course and not the natural coral sand most are looking for.

Ala Moana Beach

  • Good for – Swimming and chilled Beach days
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables
  • LifeGuards

ala moana beach park

The Beach park at Ala Moana is a strange place. It has a steep drop off into water that is calm and sheltered by a large reef. This makes the ocean here essentially a large swimming pool. This is fantastic for real open water swimming, but the number people looking for this is fairly small. However, the great amenities and remote location make the beach park very appealing. It’s not overly great for families with young kids as the steep drop off is risky for young children.

However the Beach in long wide and incredibly beautiful. The Crowding that plagues Waikiki does not extend out here and you can have a quiet relaxed beach day.

Around The Island

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

  • Good for – Snorkelling
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Snack Bar, Visitors Centre
  • Life Guards
  • Cost: $7.50 + $1:00 Parking

Hanauma Bay Panoramic View

This first line on the Honolulu city’s website is this is “Not a “beach park” for beach sport, but a Nature Preserve dedicated to safeguarding the fragile marine life in the Bay” And that’s the way to look at it. The beach is ok if a little rocky but it’s not the star of the show and not the reason to visit the Bay.

The Water in the bay is almost crystal clear and flat and calm year round. The cove is very protected from the surf and as such is a haven for snorkelling. The Reef is alive and healthy and the City does it’s best to protect and preserve the environment of the bay.

This means that underwater life is teeming and Hanauma Bay is easily the best snorkelling location on the Island. Anyone who enjoys snorkelling should visit the bay on a trip to Oahu. The visitor’s centre is also a fun and engaging experience giving info in the life you may encounter on your snorkelling adventures.

We adore Hanauma Bay and think you should put it on the TOP of you must visit list, well maybe just below pearl harbor.

Expect the usual array of Hawaiian Reef fish along with some more exotic creatures such as turtles, octopus, moray eels, and even some pelagics such as Jacks and Trevally.

 

Sandy Beach Park

  • Good for – Boogie/Body Boarding
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables
  • LifeGuards

Sandy Beach Oahu

The Surf break at Sandy beach is very close in and perfect for beginner boogie boards or for just messing about in the waves. It produces pretty high breaks but not overly great for actual surfing so ends up more of a tourist location for people playing in the breaks.

It’s a beautiful location and not too far out from the big city and a great place to relax and spend an afternoon. It is a little exposed so there will be cooling breezes on hot days (or cooler on cool days) And the large beach rarely gets very crowded. The Sea is rough and should be treated with caution as there can be currents.

The Beach is made up of beautifully fine sand which is lovely to walk on and sit on but you will be fishing it out of orifices for days!

 

Makapu’u Beach

  • Good for – Photographs and Vistas
  • Amenities – None

makapu'u overlook

Another good Boogie board beach but this time it’s for more experienced riders and people looking for a more extreme break. The currents run strong and the surf is high so best left to the experts. We mention the beach mainly because of the Makapu’u overlook.

This clifftop vantage point off staggering views down the coast of the sea and mountains. It’s perfect for that amazing selfie, or paradise Instagram pose. There is also a short trailhead leading to the Makapu’u Lighthouse with further coastal vistas. the lighthouse marks the easternmost part of the island. Nothing but sea between here and Molokai.

 

Waimanalo Beach

  • Good for – Not Believing your Eyes
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Pavillion.
  • LifeGuards

Waimanalo Beach Waimanalo Oahu Hawaii

A long wide beach made of silky smooth soft coral sand lapped by fairly calm seas with a gentle slope. These near deserted shores are not too far from the Paradise most people dream of when heading to Hawaii. This picture perfect beach is often frequented by newlyweds and their photographer looking for the ultimate paradise shot.

While the beach is rarely crowded that’s not to say it’s secluded at weekends and holidays locals flock to the beach to escape the City and you will find a fairly rowdy vibe of drinking and BBQ’s. The beach is plenty big enough to escape the crowds though and find your own piece of paradise.

Kailua / Kalama Beach

  • Good for – Everything
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables, BBQ’s
  • Life Guards

Kailua Beach Panorama

The Town of Kailua is lined with miles of golden soft sand backed by Ironwood and Palm trees. This stunning setting is one of Oahu’s worst kept secrets. Even Since a certain President Vacationed here the word is out how fantastic the area is.

It’s not hard to see why the Locals love their stretch of paradise and want to protect it from a Waikiki style invasion of tourists. But Respectful day visitors are more than welcome to come and live it up on one of the best beaches in Oahu. The Beach is the Locals focal point and at weekends and holidays, it’s going to be very busy. Expect a fun lively vibe.

The beach has a fairly sedate break good for beginners and generally messing about in. The sand is soft and super clean and seems to stretch on forever. Anyone Staying in Kailua will make this beach their second home and anyone staying in Waikiki will vow to stay in Kailua next time!

Secret Island Beach

Secret Island Strand

  • Good for – Swimming and chilled Beach days
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables

This Secret beach is claimed to be private and belonging to the Kualoa Ranch. Wel, first of all, it isn’t private. There are no private beaches in Hawaii. However, The access to the beach is difficult without accessing the private land of the Ranch. The Ranch offers a tour of the beach as one of its tours, so if you really want to see the beach then this is the easiest way.

To access it without then the only way we know is to access the coast at Kualoa Point and then head down the beach. However, it is only a beach and it will be filled with paying customers and staff who may not appreciate your intrusion. Technically there is nothing they can do but it may impact your enjoyment.

Kualoa Point Beach

  • Good for – Views of the Chinaman’s Hat
  • Amenities – Showers, portapotties, Picnic Tables.

Mokolii Rock from Kualoa Point

If you want to experience Secret Beach without interloping on paid customers then you can get much of the experience here. It’s just up the shore from the “secret” beach and offers a similar experience including the best views of the Chinaman’s Hat. A small Islet just off the coast. It’s actually called Mokoli’i and resembles a Chinese Peasants hat hence the nickname. It’s further away than you might think and currents make it unsuitable to swim to.

Kualoa is a very quiet and peaceful beach where you can really get away from things, especially people. It has a large grassy picnic area so fantastic for kids and people who don’t like getting sand everywhere.

Kahana Bay Beach Park

  • Good for – Getting Away from it all.
  • Amenities – Showers, portapotties, Picnic Tables.

Kahana Beach park

credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/laszlo-photo/4225999896

Sitting in a valley between two incredible mountain ranges the Kahana Beach park is a real gem of a beach. Remote and not very well known it can be almost completely deserted at times. The Mountains either side are ancient and dramatic. You will spend most of your time half expecting a T-Rex to appear through the trees. When it is at its best this is one of the prettiest beaches in the world.

However, we say when it’s at its best for a reason. During heavy rain, the river is a main exit from the vast mountains rain basin. A lot of muck and detritus is washed downstream and muddies the waters of the bay. It is exposed to large ocean swells from certain directions too so when high seas blow from the East the water can be stirred up and rough, and a large amount of manmade plastic and drift waste can soil the pristineness of the shore.

We advise if you plan on visiting to have a plan B as if the Beach is on an off day you may not want to hang around. But it is worth checking out as when it is a good day its very good.

Avoid on public holidays as a lot of locals know the place and like to camp and the area loses its remote feeling.

Turtle Bay / Bayview Beach

  • Good for – Turtle Bay Guests
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Luxury Hotel
  • Life Guards

Turtle Bay Resort

These two beaches both straddle the Higi-End hotel  Turtle Bay Resort. These two beaches are frequented by the hotel’s guests. They are completely open to the public but we don’t see a lot of reason to head all the way to some OK beaches that are packed with hotel guests who will certainly disapprove of your presence. If the Beaches were THAT good then maybe but they aren’t.

The only reason to head this way is the Hotel itself. Being the setting for a good number of Hollywood films it’s fun to come check out the location. Or if you are lucky enough to be able to afford to stay here then you will spend your beach days here. Turtle bay beach is quieter as it’s rocky and not as pleasant as Bayview

The North Shore does have some great beaches and some are incredible scenic so really we don’t waste much time near the Resort beaches.

Kawela Bay

  • Good for – Escaping Reality
  • Amenities – None

Kawela_Beach_Sunset

This secluded cove feels about as close to remote a lost island as you are likely to find without…well, getting lost on an island. There is very limited development around the Bay making the area feel very wild and windswept. However, there is a constant threat of developing the cove and as such, it should be enjoyed before it’s too late.

The cove is very sheltered from the north shores violent swells and the water is warm and calm. However, the bottom can be rocky so water shoes are recommended. The bay looks fantastic for snorkelling but actually is often quite murky and you are likely to be disappointed.

There is a fantastic photo opportunity with the Bayen tree in the woodland behind the beach. These Ancient mystical trees are fantastic to see and look like they are straight from Never Neverland. This one is one of the best examples on the island and definitely worth checking out.

 

Sunset Beach

  • Good for – Swimming, Snorkelling and BIG break Riding
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables.
  • Lifeguards

SunsetBeach

In summer a truly heavenly stretch of glorious soft golden sand lapped by calm clear waters filled with fish and sea life. The perfect place to spend a day enjoying a summers day relaxing, swimming and enjoying paradise.

In Winter the place turns wild as the swells arrive. Large swells are a surfers paradise and at the far end of the beach is the Banzai Pipeline. One of the worlds most famous breaks. Under certain conditions this monster raises giant waves just offshore the is the stuff of dreams for surfers but also a mindblowing spectacle for anyone stood on the beach. Waves that truly defy belief.

Hawaii Pipeline

In case you are imagining jumping on a board be aware this wave is considered the worlds most deadly. The reefs that cause the breaks are very shallow and getting it wrong will result in a close inspection of these reefs at high speed and if you are lucky a long hospital stay if you are unlucky…we think you can guess. Definitely a Pro only wave. If you are on the island when Bazai goes off definitely make this a must-see attraction.

That large swells that sunset beach also causes some very strong currents so care should be taken even when it appears calm. The beach is heavily Lifeguarded so heed all advice you get from the experts.

 

Waimea Valley Beach

  • Good for – Big Waves, and swimming/snorkelling.
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables
  • LifeGuards

Waimea Bay

Like Sunset beach and the rest of the North Shore, summer and winter create very different conditions on the beaches. In winter the Waimea Beach is a very popular surf spot where expert surfers do battle with some of the best waves in the world. It is a location for many of north shores surf contests. Lifeguards will restrict any access to the sea when the surf is up so it’s definitely a spectator sport for most.

In summer the sea completely flattens and the Incredible blue waters are incredibly inviting. Swimming and snorkelling are great activities here and perfect after visiting the incredible Waimea Valley. A beautiful Cultural site showcasing Native and introduces Hawaiian plant and flower species. Well worth a visit and perfect to visit before hitting the fabulous beach.

Due to the Valleys’s popularity, this isn’t a quiet beach. in winter it will be rammed, parking could easily prove impossible. and in summer it can be equally busy. If you seek solitude, seek it elsewhere, Like…

 

Makua Beach

  • Good for – getting lost
  • Amenities – none

Makua valley

This is a remote stretch of golden sand with a wild and dramatic mountain backdrop that is right out of Jurassic Park. The Large Beach is often almost completely deserted and you can really feel like the only person on the Island. Even when very busy, it still feels quiet and remote.

The ocean is only really accessible in the summer when calm and care should be taken when entering as there are rocky areas. These add to the feeling of wild and also improves the snorkelling which can be very good with large schools of fish and critters living in and around the rocks. This beach is right near the end of our list but ranks as one of our favourites. The setting is just so magical and we feel this is the paradise lost feeling people are searching for when they visit Hawaii.

Ko Olina Beach coves

  • Good for – Perfect Sheltered beaches with manicured lawns and Gardens.
  • Amenities – Showers, Restrooms, Picnic Tables
  • LifeGuards

lagoon Ko Olina

From the Remote wilds of Makua, we come to Ko Olina which is worlds apart. The 4 man-made lagoons are near perfect swimming areas year round. Sheltered from the ocean the calm bays are a haven for relaxed watersports. There is little opportunity for surfing as the waves crash again the rock walls that line the bays. The near-perfect lawns and manicured gardens are so well kept you expect this is what Disney would imagine Hawaii was like, and it is. As the Lagoons are home to Disneys own Hawaiian resort.

Really we don’t advise coming here unless you are in the area. While the bays and Gardens are very pretty it’s just a bit too artificial for us. We think lying by these all day is very similar to a day by the pool. Which is no bad thing but we prefer to be within staggering distance of our accommodation if we are on a pool day. When out exploring Oahu’s beaches we like things a little less perfect than Disneyworld renditioning of paradise.

 

And with that, we are back at Waikiki. A magical circular trip around the islands best beaches. We hope you get to experience some of them really soon.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any comments on our beach article. Maybe you have been to one of the beaches? Do you agree with our comments? Maybe we have missed out your favourite? Let us know which beach you love? Or if you have any questions at all just drop us a comment. We always love talking and dreaming about beaches!

 

 

 

4 comments

  1. Wow, I hope to get to Hawaii someday. It looks like the perfect paradise. I would had guessed that beaches on Oahu were all busy, but your photos prove otherwise. At least you can enjoy the beach there year round unlike where I live in New England. Thanks for this information! If I get the chance to go, I’ll have to check out this list again.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Yeah one look a Waikiki and you imagine every beach is rammed to the hilt, but there are plenty of wild and remote beaches around the island to escape the crowds.

      Yes you can enjoy the beaches year round as the winter weather is still warm and the sea temperature only drops a touch. We live in OLD England and our beaches are barely usable even in the middle of summer lol

      Hope you get out to the islands soon it really is a paradise!

      Thanks for reading

      Steve

  2. Waimanalo Beach is definitely the one I would choose as the one best beach in Oahu, Hawai. Beautiful scenery and a very quiet and kind of secluded beach. I live in a beach area in Thailand and the beaches there come closest to this one. I must say though, that all these beaches look very clean and well maintained. I have not see you mention about sharks though, any reason to be aware of those or other “see monsters”?

    1. Hi Jerry,

      There are sharks in the Waters around Hawaii but in close there is very little to be worried about. The majority are reef sharks and are not in the slightest interested in humans. There are very few attacks a year and most are none fatal. Big shark sightings like great whites and Tigers are very rare. And while just enjoying regular beach activities there is just nothing to worry about. I Have dived with fully grown adult schooling Hammerheads off Molokai and they posed no threat whatsoever. The odds of an attack are miniscule.

      The other sea life is equally benign the worst you can expect is standing on a sea urchin. Which is a bit painful.

      This said you are right to bring up safely as the beautiful beaches are not as harmless as they can look. The biggest threat in the Ocean is the Ocean itself. We are writing a stay safe on Hawaii Beaches guide right now. But it’s the normal dangers, high surf, rip currents, sharp coral etc…

      A lot of people do get in trouble in the ocean in Hawaii every year and high numbers don’t make it so it pay to be cautious. The seas around the islands are so beautiful it’s easy to think of them as harmless. But there are significant dangers.

      Thanks

      Steve

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