Last Updated on February 4, 2024 by Christine Kaaloa
What are Hawaii’s best beaches?
Being an island surrounded by ocean, it stands to reason some of the most beautiful beaches are on Oahu. There are certainly more beaches than this, but for travelers, this post lists the most gorgeous beaches which are also, easy and safe for travelers. Here’s 12 best beaches in Oahu, Hawaii and reasons you’re gonna love them!
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Table of Contents: 12 Best Beaches in Oahu, Hawaii
- 1 12 Best Beaches in Oahu, Hawaii
- 2 Watch Hawaii videos
- 2.1 8. Banzai Pipeline for big wave surfing
- 2.2 9. Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve for snorkeling
- 2.3 9. Waimanalo Beach: Picturesque local beach
- 2.4 10. Sandy Beach: High school beach
- 2.5 11. Halona Beach Cove: Here to Eternity Beach)
- 2.6 12. Ko Olina Beach: Peaceful man-made beach
- 2.7 Getting Around Oahu, Hawaii
- 2.8 Where to stay on Oahu
- 2.9 Travel Resources for your Hawaii trip
- 3 Best Travel Insurance for Hawaii
12 Best Beaches in Oahu, Hawaii
1. Kailua Beach Park for ocean sports
Kailua Beach Park is my favorite beach and you may see me and my dog jogging here . Undoubtedly, it is one of Hawaii’s best beaches for many reasons aside from beauty and relaxed vibe. With a lovely tree-filled beach park, it offers occasional respite from the heat. On the windy side of the island, it has become the ideal spot for water sport activities (outrigger paddling, kayaking, windsurfing and parasailing), families and on-leash dog walking.
Kailua Beach Activities :
Kailua Beach Adventures at Kailua Beach Center (130 Kailua Rd), about 8 minutes from the beach. Rent a kayak and paddle out to Rabbit Island.Kayaks rent for a half or full day for about $50-$60 .
Island Snow – Obama’s favorite Kailua shaved ice shop.
Kalapawai Store (306 S Kalaheo Ave). It is right before the beach- it looks like a green country beach store- they serve healthy sandwiches and picnic snacks.
Buzz’s Steakhouse (413 Kawailoa Rd, Kailua)- landmark beach restaurant serving anything from mahi burgers, cocktail drinks and hearty dining. Dog-friendly: Yes.
Parking: There are two parking lots and street parking. Go early during the weekends as street parking fills up with crowds going to Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach.
2. The stunning white sands of Lanikai Beach
One of the most stunning beaches of Hawaii is Lanikai Beach. The beach is set in the affluent private neighborhood of Lanikai and is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. With powdery, fine white sands it’s a favorite for locals and tourists who want to get away from crowds. There is no street parking. One needs to park in Kailua and either walk or bike in.
Note: Not far from a popular hiking trail Lanikai Pillbox, you can hike the trail for a panoramic view of Lanikai Beach before taking a dip in the ocean.
3. Ala Moana Beach Park for family picnics
Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island Beach are the favorite beaches of local townies. Conveniently located right outside Waikiki and across Ala Moana Shopping Center, they are hard to miss. It is also where they hold the annual Lantern Lighting Memorial.
Ala Moana Beach is the longer beach of the two. Waves here are generally mild. Waters are a little cloudy and the sands can get rocky towards the western entrance. A favorite spot for wedding photographers at sunset, Ala Moana Beach is a half-mile beach of calm waters protected by an outer reef. The parallel park is wide and ideal for picnics, BBQ weekend gatherings and beach events on the island. There is an L&L Drive Inn beach concession where you can get local plate lunches, burger and fries. Dog-friendly: No.
4. Magic Island Beach: The wedding photo beach park
Magic Island is a man-made beach and is perfect for young children with its protective stone wall to keep menacing waves out. To get there, you’ll have to walk through the large park, which is a favorite for picnic lovers and wedding photographers.
Parking: You can park alongside the beach road of Ala Moana Beach Park. Magic Island has it’s own parking lot, but basically, park where you can find an open stall. Dog-friendly: No.
5. Waikiki Beach: Coconut lotion beach
Waikiki Beach is the icon known to Hawaii, attracting over 4 million visitors a year. You can find it by its smell– cheap ABC store coconut tanning oil. Spanning Queens Beach to Duke Kahanamoku Beach and the Illikai Hotel, the beach is convenient and popular with tourists staying in Waikiki. Sands can be a little gritty and the ocean bed might have tiny coral pebbles, but there have been many honu (turtle) sightings here.
Wet boots and floaties are optional. Dog-friendly: No.
Tip: check out my Wakiki Beach Tips
6. Royal Hawaiian Beach: Tourist style beach
Royal Hawaiian Beach: Be where all the action is! This is the central part of Waikiki Beach passing over some of the major hotel players in Waikiki spanning the Moana Surfrider to Royal Hawaiian Hotel. You can board sunset catamarans (aka “the booze cruise”), catch occasional outrigger canoe regattas, to hear live music streaming from Duke’s Restaurant. At night, it’s a lovely beach to walk as it’s lightly lit so you feel safe. Further by the Duke Kahanamoku statue, there are surfing classes and surfboard rentals.
7. Waimea Bay:
Are you a surfer looking to tackle monster waves? Waimea Bay Beach is a historical home for big winter wave riding. However, any other season, the bay is popular with locals and tourist for swimming and snorkeling. “Da Big Rock” as locals call it, is a 30 foot rock you can swim to, climb and jump off. Parking is limited as the parking lot is small. You may need to park alongside of the road.
Watch Hawaii videos
8. Banzai Pipeline for big wave surfing
Although Sunset Beach is pro surfing’s home of the Triple Crown Surfing Contest , I find the Banzai Pipeline (located at Ehukai Beach Park), the loveliest to relax and watch the surfers catch waves at. The Banzai Pipeline is known as the one of the most dangerous beaches to surf. With a powerful break onto the reef, it’s definitely for the experienced surfer. But the Pipeline is also the heart of the North Shore community and unlike most beaches in Hawaii, it’s also one of the sandiest beaches on Oahu, with rolling sands both, deep and wide, walking the beach feels like stepping into a soft and sinking pillow. It’s actually a beautiful beach and with surf teams housed nearby, it’s enough to give this beach a double-take. Dog-friendly: No.
Parking: limited. You’ll have to find parking on the road.
Where to Stay: Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku
Check out 20 Best beaches on Oahu
9. Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve for snorkeling
Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve is a famous Hawaii landmark snorkeling spot. It is a protected marine life preservation bay, housing a reef and marine life galore. There is a nine minute video that visitors are required to watch, educating you on how to respect the bay, marine and protect the coral from ruin (you might see yours truly; I’m in their PSA!) . While there are other spots for snorkeling, Hanauma Bay is the only spot that has life guards for safety.
Compared to other snorkel spots around the island – Electric Beach, Waimea Bay and Shark’s Cove- Hanauma Bay is the king of snorkel spots hands down for its prolific marine life and safety. Shallow or deep, spotting marine life (and lots of it) is guaranteed.
Hours: Closed on Tuesdays. Parking: Come early. The parking lot is large but can get filled and you may need to park on the side of the road. Dog-friendly: No.
Note: Please use coral /reef friendly sunscreen to protect the reef. Do not step on the reef; this is a precious ecosystem for the residents of the ocean. If you have time, you can do the scenic Hanauma Bay hike
9. Waimanalo Beach: Picturesque local beach
If you’re a fan of bodyboarding or body surfing, Waimanalo Beach might be up your alley. Located on the windward (aka country) side of the island, the beach stretches four miles with waves which are great for bodyboarding. It’s a picturesque beach and has been a spot for many local commercials. Waimanalo Beach Park has been a picnic and camping spot for local families and parties. Parking: Not to worry, the beach park has ample parking. There is a nearby 7Eleven, a handful of small cafes and fast food drive inns. Dog-friendly: Yes.
10. Sandy Beach: High school beach
Sandy Beach is not a particularly lovely beach, waves are too choppy for a peaceful swim and its sand has a tinge of red dirt, but it doesn’t stop boogie boarders and surfers from making this a popular spot. Alongside the scenic Kalanianiole Highway, pass Blowhole and Eternity Beach, the seaside cliffs and mountains give Sandy Beach its complementary demeanor.
Note: Large beach park great for kite flying, some picturesque rocky areas which make for great picture taking. Parking lot is small but lots of roadside parking. Dog-friendly: Yes.
11. Halona Beach Cove: Here to Eternity Beach)
Between Halona Blowhole and Sandy Beach on the Eastern side of Oahu alongside a scenic Kalanianiole Highway, you’ll find Halona Beach Cove (aka Eternity Beach), a small cove, where the 1952 film From Here to Eternity was filmed. It’s a small, lesser known beach which feels private, and the surrounding terrain of black volcanic rocks make it a stunning image
Halona Blowhole is nearby and worthwhile an exploration for its unique strata of rock formations. Note of caution: The blowhole is not to be played with. The powerful geyser spouts ocean water through its hole and likewise can be a powerful suction, evidenced by tourist deaths.
12. Ko Olina Beach: Peaceful man-made beach
Ko Olina Beach is a man-made lagoon created for the Ko Olina Resort. It’s a great beach for families and snorkling. Parking: Paid. Space can be limited; however, most beach goers are from the Ihilani Four Seasons Resorts and Disney Aulani Resort.
Wind down with drinks and sustainable Hawaiian food by the MonkeyPod Kitchen in Koolina Center Mall.
Getting Around Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu is a medium-small island. You can circumnavigate it in a day. However, to squeeze all its highlights in, you’ll need at least three days or longer. Oahu also has incredibly scenic hikes of various levels (read my Hawaii hiking tips), from easy hikes like Spitting Caves and Lanikai Pillbox hike to day long hikes like Kaena Point.
There are always all-inclusive vacation package deals online or you can organize day tours, hop a Waikiki trolley (they make stops at some main attractions) or take TheBus. But if you want to explore more and have flexibility, it’s best to rent a car from a place like Discount Hawaii Car Rental.
Where to stay on Oahu
Hilton Hawaiian Village. Luxury. Large resort with spacious luxury rooms and gorgeous high-rise views, a private lagoon and free Friday fireworks. The man-made lagoon is an easy and safe experience for children and is next to the beach.
Moana Surfrider, Landmark hotel with beach front view. A feeling of old Hawaii history, Duke Kahanamoku days. Afternoon tea on the terrace. My favorite hotel.
Disney Aulani Hotel. Family. Ko’Olina Resort Area on the East Oahu. It’s a bit of a drive from Honolulu, but the area has lovely and tranquil family-friendly beaches. The resort hotel has a plethora of activities from wet slides and tubing to snorkeling and more.
Ihilani Four Seasons Resorts Luxury resort, favorite Hawaii film location
Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel. Budget. Great location, walk to Waikiki Surf beach. Dorm rooms are as low as $35/night. You cannot beat that deal for a central spot in Waikiki. Read more about Waikiki’s 12 Top Beaches to Explore
Travel Resources for your Hawaii trip
Booking.com – Hotel bookings. No cancellation fees
NordVPN – Online security and the ability to watch Netflix. Use “grrrltraveler” for 70% off 3-year plan + 1 month free
Get your Guide – book tours in Hawaii
Discount Hawaii Car Rental.- book inexpensive car rental in Hawaii
Check out my Reef Safe Sunscreen guide to see which sunscreen is banned in Hawaii.
List of Dog Friendly beaches in Hawaii.
What would you recommend as the Best Beaches in Oahu?
Best Travel Insurance for Hawaii
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