Palm trees sway. Golden sands shine. Clear, blue seas sparkle.
These are the signatures of Oahu beaches, enticing visitors near and far. When you visit an island, though, where do you begin? Where should you go to have the idea Oahu experience? Try out these local-approved, best beaches on Oahu for a tropical day in the Pacific.
The Mokulua Islands rise towards the horizon as a hot, Hawaiian sun illuminates perfectly, satiny, white sand. This is Lanikai Beach, one of the wonders of the east side. When you decide to take a dive down under the ocean’s surface to cool off after an hour or two of lying out, you won’t have to fear getting cut by hidden coral heads. The bottom of the sea here is nothing but sand unless you venture further out to sea with a mask and some fins. You could literally spend a whole morning or afternoon here if you bring a cooler with some snacks, plenty of water, shade, and a beach blanket.
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Also, be sure to bring sunscreen or even a beach umbrella, as you won't find much shade to lie under unless you’re lucky enough to find a vacant palm tree that’s willing to provide you with some relief from the sun. Popular for kayaking and paddle-boarding in the crystal-like waters, some companies in the area specialize in getting you out to the Mokulua Islands for an entirely new perspective on island life.
Additionally, you may only find residential parking spots, please don’t block the driveways of the locals who are lucky enough to live there.
Waimea Bay lies at the center of what can be said to be the beating heart of the surf community. During the summer months, the bay lies dormant with occasional shore breaking sets. Guests can spot keiki (Hawaiian for children) and adventurous adults diving into the waves, and knocked off their feet by the power of the ocean. Further, during the summer, bring a snorkel and fins and swim out for a chance for a rendezvous with dolphins and turtles. Also, many people climb the rock at Waimea Bay as a means for the thrill of jumping in the rushing ocean many feet below, but please use caution as there are signs posted telling you otherwise.
Additionally, in the winter, wave-riders fly down giant waves that break far out in the Bay. Also home to the famed Eddie Aikau surf competition where the waves must be at least 25-30 feet for the “go” to be given, the beach can provide respite as well as great entertainment. Remember to go early to avoid parking issues!
Sandy Beach boasts waves. Not for casual dips, this beach notoriously boasts the occasional back and neck injuries due to the hazardous but jaw-dropping shore break. That being said, Sandy's remains a local favorite to spot barreling waves and people riding inside of them with or without boards. Pack a picnic lunch from Koko Marina Center, just minutes down the road, for a day in the sun.
Also, note that few areas shade exist. When you’re dying to get in the water, you can walk down towards the far left end of the beach (facing the ocean) to cool off in the tide. You might find a few salt-water critters for a real look into underwater life that you can’t quite get at the aquarium. However, beware of the tide pools towards the left end.
Visitors can find parking here during the week for the most part, but on the weekends it gets crowded and many people end up parking on the grass.
Waikiki Beach presents a classic feel. When you see brochures about visiting Hawaii, photos of Waikiki typically bring visitors to the islands. With Diamond Head, a volcanic crater, looming in the background, and people walking around with inner tubes around their hips, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve truly arrived in Hawaii. With so much happening on the beach itself, from surf lessons to sunset catamaran rides to canoe rides, any trace of boredom disappears. Also, when you get hungry, the Waikiki Strip right next to the beach offers an infinite amount of places to eat and cool off.
However, Waikiki Beach does get crowded. Looking to have a little more room to bask and play in the sand without your neighbors being right in your face? Head down towards Kamaiana Beach Park for a bit more breathing room.
Also, parking in Waikiki can be tricky with either metered parking, valet, or paid parking etc. at the hotels. Moreover, hope that you get lucky on the street or you can pay per hour at the Zoo parking lot. Check out our Waikiki Guide for more tips!
Lying more off the beaten path, Waimanalo Beach rests off the side of Kalanianaole Highway. At Waimanalo, you feel like you want to inhale as deeply as you can. With the grandiosity of the Ko’olau Mountains as a backdrop and the sand as soft as Lanikai’s, this beach encompasses a hidden gem. It feels like the country out here. The one-lane road says it all, which occasionally means traffic. With a bunch of mom-and-pop shops and less of a bustle than most places on the island, this area treasures an easy-going lifestyle.
With more shade here than you’ll find at most beaches due to the forested coastline, you don't need to worry about getting fried under the tropical sun. Yet still, bring flip-flops so you don’t step on any kind of poky plant matter. Because of the mountains, the sun tends to disappear behind them by the late afternoon, so to enjoy Waimanalo at its finest, go earlier in the day.
Also, you can find residential parking, but please don't block driveways and venture with Aloha.
Relax on the Best Beaches in Oahu
Visit the best beaches on Oahu to have the perfect day at the beach. Bring your sense of adventure. Leave with lasting memories.