Attractions

The 10 Best Beaches in Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu is the most developed and visited island in Hawaii, the cultural, financial, and tourist center of the state, and home to over 120 beautiful beaches. Choosing the best beaches in Oahu is a difficult but fun undertaking.

Oahu is the perfect island to visit if you want to experience natural island beauty and still have modern conveniences readily available.

It’s also a favorite destination of surfers during the winter, lured by the large waves and warm weather.

Today, let’s go through a journey and look at the best beaches in Oahu.

South Shore Beaches

The South Shore Oahu beaches span the entire coastline from Makapu’u Point through Waikiki, Honolulu, and all through to Kapolei.

This stretch of coastline is famous for its huge, wide leisure beaches bordered with tall palm trees and luxury resort hotels. These are very popular with tourists due to their proximity to the airport and the capital.

1. Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

Known as: The best known beach destination in Hawaii

Clocking 5 million visitors a year, Waikiki Beach is arguably the best known beach destination in Hawaii.

Waikiki Beach boasts three miles of oceanfront views, where you can spend the entire day strolling up and down, sampling local dishes, enjoying live entertainment, and just soaking up the sun.

Calm, shallow waters make this beach perfect for families with young children as well as beginner surfers.

Snorkeling and diving trips also usually originate from one of the many resorts and hotels on this beach.

Essential Information
Location: Honolulu, HI
Activities: Swimming, sunbathing, strolling, windsurfing, surfing, paddle boarding, bodyboarding, catamaran riding, snorkeling, biking, hiking
Public access points: Fort Derussy Beach Park, Kahanamoku Beach, Kūhiō Beach Park
Where to stay: Resorts, hotels, hostels, inns
Nearby places of interest: Chinatown, Foster Botanical Garden, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue, Waikiki Aquarium, Honolulu Zoo, Pearl Harbor
More information: Waikiki Beach | Hawaii Tourism Authority

2. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay

Known as: Oahu’s most popular snorkeling spot

Hanauma Bay is in a bay formed by a volcanic crater with a broken sea wall. It is both a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District.

There are over 400 different species of fish known to inhabit the bay, as well as the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, making this site a top tourist site for diving and snorkeling.

In fact, we’ve best snorkeling sites in the country.

Though snorkeling and diving are the main things to do here, the small, lovely gold-sand beach is also popular for sunbathing and wading.

Essential Information
Location: 100 Hanauma Bay Road, Honolulu, HI 96825
Activities: Snorkeling, scuba diving, sunbathing, swimming, hiking
Where to stay: Resorts, hotels, cottages
Nearby places of interest: Koko Crater Railway Trailhead, Hanauma Bay Trail, Spitting Cave, China Walls
More information:

North Shore Beaches

Hawaii is where surfing began, and if surfing were a religion, Oahu’s North Shore is the surfers’ Mecca.

From late November to January, the Pacific produces perfect, powerful waves toward the North Shore in Oahu, a stretch of sandy beaches from Haleiwa Beach Park all the way to Sunset Beach containing more than 30 surf spots.

It’s no wonder that surfers around the world call Oahu’s North Shore the seven-mile miracle.

3. Mālaekahana State Park

Malaekahana

Photo Credit: Forest & Kim Starr

Known as: One of the most pristine beaches in Oahu

Mālaekahana Beach features a mile-long white-sand beach, which is perfect for a long beach stroll, sunbathing, beach sports, and of course, a jumping-off point for surfers.

There’s a chance you can get a glimpse of sea turtles here, but you’re not allowed to touch them or their eggs. Photos are more than welcome, though, so click away.

Essential Information
Location: 56-075 Kamehameha Hwy, Laie, HI 96762
Activities: Surfing, bodysurfing, swimming, sunbathing, shore fishing, beach volleyball, hiking, camping
Main access points: Kalanai Point, Kahuku
Nearby services and amenities: Picnic amenities, restrooms, parking areas
Where to stay: Vacation rentals, cabins, campgrounds, RV parks
Nearby places of interest: Moku’auia Island (Goat Island)
More information:

4. Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Known as: The most popular of the North Shore beaches

Sunset Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Oahu to view sunsets, hence its name. The sunsets here are especially spectacular in the summer, when the water is calm. Swimming and snorkeling are the main activities here then.

But aside from sunsets, Sunset Beach is known to offer some of the most spectacular waves in the winter, some reaching 30 feet or higher. This beach is the site of plenty of wave-riding competitions, including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

Essential Information
Location: 59-104 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, Oahu, HI 96712
Activities: Surfing, swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, beachcombing
Main access point: Sunset Beach Park
Nearby services and amenities: Lifeguards, restrooms, showers, parking area
Where to stay: Vacation rentals, hotels, motels, cabins
Nearby places of interest: Ehukai Pillbox Hike, Pūpūkea-Paumalū Forest Reserve, Waimea Falls
More information:
Sunset Beach | Hawaii Tourism Authority

Windward Coast Beaches

The east coast of Oahu is known as the Windward Coast, which features popular yet unspoiled beaches.

Thousands of years of constant gales have carved beautifully ragged rock faces and steep cliffs on the east side of the Koolau range. Windward Coast is the wetter, greener side of the island.

5. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach

Known as: The most stunning, postcard-worthy beach in Oahu

No exaggeration: you’ve probably seen Lanikai Beach in a postcard or wall calendar of Oahu or Hawaii. And it’s very well deserved.

This stretch of beach is home to some of the clearest, bluest, water you’ll find in Oahu. With powdery white sand and views of the Mokuluas, this is the closest thing to a beach paradise you’ll ever get.

Essential Information
Location: Kailua, HI 96734
Activities: Swimming, sunbathing, surfing, bodyboarding, kayaking
Main access point: Lanikai Beach Park
Where to stay: Resorts, vacation rentals, hotels
Nearby places of interest: Lanikai Pillboxes, Mokulua Islands, Olomana Three Peaks Trail, Maunawili Falls
More information:

6. Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach

Known as: Lanikai’s twin beach

Lanikai’s neighboring beach is as beautiful as Lanikai, but Kailua Beach Park has more amenities, including disabled parking and ramps.

Looking to the north from the beach, you will see the Mokapu Peninsula, Flat Island, and the Mokulua Islands.

Essential Information
Location: Kailua, HI 96734
Activities: Swimming, sunbathing, surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, hiking, biking
Main access point: Kailua Beach Park
Nearby services and amenities: Picnic amenities, restrooms, showers, parking area, biking trails
Where to stay: Resorts, vacation rentals, hotels
Nearby places of interest: Flat Island, Mokulua Islands, Olomana Three Peaks Trail, Maunawili Falls
More information:

7. Makapu’u Beach

Makapu'u Beach

Known as: A hidden gem on the Windward coast

Most tourists go to this part of the island to hike up to Makapu’u Lighthouse, but they rarely stick around to experience Makapu’u Beach.

In the winter, the surf can be rough and the undertow strong, but it’s a beautiful spot for bodysurfing, nonetheless, with the blue ocean against the black mountain.

Makapu’u Beach is part of the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, where you can see migrating humpback whales during whale season, Rabbit Island, and even neighboring islands Moloka’i and Lana’i during a clear day.

Essential Information
Location: 41-95 Kalanianaʻole Hwy, Waimanalo, HI 96795
Activities: Bodysurfing, bodyboarding, fishing
Main access point: Makapu’u Beach Park
Nearby services and amenities: Picnic amenities, restrooms, showers, lifeguard, parking area
Where to stay: Hotels, motels, inns
Nearby places of interest: Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, Makapuu Point
More information:

Leeward Coast Beaches

The west coast of Oahu is known as the leeward side, which means they are protected from the wind by the island. This is where you’ll find peaceful beaches with gentle surf, with considerably warmer and drier climate than the east.

8. Poka’i Bay

Poka'i Bay

Photo Credit: Eugene Kim

Known as: The calmest waters on Oahu year-round

Poka’i Beach takes its name from Poka’i, the Hawaiian chief who brought and planted the first coconut palm tree on the island.

Its peculiar shape, breakwater, and a wide reef, protects its beach from harsh waves, making the waters clear and calm. This makes it perfect for swimmers and beginner surfers. Families with children will also have fun beachcombing and sunbathing on this beach.

Essential Information
Location: 85-37 Waianae Valley Rd, Waianae, HI 96792
Activities: Swimming, fishing, snorkeling, surfing, paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking
Main access point: Poka’i Bay Beach Park
Nearby services and amenities: Parking area, showers, restrooms, lifeguard, picnic amenities, playgrounds,
Where to stay: Vacation rentals, hotels, motels
Nearby places of interest: Wai’anae Army Recreation Center, Kane’ilio Point, Ku’ilioloa Heiau
More information:
Pokai Beach Park | Hawaii Tourism Authority

9. Yokohama Bay

Yokohama Bay

Photo Credit: Ann Dabney

Known as: One of the most secluded beaches in Oahu

You’ll discover this rugged, relatively undeveloped beach on your way to Ka’ena Point, and if you’re driving northwest along Farrington Highway, the road dead ends here on Yokohama Bay.

The waves can be too high for swimming, especially in the winter, so if you’re not an expert surfer, maybe lay off the waves.

Besides, the curvy beach and turquoise waters make for a gorgeous setting to simply hang out, watch surfers, try to spot a few dolphins, and bask in the sunset.

Essential Information
Location: HI-93 Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI 96791
Activities: Swimming, surfing, sunbathing, hiking
Main access: Keawaula Beach
Nearby services and amenities: Restrooms, showers, parking area, lifeguard
Where to stay: Vacation rentals, hotels, condos
Nearby places of interest: Kuaokala Trail, Ka’ena Point Bird Sanctuary
More information:
Keawaula Beach (Yokohama Beach) | Hawaii Tourism Authority

10. Ka’ena Point

Ka'ena Point Trail

Photo Credit: brookpeterson

Known as: The westernmost point in Oahu

Ka’ena was an active shield volcano formed 5 million years ago, named for a relative of the goddess Pele.

Hawaiian legend has it that Ka’ena Point is where the souls of the departed begin their journey to their final judgment.

The only way to get here is through the Mokuleia Trail from the North Shore, or Ka’ena Point Trail from Farrington Highway. Both ways, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery, and we’ve included this in our list of best beach hikes in the country.

Essential Information
Location: End of Farrington Highway, Waianae, HI 96792
Activities: Hiking, sightseeing
Main access point: Ka’ena Point State Park
Where to stay: Vacation rentals, hotels, condos
Nearby places of interest: Ka’ena Point Bird Sanctuary, Ka’ena Point Trailhead
More information:

Travel Information On Oahu

Here are some more tips to have a worry-free trip to Oahu.

Getting To Oahu

Flights from the mainland US and international destinations land in the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) just outside of downtown Honolulu

Getting Around

If you plan to stay only around the Honolulu/Waikiki area, the public bus system, officially called TheBus, is adequate.

But renting a car is much more preferable, especially if you’re going to one of the North Shore beaches. It’s better to book well in advance to make sure you have a car to use.

Best Time Of Year To Visit

As I’ve mentioned, surfers visit en masse from late November to January, so this is considered peak tourist season. If you decide to visit during these months, be aware that accommodations, airfare, and car rentals may cost higher during these months.

What To Wear

There are only really two seasons in Hawaii: the “wet” season from October to March, when the temperatures are cooler and there is increased rainfall, and the “dry” season from April to September, when the temperatures are warmer and there is little rainfall.

Whatever the season, keep your clothes to a minimum and pack plenty of reef-friendly sunscreen and an umbrella.

Dos and Don’ts When Visiting Oahu

Do remember that Hawaii is part of the US. Referring to the continental US as “the States” implies that Hawaii is a foreign country and may be taken as rude or even combative. Use “the mainland” when referring to the continental US.

Don’t take rocks or sand from the beaches. It’s illegal, and besides, it is believed that a curse befalls those who take volcanic rocks, sand, or any other material from the beaches. Buy actual souvenirs from an ABC Store.

Do spend extra for an ocean view. If you have the option to choose an ocean view room, take it. The stunning view is worth it.

Don’t forget to say aloha and mahalo. Aloha means both “hello” and “goodbye” while mahalo means “thank you.” It’s polite and encouraged.

What To Eat

Hawaii is a cultural melting pot, and this is reflected in their cuisine. Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Portuguese influences can all be experienced in their cuisine.

Here are some of the most popular food to try during your stay in Hawaii.

Spam musubi is made of sushi rice and seasoned Spam wrapped with nori seaweed. It combines Hawaii’s most beloved food, Spam, with Japanese onigiri.

Saimin is a noodle dish made of wheat noodles in clear dashi-based broth topped with any combination of green onions, hard-boiled eggs, fish cake, char siu pork, kimchi, Spam, or Portuguese sausage.

This hails back to when Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino plantation workers shared their respective noodle recipes with each other, and as more people migrated to Hawaii, more ingredients were added.

A basic Hawaiian plate lunch has two scoops of rice, one scoop of macaroni salad, and three kinds of meat (choose from fish, pork, beef, or chicken cooked in different ways). This is how the locals do it.

Visit one of these best beaches in Oahu soon!

Of the many beaches in Oahu, listing only 10 of them seems inadequate. But hopefully, this list inspires you to plan a holiday to Oahu.

Other Places To Visit In Hawaii

Oahu isn’t the only island in Hawaii; there are five other islands you can visit. To know more, here are some of the best places to visit in Hawaii.

Planning a trip to Oahu soon? Which one of these Oahu beaches are you hitting up soon? Share your plans with us in the comments!