It’s safe to say that most visitors to Honolulu choose this destination with visions of relaxing on long white sand beaches with crystal clear blue water. Luckily for those ocean goers, the coast of Oahu is riddled with the kind of beaches featured on travel agency posters and brochures. From beaches that offer a calm paradise in the summer, to others with world class surfing in the winter, and even more that are great for cocktails and people watching, Honolulu has a wide spectrum of sun, sand, and surf.
For beach goers looking for true paradise by the ocean, head out to the North Shore picturesque, white sandy beaches. At Waimea Bay treats visitors to a pristine calm bay in the summer, contrasted by monstrous surf in the winter. A jump rock and river add to the fun. Down the road at Sunset Beach, visitors will find… You guessed it, a wonderful place to watch the sunset. In addition, in the winter it’s a perfect place to watch pro surfers dominate mind blowing waves, and in the summer it’s generally calm.
On the east side, gems like Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach Park are ideal beaches for ocean activities. These two locations are perfect for snorkeling, kayaking, boogie boarding, and wind surfing. In the heart of Honolulu is Kuhio Beach Park, a good spot for a break from the busy streets of Waikiki.
When exploring Oahu, remember that a wonderful beach is never more than ten minutes away.
Relatively secluded, this strip of windward coastline plays host to overnight campers as well as to day visitors. Waters stretching alongside a white-sand beach make for incredible swimming, and you’ll also find restrooms, showers, and picnic areas for your convenience. If you want to explore a bit, wade or swim to Goat Island (aka Moku’auia), a wildlife preserve that offers additional privacy and delightful stillness. It affords excellent swimming and lets you experience the islands as the ancients must have known them. This is favorite place for locals with families, who often take children to learn to surf when the waves are small.
Recommended for Beaches because: With full amenities and a large bay, Malaekahana is close, east side escape from the business of the North Shore.
Jade’s expert tip: Go in the morning for the least windy beach time.
Read more about Malaekahana State Recreation Area and Goat Island →
Created from a collapsed volcano crater, this bay is protected and calm, which makes it ideal for snorkeling and seeing a rainbow of coral and sea life. Located just 10 miles east of Honolulu, there is a $3 parking fee for nonresidents and $12 entry fee for nonresidents. Free entry for Hawai’i residents (with valid ID) and children 12 years and younger
Hanauma Bay also boasts a terrific beach and hiking trails. Though it can change without warning, the nature preserve is open Wednesdays through Sundays, with entry allowed from 6:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. All visitors must vacate by 4 p.m.
Recommended for Beaches because: Hanauma Bay is a protected beach, meaning the reef is alive with color and the snorkeling is amazing.
Jade’s expert tip: Face masks are required, and arrive early as current COVID regulations restrict the number of daily patrons.
Read more about Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve →
Set along Oahu’s windward (east) coast, this beautiful beach is ideal for swimming and for windsurfing. It affords amazing views of the area and isn’t as crowded as some other island beaches. A stream bisects the park and adds another dimension to aquatic activities. Lifeguards watch over the beach, and you’ll also find picnic areas, a volleyball court, restrooms and showers, food services, a bike path, and equipment rentals. This beach is in close proximity to Kailua town, where you can find an abundance of shopping, restaurant, and other hip town things to do. Come here if you’re looking for ocean activities.
Recommended for Beaches because: Located on the east side of Oahu, this beach is a favorite for active types who like to paddle canoe and snorkel.
Jade’s expert tip: A great choice for a full day at the beach.
Read more about Kailua Beach Park →
One of Waikiki’s first outdoor areas to be refurbished, Kuhio was once the favorite beach of former Olympic athlete and Honolulu sheriff, Duke Kahanamoku. Nowadays, the beach is a wonderful place to catch some rays, especially since its landscaping has been added to and improved, and there are new water features and hula mounds. The Wizard Stones � said to have been given healing powers by ancient Tahitians � have gained new prominence, and a statue commemorating Duke stands near his old stomping grounds. Take surf lessons at nearby Queens Beach, and enjoy the food and nightlife of Honolulu after dark.
Recommended for Beaches because: Located in the heart of Waikiki, Kuhio Beach Park is a great stop to take a refresher from city exploring.
Jade’s expert tip: Look for street parking a few streets inland from the beach.
Read more about Kuhio Beach Park →
Home to the world famous surf spot known as the Banzai Pipeline, Ehukai Beach Park is one of the most coveted places to visit on Oahu. Also home to surf spots called Gums, and Ehukai, the beach is made of fine what sand that goes on for miles. Located across form Sunset Beach Elementary School the park isn’t hard to find and has plenty of parking. You’ll find cold water showers and bathrooms, and food isn’t far away. Swimming is very dangerous in the winter and it’s best to watch the surfers at that time. This is a great place for surf watching.
Recommended for Beaches because: Ehukai Beach park is composed of beautiful white sand, and the famous Banzai Pipeline, one of the world’s best surf breaks.
Jade’s expert tip: If you’re here in the winter, make sure to watch the waves at Pipeline.
Read more about Ehukai Beach Park →
Set on Oahu’s windward coast, this gorgeous white sand beach offers incredible waters and the picturesque presence of two small, offshore islands. About a mile long, the beach varies in width, although its entire stretch provides soft sands and beautiful vistas out towards the ocean and of the Koolau Range. Along with swimming and snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing are popular pastimes. The beach is protected by an offshore reef, making the waters calm on this quiet stretch of coastline. This is an ideal beach to spend a full day enjoying fun in the sun, complete with beach toys, snorkeling and lunch.
Recommended for Beaches because: Known as the best beach on the East Side, Lanikai offers often calm waters perfect for snorkeling and water play.
Jade’s expert tip: Don’t forget to bring snorkels, floaty toys, and lunch to make a full day of it.
Read more about Lanikai Beach →
Absolutely gorgeous, boasting what could possibly be the best sunset on the North Shore, as well as some of the craziest waves in winter and some of the best swimming in summer – that’s how you can describe Ke Iki Beach. There are no showers, bathrooms or amenities here, but they’re not far away at other beaches. Bring sunblock and water, although a supermarket is just minutes away if you need it. If the waves are big, look for swimming ponds farther up on the sand, they offer a safe haven to swim away from the open ocean. Simply put, Ke Iki is exquisite.
Recommended for Beaches because: One of the most secluded beaches on the North Shore, Ke Iki is absolutely gorgeous and offers an escape from crowds.
Jade’s expert tip: Be very careful at Ke Iki in the winter, there are no lifeguards here.
Read more about Ke Iki Beach →
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Located to the east of Sunset Beach, Mother’s Beach is a section of white sand that offers calmer swimming than the rest of the area. It’s a hot spot for parents and children, and on any given sunny day you’ll find children building sand castles, climbing trees, body boarding and swimming.
There’s a picnic table in the shade of a tree offering a sun free lunch spot, but usually it’s enjoyed by locals checking the surf. Mother’s is accessible through a beach access path off of Huelo Street, or by walking a few hundred feet east from Sunset Beach, right off of Kamehameha Highway.
Recommended for Beaches because: Located at the end of Sunset Beach, Mother’s is where families go thanks to the mellow conditions of the ocean.
Jade’s expert tip: You’re better off parking at Sunset Beach and walking down, there’s nearly no parking at the trail access.
Read more about Mother’s Beach →
This North Shore beach is a favorite with folks who follow the surfing circuit. During the summer, its two miles of white-sand shores are relatively safe, and you’ll find swimmers and snorkelers frolicking among milder waves. Come winter, the surf runs high, and rip currents can be deadly. At this point, it’s best to leave the imposing waves to experts and simply watch experienced folks tackle the ocean from a safe perch on the beach. There’s full amenities – bathrooms and cold, outdoor showers – located across the street from the beach. Lifeguards can be seen patrolling the shores year-round.
Recommended for Beaches because: Offering calm waters in summer and world class waves in winter, Sunset Beach is the best place to catch the sunset.
Jade’s expert tip: The lot fills up quickly and once the gate at Sunset Beach Elementary across the street gets locked, you’ll be stuck. If the lot is filled, park alongside the road.
Read more about Sunset Beach Park →
Deceptively beautiful, this scenic cove is home to some of the planet’s most unforgiving surf and can mean death to naive swimmers in the winter months when waves tower above the shoreline. In this season, rip currents are strong, and waves can rise to thirty feet. Renowned surf competition “The Eddie” is held here when swells reach a minimum of sixty feet. Summer brings calmer, glass-like waters and everyone can enjoy the beauty of Waimea. Then, they’re under the protection of lifeguards and can take advantage of picnic areas, restrooms, and showers. Located at the start of the North Shore, the beach should be enjoyed with the rest of the area.
Recommended for Beaches because: Waimea Beach Park is one of the island’s most gorgeous beaches, with full amenities, a jump rock, and huge waves in the winter.
Jade’s expert tip: Look for additional parking across the street at the start of Waimea Valley.
Read more about Waimea Bay Beach Park →