The Best Beaches in Oahu, Hawaii

Sun, surf, white sand …Oahu has dozens of beaches scattered all around the island from which to choose. Being in Hawaii all of them are gorgeous in one way or another, but which are the best beaches in Oahu? The following are my favorite of all that I visited when I was recently there and are generally considered among the best too. I have, however, included one that is very well liked but did not impress me much. Which one is your favorite?

Waimea Bay Beach Park

Located in Oahu’s North Shore the beach in Waimea is relaxing, family friendly beach when the sea is calm and an exciting, adrenaline packed destination when the surf is big. The beach is about 700m long and has several facilities free of charge, including showers, toilet and a drinking fountain. There is a designated parking lot too, which although free is rather small and only holds about 70 cars- more often than not you will find cars parked on the main road’s shoulder.

waimea bay

Things to do in Waimea Bay beach include swimming, suntanning, jumping off the rock on the western end is very popular and, if there are waves and you’re an accomplished swimmer, then bodyboarding, surfing or bodysurfing will be a thrill and a challenge. If not you can always try one of these sports on Waimea river during the rainy season as it’s a lot of fun and not life threatening.

If here during the winter season you’ll be able to watch massive 10m plus waves and hardcore surfers riding these behemoths, and perhaps might be here during the legendary Eddie Aikau Memorial surf contest, held in memory of of this legendary surfer and local lifeguard who disappeared when attempting to reach the coast from a stranded papyrus boat during an expedition in 1978. The contest, by the way, only happens when the waves have at least 40ft faces! (don’t skip the video- you’ll be happy you’re watching the action from a distance and are not one of the surfers featured in it!).

Waikiki Beach

The view of Waikiki beach with extinct volcano Diamond Head in the background is probably the most famous of all in Hawaii and one you must not miss. The beach is long but narrow, crowded but fun, busy yet energizing a the same time, and a heck of a lot of fun. It’s a great place where to learn how to surf (ask for Max Surf rentals- he´s been here for 25 years, has the biggest board assortment and is the most affordable too), try traditional outrigger canoeing or gaze at spectacular sunsets from the western end of the beach, right beyond historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the only pink hotel in the islands. In Waikiki you’ll also find some of the best hotels in Oahu for families!


Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is considered one of the best beaches in the island and some say in the world, which I find rather preposterous.  I have yet to find the overwhelming appeal, but have included it in this list because many travelers seem to be delighted with it. Perhaps its beauty might derive from the conifer trees that abound instead of palm trees, there’s plenty of public parking and has little to no surf most of the year, making it ideal for families with young children.

Sunset Beach

Also in Oahu’s North Shore Sunset Beach is picture perfect by any standard. The beach is wide and long enough to accommodate comfortably alll visitors, and the clean white sand contrasts with the ocean’s deep blue water. Sunset beach is world famous for its surf, so you’ll find plenty of action too. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that there are no convenient facilities, yet the closest snack bar, supermarket and surf shop are just a five minute drive away along the main road- if there’s no traffic.

sunset beach

Sandy Beach

Sandy beach is relatively isolated, about a 5 minute drive from Hanauma Bay or 25 minutes from Waikiki. The beach is relatively small yet has public showers and toilet facilities as well as free parking. It’s a great place to get away from Honolulu’s urban lifestyle and relax- or not. The shore break is powerful and dangerous, making it ideal for bodyboarders and bodysurfers who come here to ride big waves just a few meters away from dry sand, but dangerous for the average swimmer.

sandy beach

Pipeline (Ehukai Beach Park)

There is only one reason that has put this beach on the map despite it’s natural beauty: a powerful wave that breaks here and attracts surfers from all over the world to challenge their skills, particularly during the winter season. The wave is big, hollow and a challenge for even the most accomplished surfer.

The beach has a free small parking lot, but no toilet facilities, and is just a five minute drive west from Sunset Beach- unless there’s a big swell in which case traffic will bring you to a stop. The beach usually attracts younger crowds and surf enthusiasts, yet I recommend you stop by and witness the show when there’s a good swell.

Turtle Bay

The beach in Turtle Bay is very family friendly and safe for swimming. It might not be as exotic as the others in the list, but it has something instead that they don’t: wild turtles. Appropriately named Turtle Bay this is the best place where to spot and swim with wild turtles in Oahu without having to join a tour of pay any fees. You will simply need snorkeling gear (if at all) and to swim around this secluded bay until you find one; it could be a great opportunity to bring your waterproof camera because there is no easier place where to take pictures of turtles in the wild.

swim with turtles

Hanauma Bay

Postcard worthy Hanauma Bay beach is extremely popular among tourists and locals because of its snorkeling. It is a national park (there is a fee to enter) and a must visit when in Oahu. To learn more about the bay read my post about snorkeling in Hanauma Bay.

hanauma bay

These are my favorite and what I consider to be the best beaches in Oahu, but now it’s your turn:

Which is your favorite beach in Oahu? Why? Any tips or opinions about the beaches in this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and this post too if you liked it!


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