Hanauma Bay: Nature Preserve: This stunning marine sanctuary occupies a bay nestled between two dormant volcanic craters on the southeast tip of Oahu, it’s crystal clear, shallow waters are home to a mass of marine life including tropical fish, eels, and vivid corals. Hanauma Bay is globally recognized as a premier snorkeling destination and is one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. Gear rental is available on site. But don’t forget your change for the trolley. The climb up from the beach after a day snorkeling can be a daunting task.
Barack Obama touts Sandy Beach as his favorite spot; this local hot
spot is 10 minutes beyond Hanauma Bay near the Halona Blowhole. The
massive shore break can be dangerous at this popular local beach, so
bodysurf at your own risk.
Just a brief drive over the mountains via Pali or Likelike highways or the H3 from Waikiki or Honolulu brings you to the luxurious rural scenery of the Windward Coast. You’ll enjoy white sand beaches along Oahu’s Windward side. On your way over the mountains, don’t forget to stop and ponder the historic Nuuanu Pali Lookout. Site of some of the deciding battles of King Kamehameha’s effort to establish the Kingdom of Hawaii.
The trip over the Koolau Mountains transitions abruptly from dry urban landscape to lush tropical greenery. Some say the Windward Coast is a world away from Honolulu. The aquamarine waters of the Windward Coast beckon you to Kailua, a flourishing beach town with a menagerie of eateries, fashionable local shops and a crescent shaped beach that has been pictured in numerous magazines and magazine covers.
Kailua Beach: Kailua Beach gets its name from Kailua town. It is a popular family beach with abundant parking and complete facilities. Kailua Beach is adjacent to Lanikai and is popular for its windsurfing, boat ramp and sailboards, kayaks or canoes rental opportunities.
Lanikai Beach: Consistently ranked as the world’s No. 1 beach (first by Conde Nast in 1996), Lanikai Beach is tucked beyond a bedroom community in Kailua. Lanikai is famous for its sparkling white sand, crystal clear and calm waters and an unobstructed view and access to the two mini islands called the Mokuluas (Moks) that can be reached via kayak or paddleboard.
Just 35 minutes from Waikiki, Makapuu lies beneath the historic Makapuu
Lighthouse wedged between serrated cliffs and spiked lava rocks. You
will come across large tide pools sheltering a variety of marine life.
This is a popular local body-boarding beach.
Waimanalo Beach: 20 minutes further past Makapuu Beach lies the Waimanalo Beach Park. There is plentiful parking and is the perfect picnics and party spot. The Beach Park hosts 4-miles of fine sand and ample access to the crystal clear water. This is a perfect spot to practice your body-boarding and body-surfing technique. Kualoa Regional Park: Adjacent to Kualoa Ranch (Known for films such as Jurassic Park, Journey 2 the Mysterious Island, and the Lost TV Series), this beautiful beach park offers remarkable views of the Koolau Mountains and Mokolii (the Chinaman’s Hat), a small basalt islet off the Windward Coast of Kaneohe.
Known for the legendary “Big Waves” North Shore is the place to find your perfect wave. The wintertime waves bring large swells from the artic storms brewing off Alaska and in the Bering Sea. These swells generate the gleaming winter waves of this world renowned surf mecca. The North Shore attracts novices as well as the best surfers in the world. However, be aware the winter waves are not for the novice to surf…watch only! During the summer the North Shore is the ideal place to work on that perfect tan alongside the glassy smooth surf. Summer waves are definitely smaller and gentler. The North Shore is the ideal surf spot for beginners and veterans alike… just pick the appropriate time of the year.
The North Shores iconic beaches stretch over 7 miles, and during the peak, winter months the North Shore hosts the world’s foremost surfing competitions…including the Super Bowl of wave riding, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (held November through December). Dig your toes into the thick sand of Waimea Bay, take your camera for the day to Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) and watch the sun go down over Sunset Beach, just stay on the beach, unless you’re a pro.
Kawela Bay/ Turtle Bay: Located on Oahu’s northeastern tip, between Haleiwa and the football town of Kahuku, is one of the island’s best snorkeling locations. Kawela Bay and Turtle Bay are protected from huge waves and surf, Turtle bay is also home to one of Oahu’s premier resort complexes…offering golf, fine dining, surf and paddleboard lessons, a salt-water pool and slide, wedding venues on site and abundant nightlife. These North Shore beaches also offer the chance to photograph a native Hawaiian Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle). Just don’t harass the Honu, they are protected!
Sunset Beach: Extending from Ehukai Beach (the world renowned Banzai Pipeline) to Sunset Point and incorporating numerous reef breaks, this two-mile stretch is considered the longest area of rideable surf anywhere in the world. This is the principle site for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (November through December). Don’t get frustrated with the traffic during surfing season…drive with Aloha; remember…you are on Hawaiian Time!
Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline):
Subsurface breaks over sharp reefs create the powerful waves of
the Banzai Pipeline. These immense tubes comprised of tons of rolling
water make this one of the most hazardous surfing locations in the world
and also make it a perfect location for the
Triple Crown of Surfing.
tourist and local beach sports full facilities, great for family
outings. This beach is also infamous for generating monstrous winter
waves of up to 50 feet and is known for the advent of big wave surfing
in the 1950s. In fact, “The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational
in Memory of Eddie Aikau” takes place here to honor the legendary
surfer and the first lifeguard of the North Shore of Oahu. The
summertime swells turn calm making the waters of Waimea Bay perfect for
swimming and snorkeling.
The Leeward Coast is situated at the foot of the majestic 4000 foot Waianae mountain range and less than 30 miles from downtown Waikiki. The Leeward Coast is a desert region compared to the Windward Coast…this is due to the weather patterns created by Oahu’s mountain ranges. The Leeward Coast is primarily rural community, remote beaches and one luxurious resort area.
Ko Olina Resort and Marina: The Leeward Coast is home to the Ko Olina Resort. While there you’ll discover artificial lagoons created for the Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa and the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa. Parking, restrooms and showers are available making this a perfect family stop.
Makaha Beach: The best surfing on the west coast of Oahu can be found in Makaha. This was another island spot that pioneered big wave surfing. The backwash and undertow of the sloping sand beachhead can cause backwash and catch visitors unaware.
Bay is the last sandy stretch on the Leeward Coast before the rugged
terrain of the mountains on the northwest side of the island. The
rounded beach and turquoise waters are a perfect spot for sunbathing and
surf/dolphin watching. Nearby Kaena Point offers
a trail with fantastic ocean views for the adventurous hiker in you. .
Note: Caution, there are lifeguards only at a select few Hawaiian Beaches. Follow all warnings, read and head all signs and stay vigilant for strong rip currents, undertows, changing conditions, and reefs. Common sense is your best defense when evaluating a beach, hiking trail, etc… Use your own best judgment; don’t exceed your own ability. By the time you realize you are in danger, it may be too late. Think First!