best beaches in Oahu

7 Best Beaches in Oahu

Hawaii’s third-largest island Oahu is a picture-perfect paradise. Known as the ‘Gathering Place’, it’s home to the state’s colourful capital of Honolulu, Pearl Harbour and the world-famous Waikiki Beach. The island itself is made up of two overlapping volcanoes, known as a volcanic doublet, which (unsurprisingly) makes for some staggering scenery inland too. But while there’s plenty to enjoy on dry land, it’s those palm-fringed, white sand beaches we’re really interested in. From secluded coves to bustling surfer towns, here are seven of the best beaches in Oahu.

The best beaches in Oahu

1. Kailua Beach Park

This 2.5 mile (4 km) stretch of pristine white sands frequent gets top billing, for good reason. Located on Oahu’s Windward Side, on the east coast of the island, the beach is around 12 miles from Waikiki and around a 30-minute drive over the Pali Highway. It’s the perfect place to sit back and soak in the rays with a good book, or venture out into the waters for snorkelling, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. It’s also home to a competitive canoe racing club. Plus, every year on July 4th, it hosts a huge fireworks display over the bay. To get here, you’ll need to hop on the city bus, rent a car or book a tour.

We’re not the only ones who sing its praises; Barack Obama visits every year for the Christmas holidays.

best beaches in Oahu

2. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park

This three-mile (4.8 km) stretch of pristine white sands is one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in Oahu – perfect for romantic sunset strolls. Squeezed between bright turquoise sea and ironwood trees, there’s plenty of shade for those who burn easily too The beach is situated on Windward Oahu and faces the prevailing northeasterly trade winds, which means it gets breezy. It’s particularly popular for body surfing and boogie boarding since the waves never get too high and break close to the shore.

The southern end of the beach is called Waimanalo Beach Park and has excellent facilities, including showers, picnic tables, a lifeguard tower and restrooms. The northern access point is through the forest, via a campsite.

best beaches in Oahu

3. Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is Hawaii’s most famous beach and has been a stylish hotspot for holidaymakers since the 1950s. Stretching two miles across the south coast of Honolulu against the backdrop of Mount Leahi, it’s one of the most picturesque beaches on the island. A handful of hotels are sprinkled across the coastline, each connected by a boardwalk. Waters here are relatively peaceful, but it’s a good spot to practice your surf too. In fact, Duke Kahanamoku, one of Hawaii’s most famous surfers, honed his craft on these very waters. As well as surfing, visitors can enjoy a spot of canoe racing, stand-up paddling and volleyball. When you’ve tired of the soft sands, you can head out for some retail therapy or a bite to eat along the boulevard.

best beaches in Oahu

4. Ehukai Beach

If it’s big swells you’re after, hotfoot to the north coast to Ehukai Beach. The sandy stretch is home to the famous Banzai Pipeline, one of the world’s most dangerous surf reef breaks. The surfing season runs from October to April, when waves can reach up to 25 ft (7 metres). Californian surfing move producer, Bruce Brown, coined the name after a nearby construction site. The 1.2 mile (1.9 km) beach has lifeguards, restrooms, showers and picnic areas. By summertime, the waves are much more manageable and it’s possible to swim.

Editorial credit: Yi-Chen Chiang /

5. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is quieter than most of the entries on our list, so if you’re after a little seclusion this is your spot. Nestled in the sleepy beach town of Kailua on Oahu’s Windward Side, the beach offers year-round pristine swimming conditions. Hop in a kayak – or if you’re fit you can swim – to make the mile-long journey out to two offshore islands, home to a staggering variety of birds. The snorkelling is excellent here too, thanks to the offshore reef, as well as sailing and windsurfing.

6. Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park is one of the best family-friendly beaches in Oahu. Located next to Ala Wai Harbor and Ala Moana Centre, it’s conveniently located but less crowded than Waikiki Beach. Locals love it for its calm and clear waters, protected by a fringing reef. The beach itself is actually manmade, created in the 1950s from excess dredged earth. The waters here are very shallow, so perfect for little legs too.

7. Sunset Beach

Located on the north shore of Oahu, Sunset Beach is a long sandy stretch that’s popular with both surfers and sunbathers. Head here in the winter for the biggest swells; it’s one of the Trip Crown Surfin Contest’s three surf breaks. In summer, the waters here are calm and crystal clear.

But Sunset Beach is really best known for its incredible sunsets.

best beaches in Oahu

Allie D'Almo

Allie is a passionate traveller with a hearty interest in great food and stories. She likes to travel slowly, particularly to underrated and underloved places. She’s lived in Italy and is now based in London, where she spends most of her time either plotting her next trip or writing about her last one.

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