Find The Best Oahu Beaches…
Local Favorites Disclosed!
Oahu beaches are some of the most desirable and usable of all Hawaii beaches. Oahu embraces more than 900,000 people or close to 70% of the State of Hawaii’s total population of about 1,360,000 people. Amazingly… you can still find fascinating secluded beaches with few people on them. The island boasts gorgeous beaches island wide sure to fulfill your dreams of a perfect beach.
Beaches offering exceptional swimming, snorkeling, body boarding and surfing are located around the island… dependent upon each day’s ocean conditions as well as seasonal changes.
If you love people, famous Waikiki Beach is the spot for you! You’ll find beach lovers from all over the world here with some locals sprinkled throughout.
Waikiki Beach is a great place to learn to snorkel, body board, standup paddle board and surf. You will find plenty of Oahu beach rentals here for all your needs with surfing lessons being offered along the beach. Waikiki is where most people stay while visiting Oahu.
See the full splendor of this renowned beach at the Diamond Head end of
Waikiki (where Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenues intersect). Walk to the gazebo at the end of the pier and see the expanse of Waikiki Beach from this vantage point framed by Diamond Head and Kapiolani Park in the background.
Gaze into the mesmerizing clear water dotted with coral reef and enjoy the warm breeze. Watch the carefree local kids jumping from the pier with Waikiki beachfront hotels scattered in the distance stretching towards downtown Honolulu…
Welcome to what locals call “Hawaiian Time”… the refreshing slower pace of life in the islands.
See Map of Oahu Beaches at Bottom of Page
Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island
To find a more local crowd check out the Oahu Beaches at Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island… a local favorite for picnics and suitable for families with protection from the open ocean. Local surfers favor Ala Moana Bowls near Magic Island. These beaches are across the street from Ala Moana Shopping Center not far from the Ewa end of Waikiki.
Ocean Safety on Oahu Beaches
CAUTION: Not all beaches on Oahu have lifeguards and the water can be extremely dangerous… even for expert swimmers! Ocean conditions change rapidly.
Waves come in sets with a lull in between sets. If you see people walking along the shoreline but don’t see footprints this means the waves are coming inland far enough to cover their footprints. A set of waves can knock you off your feet and drag you and your belongings into the ocean. A local saying is “Never turn your back on the ocean”… especially near the shoreline!
I learned this lesson the hard way! While sitting on the beach talking story with a friend at Yokohama Bay… not close to the shoreline… a really large set of waves was suddenly upon us. Our belongings… including the car keys… were drug into the ocean.
We borrowed a mask and snorkel from the lifeguard to look for the keys… to no avail. Long story short… had to bum a ride home in the back of a pickup in soaking wet bathing suits as the sun was setting. It was a costly mistake ending with a locksmith bill and a knee injury for my friend.
Hanauma Bay and Sandy Beach
Hanauma Bay State Park is a protected marine preserve… one of the best Oahu beaches for seeing fish while snorkeling… especially if you are a beginner. There are lifeguards, snorkel rentals and an education center.
Scuba divers come here too and venture into deeper waters. This spot is very popular with visitors and also used by local residents. Entrance fee.
You will find local kite enthusiasts and body surfers at Sandy Beach Park a short distance East from Hanauma Bay. Sandy Beach can have extremely dangerous large shore break only approachable by EXPERT body surfers and body boarders. Look for warning signs and check with lifeguards before entering the water… Don’t find out what it’s like to be tossed in a washing machine and end up with sand in every crevice of your body!
Windward Oahu (East Shore) Beaches
The Windward (East shore) Oahu beaches in Waimanalo, Lanikai and Kailua are noted for their soft sand, easy beach entry and azure water… a place to relax and unwind with the locals. The Windward part of the island receives the most rain with the lush green Koolau mountains in the background… a sight to behold. Watch for public beach access signs in these neighborhoods.
Driving around the Windward side of the island from Kailua towards Kaneohe and continuing on towards the North Shore discover multiple beach parks in residential neighborhoods. Some of these beaches have shallow clear water set in lush tropical settings suitable for Hollywood movies.
Enjoy a leisurely scenic day trip on a slow winding road that frequently borders the ocean. Stop and taste some locally grown fruit and view art from local artists along the way. Take time to stop and smell the hibiscus flowers!
North Shore Beaches
Oahu North Shore beaches draw professional surfers from around the world to its unparalleled huge wintertime surf. The North and West shores have the largest surf in the fall and winter… while the South shore experiences its largest surf in the spring and summer. There are exceptions to this rule… so take caution at all times and check weather reports or call the surf report 808-596-SURF (808-596-7873) to check which beaches are safe to visit.
Waimea Bay is one of the Oahu Beaches on the North Shore with extreme changes in ocean conditions. In the summer you can find a calm placid bay great for swimming and snorkeling with catamarans moored in the bay…
OR witness extreme waves like those pictured here in the winter! The shore break in this bay can be extremely dangerous. I have seen lifeguards rescue lots of people here. This spot is popular with visitors and locals alike. You will see local kids jumping off the rock in the bay when the water is calm.
Waianae Coast (West Oahu) Beaches
The West Oahu local neighborhoods along the Wai’anae Coastline see fewer visitors, yet the beaches are second to none with the sunniest weather on the island. The awesome Wai’anae Mountains stand tall in the background with deep majestic valleys.
The road ends at this West side untamed beach known as Yokohama Bay, but hiking is allowed around this tip of the island. Like North Shore, the ocean changes here from complete calm to extremely powerful surf. Check with lifeguards before entering the water.
Hawaiian Princess and Makaha Beach Cabanas One of my favorite beaches on the West side is this picture perfect secluded bay in Makaha fronting the Hawaiian Princess and Makaha Beach Cabanas condos. The beauty of this beach won me an honorable mention in an Islands Magazine photo contest a few years ago
UPDATE: In May 2012 I went to Ko Olina lagoons and you can bypass the guard now by staying in the right lane when entering the resort to visit the lagoons. It was still difficult finding an open spot in the free public parking at the lagoons! The fourth lagoon has the most free public parking stalls. If you choose to pay for beach parking at the Ihilani Resort it is very pricey… don’t quote me… but if I remember correctly, it was $35.00 on my May visit.
Ewa Beach Oahu beaches are nestled in local neighborhoods. Check out Ewa Beach Park listed on the map for the best access. I lived adjacent to this park for 15 years a few houses from the beach. Only the more adventurous visitors interested in local life come here. It’s a beautiful sandy beach where you can see Honolulu and Diamond Head in the distance, but be cautious of sharp coral when entering the water. Locals visit surfing spots along this coastline. Like West Oahu, this South shore community has plenty of sunshine.
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View Favorite Oahu Beaches in a larger map