Best Beaches in Oahu

Honeymoon couples are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the best beach on Oahu.

Oahu boasts more than 130 beaches, including the legendary Waikiki Beach, Ehukai Beach – home to the famous Bonzai Pipeline surf break – and the postcard-perfect beaches of Lanikai and Waimea Bay.

Oahu’s best beaches, include…

Waikiki Beach

(South Shore) – Stroll or jog the famous 3km stretch of soft white sand known as Waikiki Beach.

Connected by a boardwalk, Waikiki beach runs from the Hilton Hawaiian Village to Kapi'olani Park, along the way changing names and personalities.

From north-west to south-east: Kahanamoku Beach offers calm waters, Fort DeRussy Beach has the best windsurfing, Gray’s Beach is a favourite for swimmers, Central Waikiki is the place to be seen, Kuhio Beach Park is where the surfers hang out.

The best snorkelling is toward Diamond Head at Sans Souci Beach, and Kapiolani Beach Park (photo) is an ideal spot for picnicking and is less crowded than the other sections.

Backed by hotels and resorts, Waikiki is the perfect place to learn to surf and to rent boogie boards, kayaks, snorkelling equipment and beach umbrellas.

Other facilities include picnic areas, toilets, showers, barbecues, food kiosks and nearby restaurants and shops. A man-made beach, the sand for Waikiki came from Molokai Island.

Ala Moana Beach

(South Shore) – This wide, man-made 1.6km-long crescent of golden sand fronts Mamala Bay and is flanked on one side by the banyan- and palm-shaded lawns of the 30ha Ala Moana Beach Park.

Located to the south of Waikiki Beach, the calm waters offer year-round swimming protected by offshore black lava rocks. Go body boarding and surfing in the deeper waters close to the park or swim in the calm central section of the lagoon.

Facilities include picnic areas, toilets, showers, tennis courts, a yacht harbour, food kiosks and nearby restaurants and shops.

Hanauma Bay

(South Shore) – Framed by twin black lava headlands, this pretty, tree-lined, golden-sand beach is extremely popular with locals and offers a sheltered cove to snorkel and dive among an amazing variety of protected marine life.

The 600m-long beach curves into a nearly circular bay, the remains of a one-time volcanic crater. Snorkel the shallow 3m-deep inner bay or dive through a ‘slot’ in the reef to swim offshore with sea turtles and sharks.

Sunbathe, people-watch or choose from several coastal hiking trails that lead to lookouts for stunning panoramas overlooking the bay. At the Marine Education Centre, don’t miss watching the video presentation that educates visitors about the marine sanctuary.

Facilities include toilets, showers, a grass volleyball court, barbecue grills, picnic tables, food concessions, lifeguards and snorkel, mask and fin rentals. Note: Alcohol and smoking is prohibited in this park.

Sandy Beach

(South Shore) – Located on the southeast corner of Oahu and blessed with a consistent beach break, Sandy Beach is one of the island’s best bodysurfing and boogie boarding beaches.

From the safety of the wide, 350m-long, golden-sand beach, watch experienced boogie boarders make riding the waves look easy, but only swim when the ocean here is calm.

When the surf is running, these waters are treacherous due to the shore break and rips; in fact, lifeguards make more rescues at Sandy than at any other beach on Oahu. Facilities include toilets, showers and lifeguards.

Kailua Beach

(East Oahu) – Discover one of the best beaches in Hawaii, a 4km-long strip of soft golden-white sand that shelves into crystal clear water.

Kailua is perfect for swimming and a host of other beach activities: go snorkelling, catamaran sailing, windsurfing, kite-boarding, kayaking, boogie boarding and, when the wind and waves combine, surfing.

Fringed with palm trees and sand dunes and backed by the scenic Kooloau Mountain range, Kailua is Oahu 's premier windsurfing beach.

Although a local favourite at weekends, Kailua Beach rarely gets crowded, as it fronts a residential area and there are no hotels or condos nearby.

Located on the windward shore of east Oahu, the beach also features a 14ha recreational area known as Kailua Beach Park. Here you can find lifeguards, toilets, showers, a volleyball court, picnic tables, barbecues, food kiosks, an open-air café, a bike path and windsurfer and kayak rental shops.

Best of all, Kailua Beach is only a 30-minute drive from Honolulu, making it easily accessible.

Lanikai Beach

(East Oahu) – Curl your toes into the gorgeous soft white sand of this 2km-long picturesque beach and sparkling lagoon.

Protected by an offshore reef, the calm turquoise waters provide excellent year-round conditions for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and swimming.

For many Hawaiians, palm-fringed Lanikai is arguably the best beach in Hawaii and the perfect spot to sunbathe and enjoy scenic views across to the bird sanctuaries on the twin offshore islands of Mokulua.

Paddle a kayak or sail an outrigger canoe across to the Mokulua Islands and go snorkelling among colourful reef fish. Or climb up to Lanikai ridge for stunning views overlooking the beach and offshore islands.

There are no facilities here, just off-street parking and a couple of shops that provide lessons and rent out windsurfers and catamarans.

Located in a quiet and exclusive residential neighbourhood just 3km south of Kailua Beach Park, Lanikai is less crowded than other Oahu beaches even though it’s just 30 minutes away from Honolulu.

Waimanalo Beach

(East Oahu) – Choose your spot on this vast 6km-long beach of gorgeous fine white sand located at the southern end of the 30ha Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area.

Fringed by native trees with scenic views of the coastal mountain range and out to Manana Island, this beach is equally great for sunbathing, savouring a barbecue picnic or simply soaking up a great view.

Sea conditions are best for strong swimmers, boogie boarders and body surfers. Facilities include toilets, showers and a lifeguard service.

Kualoa Beach

(East Oahu) – Backed by the vast green expanse of Kualoa Beach Park and the spectacular rugged peaks of Koolau Ridge, Kualoa Beach offers sheltered year-round swimming with scenic views to the bird sanctuary of Mokolii islet (known as Chinaman's Hat).

Kick a soccer ball around, play Frisbee, sunbathe or go for a walk along the narrow strip of gorgeous white sand that was once a sacred spot for Hawaiian rulers. Facilities include toilets, showers and a lifeguard service.

Makapu’u Beach

(East Oahu) – Discover one of Hawaii’s best beaches for body surfing – a stunning 300m-long golden sand beach sandwiched between black lava rocks including the black cliffs of Makapu'u Point, marking Hawaii's easternmost tip.

Summer conditions are generally good for swimming and diving, while high surf, a fierce offshore break and strong undertow make this beach hazardous in winter. Small surfboards are permitted but regular board surfing is banned here by state law.

Facilities include toilets, showers, picnic tables, barbecues and lifeguards.

Ehukai Beach

(North Shore) – Ehukai Beach is a broad white-sand beach that is home to probably the best-known surf spot in the world – the famous Bonzai Pipeline.

The Pipeline attracts surfers from all over the world during winter when enthusiasts can expect waves up to 8m high and exploding tubes rolling over the shallow lava reef and sand bar.

During spring and summer, swimming is good over the sandbar while the surf is excellent for body and board surfing.

Located near Pupukea and fronting the grassy Ehukai Beach Park, facilities include toilets, showers, picnic tables, barbecues and lifeguards.

Malaekahana Beach

(North Shore) – Fringed by towering wind-swept trees, this almost 2km-long white-sand beach offers solitude and tranquillity among the wooded shoreline and good swimming in the turquoise sea when calm.

Go snorkelling and body boarding or try beachcombing this often deserted beach. Swim out to the wildlife sanctuary at nearby Goat Island or wade across at low tide to spy green sea turtles and sea birds such as the wedge-tailed shearwater.

Malaekahana bBeach borders a 15ha state park with camping for those with a permit, but offers no facilities, only natural shade.

Pupukea Beach Park

(North Shore) – This 32ha beach park offers two beautiful and wide white-sand beaches known as Shark's Cove (with rarely a shark in sight) and Three Tables. Both beaches offer great snorkelling and diving between May and October when the seas are calm.

Three Tables is good for snorkelling around the reef in about 3m of water, with excellent diving outside the reef in up to 10m of water around ledges, arches, lava tubes and among a variety of colourful marine life. Strong winter currents combine with rough waves to create dangerous conditions. There are no facilities or lifeguards in this area.

Sunset Beach

(North Shore) – This 3km-long crescent of golden sand is renowned for safe swimming in summer, while winter often brings huge 6m-high waves that are perfect for expert surfers.

Pick a spot to sunbathe, relax in the shade beneath palm trees, people-watch on the 60m-wide beach, stroll among rock pools looking for colourful shells or snorkel the nearby reef surrounded by sparkling turquoise waters.

Waimea Beach

(North Shore) – Discover one of Oahu 's most dramatic beaches, a small crescent of golden sand that plunges steeply into a bay of crystal clear blue water.

Gentle summer waves provide excellent swimming, snorkelling and diving conditions while winter brings huge 9m waves crashing onto the beach. Relax on the beach, snorkel the nearby reef or climb the huge rock on the south side of the beach before plunging into the warm waters.

Beach facilities include toilets, showers, picnic tables, barbecues and lifeguards, as well as restaurants and shops in nearby Haleiwa town.

Ko Olina Lagoons

(West Oahu) – Protected by rocky barriers, these four man-made white-sand beaches offer perfect year-round swimming in a calm lagoon.

Fringed by trees, manicured gardens and shady picnic areas, the beach offers facilities including toilets, showers, lifeguards and various creature comforts at the beachfront resorts.

Makaha Beach

(West Oahu) – Framed between the dramatic black lava rocks of Lahilahi and Kepuhi points, this soft crescent of golden sand provides excellent swimming and boogie boarding conditions in summer, and monstrous waves for surfing in winter.

The beach is home to the Hawaiian Buffalo's Big Board Surf Classic, where surfers ride the waves on old Hawaiian-style 3m-long wooden boards.

Pick a spot to sunbathe, swim the north edge of the beach under the watchful eye of lifeguards or dive the offshore channel. Facilities here include showers, toilets and lifeguard services.

Latest update: Best Beaches in Oahu: 14 January, 2023