Beaches / Coastlines, Oahu
During dinner with a friend who lives on Oahu, I first heard about Laniakea Beach on the North Shore. He mentioned that he had been to the beach often in the six months he had been on-island and had never failed to see a sea turtle basking on the sand. Since I had only seen sea turtles a few times snorkling, I drove there the next morning. Sure enough, I saw sea turtles swimming near the shore, then (in the afternoon) one came on land to catch some rays.
Since 1999, Laniakea Beach has become popular year-round with the turtles because of the algae that grows on the rocks, which the hard-shelled reptiles find both tasty and nourishing. At the same time, the beach has become popular enough with visitors that naturalists are stationed there every afternoon to inform the crowds and protect the turtles from harassment. Still, it's popularity is not widespread, either among turtles (the maximum number ever seen basking together is nine) or people (at most there were 20 people on the beach looking at the turtles and I passed two people who had no idea that turtles were swimming off shore).
To get to Laniakea Beach from Honolulu, drive past the two left-hand exits for Haliewa. After the second exit, focus your eyes on the right-hand side of the road, looking for the first area where people park for the beach. Park you car there and cross the road to the sand, which will be obvious from the parking spot. The turtles seem to prefer the north side of the beach, leaving the rest of it to surfers (who occassionally bump into turtles on their rides).
The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (or Honu in Hawaiian) is considered an endangered species, so please don't harm them.
Having been to Oahu about ten times, I didn't think there was much left for me to discover. The only place i hadn't been was west of Haliewa, so in January 2004 I took a drive out that way. As I neared an equestrian training area and polo field, I noticed a beach access and a couple of parked cars. Having nothing but time on my hands, I pulled over and followed the path to an almost vacant horseshoe of sand, calm blue water and ironwoods. The only person I noticed was a woman meditating, so I spread out a towel and read for a while. Because of an off shore reef, the water was clear and calm, and I forgot I was on Hawaii's most populated island.
This year I returned on a weekend day and noticed a couple of changes. First, there was a wrecked airplane on the beach (strange). Secondly, far from the entrance there were women sunbathing topless and even a nude couple. I don't know if this is legal, but it may be the only place on Oahu that wearing less than a normal bathing suit is tolerated.
During our trip we visited a beautiful spot called "Laniloa". There is a legend that goes with this spot:
The point of land that extends out into the ocean is called, "Laniloa". According to legend, this pennisula was originally a "Mo'o" or lizard standing upright ready to kill any intruder.
After Kana, a lengendary warrior had rescued his mother from Molakai and reutrned her to Hawaii, Kana set out on a journey to kill all the Mo'os in the islands. He arrived in Laie where the Mo'o had been killing scores of people. Kana easily defeated the Mo'o. He took the Mo'o's head and chopped it into 5 pieces and flung them into the ocean.
Today, you can see the Lizards head as 5 small islands lying off shore.
Lanikai beach, just off Kailua beach is definitly a off the beaten path, since most tourist dont often head out that way. Tucked behind the homes of Lanikai, and around the rocks of Kailua, is one of the most beautiful beaches in the World. Perfect for tanning, swimming, snorkling, sailing, kayaking, or digging holes in the sand.
To arrive at Lanikai beach, simply head pass Kailua beach park on Kawailoa Rd, and take a left when u get to Mokulua Dr. Follow it all the way around since its turns into a one way until you see signs for beach access. Follow one of the beach access paths and, boom! you are there...
On the way to Northshore, just passed Polynesian Culture Center, you enter the very small town of Laie. Here you can find one of Oahus great hidden scenic points, Laie Point.
Very few people who visit Oahu, will visit Laie Point. Unless you are with someone who knows the island very well. Not even all the locals of Oahu know where Laie Point is.
From Laie Point you will be blessed with great views of the Windward side of Oahu, as well as a look at Kukuihoolua Island. Those who know the island, know of the huge hole that passes thru its center, caused by thousands of years of waves, pounding at its sea facing side. On a rough day, you will see hundreds of gallons of water, blasted thru its hole.
Laie point is also a great local fishing spot, but also a very dangerous one as well. It is very easy to get swept off the rocks by a freak wave. Pay the up most respect to the ocean, and the cliffs around it, or you might find yourself swimming for your life in the rough ocean below.
Take Kam Highway north from Kaneohe. About 20 miles north in Laie, take a right on Anemoku St. At the T in the road, take a right onto Naupaka St. Follow it to the end and you are there.
This is the less touristy, more local Honolulu Beach. On a weekend days, the park behind the beach will be filled with locals having parties, family gatherings and picnics. The people laying on the sand seem to be less tourists (though there are a few) and more the workers or inhabitants of downtown Honolulu. One warning however -- you won't want to stay long past sunset -- Ala Moana park is a haven for the homeless. When I went running through the park on an early morning after arriving from the east coast, the park was cluttered with people sleeping everywhere!
For an excellent hike that will keep your sunburned skin in the shade and allow you to beat the Hawaiian heat, you should head to Maunawilli Falls on the Windward Side. This is not a strenuous hike in terms of elevation change but it is challenging due to the exposed roots (you can never look up, it seems), frequent stream crossings (I quickly gave up on futile rock hopping and just walked in the water) and mud (everyone slips in it at least once -- this is the wettest inhabited part of Oahu). The falls themselves are beautiful and offer a great place to swim as well as alternative platforms for jumping. While I was there, most people chose the 10-foot jump pictured but a Marine stationed at Kaneohe Bay did the 50-foot leap. Yikes.
Definitely wear hiking boots on this trek and leave your pets and kids at home. Oh, and don't forget the misquito repellant. I won't forget it next time!
One of the best short hikes in the United States is the climb to the World War II-vintage pill boxes on Oahu's Ka'iwa Ridge, right behind Lanikai on the Windward side. While the climb is steep and a bit rugged, you can be at the first overlook in 25 minutes and make the highest point in a half an hour. For all that sweat you'll get great views of the Mokoluas off of Lanikai Beach as well as a panoramic vista that includes Kailua Bay, Kailua Town, Enchanted Lake, Kaneohe Bay and the Koolaus. You can see as far south as Makapu'u Point and as far north as Chinaman's Hat. Bring a beer and enjoy watching the sky turn colors as the sun sets. I've already done this hike so many times I can't count, with everyone from three-year-old Cassie Lopez to my 70-something parents.
The Ridge itself can be hot and dry, so I wouldn't do the hike in mid-day. Start before 10 p.m. or after 4:00 if you want optimal enjoyment. If you're still sweating on the way down, just stroll 2 blocks to Lanikai Beach and cool off! Don't be turned off by the brevity of the hike: the views are spectacular!
The Mokulua islands are located aproximately 3/4 of a mile offshore of Lanikai Beach. The islands were once part of the Kailua Volcano that shaped the area millions of years ago.
The island on the left is called Moku Nui and is the biggest of the two, measuring about 300 meters long by 240 meters wide. Its highest point stands about 68 meters high.
Moku Iki on the right measures 267 meters long, by 213 meters wide and it's highest point reaching 46 meters high.
Moku Nui, the island on the left, is easily reached by boat, kayak or surf board, and has a pretty big beach on its south facing shore. The channel that seperates the two islands spans about 70 meters, and can produce some great waves.
You know that famous scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling in the sand, in passionate embrace, as a wave rushes in and slides over them? Well this is the beach where that scene was filmed.
Even though it is off a main road, this beach is usually not that crowded with maybe no more than a dozen people around at the very most. I loved diving off the rocks and into the water (don't try this until you see someone do it first - the rocks are close by). Even though you'd be warned not to, I loved to wade out and just float as the waves rose and fell around me and the tourists up at the blowhole looked down at me.
Eternity Beach is right by the Halona Blowhole and you can see it from the outlook.
One of my favorite beaches on Oahu is definitly Halona Beach. It is located on the east shore of Oahu, just around the bend from Sandy beach and the famous Halona Blowhole.
The beach, or cove, was made famous in the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity, starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. With its surrounding cliffs, and turquois water, it is filmakers dream come true.
To access the beach, you must descend down a rocky cliff path, near the corner of the Halona blowhole parking lot. This is a very small beach, and a very romantic one. It makes for great pictures, and on calm days, very plesant swimming. A bit of caution, when the water is rough, the current is very strong, many people have died by drowning off the shores of this beach. So be very careful and respect the ocean.
If time permits, i highly recommend this beach while visiting Oahu.
Really off the beaten path, travel up Pupukea Road on the Northshore for a view and bit of history on ancient Hawaiian heiaus.
This particular heiau was built over 250 years ago, and was a "sacrificial heiau" , heiau meaning sacred ground temple. Though this heiau has not been restored, you will still find that people have laid a well wrapped offering on the lele often (see picture).
The road leading to this heiau is a single lane, and be careful, high theft area.
This picture was taken from Moku Nui island, looking towards its sister island Moku Iki. To Kayak out to the islands take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your starting point, and how strong of a paddler you are.
On a good day there can be nice rolling swells between the two islands that are perfect for kayak surfing.
On the northern portion of the windward side of Oahu is a beautiful beach that seems secluded even though it's just off the road and offers convenient parking -- Kahana Velley State Park Beach. Lined with ironwoods and flanked by two verdant ridges, this beach also boast waters calm enough for children to play in. If this beach were close to Honolulu, it would be packed, but even on a beautiful Sunday afternoon its sands are nearly empty. The sand is soft, if littered with a few washed up coconuts and it often gets shady in the afternoon -- great if you've fried your skin somewhere else but still want to enjoy the sand. If you want, do as the locals (what few locals there are here): bring a tent and some food and spend a family day at the beach!
If you decide to take the scenic drive up the windward coast of Oahu, you'll come across pleasant Kualoa Regional Park, with its view of an island called Chinaman's Hat (for obvious reasons). If visitors even make it out here, they just stop, snap a photo and move on, but the park is a great place to linger for a picnic or enjoy the thin sandy beach and the calm surf. It's never crowded here and always beautiful.
Does this look like the hat of a Chinese person to you? Would Mao Zedong wear this? I don't hink so. It looks more like a big thorn to us, but "Pricker of the Ocean" would draw way fewer tourist than "Chinaman's Hat" and there's not too many tourists here already.