Lanikai Beach is another picture perfect beach of the island of O'ahu, and what makes it even better is that it is not crowded at all. The beach is a little bit out of the way, hidden by gorgeous homes, but is not hard to get to by any means. There is public access every few hundred yards. You have to park in the alley, so make sure you are not parking on anybody's property and you will have no problems.
The beach itself is wonderful. The beach is covered in fine sand, no rocks to worry about underfoot. Once you get into the ocean, the sand continues, so it is easy on the feet, not walking on pebbles or coral. There is some coral, however, so you can go snorkelling here. There were a fair amount of fish to see. There are two islands offshore that look like hills dropped into an ocean of sapphire. One of the best things about this beach is that, since it's a little out of the way, it has very few people on it. The atmosphere is very relaxed.
No facilities or lifeguards. There are facilities (bathrooms, showers) at Kailua Beach just a few minutes away.
Hanauma Bay is the most popular snorkelling spot on O'ahu, and for good reason. Even if you don't do a lick of snorkelling, the Bay itself is gorgeous, from the parking lot above and from up close on the beach. There are tons are fish and you are guaranteed to see lots, and I even saw a couple of sea turtles. The water is breathtaking shades of blue, green and turquoise. The beach is not large, and there are lots of people there, but I went twice and didn't find it to be crowded. The sand is nice and soft. We still had lots of room and didn't have anybody right beside us. The bay is the crater of an ancient volcano.
Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve, so there are several rules to protect this fragile underwater environment. After you pay your entrance fee, you have to watch a 7 minute video about the wildlife, the preserve and it's history, and safety. After the video you can write your name on a sheet if you plan on coming back in the next year so you don't have to watch the video again. Some of the basic rules are: Do not touch the sea life. Always have a snorkel buddy. Don't step on/touch the coral. Areas to avoid.
There are bathrooms and showers at the beach level, but there is no concession or gift shop. Those are at the top near the parking lot. The food in the concession is quite expensive, so if you plan on spending a few hours here, which you likely will, it is best to bring your own snacks and water. Snorkelling gear is available for rent, but you might as well go to an ABC store, but some cheap stuff, and bring your own. The stuff you can rent looks quite expensive. $5 per person to enter, parking $1 per car. There is a shuttle to take people up and down the hill if you are unable to make the climb or are too tired to. I believe it was 50 cents down and $1 up.
I instantly fell in love with Sunset Beach. It is like no place I've ever been to on earth (granted, I haven't been to a lot of beaches). I instantly fell in love with it and wanted to spend all of my time there. The beach is long and wide. The sand is soft and there are shells scattered about. In the winter, there are huge waves and beautiful men and women perfecting their form on the surfboard. There were varying amounts of people on different parts of the beach, but since it's so big you could be on a part of the beach with nobody else around. It is about 2 miles long, very wide and slightly sloping. The sounds of the waves crashing, the feel of the sand between my toes and the sun on my skin was unreal for a girl from a place where it's winter 6 months of the year! I have not been in summer, but the water is calm in the summer and the waves are massive in the winter. I felt so calm and at peace here. Me and my husband watched the sunset one night (of course) and I could have fallen asleep after, I was so relaxed.
Sunset Beach is where part of the Triple Crown of Surfing is held every winter. I went to the beach twice, and I was able to see surfers on one day, but the next day the competition was cancelled because the waves weren't high enough (looked pretty high to me!). There are houses along the beach that are worth millions. Only in a dream could I imagine living there one day.
There is a small parking lot at one of the entrances, along with a bathroom and shower. There are several spots along the road where you can sort of just pull over, park on the side of the road and walk to one of the entrances. There are lifeguards.
Kailua Beach is Lanikai's neighbor, just a few minutes away by car. Kailua is a bit bigger and busier, but still not crowded. I noticed lots of families with little kids playing, and there were a lot more people in the water doing various activities than at Lanikai. There was even a dog learning how to surf! Both Kailua and Lanikai Beach have won "Best Beach" awards, so make a day of it and go to both. Kailua has a nice sized parking lot, picnic tables, a grassy area, bathrooms and a shower.
Sunset Beach might be the perfect place to capture the sun descending at the end of the day, however, we were walking its shoreline mid-day, where we found calm waves, a beach with a few palm trees and no crowds.
Our grandson used the time to do a little exploring, while we breathed in its beauty. During winter months this beach and others at the North Shore host a large number of surfers. The waves are mighty huge during this time of the year. This day, you would never know it.
Always one to be on the lookout for shells, I found none here. In fact, I only found a few tiny shells, bits of seaglass and small black chunks of lava at one of Waikiki's beaches--which I returned to the sea before departing the island*.
*A legend says that Pele, the goddess of fire, brings a curse upon anyone who leaves these lovely islands with lava in their pockets. Supposedly, some tourists have done so, regretted their impulse and returned the lava asap! Hmmmm...
It was nearing the end of the day when we dropped by Kailua Beach. This pretty beach is about 2 1/2 miles long, with several small islands visible from its shores.
Kite surfers dominated the seascape as we watched the light fade (pic #2). The wind was really carrying them across the waves fast! Family members delighted in their efforts as they greeted them back on land.
We walked a short distance up, then down the beach; listening to the calming waves as we talked about our day. Across the street, the lights from Buzz's Steakhouse alerted us that dinner was only a hop, skip and a jump away.
Our guidebook warned of the presence of Portuguese Man-o-Wars (during May-October) sometimes, so be on the alert.
A narrow residential lane led to Lanikai Beach, winding through a neighborhood of beach homes on fairly small lots*. Some of these are actually multi-million dollar homes, despite their modest size (pic #4).
A public walkway led us to a thin strip of beach, where a boating group was practicing. At this point of the day, there were only a few people taking advantage of the gentle waves and cooling water. This is said to be a good spot for snorkeling, but we were too tired to do much more than appreciate the ocean view and breeze (pic #3).
A few dogs greeted each other as their owners chatted at the waters edge. Small islands off shore, both known as Moku-lua added to the scenery (pic #2). It was such a peaceful site.
*We parked on the side of the road, close to the public access route. There are no facilities here, nor did I see a lifeguard station.
Hanauma Bay was absolutely spectacular! This view is from the cliff above, which was our arrival point. A shuttle could whisk you to the bottom for $.50, with a return trip for $1.00.
We fortuitously found a palm tree underwhich to settle. Shade was not always an option at other beaches.
Hanauma Bay is a prime snorkel site in Oahu. While the guys snorkeled, I dipped a toe in the pristine waters. Currents were strong on either side of the swimming area and were marked by cones--visitors strongly cautioned not to venture here.
We arrived by rental car, but there were ads in brochures giving a $12 rate for transport to the Bay which included snorkel gear. A mighty good price!
pic #2 The snorkeler
pic #3 Llifeguard station
pic #4 Chillin' out on the beach
PLEASE NOTE: a snack bar and restrooms were waaaay back at the top of the hill.
*It was suggested that we arrive by 9am due to parking limits, but we arrived at 10:45 am and found a few spaces still available on a Wednesday morning. A weekend visit might be a different story.
**To enter, the cost was $1 per car and $5 per person. A 9 minute movie on the rules and regulations at the preserve is shown before entering. WATER SHOES NEEDED.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort offers a colorful Polynesian Show at 7:00 p.m. each Friday evening. People begin lining up for this event early--if you want a close up view you'll pay $20 per person. Otherwise, you can see it from the exterior of the pool area.
We arrived later than we wanted, just as the procession was forming at the entrance to the hotel. After a brief presentation, the dancers led us to the pool area where the show began.
Both men and women demonstrated Polynesian style dancing, including a fire dance and of course, the hula--from Tahiti. The Hawaiians express their dancing primarily by their hands and graceful body movements (pic #2).
After the show we gathered at the beach for fireworks, which began about 8:00 p.m. (pic#3) Although the display lasted a short ten minutes, the lights looked beautiful over the ocean!
This is a great event for your first look at this culture...and it's free if you don't mind being a bit further away from the action (pic 2)!
The Mokolii Island is located off the Windward Coast of Oahu. The island is commonly referred to as "Chinaman's Hat" due to its resemblance to the hats worn by immigrant Chinese farm workers. The Island is one of the most popular areas for taking pictures and is also favorite place for weddings. Getting to the island is up to you: swimming, snorkeling, boating, etc. but at low tide you can walk out across a reef. If you decide to do so, wear old sneakers to protect your feet from the sharp coral.
Warning: The area may be very crowded on weekends.
Some of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu are on the windward side and are even on military bases. One of the best is at Bellows Air Force Base, where you'll get the broad, long sandy stretches of sand melding with calm waters. On weekends, there is access to a long public section of the beach, backed with thinned ironwoods that provide shade above the turquoise waters. I hear that access to the beach is closed during the week, but I haven't driven down there on a weekday to check. Bellows beach is adjacent to Waimanalo Beach, which is also just as beautiful but often populated with homeless people, as Waimanalo is one of the least economically advantaged communities on the Windward Side.
The two islands off to the north are the same Mokoluas that you can see off of Lanikai Beach
Our tour around the island was very nice and interesting. It's interesting to see how they live on the island... everything from rags to riches. I was really surprised to see how many homeless there are. You see many pushing carts around the Waikiki area, but as you venture out of the touristy area, you will notice tent communities on the beaches. Since noticing how many people make a life out of tarps on their beachfront property, I did a little research and learned that buses actually come to these beaches to pick kids up for school! I think it's great the kids are getting education, but how sad that they live that way! Of course, it could be worse. At least they don't deal with feet of snow during the winter.
Beyond that, the island has so many amazing beaches and beautiful mountain scenes. It's beyond words, really.
Huanauma Bay, east of Honolulu, is the premier snorkeling spot on Oahu. It is a protected volcano-formed bay populated with brightly-colored fish who come for the food and shelter provided by an extensive reef system. Visitors used to be able to feed the fish, which certainly added to the population and maybe still attracts fish with long memories. While feeding is no longer practiced, visitors can still rent snorkeling gear on the spot and jump right in among the beautiful swimmers after viewing a short video on the ecology of the bay. This was the first place I ever snorkeled in my life and still among the best.
When you're done snorkeling, there's an excellent beach on which you can rest and a path out to a blow hole (the eastern side of the bay). However, this place is popular, so get there early or plan a late afternoon arrival, after the crowds are likely to have dispersed. Don't make plans to go on Tuesday though, as the Bay is closed.
One concern is the arrival of box jellyfish, which can close the bay to snorkeling. There is a website that posts the probably arrival of the jellyfish, and you might use it to plan your snorkeling trip if you have some flexibility. It is http://www.honolulu.gov/esd/oceansafety/boxjellymainpage.htm
That island is flat like a cutting board on the middle of the ocean. You cannot see much of it from the beach without binoculars or a photo lens, but you will see the flatness of the island. Many people go on kayaks to the island and explore it with their feet. Some swimmers go to the island by ocean (a quarter of a mile). I believe there are no strong water streams, so it is pretty safe. I watched some of those swimmers. Their swim seemed to be easy.
One of the most beautiful beaches I saw in my life: white soft sand, greenish-blue water warm and shallow. That special color of the water is possibly because of whiteness of the sand. I didn’t sea such color neither on Waikiki Beach nor along the island. I also liked the closeness to the forest, true pine forest in Hawaii. The trees are so close to the water that they make that wonderful shade that will protect our fair skin from burning sun. Also, I liked the emptiness of the place. There were no so many people and it gives a taste of wilderness to this place. If you drive around the island by car, this is a place to see!.