Beaches / Coastlines, Oahu
There are so many beaches located along the 112 mile coastline of Oahu. The majority of the beaches are as diverse as the island. The beaches are mostly sandy with plenty of activities to please just about anyone.
From snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, surfing or just relaxing on the beach, Oahu's coastline beaches are definitely a great way to spend a day or two.
Ferni and I enjoyed a few of the beaches along the coastline and my favorite where the beaches on the North Shore.
After walking the long stretch of hotels in Waikiki; you come upon a park and a pier. The pier is a great place to walk out and get a view of all the hotels along the beach. The surf is milder here and there are tons of people boogieboarding; especially the kids. My wife and I enjoy a leisurly stroll out onto the pier and having a seat. It's a nice place to relax and just watch the waves roll in. Catching a glimpse of the beach area and all those beach front hotels is amazing.
Waikiki Beach is a popular tourist beach and possibly the most popular and well know beach of the Hawaiian islands. The surf breaks are far from shore, so it is a gentle beach for swimming especially for people travelling with children.
The water is a jumble of casual swimmers, children splashing, surfers, boogieboarders and boaters. The sand is soft and relatively clean considering how many people use this beach.
The beach does get crowded and the sand gets pretty hot. I would suggest coming early and leaving before noon to avoid sunburn, heat and crowds. My wife and I took advantage of the fact we are early risers and would take beach walks in the morning before breakfast; the beach is empty save a few sleeping surfers and some homeless people catching some ZZZ's.
The beach is public but the beachfront resorts will rope off areas for their hotel guests to use (for a fee usually). We were able to get a nice spot in front of our hotels to lounge. The water is very calm and we did enjoy being lazy while floating. By the time it got too hot and crowded we were off to get lunch and some drinks.
Sunset and sunrise here is beautiful and I would suggest you do it as often as you can during your stay.
With 112 miles of beaches surrounding the island of O'ahu, the hardest thing to decide on is which beach to go to. Regardless of your choice, kick back, relax and soak in O'ahu, paradise found. Following are the beaches we went to and where they are located:
Waikiki Beach (South O'ahu)
Mokuleia Beach Park (North O'ahu)
Pupukea Beach Park (North O'ahu)
Kailua Beach/Lanikai Beach (East O'ahu)
Kualoa Regional Park/Beach (East O'ahu)
Yokohama Beach (West O'ahu)
Oahu has a lot of "beach parks" that have parking, picnic tables, grassy areas, showers, toilets, the beach, etc. My two favorites are at Ala Moana and Kailua. Ala Moana is protected by a reef and the water is always very calm near the shore -- perfect if you have toddlers or small children. Its also close to shopping and other attractions in the downtown/Waikiki areas.
If you want to get away from your resort for a beach day this is the way to do it. At the larger parks you can usually find a truck or two loaded with kayaks and boards for rent.
For a lovely view of Oahu's coastline, I'd recommend a sunset dinner cruise on the Navatek I. You'll be departing between 5:15 pm-5:30pm and return between 7:15-7:30pm. A superb view of Diamond Head will be your first treat if you face landside!
TIP: The ship rotates when it leaves the dock, so my advice is ask ahead to sit on the ocean side. You'll be the first to enjoy the coastline and have the best view of the sunset. Those sitting on the landside when entering the boat will pretty much see all ocean with the occasional freighter until your return trip.
(pic #2) A premium photo op from the outside decks (pic #2).
(pic #3) The Polynesian Show
(pics #4-5) A fine dinner
Guests receive a delectable five course dinner consisting of taro rolls, shrimp kebob, a tossed salad, steamed whole Maine lobster, tenderloin steak, steamed carrots and zucchini, roast garlic mashed potatoes and chocolate mousse cake. Adult beverages can be ordered. A child's menu is available, as well.
Like most tours in Hawaii, this was pricey, but we reasoned with ourselves that this was our first visit to this part of the world so why not do it? We booked online at the website below.
Hanauma Bay is a naturally created underwater marine life state park. This Bay used to be an active volcano. One of the eruptions blew out the side of the crater letting the water rush in where the lava used to go. Once the volcano cooled and became inactive, marine life flourished. This is an excellent spot for snorkeling and scuba diving to see a large variety of fish and marine life. You can wade knee deep and be surrounded by multiple beautiful fish. Recently the park has stopped allowing visitors to feed the fish.
It is highly recommended to either rent snorkeling gear or take your own with you. It is very easy to stop at any local ABC conveniece store and pick up a relatively inexpensive mask and fins. Definitely take your own towels as none are provided. ABC stores are found on almost any corner and are more common than McDonalds.
Snorkeling can easily been done on your own in the park. It is highly recommended to stay inside the reef as not far on the other side of the reef is the Molokai express. This is an extremely fast moving current of water just beneath the surface that catches unwary swimmers. This water moves faster than the best swimmer can possibly hope to keep up and those caught in the undertow are know to wind up close to Japan. Scuba diving tours available but definitly go with an experienced guide who knows these pitfalls. Walking on the coral is forbidden as it kills the reef and disrupts the marine life. Also there are huge eels that luke within the coral and it is best not to disrupt them
Be prepared for a long hike up and down the paved road into the crater. Alternatively there is a shuttle bus that will drive you for a few dollars. The view from the top of the crater is as spectacular as the view under the water. There is a little know path when followed around the left side of the crater that leads to The Queens Toilet Bowel (see tip under off the beaten path).
In the early 90's when I first visited Hana'uma Bay (pronounced Hah-nah-OO-mah), it was a fairly quieter place, with not that many people around.
Today, there is a large visitors center and huge amounts of people swamping the beaches. Overcrowded and lacking serenity, Hana'uma Bay is a place strictly for beginners or for more experienced snorkelers or scuba divers who want to venture farther out in the Bay.
If you are going to visit, the best thing to do is go early in the morning. There are less people and the water is not as cloudy and stirred up. Keep in mind that it is closed every TUESDAY, and that there is also the possibility of it being closed because of jellyfish. Call ahead to find out.
The Halona Blow Hole is a lava tube under the ocean where the water is compressed into the smaller and smaller tube, causing the pressure to force a stream of water approximately thirty-feet into the air. In addition to that, the Blowhole Scenic Lookout provides excellent views of the coastline and outer islands on a clear day.
This is a great place for snorkeling. Often the parking lot is full by 9:30 in the morning, and they will not let you in. The city has taken this over, and created a great visitors center. Everyone is required to view a movie prior to entering. Get your drinks and snacks at the top before entering the admission building.
Hours: 6a.m. to 6p.m.
Cost: $1.00 per car to park and $5.00 per person to enter
This is one of the most dramatic and visited places on Oahu. It’s amazing what nature can create sometimes, or more precisely what volcanic eruption can create. Apparently, they call it a lava tube (it looked like a rock to me) and when it’s windy enough the ocean shoots its waters through the tube, creating what is known as the Blow Hole.
Beautiful view, I must admit. I stood by this place about 10 minutes and each water spurt was more impressive than the previous one.
I read somewhere (probably in those tourist brochures) that many people became victims of this place and that only one returned alive.
There’s a great lookout point and it’s located on the side of a highway, past the famous Hanauma Bay.
This is the most popular beach for snorkeling, enjoying breathtaking views, and feeding the permanent resident – mongoose.
Hanauma Bay is located on the, what locals call, brown side of the island, just 15 minutes drive from the city. Don’t worry, if you don’t have a car, a bus runs there and will stop at the entrance to the park. Entrance fee is $5 and you can enjoy this little peace of “seventh heaven” from 6 am to 6 pm. Renting snorkeling gear is not a problem and there are small stands to get light food and water from. While snorkeling, please be careful and make sure you don’t step on the corals, they are living creatures too.
You’ll see lots of colorful fish and there’s a possibility to see Honu (green turtle) although it’s rare.
On arrival you'll be given a 15-minutes explanation about Hanauma Bay, its flora and fauna, and general rules. If you plan to come back do sign the visitors list, it will prevent you from listening to the same things everytime you return and is valid for 1 year. Snorkeling gear can be rented at the store, although a simple snorkel can be purchased in any store on the island for as low as $10-$15.
Don’t forget to take underwater camera, you can always get them at the ABC stores for about $15.
Honu is a name to Hawaiian Green Turtle that can be seen on the North part of the island, just a mile or two past the town of Haliewa. The turtles are always there, swimming in the ocean, but there are certain hours when these giant creatures bask in the sand.
Students of University of Hawaii volunteer to protect the animals and are always happy to share information with tourists. They were the ones that told us that Honu come out of the ocean at around 2:30 p.m. and rest on the beach for several hours.
The first time we came to Laniakea beach was in the morning, several turtles were swimming in the ocean. It was a great opportunity for snorkeling. Our second visit was at 3pm and indeed Honu were basking on the beach.
You’ll be able to get very close to these native Hawaiians since they don’t really mind being photographed. A thick red rope will mark the line which you’re not allowed to cross, but this line is only 2-3 feet distance.
Kailua Town is very peaceful although it has about 40,000 inhabitants. The word Kailua means two waters probably because of the two lagoons in the area. We walked along Kailua road just to see the local single family houses (pic 1). Just before Kailua Beach Park is a place where you can rent your surf boards and other gear or take surfing lessons. You can also rent a bike.
We visited Kailua beach (pic 2) because it has some great rates/reviews. We liked the sandy beach a lot but the wind was helpful only for those who like surf and other wind based activities (pic 3). The sandy beach is about 3 km long and the beach park has many facilities (picnic areas, lifeguard, phones, restrooms, showers) but we didn’t managed to swim especially when we saw the signs about the numerous portuguese man of war, which is a dangerous jellyfish that may cause death. In that case it’s better to enjoy the perfect sand and enjoy the sun.
On our way back we stopped at Kalapawai Market (306 S.Kalaheo Ave) to eat something, they have some nice pies (we tried the spinach pie for $3) and many differents salads ($8) among other things like cold and hot sandwiches, pizza ($11) etc. This market is there since 1932, its a normal market that also has some foods to go or to try if you sit there at the backyard.
There are three different beaches in Waikiki that create a looong beach more than 3 kilometers. Gray’s beach, Central Waikiki beach and Kuhio beach try to fit the thousands of tourists that come -non stop- from their hotels to swim, surf or just for sunbath. This isn’t the perfect beach but it is nice enough with not much of waves comparing to north shore. The water temperature seemed good and there are a lot of facilities like lifeguards, showers (the water is too salty), restrooms, picnic tables etc
Waikiki beach is also a nice place to learn surf but watch out the safety of other people around you. Most of the people prefer body boarders though. There many companies around there that rent surfboards, water bikes etc
Some tourists book a room at one of the hotels that face the beach and stay in that are all the days! Of course, there are many cafes and restaurants along the beach too so for them there’s no need to walk further than a few meters. So, even if you can’t get excited with this famous resort area (we didn’t) just take your beach mat and relax but don’t stop under the sun for too long because instead of a great tan you may turned into a pink creature :)
We spend only some moments here every day (early in the morning it is still quiet enough to enjoy it) but for us it was also very funny looking the desperate attempts of people trying to balance their bodies over the surf board. During sunset it was also nice with many people walk to hit the nightlife. If you are one of these people that get bored in beach and want some history you can see some statues here and there like the statue of Duke Kahanamoku(1890-1968), the father of modern surfing and the most famous local athlete! Another statue is the one of Prince Kuhio Kalaniana’ole (1871-1922) that participated in 1895 in a rebellion against the Republic of Hawaii’i, he failed, captured and got into prison for a year. Later he toured around the world, from Europe to Africa and finally to USA where he got elected for the congress. I guess he would have nice tips/pics from all this trips :)