Beaches / Coastlines, Oahu
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 :)
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.
IF your budget's tight and you can't really afford to zip around to neighbor islands you might consider O'ahu 'many islands'
1. Waikiki and Ala Moana and then on out to Queen's beach and Diamond Head deserve a day or two if only to see the hustle and bustle.
2. Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay (snorkeling, blowhole, 'toilet bowl'), Sandy Beach and Makapu'u for boogie boarding and body surfing, respectively
3. Kailua and the windsurfing community and beaches with a little more kama'aina flavor have their own identity. I'd consider Kaneohe part of this.
4. The true north shore, with a visit to Senator Fong's Plantation, Polynesian Cultural Center is a packed day. In season, the north shore's waves are awesome. No joke. They will have you in awe.
5. Waimea/Waimanalo are areas I don't know well, but others can fill you in.
6. The Koolau mountain range offers days of hiking. Go to the Manoa Falls trail and just keep climbing... you can spend a whole day up there. Same for some of the trailheads off the Likelike highway.
7. If you still want to get off the rock, you can take a boat to an offshore island for some diving (Mokini???)
Most of the above can be done via The Bus
A must-do hike between January and March and a worthwhile jaunt year-round is the hike to the tip of Makapu'u Point on Oahu's extreme southeastern corner. In the winter, you'll see whales whales whales. The last time I went, there was a whale half-a mile off shore breaching continuouslly, flopping on his bacl like a pole vaulter. Another group of people reported seeing a mother teaching her baby how to breach just off shore. But even in the summer, Makapu'u has its attractions, as the end of the trail features a light house and stupendous views of the windward coast all the way up to Kaneohe. If you have time, leave the paved trail and head down to the coast (right after the permanet looking glass. At the shore, you'll find pools of small sea creaturers and, if the surf's high, a blowhole that will cover you in water.
Makapu'u Trail has a large parking lot at its head and is paved all the way to the overlooks, but it has no shade so bring sunblock. Don't expect rain -- cactus grow along the trail! But do bring binoculars during whale season!