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Best Beaches on Oahu: A Local’s Guide

Palm trees sway. Golden sands shine. Clear, blue seas sparkle. These are the signatures of Oahu beaches, enticing visitors near and far. When you visit an island, though, there is a lot of beach to visit. Where should you go to have the ideal Oahu experience? Try out these local-approved, best beaches on Oahu for a tropical day in the Pacific.

Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach
The Mokulua Islands are ever risen towards the horizon as a hot, Hawaiian sun illuminates perfectly, satiny, white sand. This is Lanikai Beach, one of the wonders of the east side. The water here is crystal like. When you decide to take a dive down under the ocean’s surface to cool off after an hour or two of lying out, you won’t have to fear getting cut by hidden coral heads as the bottom of the sea here is nothing but sand unless you venture a further out to sea with a mask and some fins. You could literally spend a whole morning or afternoon here if you bring a cooler with some snacks, plenty of water, shade and a beach blanket. Be sure to bring sunscreen or even a beach umbrella as there isn’t much shade to lie under unless you’re lucky enough to find a vacant palm tree that’s willing to provide you with some relief from the sun. This beach is also popular for kayaking and paddle-boarding and some companies in the area specialize in getting you out to the Mokulua Islands for an entirely new perspective on island life. Parking is a bit tricky as you must park in a residential area so please don’t block the driveways of the locals who are lucky enough to live there.

Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay lies at the center of what can be said to be the beating heart of the surf community. During the summer months the bay lies dormant, with occasional shore breaking sets that provide keiki (Hawaiian for children) and adventurous adults a chance to be knocked off their feet, literally, by the power of the ocean. Also during the summer, bring a snorkel and fins and swim out for a chance for a rendezvous with dolphins and turtles. You’ll see many people climbing the rock at Waimea Bay as a means for the thrill of jumping in the rushing ocean many feet below but please use caution as there are signs posted telling you otherwise. In the winter, you’ll find wave-riders flying down giant waves that break far out in the Bay, this place is also home to the famed Eddie Aikau surf competition where the waves must be at least 25-30 feet for the “go”to be given. The parking here is minimal so go early to avoid traffic!

Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach isn’t some place where you can casually go for a dip, this beach is notorious for back and neck injuries due to the hazardous but jaw-dropping shore break. That being said, Sandy’s is where the locals go and where you can venture if you’re looking to see barreling waves and people riding inside of them with or without boards of any kind. Pack a picnic lunch from Koko Marina Center, just minutes down the road, for a day in the sun. There isn’t much shade here either and when you’re dying to get in the water, you can walk down towards the far left end of the beach (facing the ocean) and wade in the water to cool off. There’s also a fair amount of tidepools on the left end also where you might find a few salt-water critters for a real look into underwater life that you can’t quite get at the aquarium. You’ll be able to find parking here during the week for the most part but on the weekends it gets crowded and many people end up parking on the grass.

Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is classic. It’s what you see in the brochures that makes you want to venture to the islands in the first place. With Diamond Head, a volcanic crater, looming in the background, and beach boys and people walking around with inner tubes around their hips, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve truly arrived in Hawaii. With so much happening on the beach itself from surf lessons to sunset catamaran rides to canoe rides you won’t get bored here, or hungry either, for the Waikiki Strip is right next to the beach and along with it an infinite amount of places to eat and cool off. The thing with Waikiki Beach is that it gets crowded. If you’re looking to have a little more room to bask and play in the sand without your neighbors being right in your face, head down towards Kamaiana Beach Park for a bit more breathing room. Parking in Waikiki can be tricky with either metered parking, valet, or paid parking etc. at the hotels. It’s best to hope that you get lucky on the street or you can pay per hour at the Zoo parking lot. Check out our Waikiki Guide for more tips!

Waimanalo Beach
Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo Beach
Waimanalo Beach is more off the beaten path as it lies off the side of Kalanianaole Hwy. Waimanalo is a place where you feel like you want to inhale as deeply as you can, with the grandiose of the Ko’olau Mountains as a backdrop and the sand as soft as Lanikai’s this beach is truly a hidden gem. It feels like the country out here; the one lane road says it all, which occasionally means traffic. With a bunch of mom-and-pop shops and less of a bustle than most places on the island, when coming out to Waimanalo be respectful of this kind of easy-going life. There is more shade here than you’ll find at most beaches as much of the coastline here is forest like almost. Bring flip-flops so you don’t step on any kind of poky plant matter. Because of the mountains, the sun tends to disappear behind them by the late afternoon so to enjoy Waimanalo at its finest, go earlier in the day. The parking is residential so again, don’t block driveways and venture with Aloha.

Visit the best beaches on Oahu to have the perfect day at the beach. Bring your sense of adventure. Leave with lasting memories.

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