The Hawaiian island of O‘ahu has it all: sun, sand, and dozens of different beaches. It can be hard to choose which one you should go and relax at, because they’ve all got their benefits.
While one may be better for snorkeling, another might be the best choice for a spot of quiet, or another is the chief for surfing. That’s why we’ve handpicked the 28 best beaches on the island!
In our guide below you’ll find a comprehensive breakdown of the 28 best beaches in O‘ahu, with reasons for each to help make your decision even easier! You’ll find out what they’re best for, as well as specific details about what you’ll get. Read on!
Before you make a choice, though, it’s best to remember some safety advice about the beach. Always bring some clothing to cover yourself from the sun, like a hat, and some sunscreen that’s ranked for a reef – the sun is dangerous to your health!
On top of that, travel light. You don’t want to be leaving your personal belongings on the beach while you take a dip in the sea. And as for the sea? If you’re going to go in, be safe! Never turn your back to the waves, and never go out too far either.
If you don’t want to sift through 28 different beaches, trying to find the one that will suit your specific need, then we’ve got a few categories beforehand to help narrow it down for you!
If you want to catch some waves, then there are a few good beach choices. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to go to White Beach, while advanced surfers will do well at Sunset Beach. For any skill, though, Waikīkī Beach will be a perfect spot.
If you want to do some snorkeling, then Hanauma Bay and Shark’s Cove are good spots. On top of that, Waikīkī Beach again, particularly the Sans Souci area.
If it’s a bit of bodyboarding you’re up for, then people of all skills will do well at Waimanalo Beach. If you’re a more advanced skill, though, then head for Sandy’s or Makapupu.
If it’s no sport you’re looking for, and instead you’d just prefer some peace and quiet, then Depot Beach Park has few crowds. On top of that, Kahana Beach and Yokohama Beach also have little noise around.
If you’re going out with the whole family, you’ll want a beach that’s appropriate for children. Kailua Beach is a good spot, as is Waikīkī Beach. Lanikai Beach is also a good choice, but you may not have the sufficient facilities for looking after your kids.
Best South Shore Beaches
We’re going to begin at the bottom. Not of quality, though! The south shore of O‘ahu has loads of great beaches, all with their own qualities.
Why Visit: You’ll have heard this beach mentioned a few times already! This is Hawai’i’s most iconic beach, famous all over the world. On top of that, it’s a quality beach for practicing your surfing.
And what a sight you’ll have! As you ride the waves, you’ll be able to see the Diamond Head volcano.
Bonus: It’s very long, running 2 miles in length. This means that it has as many as 7 sections, such as Kaimana Beach and Queens Surf Beach.
Magic Island Lagoon
Why Visit: This is a man-made peninsula. There are big sea walls contrasted with a shallow lagoon, the second of which is good for children.
Bonus: There’s lots of local life to enjoy, since it’s part of our next pick, Ala Moana Park.
Ala Moana Regional Park
Why Visit: The sheer range of stuff to do! This beach park is enormous, including city blocks. As a result, there’s loads to do: running, walking, surfing, volleyball, yoga, swimming, and so on.
The water sports are encouraged by the gentle waters, which are made calm by an offshore barrier reef.
Bonus: For a beautiful sight, go at sunset and see the paddle boarders go out.
Why Visit: This may require an entry fee, but it has an underwater section worth paying for. This is a snorkeling haven, which you’ll be well-prepared for by the compulsory safety video that’s shown for the reef.
Bonus: Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds, allowing you time to snorkel under the sunset in peace.
Why Visit: This has one of the biggest shore breaks on O‘ahu, as well as lots of surf breaks. However, the water can often be dangerous, so you must always check with the lifeguards whether it’s safe to go.
But when it is safe? Surfing, bodyboarding, and swimming will all be popular.
Bonus: The good amounts of wind at Sandy’s Beach mean that it’s a great place for flying a kite and seeing it soar. They have a wide open field for such a thing, and it’s a great activity for kids to do. Just be careful not to let the kite dip down and hit somebody, as that can be fatal.
Halona Beach Cove
Why Visit: Swimming isn’t too recommended for this beach, because the water is very rocky and it can be dangerous.
That’s why this is a beach popular for relaxing on and keeping things low-key, which is helped because it’s one of the smallest beaches on the island.
Another reason for its popularity is that it may look familiar if you’ve seen the brilliant film From Here To Eternity (1953).
That’s right, it was on this very beach that Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr had their passionate embrace as the waves crashed over them!
Bonus: This is named after the Halona Blowhole. You can have a look at it if you direct your gaze to the front side of the cliffs just above the cove.
Diamond Head Beach Park
Why Visit: We’ve mentioned Diamond Head, the volcano, already but this beach park is a great place to get away from it all. The beach is often lacking crowds, even if there are crowds of surfers in the water.
Swimming isn’t recommended since the rocks are dangerous, and getting to the beach can require walking down a steep cliff, but other than that it’s a peaceful and quiet setting.
Bonus: Hike up to Diamond Head Crater to get an astonishing view of the surroundings, seeing the beach and Honolulu itself, as well as a good section of the south coast.
White Plains Beach / Ewa Beach
Why Visit: Ewa is a very long beach that will take you across most of O‘ahu’s southwest coast, where you’ll find a large beach park, as well as a surf break for beginners called White Plains.
Surfers will flock to the latter, as it’s got nice and small waters to start on at a low level. Families, meanwhile, will prefer the park of Ewa Beach and all its residential space, enjoying playing and eating picnics.
Bonus: If you go to the White Plains section, make sure to take in the view. From there, you can get a great vantage point of Honolulu, seeing much of the land and its buildings.
Best North Shore Beaches
Now we’re going to head all the way up to the top of O‘ahu and have a look at the best beaches that you can visit there.
Haleiwa Beach Park
Why Visit: This is a good place for beginner surfers, since the calm waters are great for taking a lesson on.
That means it’s also a good place for swimming, because the winter surf may be unsafe at other beaches around the north. Just remember to not go out too far into the water.
Bonus: The beach park is right near Haleiwa Town, meaning that it’s easy to rent surfboards from there to use on the water. On top of that, you can get some food to bring back to the beach.
Why Visit: This is extremely famous for its surfing, with lots of surfers rushing to the waters and enjoying its helpful two mile length.
It’s so popular for surfing, in fact, that it’s one of the three North Shore surfing beaches that are famous the world over – the others being Waimea and Banzai.
If surfing isn’t your thing, though, there’s plenty of space to relax and enjoy the beach itself.
Bonus: If you want to swim and snorkel, then the water often becomes calm during the summer months.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Why Visit: This is where big wave surfing in Hawai’i was first born, right on these very shores. As a result, there’s still plenty of big wave surfing there today!
This is especially true in the winter months, when the waves sometimes reach 30 feet tall. However, if that’s not your thing, there’s plenty else you can do at Waimea.
Many people choose to swim in the waters (just stay away from those enormous waves) and sunbathe on the beach itself.
Bonus: The beach park is located near the Waimea Valley Cultural Center. This is a great place to learn all about Waimea and the island of O‘ahu in general, with lots of interesting exhibits on the culture and history.
On top of that, there’s beautiful scenery to see, with a lush botanical garden, as well as a refreshing waterfall that’s accompanied by a swimming pool. That swimming pool will be quite a bit safer than the Waimea Bay waters!
Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline)
Why Visit: This beach is great for a number of reasons. For one, it offers a beautiful vista and a wide open space for relaxing and playing.
Secondly, it’s great for surfers. This is because it’s home to the Banzai Pipeline. No, that’s not an oil rig! The Banzai Pipeline is one of the most unique waves on the entire planet, because the waves break over the shallow reef into massive tubes.
This is pretty much only during the winter months, though, so don’t get your hopes up for seeing it in the summer.
Bonus: This quality surfing venue is the reason that lots of worldwide surfing competitions come to Ehukai Beach. Events like the Billabong Pipeline Masters or the Triple Crown of Surfing are put on here, which attract loads of tourists and crowds from overseas.
Kawela Bay / Turtle Bay
Why Visit: This is quite the opposite from Ehukai Beach, because these are not good for surfing at all. That’s because these two neighboring bays are protected from many waves, so you’re unlikely to get anything big.
However, that just makes these bays even better for other things. The lack of waves and the calm water mean that these are great for swimming and snorkeling all year round.
On top of that, you can go to Kawela Bay beach Park for something more shady, with its breezy trees and open land.
Bonus: If you visit the nearby Turtle Bay Resort, you’ll see where some major Hollywood films were shot. If you’ve seen the resorts of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, then you’ll be right at home here.
On top of that, it was used for the opening honeymoon in the Ben Stiller movie Along Came Polly.
Why Visit: This offers a more genuine view of living on O‘ahu, because you can see its surfers when they’re not trying to hit the big, world famous waves.
The waves at Chun’s Reef are more relaxed, and for that reason you can just see how regular surf life is when there aren’t loads of tourists watching or massive waves.
The whole place suits that more relaxed nature, with plenty of beach for you to sunbathe on, as well as take long walks across its stretch.
On top of that, it’s a great place to bring the family, especially if you’ve got small children. There’s a freshwater tide pool for kids to play in, and the calm atmosphere will keep your children relaxed too.
However, be very careful around the tide pool, because it is near the surf and the surf has plenty of sharp rocks that could pose a danger.
Bonus: If you want to learn some surfing while you’re here, the relaxed and small waves will allow any beginner to practice well.
You can even seek training at Uncle Bryan’s Sunset Suratt Surf School, which will help you get better while riding those small waves and gentle waters.
Pūpūkea Beach Park
Why Visit: This may also be known as Shark’s Cove, but that doesn’t stop it from being a very popular venue for diving and snorkeling during the summer months.
Those underwater enjoyers are attracted by the many features outside the cove: freef walls, fish, lava tubes, and more. For those who don’t want to venture under the water, then they can stay inside the cove, which is perfect for families.
On top of that, beginner swimmers can practice inside the cove, where the water is safer.
Bonus: If you get hungry, there are plenty of food trucks operating just across from the beach park. You can bring these back to the cove and enjoy them in front of the sea.
Why Visit: This beach isn’t so much a place for relaxing, as a place for sightseeing the local wildlife.
The high presence of rocks on the beach makes it difficult to relax or walk around, and the nearby road is a source of lots of noise that will interrupt you while you’re trying to close your eyes and enjoy the sun.
However, the beach is much better as a place to look at turtles with your family, which is why it’s also known as Turtle Beach. You can often spot the little guys and girls crawling around, just be sure not to disturb them.
Bonus: Turtles aren’t the only animal that you can see! If you go just across the road from Laniakea Beach you will find Kawailoa Ranch, which has lots of horses on site for you to look out and appreciate.
Best East Side Beaches (Windward Coast)
Now we’re going to look at the east coast of O‘ahu, where there’s a variety of great beaches for you to enjoy.
Kailua Beach Park
Why Visit: This is a long and lovely beach, which is perfect for relaxing. Why? Well, the water is relatively calm and soothing, and the sand is a peaceful white color.
However, if relaxing isn’t your thing and you want to take part in some activities while you’re there, then they’ve got you covered too! You can enjoy fishing and boating, as well as kayaking, windsurfing, and kite surfing.
Bonus: There aren’t many restaurants available on the east side of O‘ahu, but Kailua has one nearby. Buzz’s is the name and it’s a great place to enjoy some food while looking out over the view.
Kualoa Regional Park
Why Visit: This is a beach park for soaking in the spectacular views of the O‘ahu landscape. You can see the wonderful cliffs of the Kualoa Ranch as well as the stretch of the east coast, and it’ll take your breath away.
On top of that, you can mix up your time there by going over to the Mokoli’i island. If the tide is low, it’s possible to walk, but otherwise a kayak will take you there.
Bonus: We’ve mentioned the Kualoa Ranch, and this is a place that you’re going to want to visit. While you’re there, you can ride horses or ATV’s, but the biggest draw on top of those is: the movie tour.
That’s because this Ranch was used to shoot parts of Jurassic Park! You can even transport yourself into that world, because there are fake dinosaur bones on the grass at places.
Waimanalo Beach Park
Why Visit: Another beach park, this is good for swimming, if you’re an advanced enough level. The water and waves get quite choppy, so it’s best to not go far, and it’s a good idea to only go in if you’re a good enough swimmer.
On top of that, the beach is a great place for walks. It’s one of the longest in the state, with lots of white sand for you to amble over and soak up the atmosphere. Fishing and barbecues also add life to the beach front.
Bonus: The waves are also a good place for wannabe bodybuilders to get a start – just be careful.
Lanikai Beach Park
Why Visit: This is beautiful and gentle, with the water being very calm and very blue. On top of that, the sand is white and powdery, complementing it perfectly with its soothing aura.
There are some offshore islands called the Mokes, which will give you a great view if you visit them. This is known as one of the best beaches in the world!
Bonus: If you’re looking for a great view, do the Lanikai Pillbox Trial.
Makapu’u Beach Park
Why Visit: This is a popular beach that sees a lot of happy crowds, who are drawn by the large surf. The beach is backed by some tall cliffs, which really give it a sense of scale and wonder when you’re busy lying down and sunning yourself.
Bonus: You’ll be able to see the Makapu’u lighthouse, which has a nearby trail to walk that you can do. It’s a relaxing and easy walk, but will give you wonderful views of the island’s east coast.
Bellows Field Beach Park
Why Visit: Another beach park, this is an extension of the Waimanalo beach that we looked at just a few entries ago. This enjoys lots of shade due to the surrounding trees, and the water offers small surf that is taken up by swimmers and bodyboarders.
However, the beach is only open during weekends. This is because it shares its location with an Air Force base, which is shut to the public during the week.
Bonus: You can get a permit to camp on the beach with a tent, which will add some good memories – as well as some seclusion!
Kahana Bay Beach Park
Why Visit: This is a beach for relaxing. It’s sealed in by the bay and cliffs, meaning that it’s quite private, and therefore very peaceful.
You can walk the trails and enjoy the scenery, or paddleboard in the water. However, swimming is not recommended, because of runoff from the nearby mountains.
Bonus: If you get a permit, you can camp here overnight.
Why Visit: Speaking of camping, this is a great spot for that! It’s also good for summer swimming, as well as catching a bit with some local fishing.
Bonus: If camping in a tent isn’t your thing, you can always rent a cabin to stay overnight.
Best West Side Beaches (Leeward Coast)
There are a handful of beaches on the west side that are also worth visiting.
Depot Beach Park
Why Visit: This is a great beach for its community vibe, with lots of hanging out together, as well as activities like barbecuing and fishing. There’s plenty of room for all that, too, because its white sand stretches on for a long way.
Bonus: It’s worth looking at the Mermaid Caves which have been carved along the shore’s rocks – however, do not go inside!
Ko Olina Resort
Why Visit: This resort features four lagoons, all of which have been made by man. This offers seclusion and choice, as well as a great and relaxing place for families to visit. Small children will love it! The sand is bright, the sea is clear, and the sky is blue!
Bonus: There’s plenty else to do besides relax! The resort offers restaurants and shops, as well as hotels and sports.
Keawaula Beach (Yokohama Beach)
Why Visit: This offers nice and remote waters, because rocks go along the ocean entrance. That makes it a lovely place to snorkel, provided the water is calm.
Bonus: If you want a lovely view with sweet wildlife, the Ka’ena point trail will give you a gorgeous vantage point of the coast, as well as a bird sanctuary which you can have a look at and enjoy the chirping.
Makaha Beach Park
Why Visit: The waters at Makaha Beach Park are too strong and rough for swimmers, so avoid that, but they do offer a lot for surfers. There’s a world famous break here, which attracts a lot of surfers to try their boards out on the high waves.
Bonus: Though swimming isn’t recommended, the water can sometimes get calm enough for you to venture out and try some scuba time. Just make sure that you’re careful!
And there you have it! If you’re traveling around the island of O‘ahu, it’s a beautiful spot. There are gorgeous views of the coast and shoreline all around, with lots of activities and places to go.
If you’re struggling to find the best beach for your interests, just use our list. Enjoy!
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy our article on ‘Free Things To Do In Maui‘.
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