On my Californian beaches page I said something like...."if you want a good beach in California, best get off the aircraft at (or continue on to) HAWAII"
...only thing is I hadn't been been to Hawaii and only knew of its good beaches via countless surfing films. So I thought it not a bad idea to confirm my statement personally - as soon as a bargain priced flight came up (goold ol' Jetstar) I grabbed it.
All the travel books say if you are going to Hawaii, don't confine yourself to one island but I had neither the time nor money (I'm a low budget traveler) to do a detailed check of the others. I'm not too sure about those multi-island itineraries I see giving 3 or 4 days on each - I found my 18 days on Oahu imbued a pretty good idea of the place, but I could have used another week or so.
THE BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII
There is no absolute best beach - it depends on the user.
The typical visitor who has flown in seeking an easily accessed nice beach with lots of accommodation/dining/shopping/partying nearby is going to prefer a different one to hard core surfers/snorkelers/thrill merchants/lap swimmers/nudists. Different again will be the first choice of families with little kids or teenagers. Ditto people who don't mind driving to find a pristine and/or deserted patch of silica with that amazingly azure water you can see in the tropics. How about campers, adrenaline junkies, high rollers or golfers?
You may ask how can I rate the beaches of an island I visited for a short time. Thing is I'm a seriously old beach nerd, surfed for 35+ years starting in the late 50s, been a budget traveler the past 20 years - over that time I have visited more than a thousand beaches in Australia, the Pacific, Asia, south-west Nth America and the Mediterranean.
In the 18 days I was on Oahu I reckon I walked over 100 miles/160km, traveled way more in buses (I counted 63 different bus trips) and saw 90% of Oahu beaches including nearly 100% of those the guidebooks mention worth seeing, And I walked the majority of the latter.
BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII FOR THE TYPICAL VISITOR - BEST OVERALL BEACH - WAIKIKI
Waikiki is remarkably compact - check the linear scale. The total beach distance from its start in the north-west to "C" is abt 3.2km/2m. The sand is continuous over this distance but it may disappear high tide in front of SANS SOUCI STATE REC ([park) area abt 250m north of "C"
ALA MOANA BEACH (a Honolulu city beach) which I mention down page as one of the BEST BEACHES FOR LAP SWIMMING can be part seen nearest the top left corner of image.
WAIKIKI is not my personal #1 BEST BEACH (see NTH WAIMANALO/BELLOWS FLD BCH down page) - but I'm giving "BEST OVERALL BEACH to it on account it ticks so many boxes.
TICK 1 - OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR ACCOMMODATION AND ACCESS
For a start Kevin and Kayla from Kansas will find a fantastic selection of accommodation in this area.
As said, this is a very compact area - the hotel zone goes back 3 to 5 blocks making the whole precinct 2.6km x 1.2km /1.6mi x 0.75mi max, so even though Kevin and Kayla may not have a beach-front hotel there are many fine ones close by. Plus less expensive options (this doesn't mean they are not fine) - even two hostels. My HOSTELING INTERNATIONAL WAIKIKI was fine (fer the price).
And Oahu's insistence on public access to beaches means our gang will find a lane-way about every 400m or so - or even better they can stroll through 2 beachside park areas - Kuhio Beach Park just past the last hotel mid image and Fort Derussy Beach Park maybe 300m/1400ft behind camera.
Not only does the beach have good access from the area behind, but the general Waikiki area has good access from HONOLULU AIRPORT - no other tourist destination is as close. The usual taxis and airport shuttles are available, budget travelers can use buses 19 and 20 for $2.50 and many hotels run free shuttles.
BTW that separate bunch of hotels far right of image is the Diamond Head hotel precinct - Diamond Head itself towers to their left. My camera's focal length makes the hotels appear a fair distance from Waikiki but I strolled the gap several times in abt 10 minutes (several times because there is a good park area public exercise spot with my favorite chin up bars fairly close to the hotels). This stroll is along a nice ocean frontage or thru a good park area. If an average tourist could save a lot of money staying at Diamond Head, go for it. There is a small nice patch of sand immediately west of its hotel precinct called Kaimana Bch or San Souci Bch. It's supposed to be the top beach for hot beach babes. Wouldn't know - the babes had gone home when I walked it at 1745.
TICK 2 - ONE OF OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACHES FOR FAMILIES WITH LITTLE KIDS
OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACHES FOR FAMILIES WITH LITTLE KIDS
Not to mention older than kids not comfortable/familiar with waves and surf.
BTW I surfed for 35 years - surfers become amateur experts at wave/current conditions and what causes them (mainly weather - particularly strong/lengthy winds) - and from what I know of Waikiki's weather and orientation I reckon this coast would just about always get benign swell - unlike say Oahu's NORTH SHORE which is orientated perfectly to catch those awesome storm swells generated in the northern Pacific every now and then in winter.
I googled shots of Waikiki when the surfing waves on the outside reef were bigger than during my visit - still relative ankle ticklers reaching the beach.
This section of the beach has the very end of Grays Beach close to camera quickly becoming what is confusingly known as "Waikiki Beach" (less confusingly aka "Royal Hawaiian Beach) to just past the last building mid image.
TICK 3 - Waikiki is also BEST OAHU WAIKIKI BEACH FOR BEGINNER SURFERS
I modified the above image from http://www.hyattplacewaikikibeach.com/ - I swam out here to the take-off zone (just to say I'd been there: for a while I was First Man Charlie, mid way to Midway) but I wasn't prepared to entrust my camera to those waterproof packs hence the need to borrow this shot.
I know some of you pedants are going to point out that the above wave is more than an ankle tickler. Okay, for a start this was probably shot on one of the few days of the year when the swell is bigger. And even then, there are further shallow reefs between the take off zone and the beach which will cut the size of the waves - so when they reach the beach they are more likely to be SHIN TICKLERS.
THE DOWNSIDE OF SINGLE TRAVEL
You are probably thinking: with 35 years surfing experience why doesn't this dude hire a board and get out there? Well for a start I'm a real cheapskate bottom budget traveler and $us15 an hour board hire would be rather spent on food or something healthy to imbibe - like an icy cold Kona beer. But more to the point, I always feel insecure about leaving my valuables alone on the beach while I disappear into the water - and I don't trust waterproof containers to be 100% effective (just a few drops can render an expensive to replace passport non-acceptable by the border force nazis). So for my swim I left all my valuables in my hostel locker, pinned the locker key plus the hostel door keys inside my board-short pocket, walked the 2 blocks to the beach and dived in.
GIVE THE BODYBOARDS A MISS
Now this is a gender-equal blog. Most babes won't be interested in a pic of some cut body-boarding dude, so I guess I'll have to impart some sage tezza advice to the ladies:
Advice fron tezza to dudettes - hold back on the KFC, Krispy Kremes, go with the gym and you too can have a body like this.
(Google images found this Pinterest pic)
Back to hiring a board: Even if you just sit out the back on your long-board and drink in the surfer-dude/Gidget atmosphere + get an off-shore perspective of Waikiki, it is time well spent. And long-boards are dead easy to paddle and sit on.
Not being prepared to risk my camera, I had to pinch this off http://www.honoluluhi5.com/
CLEAN? On the topic of beaches suited to families and kids, lets talk about SAND AND WATER CLEANLINESS at Waikiki. Although not as pristine as some other Oahu locations, compared to a lot of busy city beaches I've seen, Waikiki is pretty good. Authorities must spend a fair bit of time grooming the beach (I was too lazy to do a 5am check on this) and storm water (the main cause of dirty sea water) control must be good. Although Waikiki's relatively dry climate doesn't hurt. Doesn't hurt your chances of getting plenty of sunshine during your visit either.
TICK 3 - WAIKIKI GETS GOOD SUNSETS
I won't say Waikiki gets OAHU HAWAII'S BEST SUNSETS. There seems to be plenty of south coast, Leeward Goast and North Shore beaches with good sunsets But Waikiki aint bad. The relatively dry climate meaning often minimal clouds doesn't hurt.
Note in the pics above that the sunset will shift left in winter, right in summer (this was shot in Spring). Given the northern shift of the sun's arc until the summer solstice it's possible that some absolute waterfront buildings in the central Waikiki area may get in the way around June21/22 - not being able to afford to confirm this I'd appreciate any reader who knows posting the answer at the foot of this page.
So which beach gets OAHU HAWAII'S BEST SUNSETS?Well the Leeward Coast beaches face a bit south of due west and so probably have winter fall/winter/spring sunsets sinking fairly directly out to sea - I hear big wave spot Makaha does the job real well. And the busy part of the North Shore faces north of due west and in summer would see the sun sinking roughly mid-bay many places. Think in terms of Sunset Beach (check that name), the Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Shark Cove and nearby places.
Strewth! I can hear you say. This tezza dude is a bit anal about sunsets!
Guilty as charged, Kemosabe - I'm a real sunset nerd: if you look at the various pages on this blog there are literally hundreds of sunset pix.
Interesting point is in all the years I've been checking sunsets I've only seen 2 perfect ones where cloud didn't get in the way. The first was at Broome north-west Australia long before I started this blog, the second you can see 2 and 3 shots above. Matter of fact the last one is so good I should crop it to emphasize the point.
TICK 4 - Waikiki IS OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR SUNSET CRUISES
TICK 5 - Waikiki is also OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR PEOPLE WATCHING
The beach itself is pretty special.
In the spirit of gender equal opportunity, fer you ladies I dredged up a shot of a totally cut beach bloke - ME...
Earlier it's a special treat to grab a seat in one of the flash hotels beachfront bar areas and....
HEY, NO CELEBRITIES! I hear you say. Well in fact there was a big contingent of PR people behind me here at Moana Surfrider - apparently the guy who plays Steve McGarrett in Hawaiian Five-O was about to appear. Not being fussed with TV or celebrities, I paid little attention, instead...
An interesting point - authorities rig up a giant screen and show free family friendly movies at Queen's Beach close behind the camera on several weekends most months. The movie is preceded by live music and often hula shows. Food vendors also set up. Very popular. http://www.sunsetonthebeach.net/
The abundance of the above makes Waikiki OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR NEARBY SHOPPING, EATING/DRINKING AND ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS
TICK 6 - I reckon Waikiki also shares the rating of OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR LAP SWIMMERS
Thing is, lap swimmers usually dislike ocean swimming, even the mild bump of an outside-reef sheltered beach area which can swamp their breathing - it can be real unpleasant getting a mouthful of water when turning the head to grab some oxygen. So they prefer somewhere more sheltered, but hopefully in the sunshine to enhance the holiday experience, not some covered pool. Waikiki can do this in 2 areas:
KUHIO BEACH POOLS
It's obvious there is a small pass (break) in the outer reef that lets more swell thru in this area and the break-wall was built to protect the beach from wave erosion. Note the body boarders bottom left of image (you may have to click-expand) - they provide good entertainment riding the waves directly at the break-wall and bailing out at the last second.
WAR MEMORIAL NATATORIUM
Keen Google Earth/Maps nerds may notice an open air but wall-enclosed pool some 700m/2200ft SSW of the above. This is the 100x40m pool in the War Memorial Natatorium built in 1927 and officially CLOSED in 1963. Not gonna do your laps here unless they restore/re-open - which is the plan at time of writing.
That's trendy Kaimana/Sans Souci Beach (apparently the hot babe beach - mentioned up page) just below.
Check that small patch of sand at the very bottom of image - seems the properties there have their own exclusive beach, How cool - maybe they have dredged/dumped the sand themselves because I could not see any public access - I think one of the properties is a high end condo: fer the other maybe you could google Outrigger Canoe Club. Bet it aint a tezza cheapie.
BTW - that's the Waikiki Aquarium white buildings very top of image.
My favorite park exercise zone with the chin up bars and much more is not too far above top right of image.
Fer the anal who reckon every "map" should have a scale (I agree - but I'm a map nerd) - it's 450m/1500ft from top to bottom of image.
Reinforcing Waikiki's claim to equal top ranking in the LAP SWIMMER'S BEST BEACH is DUKE KAHANAMOKU LAGOON way up the other end of the strip.
This completely artificial lagoon was developed by the twin tower (and more) resort backing it, the HILTON HAWAIIAN VILLAGE. Just after I took the above pic I went for a really nice long swim in the lagoon. Now there is some debate about public access, but I walked in from the surrounding street via one of several open gates behind the camera - ther were no "PRIVATE PROPERTY" or "NO TRESSPASSING" signs. The resort says the public can use the lagoon for a fee - but I didn't pay and nobody hassled me or other obviously outsiders swimming or lounging on the grass/sand in the area of the camera. But I can't say there seemed to be a big number of outsiders late on a nice Friday afternoon.
the hotel's website. I'm beginning to understand why I wasn't hassled - the lagoon is taking up quite a big slice of the western end of compact DUKE KAHANAMOKU BEACH which extends only as far east as that small pier (Hilton Pier) closest camera.
(Behind the pier begins FORT DERUSSY BEACH and DERUSSY BEACH PARK).
The Hawaiian voter is very sensitive about free public access to beach areas and is likely to get upset if the Hilton Hawaiian Village gets too heavy about the issue.
I love this one because it not only shows the lagoon but the whole Waikiki beach ending at DIAMOND HEAD hotel precinct far right of image. There is no beach immediately left of image - mainly roads leading across to nearby ALA WAI small boat harbour and ALA WAI CANAL, lined with a hell of a lot of accommodation optionsBack on the image: from left to right we have the DUKE KAHANOMOKU LAGOON and neighboring DUKE KAHANOMOKU BEACH, followed by the nice and fairly quiet FORT DERUSSY BEACH in front of the green park area, then the rather thin but popular GRAY'S BEACH area on and around the corner 60% across image. Where you can see it widen, the beach becomes what is confusingly called the "WAIKIKI BEACH" section which ends fractionally past the last beachfront tower in the Waikiki strip - my favorite part of the greater beach. The first third of the green area to right of that has the break wall protected KUHIO BEACH POOLS featured up page - followed by the rather quiet QUEEN'S BEACH/SANS SOUCI STATE REC BEACH PARK area and finally tiny SANS SOUCI BEACH/KAPIONI BCH right up against the DIAMOND HEAD hotel precinct. This great image came fromhttp://www.discounthotelshawaii.com/
Note the DIAMOND HEAD CRATER far right.
The big park area between F and G is SANS SOUCI STATE REC/KAPIONANI parks - this area contains lotsa stuff including the WAIKIKI AQAURIUM, HONOLULU ZOO, WAIKIKI SHELL outdoor music venue - not to mention my favorite fitness station with the chin up bars.
TO SUM UP STUFF MENTIONED IN THIS SECTION:
- most attractive (to me that's nice sand/water and not too busy):Ft Derussy.
- busiest: Gray's and "Waikiki"/Royal Hawaiian
-quietest:Ft Derussy and Queen's
- best access from inland hotels:Ft Derussy and junction of "Waikiki"/Royal Hawaiian - Kuhio
- best beach babes: "Waikiki"/Royal Hawaiian and reputably Sans Souci
- best hunks: I hung around mostly at junction of D and E. But I won't be back for some time - but the same area tends to have the most cut surfer dudes. Some v fit babes too.
- coolest beach bars: all along the strip (down to personal preference).
- best lap swimming - D Kahanomoku (lagoon) and Kuhio Tide Pools
- easiest access to the "scene" on Kalakaua Ave - left end of Kuhio/most of "Waikiki"/Royal Hawaiian
- best sunsets - all except Gray's and "Waikiki"/Royal Hawaiian which face more east.
- best for kids: they are all good, with small wavelets/few currents etc. For sand "Waikiki"/Royal Hawaiian, Ft Derussy and Duke Kahanokmuku - for really protected water Du. Kah. lagoon and Kuhio tidal pools
- best for touristy surfing** - junction "Waikik"/Roayal Hawaiian and Kuhio
BUT REMEMBER - THIS IS A VERY COMPACT AREA: DOESN'T MATTER WHERE YOU STAY IT IS AN EASY WALK TO MOST OTHER BEACH AREAS.
**I reckon HARD CORE Honolulu surfers would probably head for the better waves in the area due south of DIAMOND HEAD crater.
Okay, it's not the NORTH SHORE - but those breaks are 45/70 minutes away depending on traffic and parking.
TICK 7 - Waikiki is one of OAHU HAWAII'S BEAST BEACH FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG KIDS.
With super protected places like the above DUKE KAHANAMOKU LAGOON and KOHIO BEACH POOLS plus the reef-protected nature of the rest of the beach areas, I reckon this is the place for families with pre-teens. Sure, plenty of other beaches can do the reef protected thing - some of them are prettier than Waikiki - but most of us know that having to load young families into/out of rental cars or catch the bus is no easy task.
TICK 8 - Waikiki is OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT CARS
- because you can stroll to the beach, restaurants/fast food/bars, shopping etc plus access a mind blowing number of day trips to other parts of the island
If car-less visitors want to go elsewhere there is a constant fleet of day-trip coaches/vans leaving the area - plus lotsa public buses which go/connect just abt anywhere on the island($2.50 with 2 transfers), running particularly along Kuhio Ave a few blocks inland. Not to mention many rental-car outlets.
Finally Waikiki's the sort of place you can come in on a late flight, book into your hotel even later - and then stroll down to the beach, dip your toes into the ankle ticklers, take a stroll along the shore and right away you are enjoying the beach holiday vibe.
WHOA! - 8 TICKS: WAIKIKI CERTAINLY PICKS UP A FAIR FEW BEST BEACH AWARDS
BUT THERE ARE OTHER BEACHES ON OAHU WHICH CAN PICK UP BEST BEACH AWARDS DEPENDING ON WHAT THE VISITOR IS SEEKING
We have seen that Waikiki does this well. But Waimea does it better IMHO
WAIMEA is on the northern half of Oahu's NORTH SHORE (the section between the white place markers). It is 55km/34mi from Honolulu - add a few for Waikiki. If you haven't a car, a good option is bus 55 which goes from Honolulu's Ala Moana bus interchange, up around the top of the island and ends up at Haleiwa south of Waimea. For $us2.50.
THE NORTH SHORE'S WAIMEA BAY
Looks like fun. Even though I'm a geezer, I have the emotional age of an 11 year-old and it took all my willpower to resist going up for a jump...
...although like similar places it seems considerably higher once up there (Google Images found this pic at https://uk.pinterest.com/)
SOME CAVEATS RE WAIMEA
- Family-wise I would avoid this place once the swell gets over 4 foot. Pay attention to the surf reports. The shore break becomes nasty, making any swimming a hassle. Rip currents develop. In bigger swell again this beach can get downright dangerous - when the big storm swells which march in from the northern Pacific hit, waves can get 20ft plus which is great for expert surfers but should be avoided by mere mortals. Not that you will get anywhere near the beach. The car park will be full, the traffic along the main coast road horrific, access to the sand roped off. There will be a significant cliff cut by wave erosion into the sand so that getting into the water will be a trick, and once in the water the shore break and rip currents will be horrendous. Note winter is the time for big swells to arrive, but that it is often benign or okay for non-expert surfers for long periods between big wave times. Summer sees big swell rarely on the North Shore.
- Several people told me a visit to WAIMEA CANYON is not great value. Adults pay over $17 EACH and the waterfall is underwhelming as are the botanical gardens.
A few pluses: - You will almost certainly come across from your Waikiki base by car: the North Shore has no hotels apart from expensive TURTLE COVE RESORT at the island's northern tip - this is 13km/8miles from Waimea and you will still need a car unless you use bus 55. The main family accommodation you will find on the North Shore is in rented houses/apartments. House rental is expensive on Oahu, particularly on the North Shore. Best deals will be in/around Haleiwa.
Anyway, with a car you could make a DAY-TRIP of it by also spending time at SHARK'S COVE rock pool (featured immediately down page) which is only 2km north of Waimea.
- Your teens will probably enjoy lunch or a snack at the uniquely Hawaiian and popular FOOD-TRUCK PARK across the road from the rock pool also shown next section. And no doubt some of MATSUMOTO'S famous shave-ice at the neat little surfing town of HALEIWA (Hah li eeva) 7km south of Waimea later in the afternoon will go down a treat.
- On the way down to Haleiwa you could call in at LANIAKAE BEACH and check the turtles.
-Going back across the island the kids might enjoy touristy DOLE PINEAPPLE PLANTATION store/restaurant/train tour - particularly if they catch the store's pineapple peeling demo after which there are free samples of yummy pineapple.>
If you haven't got a car, bus 55 can get you all the way from Honolulu's Ala Moana Center bus interchange right around the top of the island via Turtle Bay Resort's car park down to Haleiwa. This is a good way to see a lot of the island and will cost $us2.50 for adults and I think one buck for each kid. Going back across the island from Haleiwa you will need bus 52 - same prices.>
OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR FAMILIES WITH MULTI-AGE KIDS - SHARK'S COVE/PUPUKEA TIDE POOLS
So what if you have both pre-teens and teens? Well I reckon this neat little location a short distance north of Waimea Bay will keep them and you occupied.
Shark's Cove is that small inlet far right of image. Pupukea Tide Pool is the large pool to its left. Note the patch of sand far left of image.
They are located on the main coastal road (the Kam Hwy) across from PUPUKEA FOODLOANDS (white roof)
This area is popular so if you arrive after mid morning you may have to search for a parking spot. There is parking in small highway-side lots to the south (left above) and north of the two closest side roads, one of which you can see bottom left, but many people park along the highway or the two side streets. I'm not sure if parking is free in FOODLAND'S lot.
If you have little kids, access via the small beach/park - the northern access via tracks down from the highway adjacent the Cove are steep and tricky.
As part of Pupukea Beach Park, there is an amenities block near the sandy patch.
Those vehicles etc just to the right of Foodlands make up the hugely popular Shark's Cove food-truck park.
PUPAKEA TIDE POOL a gem for visitors of all ages who like to fossick in shallow water pools - if you click-expand you will see people wading knee/ankle deep in background.
I'm not sure what the tide was doing during my visit, but the tidal range is tiny in Oahu (often less than a ft/300mm) so it will not make a lot of difference. Indeed the pool is so shallow it is hard to spot on Google Earth. But that makes it ideal for littlies who can't swim much. Good swimmers will find deeper water where the pool meets Shark Cove at right of image and this is also an excellent snorkeling spot with plenty of fringing coral and heaps of fish.
Those rocks to the ocean side of the pool offer good protection to even moderately big waves, but DON'T COME HERE when the surf report s says the swell is HUGE - Google Images show the whole pool/cove covered in a wall of swirling white water.
Spot the pool - I modified this Google Earth image to emphasize its shallowness plus show some other important area features.
Note a reasonably swell seems to be running and yet the pool is benign. SHARK'S COVE seems pretty sheltered too, which suggests both deep water and some south in the origin of the swell.
BTW 1 - some of you pedants are probably sniffing: well it aint really a BEACH area so how the hell does it fit into a list of Oahu Hawaii's best beaches? Um, well that patch of sand is actually about 120m long and 50m at its widest, so it's a fair bit bigger than the average playground sand pit.
BTW 2 - if any of the family is a qualified diver, SHARK'S COVE is rated by Scuba Diving MagazineONE OF THE TOP TWELVE DIVE SITES IN THE WORLD. The world, not just Oahu or Hawaii! Stone the crows trendsetters, that has to make this area THE BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII FOR DIVERS too.
SHARK'S COVE is a North Shore location - just under 65km/40mi from Waikiki, 10km/6mi north of Haleiwa and 3km/2mi south of Sunset Beach, the most northern of the BIG 3 North Shore surfing breaks.
Bus 55 will get you here from Honolulu via the top of the island and buse52 goes across the island to Halweiwa - change to 55.
After the pool/cove I suggest:
- crossing the busy road to the food trucks for a snack/meal.
There has to be more than a dozen food trucks with seating to match in the big lot north of Foodlands. Very popular with locals and visiting surfers/day-trippers.
- perhaps checking the outlook from the viewpoint a short easy bush walk from the parking lot at the Puu O Mahaka State Monument ruins (entrance just up the side road from Foodlands)...
Waimea Bay and south - that's the island's western-most Kaena Point far background with the impressive Wainea Range which separates the southern part of the NORTH SHORE from the northern section of the LEEWARD (DRY) COAST. Haleiwa is tucked in behind the headland hill far left of image.
- then heading south back to Waikiki, calling in at Laniakea Beach (turtle spotting),Waimea Bay(the bigger kids may enjoy a rock jump or a surf in the usually benign shore break), the neat little town of Haleiwa for Matsumoto's famous shave ice joint...
...whoa! Matusmoto's sure packs them in. This is the line out the door on the Sunday before Easter. I returned on a weekday - line started at door, moved fairly quickly. Note small serve is BIG ENOUGH and the price very reasonable.
Plenty of other shave ice and fast food choices in town. Plus lotsa surfwear joints and other surf orientated shops.
...and the Dole Pineapple Plantation attractions Pineapple peeling demo in the retail center at Dole. Free samples handed out after. Gotta be the juciest, freshest pineapple I've had - and Australia produces a LOT of pineapples.
I give more details of all these places in the WAIMEA BAY section immediately up page.
Then again, if your teens are keen and very competent surfers, they may first want to check out iconic big wave spots like BANZAI PIPELINE and SUNSET BAY a very short distance to the north. Details on PIPELINE immediately below.
BEST BEACH IN HAWAII FOR SURFERS - THE BANZAI PIPELINE
There is no "BANZAI PIPELINE" sign on the highway - look for the low buildings of SUNSET BEACH ELEMENTAY SCHOOL about a mile south of SUNSET BEACH'S bay/beach.>
PIPELINE is another North Shore location - abt 66km/41mi from Waikiki, 12km/7mi north of Haleiwa and less than I mile south of Sunset Beach, the most northern of the BIG 3 North Shore surfing breaks.
Bus 55 will get you here from Honolulu via the top of the island and bus52 goes across the island to Halweiwa - change to 55.
WHERE'S THE FAMOUS BREAK?
When I hit the beach from the carpark I was kinda confused - the swell wasn't huge but there was a fairly good "semi point break" wave to the north with a fair few surfers working it - but baby, that is a right and everyone knows the best wave at PIPELINE is a left. Go left above and you are gonna smack the rocks/sand.
So I asked the lifeguard where the true PIPELINE was. He directed me to look south abt 350m where....
...I could make out a left hander (sorry abt the arrow - I'm not too handy on "paint" - might be worth clicking-expanding the image). The left didn't look real impressive but I walked down there....
...and found a pro surf photographer set up beach end of one of the public access lanes. He told me a round of the WOMEN'S WORLD TOUR QUALIFYING SERIES was going on - these are young women aged mainly 18 to mid-20s trying to qualify for the main women's tour. Most had not been surfing more than 10 years and yet they were way better than I ever got in 35 years. I watched for a long time. >
BTW - pedants will point out the above lady is going RIGHT, not the classic Pipeline LEFT. Okay, she's riding what is known as BACKDOOR PIPELINE which takes off from the same area as the classic lefts. Tournament surfers often grab a BACKDOOR wave to sneak in some extra points.
ANYWAY MY JUDGEMENT OF VISITING THIS AREA WHEN THE SURF WASN'T HUGE IS THAT THERE WERE ENOUGH GOOD WAVES AT VARIOUS BREAKS TO ALLOW SURFERS OVER A WIDE RANGE OF EXPERIENCE TO ENJOY CONDITIONS (there will not be contests stealing a break all that often).AND OF COURSE, WHEN THE SURF DOES GET BIG, THIS IS THE PLACE FOR REALLY SKILLED SURFERS
I couldn't leave this section without showing what Pipeline is like when it IS epic.
Whoa! I reckon all but the experts would best stay on the beach - image from http://www.threebestbeaches.com/
PRACTICAL NOTE - let's say you are a surfing enthusiast without the skill to surf the likes of the above but you'd like very much to get up to Pipeline and nearby Waimea and Sunset to check out the big wave action from the beach. However you are put off from what you have heard about the horrendous traffic and parking problems on the North Shore when the surf is pumping.
No problems, kemosabe! Jump on bus 55 at Honolulu's Ala Moana transit center which will take you on a great anti-clockwise trip around the island to all 3 of the BIG 3 hell holes. It will be obvious when you have reached Sunset Beach and Waimea, but there is no highway sign or standout coastal embayment announcing Pipeline. However you will know where to jump off for Pipeline when you see Sunset Beach Elementary School only a mile/1.6km south of the actual Sunset Beach. Anyway, the drivers are great and will help with your stop. As you cross the road, giggle at all the desperates looking fer a parking spot.
Bus 55 in a line of traffic which has slowed to check out the turtles while passing Laniakae Beach 4 miles/7km south of Pipeline.
But here's the thing - the BIG 3 beaches are so close together (3.2miles/5.2km by road) that you could get off at the Sunset and walk south taking in the other beaches - Google Maps tells us the walking part should take about 63 minutes but by the time I checked out all of the many beach access paths and snapped pix at the big 3 themselves, 3+ hours had passed. Pretty interesting 3 hours.
Not a great distance between WIAMEA and SUNSET.
LANIAKEA is the Turtle spotting beach - it is only a bit over 3.5km north of HALEIWA.
That thin dark line just inland from the coast for most of the image is the escarpment which leads up to the low plateau behind the northern half of the NORTH SHORE.
THE BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII FOR KAMIKAZE RISK TAKERS/THRILL SEEKERS
Well if they can handle a surfboard really well it's gotta be PIPELINEwhen HUGE. But board riding is a specialist skill which the typical Hawaiian visitor from non coastal areas won't have - however most can swim and handle a body board (gotta have fins - with straps to keep them on at this spot) so I'm giving them the best chance of making U-Tube with their Go Pro footage at...
Sandy Beach has one of the world's most consistently gnarly beach breaks - on the 2 occasions I called in, 2 to 4 foot waves were slamming down in about 6 inches of water, almost on the beach (note how surfing has resisted metrification) - something to do with the way the sea bottom rapidly shallows close to shore.
The take-off is reasonably safe, but unless these dudes and dudettes bail out (which they never do - they're HELL RAISERS, right?) they are going to be in....
...deep trouble very quickly.
No worries, the life guards come out at low tide with a shovel and dig the bodies out of the sand.
WARNING - SANDY BEACH hell raisers experience several broken necks, snapped spines etc each year. If you are not of the kamikaze persuasion, why not sit on the sand and drink in the entertainment at minimal risk to oneself.
Well, minimal - I suffered some whiplash scoping out the co-eds on Spring Break - Sandy Beach seemed to have the best array of thong-bikinis on the island.
Sandy Beach is a pretty nice strip of silica. There is plenty of free parking and an amenities block. It is worth a call-in for a bit of sunshine (not to mention the entertainment put on by the adrenaline junkies) if you are doing a day-trip of the area's attractions such as HANUAMA BAY snorkeling (see down page), KOKO CRATER RIDGE CLIMB and VIEWPOINT (ditto), HALONE BEACH and BLOWHOLE (down page), MAKAPU'U LIGHTHOUESE WALK and VIEWPOINT, SEA LIFE PARK, the PILL BOX TRAIL and VIEWPOINT (down page) or returning from MY PERSONAL #1 BEACH or from what I regard asTHE BEST BEACH IN HAWAII FOR DAY-TRIPPERS(the most distant of the two 13miles/21km and both down page).
Note from the above pic that more swell seems to get thru this close to the south-east corner of the island - Waikiki only 10miles/16km west was its usual benign self the same day. However SANDY was way smaller than the big swell running just around the corner of the island at....
...Makapu'U Beach. This is about the only spot along both the east coast and the adjoining south coast not protected by an off-shore reef, which allows swell generated by the prevailing north-east trade winds to get right thru to the beachThe reef soon kicks in - notice the relative calm of the bay immediately north.
I shot this from Makapu'U lighthouse viewpoint - if you don't fancy the one hour return walk up here notice the viewpoint bottom left of image - it has a main road car park and gives a much more elevated outlook over the beach than would appear from the above pic.
btw that's theSea Life Park complex behind the road loop just past the beach - there is also the popular Chief's Luau adjacent.
(If you haven't a car, buses 22 - Waikiki/23 - Waikiki and Honolulu which come back this way + bus 57 which pushes on north up image eventually re-curving to Honolulu start from in there).
SANDY BEACH is towards the eastern end of the south coast abt 20km/12mi from Waikiki and a little over 3.5km/2mi further on from HANAUMA BAY (see below).Bus 22 for public transport.
BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII FOR SNORKELERS - HANAUMA BAY
Here's the thing - you can hit the water at dozens of Oahu spots and find good coral and plenty of fishies. Hard core snorkelers (which I'm not) will have contacts/do their research to find snorkeling spots better than the iconic HANAUMA - but for the average visitor who wants to check out some good coral at a place easily accessed from Waikiki/Honolulu, I'm sticking with HANAUMA.
HANAUMA BAY is towards the eastern end of the south coast. It is a bit less than 17km/11mi from Waikiki - bus 22 overcomes any parking problems.
Whoa - sweet. Check out that coral just offshore. I didn't check it (see below) but an expert snorkeler told me the stuff close to shore is pretty used up - gets better further our: the best is on the OUTSIDE where the reef drops into deeper water. Plenty of nice fish everywhere.
But we have some general PROBLEMS at HANAUMA.
For a start, parking although only $1, is severely limited. And there is no parking on access roads or up on the main coastal road. This is deliberate - authorities are concerned that over-use of the area will degrade the coral too much. So best get there early for a guaranteed park.
Buses run into the car park - check out bus 22. But any time after mid-day they get real packed for the journey back to Waikiki. Get to the bus stop early or like me, push on to SANDY BEACH and other touristy spots to the east.
Secondly we have the admission charge rip off. Okay, Hawaiian and other US citizens don't pay which is fair and a good deal: but foreigners do - and it is way over the top $7 dollars+. That's maybe okay if you are gonna stay for some time - but I only wanted to go down and check the beach (I've stated elsewhere on this page why I'm uneasy about leaving my stuff on the beach unattended while I swim/surf/snorkel - besides which I've seen the best coral/fish spots in the world - at THE GREAT BARRIER REEF - and everywhere else leaves me with a sense of anticlimax
Next - as said above, the return buses to Waikiki get really packed after abt 1130. Either line up at the bus stop early or catch one going the other way, checking out places like SANDY BEACH, MAKAPU'U LIGHTHOUSE TREK/VIEWPOINT and SEA LIFE PARK (the bus pauses there 10 mins or so before starting its return trip to Waikiko) - if you use your transfer stub to do this second trip, the return $2.50 to Waikiki will be the same as you would pay from Hanauma back to Waikiki (you can't use transfer stubs for return trips).
Last a small point - the bay is closed Tuesdays. Adjust your schedule.
THE BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII FOR NUDISTS - NORTH POLO (MOKULEIA) BEACH
Referred to by the locals as NUDIE BEACH this may also be the ONLY nudist beach in Oahu - there is supposed to be another in the far north-east of the island but the only people I saw in this remote area were fishermen and wildlife protection volunteers (see down page).
NUDIE BEACH is on the "southern" half of Oahu's NORTH SHORE - 55km/34mi from Waikiki and 10km/6mi west south west of Haleiwa. Buses 55 and 52 will get you from Honolulu to Haleiwa and then bus 76 to Waialua from where it's a 50 minute walk.
This is the nudist section to the north of the public access track near the polo field on the Farringon Hwy 6 miles/10km south of Haleiwa. The beach is pretty nice, not busy on weekdays and certainly not here late on a Thursday afternoon - more crowded on wek-ends but no Playa Es Trenc.
Protected by the usual offshore reef, the water off the beach was fairly calm, clear, azure - okay snorkeling with plenty of fish, coral showing impact of sand close in but better further out.
This is the non-nudist section to the south of the public access track. Sweet beach - continues more or less uninterrupted for several km until the termination point of the Farrington Hwy
THE BEST ISOLATED BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII
Some people's idea of BEST BEACH is a not-unattractive one way out in the middle of no-where with no or few other people around.
This is about the most isolated but still attractive beach I found - way up towards the north end of the Windward (east) Coast behind the James Campbell Wildlife Reserve - I can't find a name so lets call it Campbell Beach (or use the surfer term SPOT X
This beach is so isolated there weren't even any of the fishermen featured on most other northern Windward Coast beaches. Maybe too isolated - you may find it too hard to reach. There are no public access roads or walking tracks thru the wildlife reserve from the main road nearly a mile inland - I had walked down the beaches from the island's northern tip at Turtle Bay Resort. I was abt 2 hours into my trek.
A GOOD ALTERNATIVE - KOOLAULOA BEACH
A better bet may be further north, not too far from Turtle Bay Resort's car park/bus stop for #55.
This is the beach east of the resort (far background) - pretty nice and as the name suggests...
...a good place for turtle spotting.
Not only turtles...
...but this Hawaiian Monk Seal. She was being watched over by a volunteer wildlife protector who told me she had been thru a traumatic time giving birth earlier in the day - unfortunately the pup died.
Your kids may like this area because of the above nicely protected rock pool. Hell, I'm no kid and I enjoyed a dip.
Both are northern WINDWARD COAST beaches. For KOOLAULO catch bus 55 to the TURTLE BAY RESORT car park and walk east maybe 15mins. SPOT X will need another 100mins or so. Doesn't look it, but baby, it's not all that straightforward navigating the coast up there.
MEA CULPA -NOT EXPLORED - about the only section of coast on the island I didn't get a look at is the northern 30% of the dry, non-touristy LEEWARD COAST on account buses only run north as far as famous big wave location MAKAHA. There's a reason the bus terminates there - very little settlement further on. But Google Earth shows some rather attractive sections of sand further north-west.
I only saw them from a distance at the top of the Waianea RangeKuaokola Loop Trail trek, but they sure looked nice. And isolated.
I tilted this modified Google Earth image to give some idea of the upper Leeward Coast.
Yokohama Bch/Bay like Makaha to the south, is another famous big wave spot - tends to be good in the winter months when the huge NW Pacific storm swells hit Oahu.
Note "road's end" above is not quite true - there is a restricted access side road climbs up the ridge to the satellite tracking station on top. Trekkers will find a flat 3.8km/2.1mi track behind the rocks from roads end to the point.
It is hard to put a scale on these tilted images - it is 12km/7mi from the Makaha place marker to the tip of Kaena Point.
Yokahama Beach. Looks pretty sweet, not to mention isolated. Backdrop of mountains sets it off. It's obvious I ripped this pic off TO-HAWAII.COM
NOT EXPLORED CLOSELY
One other section I didn't check on foot was the far southern end of the NORTH SHORE on the other side of Kaena Point from the previous image. I saw this from a passing car plus through the clouds on my epic 6 hour trek along the spine of the Waianea Range above Dillingham Airfield - the sand/water sure looked nice. People had parked cars along the Farrington Hwy which leads to within 4km of the point and were swimming/relaxing - but not many people: this is a very uncrowded section of coast.
The sand is more or less one continuous strip from Nudie Beach to the road's end, although it does get a bit skinny just before Dillingham Airfield.
It is 12km/7mi in a straight line from Nudie Beach's place marker to the end of Kaena Point. There is a 4km walking track from the end of the road to the point.
Car-less people will have difficulty here - the last bus stop is in the nice little beach-side town of Waialua abt 35mins walk out of image bottom left.
Even though this is the southern end of the North Shore, the coast runs almost east to west here. You are looking at the abovefrom the north-east towards the south-west.
This is about 800m of the beach just south of Dillingham airfield. I shot this about half way down the steep, rough trail from the top of the Waianea Range - any higher and clouds obscured outlook.
OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR NATURE ENTHUSIASTS?
Does the high possibility of seeing turtles and seals make the KOOLAULOA BEACH/TURTLE BAY area mentioned in the previous section best for this?
I'm not sure - point is I saw many turtles and seals over a wide range of beaches on both the northern half of the windward coast and along the North Shore - particularly south of Waimea Bay. Maybe the possibility of checking out native and migratory fauna (migratory sea birds are a special emphasis) and native flora including many endangered species living in a natural habitat at the nearby JAMES CAMPBELL NATURE RESERVE enhances KOOLAULOA/TURTLE BAY'S claim, but the nature reserve is not a commercial operation and is closed to the public. However guided tours can be arranged on a special basis.
OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR GOLFERS?
Once again I'm not sure - I'm not a golfer and haven't researched this. But the fact is TURTLE BAY has 2 golf courses adjacent the resort - THE ARNOLD PALMER and the KALIMA. The KAHUKU GOLF COURSE is only 4miles/6.5km south on the other side of the nature reserve.
However the very attractive KO OLINA HOTEL/LAGOON complex (see down page under BEST BEACH FOR HIGH ROLLERS) at the southern end of the Leeward Coast has the integrated KO OLINA GOLF CLUB designed by Ted Robinson, whoever he is. Apparently the course has hosted some big time world tournaments over the years
THE BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII FOR ROMANTICS - HALONA BEACH
Doesn't look real special, but this is where the classic "smooch in the waves sequence" with Burt Lancaste and Deborah Kerr was shot for the movie FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. The sequence (You Tube) was thought super hot at the time but is of course way tame now.
I shot the above pic from the carpark of the HALONA BLOWHOLE LOOKOUT. This in itself is...
a popular call-in for visitors (maybe not at its best in pic - blowhole performance depends on swell and tide). The lookout is only a few hundred meters west of SANDY BEACH
OAHU HAWAII'S EQUAL BEST LAP SWIMMING BEACH
We have already seen that Waikikii is one of the best in this category.
But 2 other beaches rate equally high:
1 - ALA MOANA
ALA MOANA is just west of Waikiki - it's a HONOLULU CITY beach - has the sizable ALA MOANA BEACH PARK between the sand and the huge ALA MOANA SHOPPING CENTER/BUS INTERCHANE. Tends to be real calm on account of its double-barrel protection: a good offshore reef + an inner-groyne parallel to the beach which you can see towards the left in the above pic.
2- KO OLINA - I give lots more info/images/maps etc immediately below in the BEST BEACH FOR HIGH ROLLERS section. But note, this lovely area is open to the general public - if you have a car it's not too hard to access, or if you are like me, you can get there via bus with a bit of a walk at the end.
OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR HIGH ROLLERS - KO OLINA
KO OLINA is on the lower part of the LEEWARD (DRY) COAST abt 42km /26mi from Waikiki.
Public bus users need bus C from Honolulu's Ala Moana interchange but you are in for a bit of a walk down from the highway
Waikiki hotels do shuttle-bus day-trips out here. In the previous section I give this rather attractive area a gong for jointly being best beach area for LAP SWIMMERS. But most movers and shakers are not interested in lap swimming - they want somewhere to impress their buddies back home at the country club. Thing is there are heaps of very high end absolute beach front hotels in Waikiki will do the job. But baby, everyone stays at Waikiki - you want somewhere more exclusive. KO OLINA fits the bill.
This area has 4 landscaped lagoons backed by hotels and high rise condos spread over abt 1500m of the southern coastal section, 3 undeveloped lagoons to the north, a championship golf course, and plenty of villas, low rise condos and houses you big movers can rent. I forgot to put a scale on this Google Earth image - it is 1.5 miles/2.5km in a straight line from the bus place marker at top to that of the marina at bottom.
Detracting a bit from its exclusivity may be the fact that the area is open to the public and there is ample public parking and access lanes behind the lagoons. This is probably part of the deal by which the public authorities allowed the development of the area - Hawaii's KEEP THE COUNTRY COUNTRY movement is notoriously anti development. But fer you high roller fugitive Wall St bond traders - stay cool: I was the only disreputable reprobate type I saw wandering around the place.
I came by public bus, but my bus stop top left was a bit of a hike from the lagoons. Note that big day-trip tour coaches come in from Waikiki.
The most northern of the landscaped lagoons, the KOHOLA (whale) was by far the most crowded - maybe because of the popular DISNEY RESORTS in background (hey, maybe their tariff is more family friendly - only need to be a semi high roller - MID ROLLER?). The JW MARRIOT to left of frame was closed for redevelopment. Sure looked swish.
If you want fewer people in a more natural environment, the first of the undeveloped pools, PARADISE COVE (abt 500m north of Kohola) does it well. Behind is the PARADISE COVE LUAU, immensely popular with resort residents and day-trippers.
My el-cheapo Olympus' focal width was too tight to get a full lagoon shot so I pinched this one off Wikepedia's KO OLINA page to show the standard features of the improved lagoons - this one is KOHOLA but the others follow the same design with 3 openings to the sea, a nice sandy beach area etc. These panorama shots usually click-expand nicely.
One downside of staying at Ko Olina could be relative isolation. However I saw the big coach from the popular POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER in Laei way up in the island's north east about as far from Ko Olina as you can get, dropping people off late in the day - which suggests the accommodation places can lay on the usual outside trips for patrons. And no doubt have plenty of shuttles into Honolulu/Waikiki.
OAHU HAWAII'S BEST BEACH FOR CAMPERS - MALEAKAHANA
Bus users need #55 from Honolulu's Ala Moana bus interchange.
I didn't research pre-trip where to find a good Oahu camping beach - Jetstar's lowest fare allows carry on luggage only with a 7kg limit - rules out my gear. However the nicest beach with plenty of campgrounds I saw was MALEAKAHANA BEACH on the northern windward coast. Hey, this is a sweet beach - maybe if I'd seen it earlier in the day when the sun was high and when I wasn't a bit tired from my 4 hour+ trek down from TURTLE BAY I would have rated it right up there with my favorite beach NORTH WAIMANALO/BELLOWS FIELD featured down page.
This long (there is twice as much beach behind camera) white strip of sand (I shot this getting towards dark) is backed for much of its length by woods. The rather good privately owned MALEAKAHANA BEACH CAMPGROUND is situated behind those kids in the water - the reef allows a bit of swell through to the beach's northern areas and there were some small fun surfing waves opposite the camp....
...and at the far northern end where the small stream drains into the ocean. People had tents and campervans here - but I kinda think this may be an unofficial camping area: Google Maps
shows no camground.
This guy was taking it easy mid-way along the beach.
Immediately south of the State Rec Area is another nice strip of sand of similar size leading down to the town of LAIEwith its sizable peninsula out of image to the left. The part of the beach backed by vegetatation is known as HUKILAE BEACH - in front of the town, TEMPLE BEACH. LAIE is best known for its POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER, the BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY-HAWAII and the rather impressive MORMON TEMPLE.For campers of course the town would be a good supply center.
As usual I forgot to add a scale - it is 3km/nearly 2 miles in a straight line between "unofficial" place marker at top and that of "Laie" bottom of image.
There are some more camping spots in the large MALEAKAHANA STATE RECREATION PARK between the 2 beaches. But state rec camp grounds have fussy booking conditions and shut down for one or more days per week to discourage permanent settlement by the homeless.
NOTE - I didn't notice them, but this site says there are camp sites at my favorite beach WAIMANALO/BELLOWS (see down page). However they are CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU CAMP GROUNDS and have the disadvantages of closing 2 or 4 days a week and some other restrictions.
OAHU HAWAII'S BEST DAY-TRIP BEACH - LANIKAI BEACH
I have already mentioned a number of beaches as good day-trip destinations in that they have a bunch of other attractions nearby/along the way. But Lanikai wins the gong - partly because it is totally gorgeous...
...with white sand backed by palms, azure water and some nice offshore islands the keen kayak to.
ADDITIONALLY behind the beach is one of the best short treks on the island:
The PILLBOX TRAIL takes you up to 2 old gun emplacements overlooking Lanikae Beach below right. A 360 degree outlook takes in the fabulous beach areas both north and south, MAKAPU'U LIGHTHOUSE POINT (Aohu's eastern most tip) and the razer sharp KO'OLAU RANGE which separates this part of the Windward Coast from the southern Honolulu/Waikiki coast. Hey, if you click expand you may be able to see some okay coral just off the beach which could make it an interesting snorkeling location. I didn't check. Adding to Lanikae's status as top daytrip beach: it's a great starting point to check out other nearby attractions such as MY PERSONAL BEST BEACH (NORTH WAIMANALO/BELLOWS as mentioned immediately down page), SEA LIFE PARK, MAKAP'U POINT TREK AND LOOKOUTS and on the way back to Waikikik/Honolulu SANDY BEACH, HALONA BEACH/BLOWHOLE, the awesome KOKO CRATER RIDGE CLIMB, HANAUMA SNORKELING BAY and the panorama from the top of DIAMOND HEAD. I have pix or info on most of the above elsewhere on this page - except for:
..the awesome KOKO CRATER RIDGE CLIMB - 1048 of those sleeper steps baby, not to mention seriously steep in parts.
...the view from the top is worth it as is...
...the top off the much easier (but still a good workout) DIAMOND HEAD VIEWPOINT TRACK.
CAVEAT - in relation to LANIKEA BEACH: my one reservation about this gorgeous beach is that it looked a bit skinny from water to back of beach and could be real thin in some parts at high tide. No matter, if you head that way at high tide there nice or (nicer in the case of my personal favorite) beaches within a few minutes drive with plenty of sand width ADJACENT LANIKAI - KAILUA BEACH
One of the close beaches to LANIKAI I haven't featured elsewhere on this page - another rated one of the best in Oahu by some - is KAILUA BEACH which starts just a few hundred meters north of LANIKAI and runs over 4km/2.5miles further north. I hit this beach well after sunset due to lingering too long on the PILL BOX trail (instead of retracing my path from pill box #2 I continued on, turning a 40minute trek into a 3 hour plus slog - had to recuperate in THE SHACK, a cool bar near where I popped back out to suburbia) - so I couldn't fairly judge how KAILUA BEACH rated compared to other top places. But it did look nice. Despite the poor light, if you click-expand image you will see the high tide mark leaves plenty of sand for beach goers - so if you find LANIKAI too skinny at high tide, head on north a short distance to here.
LANIKAI BEACH is on the southern Windward Coast abt 26km/16mi from Wailiki.
Bus users can come from Honolulu's Ala Moana interchange via the Pali Hwy tunnels on a vareity of buses, changing somewhere in the KAILUA AREA for local #70 which will drop you at one of the public access lanes to the beach (refer to TheBus website for details) - or travel directly from Waikiki to the south-eastern corner of the island on #s22,23 changing at Sea Life Park to #57, changing once again to #70 somewhere in Kailua. This slightly longer trip is more scenic and goes past some great places mentioned on this page. Both trips require 3 different buses if you are leaving from Waikiki - one $2.50 ticket allows you 2 transfers and so will do the full distance.
3 GOOD ONES CLOSE TOGETHER
Reinforcing Lanikai's credentials as a good daytrip destination - 2 other nice beach areas each side (I regard BELLOWS/N WAIMANALO as one beach area). I also show the PILL BOXES' location with the blue camera behind Lanikai.
The swell diminishing offshore barrier reef is clear in this shot as is the KAILUA MALL (white roofed buildings high left margin). Distance from the mall to HONOLULU via the inland mountain/tunnel route is 20km/12mi. From the bottom margin of the map to WAIKIKI via the scenic south east coastal drive is abt 29km/18mi.
FOR SCALE: straight line distance from the top KAILUA place marker to that of lowest NTH WAIMANALO is 5.7km/3.6mi.
MY PERSONAL BEST BEACH IN OAHU HAWAII - the NORTH WAIMANALO/BELLOWS BEACH STRIP
Bus users have various options but for the most scenic route (sit on the right hand side of the bus) is #s22,23 changing at Sea Life Park to #57. .
This is shot about half way along this very long beach. Understand that the overall beach is divided into 3 locations - from the south, WAIMANO BEACH, next WAIMANO BAY BEACH and after that BELLOWS FIELD BEACH. I had jumped off bus 57 at Waimanalo Beach Park about a mile/1.6km behind the camera and walked north towards Bellows Field Beach in the far distance. The pic was taken a fair way north - by this stage I had reached the mid-bay WAIMANO BAY BEACH. I particularly liked this section because it is backed by casuarina trees etc rather than the houses near my entrance point. Access is good with another beach park/picnic area (WAIMANO BAY BEACH PARK) with ample parking, change and wc facilities, BBQs and even a few camping spaces (note you need a county permit and these types of campgrounds tend to shut down one or two days a week to discourage the homeless from setting up permanently.
back on the beach: the sand nice, the water clean, protected from big waves by an offshore reef and tending towards that lovely azure color you get in many tropical areas, The beach wasn't overcrowded despite being a top day on the Easter Holiday weekend.
Bellows Field Beach starts beyond these rocks and runs several miles/kms to Wailea Point to the north. Many guidebooks say Bellows is Oahu's best beach, but I couldn't differentiate it from northern Waimanalo. Despite being on military land, access is open to the public via a good road off the main drag into Bellows Field Beach Park. Perhaps if you push on to the very far end which runs just behind some airfield base housing, they will shoot you. I didn't test this out.
CAVEAT - being on a reserve airforce base, the authorities only open beach access on weekends. No worries - on weekdays head south a short distance to access equally nice WAIMANALO BAY BEACH via WAIMANALO BAY BEACH PARK.
Locals taking advantage of the nice conditions and good parking at Bellows. Aw, aint that nice!
Now this is another has to be another of the BEST BEACHES FOR A DAY-TRIP because all those destinations listed in the above LANIKAE BEACH section are just as easily accessed from here.
TheBus is a great resource for budget travelers because public buses go everywhere on the island except the far northern end of the LEEWARD (DRY) COAST and the far "southern" (actually south-western) end of the NORTH SHORE.
Even if you have a rental car buses can be useful to avoid traffic jams and parking problems at places like the NORTH SHORE (when the surf is really pumping and everyone wants to check it out) and HANAUMA BAY.
Travel is cheap at $2.50 per ticket (kids half - under 5s free, concessional fares etc), which allows 2 additional transfers with some restrictions. The $60 (calendar) monthly pass was good value for me - I took over 60 trips in about 16 days (less than a buck a ride). Even accounting for use of transfer stubs I would have had to buy well over 30 tickets. And the CONVENIENCE of not having to find the right change etc is worth it alone.
The website is terrific - with schedules, route maps, trip planners and much more.
IF YOU SEE MISTAKES OR HAVE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, PLEASE POST BELOW.
BUT IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION, PLEASE ASK IT IN THE FORUM - I CHECK THE FORUM MOST DAYS WHEREAS I WILL ONLY RETURN TO THIS PAGE OCCASIONALLLY.