11 Best Beaches in Honolulu & Oahu – From Waikiki to Lanikai

VISITING Hawaii is high on the travelling bucket list for most people around the world thanks to its incredible beaches and all-year-round hot weather.

Its coastal hubs help to bring in millions of tourists every year, particularly to Honolulu on the US island of Oahu – but if you are wondering where the best seaside hotspots are, we have you covered.

Lanikai Beach

Two islands dominate the landscape at Lanikai Beach, adding to its wonder and spectacle
Two islands dominate the landscape at Lanikai Beach, adding to its wonder and spectacle

Located on the east coast of the island of Oahu, Lanikai Beach stretches for only half a mile, but is considered one of the best beaches in the world.

It sits on the outskirts of Kailua and known to locals as Ka’ōhao, while some debate the translation of its name with Lanikai known to some as ‘heavenly sea’ in English – and it surely lives up to that name.

A popular hotspot for tourists, residents and even models, it is seen as a beautifully picturesque location due to the Na Mokulua islands less than a mile from the Lanikai shores. providing a wonderful backdrop for any photo.

The beach itself is filled with soft sand and when it is quiet, you can relax besides the calm waters of the Pacific Ocean, while due to its Windward location, you can watch the sun and moon rise over the Mokuluas, even between Moku Nui and Moku Iki at certain times of the year.

However, due to its size, it can get incredibly crowded, especially during the holiday periods, while Lanikai Beach is getting smaller as “nearly half the sand has washed away as a result of retaining walls built to protect the neighbourhood’s multimillion-dollar mansions”, according to Lonely Planet.

Nonetheless, it remains an idyllic location with TripAdvisor rating it the second-best beach on Oahu with a huge proportion of commenters giving it excellent status.

One commenter, Jay, remarked: “This is one of my favorite beaches in Oahu. The sand was soft and gummy. The water was clear.

“Bring your snorkel gear because I saw two sea turtles in the water and there’s some reefs around for snorkelling. Definitely worth the visit.”

Although Lanikai Beach is completely free to enter, it can be difficult to park with limited spaces due to the residential area adjacent.

You can catch a bus from Kailua, which stops just a few minutes’ walk away. Meanwhile, if you coming from Honolulu, you will need to get onto two buses with the journey taking over an hour.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach sits at the heart of Oahu's tourist district with hotels lining its boardwalk (Flickr/Daniel Ramirez)
Waikiki Beach sits at the heart of Oahu’s tourist district with hotels lining its boardwalk (Flickr/Daniel Ramirez)

The most famous seaside hub on this list, Waikiki Beach has become synonymous with Hawaii’s lively and populous coast and often declared one of the best beaches in the US, if not the world.

It is no wonder that hotels from the biggest chains around the world overlook the glorious sandy shores, while the statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku – the father of surfing – is as iconic as it comes.

Many films and TV shows have also had scenes shot at Waikiki Beach, not least Blue Hawaii which starred Elvis Presley.

The two-mile long golden, sandy beach, adorned with palm trees, is perfect for everyone with great surfing conditions as well as offering spectacular views of the Waikiki Bay and parts of the Oahu south coast.

Looking towards the south of the island, you can catch a glimpse of the Diamond Head, a volcanic tuff cone, another tourist hotspot.

Meanwhile, if you are not comfortable on a surfboard, you can take a canoe or even a catamaran trip to see the Waikiki from the water.

And once you have enjoyed the whole day resting, swimming, surfing and sightseeing at Waikiki Beach, stay for a delicious cocktail and revel in the magical nightlife.

Whether it is at Duke’s Waikiki bar and restaurant where visitors enjoy live music every night or at Beach Bar, where you can “soak up the sounds of classical and contemporary Hawaiian musicians playing underneath the old banyan tree”, as revealed by Lonely Planet.

And don’t just take ours or their word for it, with Waikiki Beach declared among the Best of the Best in 2022 in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards.

Commenter Tiffany said of the seaside hotspot: “Beautifully kept, helpful vendors everywhere, and just a great way to experience a Hawaiian beach!”

Meanwhile, Heather L added that you see “turtles right off the shore”, so make sure to take some snorkelling equipment with you to enjoy the nature at its finest.

Kailua Beach

Although often overshadowed by its neighbour Lanikai, Kailua Beach still provides incredible views of Oahu (Flickr/Krash63)
Although often overshadowed by its neighbour Lanikai, Kailua Beach still provides incredible views of Oahu (Flickr/Krash63)

Situated just half a mile from Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach is rated as not only one of the best in Oahu, but across all of Hawaii’s islands.

It was even named the best in America in 1998 by National Geographic such is its beauty and popularity by locals and tourists alike.

The beach sits along the coast of the town of Kailua – which means two seas in Hawaiian – and stretches an enormous two-and-a-half miles around the east side of Oahu island.

The crescent-shaped and white sanded seaside hub is paradise for surfers of all kinds, with small to medium waves allowing novices to ease into the sport, while also testing those with some experience.

Yet, it is windsurfing and kitesurfing that the area is best known for, thanks to its windward location with legendary windsurfer Robby Nash hailing from Kailua.

Meanwhile, for those just looking to relax and go for a little dip in the Pacific Ocean, the beach gently slopes into the clear blue waters with little worry about rocks and coral hurting your feet as you look out to Popoia Island (Flat Island in English), a small islet accessible by a kayak.

On south side of the beach, Kailua Beach Park provides visitors with some beautiful green space to go with the sandy haven, while also having the necessary facilities like parking and toilets – both of which are missing from the nearby Lanikai.

With the town being so close to the beach, Best of Oahu recommends “stopping in downtown Kailua. This gives you the chance to pick up some Hawaiian plate lunches, snacks and drinks before heading out to the beach.”

Kailua Beach provides visitors with a little bit of everything to enjoy the whole day by the seaside so it is no wonder that it was recognised as one of the Best of the Best in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards with many commenters gifting the Hawaiian paradise all five stars.

One such reviewer, Rachael Ray said: “This beach is absolutely stunning1! We came here on a weekday mid morning so parking was not a problem.

“The beach itself has soft white sand and the most beautiful turquoise water. It was really calm, perfect for swimming and there was not a cloud in the sky. This was my favourite beach in Oahu.”

And if you think that wasn’t enough, getting to Kailua Beach from Honolulu couldn’t be simpler, with the 66 and 67 buses running from coast to coast in 50 minutes.

Kahanamoku Beach

The world-famous Hilton hotel in Waikiki overlooks the Duke Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon
The world-famous Hilton hotel in Waikiki overlooks the Duke Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon

Just a mile along the coast from Waikiki Beach is the seaside hotspot named after the aforementioned Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, one of the Hawaii’s most famous ancestors.

He is widely considered the father of surfing, although it was another sport that saw him travel all over the world.

Kahanamoku represented USA at three Olympic Games – Stockholm 1912, Antwerp 1920 and Paris 1924 – winning a total of five medals in swimming, including three golds.

His success in the pool allowed to travel around the globe for swimming exhibitions, only to also show off his skills on a surf board.

Up until that point, surfing had largely been limited to Hawaii – but Kahanamoku’s influence spread worldwide and he later gave lessons out on the open water to the children of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, among many other celebrities and visitors to Oahu.

Yet, while Waikiki Beach plays host to a statue of the surfing pioneer, it is the beach in the north of the neighbourhood that bares his name, having grown up in the area near to where the Hilton Hawaiian Village now stands – just metres from the coast.

With numerous hotels lining the beachfront, the seaside hotspot is a popular destination, no matter how you like to spend your day and night on the coast.

The golden sands of Kahanamoku Beach are perfect for relaxing, while it wouldn’t be worthy of the surfing great’s name if it wasn’t a hotbed for board enthusiasts.

And if being above the water is not enough, a port splits it from the Fort DeRussy Beach and used primarily for trips in a submarine, along with catamaran and speedboat rides.

Meanwhile, at the north tip is the Gilligan’s Beach Shack, made famous by popular television show Hawaii Five-O, as well as the Hilton Lagoon.

Although not deemed the greatest of Oahu’s beaches by TripAdvisor, it is still enjoyed by many and worthy of a visit, with reviewer UMP337 saying: “Perfect for early morning walk before the crowd gets in. Just immerse yourself with the beauty of nature.”

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanlo Bay provides a beautiful enclosed area, perfect for its visitors to relax and swim in the ocean
Waimanlo Bay provides a beautiful enclosed area, perfect for its visitors to relax and swim in the ocean

Over on the other side of Oahu and a long way from Waikiki in distance and atmosphere, Waimanalo Beach is a blissful paradise of golden, sandy shores and crystal clear water.

Set in the Waimanalo Bay, the scenery is exquisite with mountains on both sides encasing the bay area, while the seabird sanctuary islands of Manana and Kaohikaipu rise up from the Pacific Ocean.

Stretching around five miles along the windward coast, Waimanalo Beach is perfect for sunbathing and swimming in the calm, blue waters. while many choose to explore the different parts of the seaside hotspot, whether it is the tide pools and Sea Life Park near Makapuu or the beach parks in Waimanalo, Kaiona and Bellows Field.

Although the majority – if not all – of the beaches on Oahu also offer a soft and sandy ground with an incredible turquoise sea ebbing and flowing from its shores, visitors to Waimanalo can enjoy their own space at the seaside with the sheer length and location meaning it is rarely overcrowded, unlike the more popular hubs like Waikiki.

Nearby to the beach is a small community with plenty of great food options as well as the park that includes a baseball field and a basketball court, especially if you are looking to keep your sporty children entertained, making this a place for a single person, couple and a family.

TripAdvisor reviewer Sabrinak136 revealed that: “It is the kind of beach where you can find happiness by simply putting your beach towel down, eating a bowl of spicy Poke for lunch and simply enjoying the beautiful scenery of the surrounding Banyan trees and mountains.

“The day is even more perfect with the beautiful sound of the waves from the Pacific Ocean.

“In addition, the water at Waimanalo Beach is the most beautiful turquoise ever.

“My son had an amazing time Boogie Boarding during our visit. The conditions were a little rough however, a lifeguard was always on duty. Spending a few hours at Waimanalo Beach definitely put me in my happy places.”

If you are fortunate to have a car, it will take you just over 30 minutes to get to Waimanalo Beach from Honolulu, heading along the southern coast of Oahu.

However, you can also hop on the 67 bus that will take you through Kailua and onto Waimanalo, where you can enjoy a peaceful day in the sandy haven.

Kahana Bay Beach

Golden sandy beach meets luscious green landscape at Kahana Bay Beach, offering the best of both worlds (Flickr/Scott Elliott Smithson)
Golden sandy beach meets luscious green landscape at Kahana Bay Beach, offering the best of both worlds (Flickr/Scott Elliott Smithson)

Compared to Waikiki Beach, Kahana Bay Beach is in the middle of nowhere and isolated from the rest of Oahu – but that only lends itself to its beauty.

With the coastal road the only route to get to the windward seaside hotspot and pressed against the ocean by nature reserves, the area is largely unhabitable with nearby community Kaaawa having a population of just over 1,000.

Yet, that only lends itself to its popularity with the beach largely untouched by man that leaves its visitors stunned and amazed at the natural landscape.

Set in the Kahana Bay, the beach welcomes magnificent turquoise waters onto its sandy shores, while overlooked by sprawling green hills, perfect those wishing to take a hike before settling on the beachfront.

The waves provide great conditions for surfers looking to enjoy their time – rather than a test – with long breaks allowing them to glide far easier.

Meanwhile, make sure to bring along some snorkelling equipment, with an array of wonderful and exotic sea creatures swimming in the Pacific Ocean with plenty of fish entering the bay for its protection from the open waters.

And unlike some of the other beaches on the island, you won’t have trouble parking at Kahana Bay Beach Park, with plenty of spots available along the road just metres from the sand and sea.

You can even visit by bus with the 60 service taking the route along the windward coast, taking an hour from Honolulu.

With so many beaches on Oahu to visit, especially those in much more accessible parts of the island, it may not seem worth it to travel to Kahana Bay Beach Park.

Yet, many would disagree, including Belwells, who revealed on TripAdvisor: “The beach is truly beautiful. The beach meets the mountains. The trees are huge. Only a couple of people at the beach.

“We explored the wharf, lots of crabs on the rocks. Some were big enough to eat.

“The view alone is reason enough to stop and explore this beach. This beautiful natural beach is the real Hawaii.”

Sunset Beach

The reason to visit is in the name as Sunset Beach offers some of the best views to watch the bright star go down (Flickr/Eli Duke)
The reason to visit is in the name as Sunset Beach offers some of the best views to watch the bright star go down (Flickr/Eli Duke)

The first coastal hub on this list in the north of Oahu, Sunset Beach is deemed the fifth best beach on the island on TripAdvisor – and is easy to see why.

Stretching two miles along the North Shore, Sunset Beach is one of most popular spots for surfing due to the Rocky Point reef break that allows for consistent waves throughout the year, attracting swarms of people looking to ride the ocean, including professionals.

The seaside hub forms part of the famed Triple Crown of Surfing competition along with Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline Ehukai Beach, held during the winter months when the waves are at their biggest.

Even if you are novice on a board, surf schools line the streets by the beach so why not learn something new and get that adrenaline rush. whether you are on holiday there or native to Oahu.

Yet, if surfing is not for you, then the golden, sandy beach is still a paradise by the sea, with some particularly deep parts allowing plenty of room for of those who visit.

Meanwhile, Best of Oahu revealed: “Sunset Beach is a fantastic spot for some snorkelling in Oahu during the summer months when the surf tends to be flat.

“The sharp jagged pinnacle reefs are fun to explore with a nice variety of colourful fish and Hawaiian marine life.”

However, as the name suggests, make sure to stay until later in the day to look out to the Pacific Ocean and watch the sun set in the distance for a truly amazing experience.

TripAdvisor reviewer Fiamma11 remarked: “The sand is clean and soft, the beach long, the water beautiful, but oh, do plan to be there for the sunsets.

“They are spectacular here.”

If you are driving to Sunset Beach, there is a car park available just metres from seaside, while visitors from other parts of Oahu can get the 60 bus that starts in Honolulu – although it will take around two hours to get there from the city.

Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach is also well known as Turtle beach after the marine animals that can regularly be seen on the shore (Flickr/Alan & Flora Botting)
Laniakea Beach is also well known as Turtle beach after the marine animals that can regularly be seen on the shore (Flickr/Alan & Flora Botting)

Just over five miles along the coast from Sunset Beach is a seaside hub where thrill seekers meet nature, with Laniakea Beach known for its sea turtles and surfing.

Unsurprisingly also known as Turtle Beach, Laniakea sees the marine wildlife come ashore to bask, typically during the summer months between May and September.

And these are not just the tiny babies that are often seen at other seaside hubs around the world, with the Hawaiian green sea turtles stretching up to four feet long and benefitting from the rocky shore where food such as kelp is able to grow.

Yet, there is a strict law in place that prevents anyone from touching them or even getting close to the animals, with Best of Oahu stating: “They were once hunted almost to extinction, and put on the endangered species list.

“Luckily, they have grown back in great numbers, and once again spotted around the island swimming in the ocean.”

But while turtles dominate the beach during the summer, surfers race to the Pacific Ocean on the North Shore in the winter, with the harsh waves providing a test to even the most avid adrenaline junkies.

In their review on TripAdvisor, CAB_0407 revealed: “When we arrived there was a turtle on the beach. It was fun to watch it.

“They have people there that rope off the area around the turtles and make sure people stay far enough away.

“Also saw some in the water right off the beach.”

Getting to Laniakea Beach can be relatively simple for those in car, with it taking under 40 minutes from Honolulu via the Interstate H-2 – however, parking is constant struggle for visitors.

Yet, if you wish for a troublesome trip to the Turtle Beach, you can get the 60 bus that takes you along the Windward coast, although the journey is around two-and-a-half hours long.

Ala Moana Beach

The third Waikiki Beach on this list and this one comes with some magnificent views of the famous Diamond Head
The third Waikiki Beach on this list and this one comes with some magnificent views of the famous Diamond Head

From the quietness of the North Shore to the popular tourist hub that is Honolulu, Ala Moana Beach gets overshadowed by its more famous neighbours such Kahanamoku Beach and Waikiki.

Located between the Kewalo Basin and Ala Wai harbours, Ala Moana Beach comes in two parts with a half-mile stretch of golden sand bordering the park of the same name, while a shorter but deep section is holed up within the Magic Island Lagoon.

Both parts offer a variety of options for visitors with the Magic Island area far nicer for those looking to relax and allow their children swim, with the waves all but non-existent while still offering incredible views of the turquoise waters and Oahu coast.

Meanwhile, the beach strip and park that runs along Ala Moana Boulevard are often more crowded and provide entertainment for all, whether it is riding the Pacific Ocean waves, topping up your sun tan on the golden sand or making use of the green space, tennis courts and restaurants among the palm tres.

For those thrill seekers, it can be an effort to get out to sea before you can stand up on your board.

Best of Oahu revealed: “You have to work a little to reach the waves, which includes a 200-yard paddle to the reef, where you need to walk another 200 yards across the raised reef, and finally a 400-yard paddle through the surf impact zone to reach the lineup.”

However, they added it is well worth the trouble as they “tend to be some of the largest and cleanest waves on the south side of Oahu.”

Although Ala Moana Beach is often visited by locals, there are many tourists that prefer it to the more popular Waikiki Beach that are nearby, with the famed Hilton Hawaiian Village resort less than a mile walk away.

Lily TravelGirl backs this up, commenting on TripAdvisor: “This is our favorite beach within walking distance of Waikiki hotels.

“It is not as crowded as other Waikiki beaches and the water is always shallow and calm, making it ideal for kids and water sports like paddle boarding.

“There’s plenty of picnic areas nearby and shade from the palm trees. Parking is plentiful and free. Can’t beat it.”

Makapuu Beach

Makapuu Beach's two parts can be seen clearly from the lookout position located near the lighthouse (Flickr/Jan Arendtsz)
Makapuu Beach’s two parts can be seen clearly from the lookout position located near the lighthouse (Flickr/Jan Arendtsz)

Makapuu Beach may be overlooked by its more famous neighbour Waimanalo Beach, but it has all the characteristics needed for an incredible day at the seaside.

From beautiful waters and golden sandy shores to spectacular views and great waves to ride out at sea, there is little you can’t do at this Windward coast hotspot.

Like Ala Moana, Makapuu is also split into two parts, with the northern side stretching from the tip of Kaupo Beach Park and wrapping itself around the shoreline to the Sea Life Park and the asphalt pathway, while the shorter, southern section sits in a bay-like area.

Gazing out toward the sea from both beaches, you can see the Kaohikaipu Island – a seabird sanctuary, while if you carry along south past the beach park, you will reach the Makapuu Lookout, where you can catch an incredible view of the two seaside hotspots as well as the magnificent Oahu landscape filled with luscious green hills connected to the turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean by thin strips of sand.

Like the other beaches on the windward side of the island, the conditions are perfect for surfing with huge waves as bodyboarders flock in their droves.

Yet, Best of Oahu warn: “The currents can become strong at times on Makapuu Beach.

“Please do not challenge the powerful and dangerous breaking waves if you are inexperienced or in doubt.”

This also means that Makapuu is not the best place for families, especially with children that are not strong swimmers.

However, that takes nothing away from the visuals, with some even choosing to wed at the location, while TripAdvisor reviewer kayla0307 recalls: “The beach was breathtakingly beautiful with bright blue water against dark volcanic rocks.

“We didn’t see anyone in the water because the surf was strong that day.

“Not a very busy place, we only saw a handful of other people wandering around. A must stop if you’re in the area just to take in the beautiful scenery.”

If you are looking to make the journey to Makapuu Beach from Honolulu, it will take just under 30 minutes by car, while the 23 bus stops at Sea Life Park that splits the two parts.

Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach ensures the South Shore is just as popular and beautiful as anywhere else on the island
Sandy Beach ensures the South Shore is just as popular and beautiful as anywhere else on the island

Although the other parts of Oahu typically garner more attention, the South Shore still has plenty to offer, not least at Sandy Beach.

Located just 24 minutes’ drive from Honolulu, it splits the Pacific Ocean and the Koko Crater perfectly with its sandy shores and incredible views of the coastline.

Stretching over half a mile along the Oahu coast, Sandy Beach is the perfect place for families to soak up the sun with the wide open beach enabling visitors to spread out along the shore and its turquoise waters blend perfectly with the golden sand to make it an enjoyable day for all.

If you don’t fancy just relaxing, swimming in the sea is possible, although it does come with a warning that the waters can become quite rough – conditions that are perfect for those wishing to surf.

And then there is the scenery, with the huge Koko Crater acting as a backdrop to Sandy Beach – the tuff cone rising over 1,200 feet up and popular among adventurers.

Meanwhile., just a short trip down the road is the Halona Blowhole Lookout, where a lava tube under the sea shoots water up to 30 feet in the air, rounding off an incredible day out down on the southern shore.

And don’t just take our word for it, with TripAdvisor reviewer Taylorwells15 commenting: “Beautiful beach! We came here one morning around 6 am and watched the most amazing sunrise.

“The waves are really big, so not a great place for swimming at this time of year but it was a really nice place to visit.”

Although getting to Sandy Beach in a car via the H1 highway from Honolulu is certainly a lot quicker, the 23 bus takes around 75 minutes and stops right on the coast, making it easy for everyone to visit, no matter where you are staying.