15 Best Beaches in Oahu

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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No place on the planet has so many amazing beaches as Hawaii. Oahu is home to 112 miles of coastline, surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a variety of beaches to choose from. From the family-friendly vacation spots in the south of Oahu to the windy beaches in the north that are ideal for surfing, Oahu has a perfect beach for every type of traveler.

Want to seek out a family-friendly swimming spot or find a beach that offers romantic sunset views? Hop right in and check out our list of 15 best beaches in Oahu.

1. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai BeachSource: tomas del amo / shutterstock
Lanikai Beach

Located in the small beach town of Kailua on the Windward side on Oahu, Lanikai Beach is one of the most famous beaches in all of Hawaii. There is an offshore reef that keeps the water calm, which means that Lanikai Beach is ideal for safe swimming.

Vacationers who are looking for wildlife can visit two nearby small islands that feature bird sanctuaries. Some of the most popular water sports on the beach include windsurfing, sailing, and snorkeling.

Keep in mind that due to the beach being located right between residential houses, parking can often be limited. If you wish to get a golden sun tan, arrive early in the morning because the Koolau Mountains blocks the sun during the afternoon.

With a mile of powder-soft sand, Lanikai Beach is definitely worth visiting while on vacation in Hawaii.

2. Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach, OahuSource: SvetlanaSF / shutterstock
Waikiki Beach

One of the most famous beaches in the world, Waikiki Beach is nestled on the south shore of Oahu, Hawaii. It boasts more than 4 million visitors each year and offers amazing views of Diamond Head.

Waikiki actually consists of several beaches including Waikiki Beach which fronts the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Fort DeRussy Beach, Kuhio Beach, and Queen Surf Beach. Waikiki Beach is great for snorkeling, swimming, learning how to ride the waves, and enjoying the sun.

Of course, you will find a number of luxury resorts and 5-star hotels around Waikiki Beach, as well as numerous restaurants that offer delicious food.

3. Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach, OahuSource: Nataliya Hora / shutterstock
Sunset Beach

Located on the North Shore of Oahu, Sunset Beach attracts both vacationers and locals who come here to enjoy crystal-clear waters and chill in the sun. This amazing beach is perfect for swimming and snorkeling during the summer season.

In winter months, the conditions are not suitable for inexperienced swimmers because of large waves created by the season’s higher winds. Many professional surfers call Sunset Beach their home and there are many surfing competitions throughout the year. At times, the waves here are so huge and can reach 15 to 20 feet in height.

It’s relatively easy to find parking when there are no surfing competitions taking place, but at anytime of year, Sunset Beach is a great location for celebrity spotting.

4. Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach, OahuSource: Joakim Lloyd Raboff / shutterstock
Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach is located just a 30-minute drive from Honolulu on Oahu’s Windward side and features a 30-acre public park – an area with picnic tables, restrooms, volleyball courts, and dozens of food stands.

This sandy beach offers a lot of water activities such as snorkeling, wind surfing, sailing, swimming, and diving. What’s great about Kailua Beach is that it’s usually half-empty during weekdays so you can easily find a your own private secluded spot for the day.

You will find numerous shops for renting sports equipment and adventurous travelers can visit the neighboring islands by kayak. Try tasty local dishes in one of the small restaurants that are just minutes from the beach.

5. Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay, OahuSource: Paul Laubach / shutterstock
Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay is famous for its huge waves that you can see every year from October to April. There are many professional surfers who come here to catch the 25-foot waves that crash on the shore. The surfing conditions are so good that Vans Triple Crown Surfing competition is held here every year.

The bay is located on the windy North Shore of Oahu and it’s a perfect place for having a picnic and sunbathing. If you are visiting Waimea Bay in the summer, expect to find perfect conditions for swimming and scuba diving. However, swimming is practically impossible during the winter season when only surfers can be seen in the water.

Parking is not too far from the beach and parking spots are easy to find in the mornings.

6. Kahana Bay Beach Park

Kahana Bay Beach ParkSource: Kelly Headrick / shutterstock
Kahana Bay Beach Park

Kahana Bay Beach Park is known for its salt and pepper sand, kamani trees, and jagged cliffs. This beach is not too great for swimming because of the murky and shallow waters, but in case you are looking for a peaceful place where you can just chill on the sand, Kahana Bay Beach Park is definitely worth a visit.

There are no restrooms and showers on the beach and you won’t find lifeguards on duty here. Some of the most popular water activities include fishing and kayaking. There are also several hiking trails in the area, as well as areas for camping and picnics.

7. Malaekahana Beach

Malaekahana BeachSource: Starr Environmental / Flickr
Malaekahana Beach

Nestled in Malakahana Bay on Oahu’s northwestern coast right between Kahuku and La’ie, Malaekahana Beach is a mile-long beach that features white sand and offers activities like ball games, relaxing in the sun, and hiking.

Enter the water with care during the winter season, do not underestimate the strong currents and there are no lifeguards on duty here. Vacationers can head out to the nearby island of Moku’auia, where the water is shallow and safe. There you will find crystal-clear waters and even green turtles.

If you are into snorkeling, Malaekahana Beach is home to plenty of marine life, so make sure to bring your snorkeling equipment with you, as there are no rental shops in the area.

Surprisingly, Malaekahana Beach is not overcrowded and it’s easy to find a peaceful spot for the day.

8. Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach, OahuSource: Phillip Kraskoff / shutterstock
Sandy Beach

One of the most popular beaches for body boarding and surfing due to its great waves and close shore break, Sandy Beach is located on the southeast section of Oahu and offers a 1,200-foot long stretch of golden sand.

It is a great getaway destination from the large Waikiki crowds and perfect for flying kites and taking long walks.

Lifeguards on duty here are constantly telling vacationers how the beach can be very dangerous for swimming because of the harsh waves. Keep in mind that the surf breaks close to the water and the waves, even during the summer season, can be huge.

Most of the vacationers who come here usually just chill in the sun or watch the surfers at play.

9. Pokai Bay

Pokai BaySource: E.J.Johnson Photography / shutterstock
Pokai Bay

If you are searching for a beach where you can swim, snorkel, and be one of the only visitors, head out to Pokai Bay and enjoy this secluded shoreline. It is surrounded by a reef, so the waters are calm and children can go snorkeling.

During the winter season, when waves are at their biggest at most of Oahu’s Beaches, Pokai Bay is still calm and ideal for swimming. It is located on the west side of the island and attracts mostly locals who come here to have a picnic with their children.

When you’re done with lazing on the beach, head out to Kane’ilio Point, which is home to the ancient Hawaiian temple of Ku’ilioloa Heiau.

10. Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach ParkSource: Yi-Chen Chiang / shutterstock
Ala Moana Beach Park

A man-made beach located between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, Ala Moana Beach Park is definitely less crowded than other beaches in the area and attracts mostly locals.

This half-mile-long piece of tropical paradise is protected by an outer reef, which means the waters are calm and ideal for swimming and paddle boarding.

Ala Moana Beach Park was created 60 years ago when the owner of a well-known Dillingham Dredging Company dumped sand in the park and created the beach.

If your child is learning how to swim, Ala Moana Beach Park is one of the best places in Hawaii for swimming lessons.

11. Makapuu Beach Park

Makapuu Beach ParkSource: Paul Laubach / shutterstock
Makapuu Beach Park

Makapuu Beach Park is quite popular among body surfers and it can be dangerous for swimming during both summer and winter seasons because of strong currents. On the other hand, the beach is surrounded by a black colored mountain which makes it one of the most picturesque spots in Hawaii.

Parking is just a short walk from the beach and there are lifeguards on duty throughout the day. You will also find restrooms and showers available on the beach.

For a relaxing stroll, head out to the scenic Makapuu Lighthouse for amazing views of the mountains and coastline.

12. Bellows Field Beach Park

Bellows Field Beach ParkSource: Scot Nelson / Flickr
Bellows Field Beach Park

Well-known for its soft sand and beautiful scenery, Bellows Field Beach Park is mostly visited by body surfers. The breaks here are definitely smaller than on Sandy Beach, so the waters can be shallow, making it popular with families with young children.

The east side of the park is protected by a reef, which makes it an ideal location for swimmers. Keep in mind that jellyfish can be found in these waters, so be careful when entering and consider wearing a protective wetsuit.

With plenty of shade from ironwood trees, Bellows Field Beach Park also features a camping area, however, you will need a permit to camp here at any time. Showers, restrooms, and picnic areas can be found on the beach.

13. Makaha Beach Park

Makaha Beach Park, OahuSource: Allen.G / shutterstock
Makaha Beach Park

Situated on the west coast of Oahu, Makaha Beach Park is a great place if you like swimming, surfing, and body boarding. Expect to find perfect swimming conditions in summer, while the winter season brings dangerous rip currents that surfers just love. In fact, the northern end of Makaha Beach Park is reserved for surfers only.

There are usually signs posted on the beach about the sea conditions and there are several lifeguards on duty from morning to night incase you need to ask for swimming advice.

If you head towards the center of the beach, swimming is better there because the waves break further out near to the reef. Unfortunately, there is not much shade here, so make sure to bring an umbrella on a particularly hot day.

The great thing about Makaha Beach Park is that it is rarely crowded on weekdays, but local families fill the beach over the weekends. Restrooms and showers can also be found here.

14. Diamond Head Beach Park

Diamond Head Beach ParkSource: SvetlanaSF / shutterstock
Diamond Head Beach Park

Although the beach is not very good for swimming due to the sharp and rocky reef near the shore, Diamond Head Beach Park is less crowded than nearby Waikiki Beach and again, is a surfers hotspot.

When the waves are not too high, the reef here is a great place for snorkeling as there are many tidal pools to explore which are populated with all kinds of colourful fish.

Expect to see beautiful steep rugged cliffs and a rocky shelf which make Diamond Head Beach Park one of the most picturesque beaches in the area. At any point along the beach, photographers will love the dramatic landscape.

15. Nanakuli Beach Park

Nanakuli Beach ParkSource: Castles, Capes & Clones / Flickr
Nanakuli Beach Park

Nanakuli Beach Park features a protective coral which makes it a perfect destination for swimming. However, it is recommended to swim in the south part of the beach where the currents are not so strong as other parts.

This beach is known to be one of the best diving spots in Hawaii with marine life good enough to attract divers from all over the world.

The park’s large grassy area with plenty of tables and benches makes it a popular picnic spot or families and couples.

During the winter season, the large waves transform Nanakuli Beach Park into an ideal beach for surfers and body boarders. There are also several restrooms and showers on the beach and lifeguards are on duty throughout the year.


15 Best Beaches in Oahu:

  • Lanikai Beach
  • Waikiki Beach
  • Sunset Beach
  • Kailua Beach
  • Waimea Bay
  • Kahana Bay Beach Park
  • Malaekahana Beach
  • Sandy Beach
  • Pokai Bay
  • Ala Moana Beach Park
  • Makapuu Beach Park
  • Bellows Field Beach Park
  • Makaha Beach Park
  • Diamond Head Beach Park
  • Nanakuli Beach Park