If there’s one thing Hawaii is most famous for, it’s definitely the beach. The island of Oahu is no exception, and most visitors to its capital of Honolulu are here to experience the picture perfect shores that feature on Windows screensavers and travel magazines. While all the best beaches in Honolulu are naturally blessed with white sands and clear waters, each spot is also unique in its own way. Beachgoers have a variety of places to choose from, such as Waikiki Beach which is popular with families, to the relatively untamed Kailua Beach.
1. Waikiki Beach
Waikiki may be one of the largest, most crowded and most popular beaches in Honolulu, but it still warrants a look-see especially if it’s your first time here in Oahu. At over two miles long, Waikiki is made up of several smaller beaches. The widest part is known as Kahanamoku Beach, named after the father of surfing. When it comes to water activities you’ll run out of energy before you run out of things to do. Go boogie boarding, paddleboarding, swimming, canoeing and many more. Or just simply lay on the sand, people-watch and soak up the crowd’s energy!
2. Magic Island
With a name like Magic Island it’s hard not to have high expectations of this place. Part of the Ala Moana Beach Park, the island is really a man made peninsula. There’s a gently curving beach forming a small bay at the end of the peninsula that’s protected by a man made reef. The clear, calm waters are well-suited for families with kids, and the interior is a large park, with facilities such as hiking trails, barbecue spots and restrooms.
3. Sandy Beach
Famous for its wide and sandy shoreline, Sandy Beach is great for water sports like surfing and body-boarding. The waves here break on the shoreline and are much stronger than other beaches in Honolulu, which makes it great for surfing but not so much for swimming. There are lifeguards on duty, but it’s definitely not a spot for kids to be playing around unattended. Off the beach, there are also some picnic tables.
4. Kailua Beach
A 30-minute drive away from Honolulu, Kailua Beach offers the quintessential Hawaiian beach experience with three miles of soft, white powdery sand and warm, crystal blue water. The surf is gentle and good for swimming. Most people just lounge about on the beach, wade in the waves or learn to windsurf, but the 35-acre beach park also has a volleyball court, picnic spaces, bike paths and equipment rentals.
5. Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches not just in Oahu, but the whole of Hawaii. In fact, Lanikai translates to ‘Heavenly Ocean’, which is a rather fitting name! Swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking are just some of the best activities available here thanks to the calm and clear waters. There are also two small islands with bird sanctuaries less than a mile away easily accessible by kayak. If you’re game for getting up early, then watching the sunrise here is a must. Lanikai Beach also happens to be one of the best sunrise spots in Honolulu!
6. Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve
A special spot that protects the ocean life including 400 different fish species, Hanauma Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots in Oahu. Created from a collapsed volcano crater, there are no hotels or tall buildings trying to gain your attention here. The beauty is extremely raw and untouched here, and any past damages due to overtourism have since been restored. In order to protect the bay, the number of visitors is limited, and everyone has to watch an educational video on how to ensure that they do not harm the reef and wildlife.
7. Diamond Head Beach Park
Most people go to Diamond Head to climb to the top of the volcano, but just beneath it the beach is peaceful and deserted. This is the spot for when you want to get away from the Waikiki scene and other busy Oahu beaches. The beach itself is pretty narrow, but highlights here include tide pools and big waves for avid surfers. For a nice picnic spot, walk over to the next-door Makalei Beach. There several picnic tables nearby as well as huge trees that provide ample shade.