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13 Best Beaches in Oahu

13 Best Beaches in Oahu

Oahu, “the gathering place”, has many beautiful beaches but we think there are 12 best beaches in Oahu that your family will not want to miss!

We are highlighting the best beaches in Oahu with sands of all colors, natural and man made features that will make your trip worth it, and sunsets that will make memories that will last a lifetime.

Oahu is also home to some very famous beaches. As you tour the coastline of Oahu you will surely recognize places from many movies and television shows.

Each of our picks for the best beaches in Oahu includes a list of all the amenities as well as a pick for a nearby hotel that we absolutely love.

Don’t leave for your trip without first using our Hawaii packing list!

Best Beaches in Oahu

1. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai is one of the best beaches in Oahu

Lanikai Beach is located on the windward side of the island in the town of Kailua. This is one of the most famous beaches in Oahu and it is very popular due to it’s offshore coral reef. The reef makes the water perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

The beach is located near two small islands which are perfect for picture backdrops and also excellent for exploring. You will often see kayaks and paddleboarders heading out to the islands from Lanikai.

Book your kayaking tour of Kailua Bay.

As this is one of the more popular of the best beaches in Oahu, it is best to arrive early to secure your spot and parking. Due to it’s location, this beach can become shady later in the day – another reason to arrive here early!

Amenities: Parking is available in the residential area and parking is limited. There are no public restrooms so prepare accordingly.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: Kahala Hotel and Resort is an excellent option for Lanikai Beach. This luxury resort is gorgeous has many included perks like free cultural activities and kids club for children, free surfing lessons, and free yoga. There is often a great view of dolphins from the property!

2. Waikiki Beach

Waikiki is the most famous beach in Hawaii

The iconic Waikiki Beach is likely to be a first stop for many tourists. The beach is located along the bustling neighborhood of Waikiki which is home to the bulk of Oahu’s hotels.

The natural breaks along the shore and a section with a man-made shelter wall make this a great place for water activities. Floating, swimming, and snorkeling are easier here thanks to the wall.

If you are looking to try your hand at surfing head down the beach to Queen Surf Beach – part of Waikiki. Waikiki is one of the easiest places to learn to surf thanks to its gentle waves and long break.

There are lots of shops along the beach offering surf lessons. You can book your lessons ahead of time on TripAdvisor.

With ample sand and gorgeous sunset views this beach is excellent for a visit anytime of the day. Many of the restaurants in the area face over the ocean and welcome diners specifically for the golden hour sunsets!

Amenities: Waikiki Beach offers public restrooms and many showers. This makes it easy to go from the beach to the shops without skipping a beat. Benches line the sidewalk welcoming sunset watchers and sea gazers. Parking is nearby at many of the shopping centers or hotels.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: The Waikiki Marriott Beach Resort and Spa is an excellent choice for it’s location and children’s programs. The resort is located right in the middle of Waikiki, a great location for enjoying the beach, shopping, and visiting the zoo or aquarium!

3. Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay in Oahu
Waimea Bay , Photo by Flickr/jdnx

Yes, the famous Waimea Bay from the Beach Boys song! This is a favorite North Shore beach for families and honeymooners alike because it is simply amazing!

Snorkeling with the colorful and interactive fish is something you will not want to miss – so get here early! The bay has limited capacity because there is only so much parking and the fish need space.

There are plenty of places to rent snorkeling gear here and there is also limited fish feeding – another reason to get here early – arrive while the fish are hungry!

The bay offers signs and educational resources to help you understand what fish you are looking at.

It is important to note that this gorgeous bay becomes impossible to explore in the winter because the swell picks up and the surf can be quite big.

Still, this beach is worth visiting in the winter months to watch the impressive surf and the surfers brave enough to hang ten. The Vans Triple Crown surfing event is hosted here each year bringing surfers from all over the world.

Amenities: There is a pay parking lot here and parking down the hill from the entrance. There are are also showers and public restrooms at the beach. The bay has a snack shack and rental shop.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: Backpackers Inn and Plantation Village is the closest property to Waimea. It is right on the beach and provides free parking. You must be 18+ to stay in the dorm rooms but there are private cottages and studios with fridges and microwaves that are great for families.

4. Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach in Oahu

Kailua Beach is on a one-acre public park on the windward side of the island in the city of Kailua. The soft sand and gentle waves make it a perfect place to spend the day.

Snorkeling, wind surfing, sailing, and diving are all excellent activities for Kailua Beach.

Try spending a weekday here because it is an especially popular weekend spot. The local food trucks are a draw to the area try island specialties like poke or fish tacos.

There are spots nearby where you can rent water equipment to take the day to next level!

Amenities: There are picnic tables, volleyball courts, and public restrooms. There are three parking lots alone Kailua Beach. Lot three has a boat launch if you are meeting for an excursion or if you are renting a boat.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: Off the beaten path, Paradise Bay Resort is an escape from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. It is in a location perfect for boating and paddle boarding. The resort offers free kayak and snorkel equipment rental and has some amazing waterfront cottages.

5. Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is one of the best beaches in Oahu
Sunset Beach, Photo by Floyd Manzano

On the North Shore of Oahu you will find Sunset Beach- famous for it’s crystal waters. This is a very popular spot during the spring and summer seasons because the water is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

During the winter months the water is perfect for surfing! Sunset Beach is known for its huge, rideable waves – this is why many professional surfers call this part of Oahu home! If you are hoping to meet a local surfer, this is probably your best bet for a chance encounter.

Amenities: Parking is available at the Sunset Beach lot across from the beach – there is also parking along the road. The beach has public restrooms, showers, and lifeguards. Local food trucks are often parked in this area.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore is a great choice for the North Shore. Families will enjoy the nearby beach, the pool, and the excellent location to tour the North Shore.

6. Pokai Bay

Pokai Bay in Oahu

Pokai Bay is a great place to learn how to snorkel. The kids will enjoy the sheltered, shallow waters which will give them a chance to really see the fish in the area.

Pokai Bay is one of the more secluded beaches on Oahu. This will allow you to really keep an eye of the kids and get some quality time in the water.

Most of the Oahu gets large surf in the winter months but Pokai is ideal for swimming in the winter. The reef that surrounds the bay helps shelter the area. This beach is the most protected on the leeward coast.

Amenities: There is onsite parking available. There are public restrooms in the parking lot.

Recommended Hotels: Looking for a kid friendly hotels – check out our 6 Best Hotels in Oahu for Families!

7. Ala Moana Beach

13 Best Beaches in Oahu 1
Ala Moana Beach, Photo by Flickr/jdnx

Ala Moana is a manmade beach that is a great place to escape the larger crowds of Waikiki. The half-mile beach is protected by the outer reef, making it a great place to swim or paddle board. Ala Moana is a great place to go with beginning swimmers.

The views of Waikiki Beach from Ala Moana are excellent and a favorite spot for family pictures. You can capture the beautiful beach, Diamond Head, and the bustling city behind it, making this one of the best beaches in Oahu.

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The 10 Best Things to do in Maui with Kids on a Family Vacation 2

Amenities: The beach offers shady spots, grassy picnic areas, and tennis courts. The nearby yacht club and concession stand are a nice places to grab a snack. There is onsite parking at the Ala Moana Park.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: The Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the most iconic properties on Waikiki Beach – it is the tall rainbow tower many of the famous pictures of this stretch of sand. They have an excellent family program and offer great amenities throughout this 22-acre property.

8. Makaha Beach Reserve

Makaha Beach Reserve in Oahu

Makaha Beach is an excellent spot for swimming, body surfing, and floating throughout the summer months. Swimming in the middle of the beach is best for calmer waves.

In the winter this beach becomes great for surfers because of the rip tide that take place here but unsafe for swimmers. Makaha Beach can become crowded on the weekends so try to plan your trip to the beach mid week to enjoy a quiet beach day!

Amenities: There are two lots near the beach for parking and street parking is available. Public restrooms are near the closest parking lot.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is a family oasis. The family friendly activities and premier kid’s club is well worth the stay at this Disney property.

9. Sandy Beach

Big waves at Sandy Beach, Oahu

Sandy Beach is one of the best beaches in Oahu for lounging and watching surfers and body boarders. The waves here are rather large and are best for the experienced surfer or body boarder. Just enjoy watching the action and leave the waves to the experts.

This beach is a lovely retreat from the busy beaches near Waikiki. It is also near the Halona Blowhole – this is a gorgeous place for photos and very exciting to watch.

Amenities: There are lifeguards on duty at this beach. Public restrooms and showers are available in the park, as well as picnic tables and some shady grass.

10. Nanakuli Beach Park

Nanakuli Beach Park in Oahu

Nanakuli Beach is a favorite of divers. This 40-acre park is located on the west coast of the island and the protected coral reef makes for some great fish sightings and calm waters. There is a grassy park and picnic area along the beach.

The campground here makes this a unique and popular location. Many people spend the day here lounging and swimming in the northern part of the beach which is best known for it’s gentle waves.

Amenities: There is plenty of parking but the earlier you arrive the better your chances are at snagging a close spot. There are public restrooms and showers available. Lifeguards are on duty year round.

11. Bellows Field Beach Park

Bellows Field is one of the best beaches in Oahu

Bellows Field Beach is a favorite for families with small children because the water can be very shallow for a long way out. This beach, located on a military base in Waimanalo, is only open to the public Friday through Sunday, so plan accordingly.

The east side of the beach is sheltered by a reef that makes the waves very gentle and keeps the water warmer. Keep your eyes out for jellyfish in the area, as they also enjoy the warmer water.

Amenities: There is onsite parking, public restrooms, and showers. Nearby there is a small convenience store to pick anything you might need.

12. Halona Cove

13 Best Beaches in Oahu 2

The very small and rocky cove of Halona Cove makes the list of best beaches in Oahu because it is a must see! If you are willing to hike the path down you will start to feel like you have been here before – mainly because this beach is in many movies and television shows.

Movies like Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and television shows like Lost have shot at this beach. The water here is fun for swimming and bobbing around in the waves.

Amenities: Parking is available along the road and at the Halona Blow Hole parking lot. There are no restrooms here, but it is worth a look and quick dip.

13. Ko Olina Lagoons

13 Best Beaches in Oahu 3

The Ko Olina beaches are a set of four manmade lagoons that sit in front the area’s resorts. They are great for swimming, stand up paddle boarding, and kayaking because a break wall keeps the lagoons calm.

These beaches are mostly frequented by hotel guests but all beaches in Hawaii are public so free to stop by! There is some good snorkeling along the rocky shoreline in between the lagoons.

Recommended Nearby Hotel: Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko’Olina is a gorgeous property. The pools on property are definitely worth the visit and the sheltered beach area is a plus!