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The 15 Best Beaches on Oahu, Hawaii [2023]

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

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A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...
& Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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When people say they dream about visiting Hawaii, they often mean they dream of visiting Oahu. The island is as close to paradise as you can get on Earth, with beaches to match. Whether you’re a thrill-seeking surfer or prefer to tan and lounge on the sand, Oahu has a beach for you.

Planning a Hawaiian vacation should be exciting, not overwhelming, especially when it comes to deciding on your beach getaway. We’ve put together this list to help you out so you can have the best possible Oahu beach vacation.

Map of the 15 Best Beaches on Oahu

The 7 Best Beaches in East Oahu

1. Hanauma Bay State Park

Hanauma Bay State Park
Image Credit: Hanauma Bay State Park

All of Hawaii’s islands were formed from volcanic eruptions. In some cases, the result is a beautiful bay area. Hanauma is located within a volcanic cone, which helped create the stretch’s shape, but that’s not all. Volcanic areas are known for creating fertile and rich ecosystems, and this beach park is no exception.

Hanauma Bay State Park is a popular place for tourists to snorkel. The area is also a nature preserve, which allows the area’s wildlife to flourish.

The beach has become one of the most popular tourist beaches on the island. As such, it can get a bit crowded if you go during high tourist seasons, like during the summer or around major holidays. The crowds aren’t on the sand, though. The state lets just 100 people in at a time, so you’ll have to wait your turn.

2. Kahana Bay Beach Park

Kahana Bay Beach Park
Image Credit: Hakilon via Wikimedia Commons (license)

Kahana Bay Beach Park is for you if you’re not too concerned about swimming while you’re at the beach and would prefer to just relax and unwind.

You can safely wade in the water, swim, or even snorkel. There’s nothing particularly unique about this beach as far as its underwater world is concerned. What makes Kahana Bay special is its scenery. The beach is a perfect place for some peace and quiet.

You can enjoy the clear water and the soft sand while you go for a nice, long walk along the shoreline. In the distance, you can also see a dramatic and breathtaking view of the mountains that make the scenery seem nearly unreal. Adventure-seekers can have a chance to slow down and catch their breath on a nice break from the constant thrills of vacation.

3. Kalae’o’io Beach Park

Kaaawa Beach walk
Image Credit: Eric Guinther via Wikimedia Commons (license)

Just over 20 miles away from Honolulu is Kalae’o’io Beach Park, just south of Ka’a’awa Beach. The park is made up of a large expanse of pristine, white sand beach that has somehow slipped under most tourists’ radar. This beach doesn’t get crowded at all, so you don’t have to fight for a spot to relax. Also, the water is pretty shallow for a while, so you can walk on the sand or wade a little deeper.

Since the island is shielded by reefs, you don’t typically have to worry about dangerously strong currents coming out of nowhere. That means you and your travel party can swim relatively stress-free.

You’ll also be able to stay entertained by walking on the beach. The lush trees and rocks on the beach help keep the scenery from getting redundant.

4. Kailua Beach Park

Kailua Beach Park
Image Credit: Forest & Kim Starr via Wikimedia Commons (license)

If your plans for your trip to Oahu involve trying a few water-based sports, Kailua Beach Park is the place to visit.

Known as a hot spot for windsurfers and kitesurfers, this little stretch of Hawaiian shoreline is a perfect place to have a little adventure. The beach is also one of the best for people who enjoy walks on the sand. The terrain is fairly even, and the sand is soft and velvety.

There’s also plenty of shade, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with the sun directly beating down on you. The beach is fairly near town, but it still lets you feel like you’re removed from the stresses and bustles of regular life. Pack a picnic and get ready to spend a whole day or weekend here.

Hot Tip: Check out our guide to the best boutique hotels in Oahu!

5. Lanikai Beach Park

Lanikai Beach Park
Image Credit: Ted Coombs via Pixabay

Are you looking for some seclusion and to have a true getaway? Then Lanikai Beach Park should be at the top of your list. Unlike most beaches, there are limited ways you can access the sand here. There are a handful of walkways that lead down to the beach that can, at times, go unnoticed.

The result is a beach that often doesn’t see many crowds. You might run into a few locals walking along the waterfront or a few people splashing around in the water. However, you won’t have the crowds that the more commercialized beaches have.

This beach has remained largely untouched and pristine. It’s well-maintained naturally, and the water here is clearer and bluer than many of the beaches on the island. You’ll feel like you’re in another world when you visit Lanikai Beach.

6. Makapuu Beach Park

Makapuu Beach Park
Image Credit: Daniel Ramirez via Wikimedia Commons (license)

You’ll find the gorgeous Makapuu Beach Park in the far eastern part of Oahu. The centerpiece of the beach is an elevated ridge out in the water, not far from the shore. You won’t be able to miss its 600-foot elevation.

The beach offers great views that make it particularly appropriate for going for long, relaxing walks. Makapuu is especially beautiful early in the morning. Not only are there fewer people out and about during the early morning hours, but it also lets you get an unforgettable view of the sunrise.

The water here is generally clean and crystal-clear. However, on particularly busy days, the sand can get kicked up, which can cause the water to look a little murky. A way to get around that is to go earlier in the day before the seafloor has been displaced.

7. Waimanalo Beach Park

Waimanalo Beach Park
Image Credit: AlaskaDave via Wikimedia Commons (license)

Beach camping can be one of the most fun-filled yet relaxing parts of a paradise vacation that the whole family can enjoy. If that sounds like something that’s right up your alley, then plan a trip to Waimanalo Beach Park.

The beach isn’t far from Honolulu, but it’s not right off a boardwalk or city street. In fact, you get to feel a bit removed from city life when you’re visiting this part of the island. Since it’s secluded, the beach has become popular for campers, particularly those who like to partake in surfing.

The waves aren’t huge here, but they’re consistent and a good way for vacationing pros to keep up their skill and for rookies to get their sea legs.

Hot Tip: The beach is also great for swimmers of all ages and skill levels.

The 8 Best Beaches in West Oahu

1. Ewa Beach

Ewa Beach
Image Credit: Carbacca via Wikimedia Commons (license)

Ewa Beach gets its name from a popular Polynesian legend of gods losing a stone thrown in an attempt attempting to determine land boundaries. In fact, the word “Ewa” means “stray.” But you won’t feel lost when you visit.

The beach is humble in its appearance, but that’s part of its charm. It doesn’t try to woo tourists into visiting. Instead, it’s a classic, pristine part of the Oahu coast. Of course, locals enjoy spending time on the sand and enjoying the surf, but not many out-of-towners find their way down by the water.

If you visit, you won’t feel like a tourist. In fact, you’ll likely get to exchange some knowing smiles with the locals who come to relax and unwind away from their daily doses of chaos in the city.

2. Kahe Point Beach Park

Kahe Point Beach Park
Image Credit: Thomas Jundt via Flickr (license)

Kahe Point Beach Park has a few special characteristics that set it apart from the other countless beaches on the island, despite its comparatively smaller size.

The beach is located near a power plant, which surprisingly doesn’t seem to negatively impact the beach or its environment. On the contrary, the plant heats the water without turning it scalding, so it draws in a diverse array of wildlife.

You’ll find fish from all over the Pacific flocking to this singular spot, making it a favorite for snorkelers. Swimmers also love how shallow and warm the water is.

Even when the water temperatures elsewhere around the island have started to decrease, you can still swim at Kahe Point Beach Park without any worries about getting too cold to enjoy it.

3. Ko Olina Beach Resort

Ko Olina
Image Credit: Michelle Raponi via Pixabay

Ko Olina is the place to go if you want to make sure your trip to Hawaii is full of luxury. As part of a resort, this beach is curated to make sure you don’t have to worry about a thing other than just making sure you’re nice and relaxed.

The beaches are under the watchful eyes of trained lifeguards, which is different compared to some of the more natural beaches around the island. The water also gradually gets deeper, so you can easily retreat when you’ve reached water that’s too deep.

Of course, if you’d rather stay dry, that’s fine, too. Parties are regularly held on the beach in the evening for a little excitement. During the day, you can enjoy walking or laying out on the soft sand that leads down to the water.

4. Maili Beach

Maili Beach
Image Credit: Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons (license)

Surfers rejoice, there’s a place on the western part of Oahu that will make your vacation dreams come true. Maili Beach is known for a few things, one of which is its reputation for being an excellent spot to catch a few waves.

This stretch of the coast is long and deep under the water’s surface are some rocks that help create consistent waves that surfing enthusiasts love.

The beach is also family-friendly, with a nearby playground and plenty of snorkeling opportunities at the beach. No matter who you travel with, there will be something for them to enjoy. Just make sure to bring your camera to commemorate your beach day adventures.

Hot Tip: Check out our ultimate guide to visiting Maui and Kauai, as well as our guides to the best beaches in Maui and best beaches in Kauai!

5. Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach
Image Credit: Nicolai Edgar Andersen via Wikimedia Commons (license)

If Maili is a surfer’s haven, Makaha is a true paradise. The beach is known for its regular waves that call to people who long to get out on the water. Waves at Makaha beach have even been known to reach heights of 20 feet which make it one of the best surfing destinations on any of the islands.

If you happen to be traveling with your dogs, you’re also in luck. As long as your furry friend is on a leash, they’ll be allowed on the sand and in the water, though make sure you pay attention to any signs designating if an area is dog-friendly or not.

Bottom Line: With 21 acres of land, it’s not hard to see why this beach is a favorite for people who just want to get away and relax for a while.

6. Nanakuli Beach Park

Nanakuli Beach Park
Image Credit: Loren Javier via Flickr (license)

Nanakuli Beach is known for being a beautiful park that doesn’t have to try too hard to maintain itself. It’s a hidden gem of a beach that most people overlook. The park encompasses 40 acres of land, so there’s plenty of room to spread out and find a good place to lounge.

Your visit to this particular beach will change depending on the time of year. Summer months tend to be calmer, with gentle currents and no waves. However, winter is a different season.

During the winter months, the water gets more agitated and choppy, and waves are plentiful. At that time, you can expect surfers, windsurfers, and kite surfers from far and wide to come to the beach to enjoy the waves in relative seclusion without interruptions.

7. Pokai Bay

Pokai Bay
Image Credit: Hakilon via Wikimedia Commons (license)

If you’re traveling to Oahu with family members of all ages, you should plan to spend some of your beach days at Pokai Bay.

This part of the coast has everything you’ll need. From completely clear, clean, and bright blue water to soft, powdery, light sand, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself in near-complete comfort as far as mother nature is concerned.

The bay is sheltered from most strong currents, so it’s a great spot to practice using your surfboard without having to worry about intimidating waves. In fact, it’s often used as a surf practice area.

You can also let your young travelers run around near the water’s edge, knowing the drop-off is quite far from the chore. You can also go shell hunting, as there is plenty to find on the sand.

8. Yokohama Beach

Yokohama Beach
Image Credit: GeeEll via Pixabay

Yokohama Beach can be found on the northwest corner of the island’s coast. You might hear locals talking about the beach, but you won’t hear much tourist information about the place. That’s because locals like to think of the beach as their little secret. They don’t mind you coming to visit, but they won’t go out of their way to help you get there.

To reach the sand, you’ll have to hike a bit. The trail is fairly easy to navigate, but you’ll definitely be staying off the beaten path. Sometimes, these hidden beaches are dangerous for swimming, but that’s not the case here. You can take a dip in the water without any worries.

Final Thoughts

Oahu has no shortage of beaches, that much is obvious. Any of them has the possibility of being your perfect beach spot. However, there are enough small differences between locations that can make each stretch of coastline widely different.

Hopefully, this list has helped you narrow down your Oahu beach options. There’s a place on this island paradise for every type of traveler. All you have to do is pick the options that appeal to you most.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Oahu have clean water?

Oahu has some of the cleanest water, not just among the Hawaiian Islands, but in the world. The water is naturally purified thanks to the rocks that surround the island. The result is clean, bright blue water that’s famous worldwide.

Can you swim at Oahu's beaches?

In general, you can swim at Oahu’s beaches. There are many stretches of coastline that are fit for swimming and other water activities. However, check to make sure there are no warning signs posted or swimming restrictions before visiting.

Is it safe to swim on Oahu?

It’s safe to swim on most Oahu beaches. Much of the island is surrounded by reefs that help shield the shoreline from harsh or strong currents, but don’t assume that every beach is safe for swimming. Research the beach you’ll visit before you arrive.

Where is the warmest water in Oahu?

The entire island of Oahu is known for its warm water. It’s often compared to the temperatures heated swimming pools get to. Though the water’s temperature can vary from day to day, the difference between areas in Oahu is negligible.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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