Finding the best beaches when heading to Oahu is an important matter, after all you are on one of the prettiest islands in the world. Most people think of Waikiki when they think of beaches in Hawaii but once you start planning your trip you come to realize there are so many other great beaches to explore on the island. With unbelievable sunsets, turquoise water, soft sand and giant waves for surfing, Oahu beaches have it all. There are countless impressive beaches so I have compiled a list of the best beaches broken down by areas of the island.
As you can probably tell from the name, this is an amazing spot to watch the sunset. I have yet to see a sunset that has topped this location. During the summer this is also a great beach for swimming and relaxing. During the winter months the waves get pretty big and the current is too rough to swim, but you can enjoy watching experienced surfers catch some waves.
Every time I drove to the North Shore I had to stop at this beach. I absolutely love the soft sand and for some reason, this beach always gave me such a different vibe than all the rest on the island. So welcoming and relaxing. This is also a fun spot as there is a giant rock off to the left hand side where you can climb up about 30 feet and jump into the water. The famous Quicksilver Big Wave competition in memory of Eddie Aikau (a well known Hawaiian lifeguard and surfer) is held at this beach.
This is one of those beaches I had always heard about on TV and seen in surf movies, so it was pretty awesome to watch my first surf competition here. This is where the Pipeline Masters Surf Contest is held, where the best and bravest surfers from around the world compete. If you’re visiting during the winter months check online to see if there are any competitions going on. Even if you’re not into surfing this is such a unique experience to watch in person.
First of all, how fun are Hawaiian names to pronounce? =) All of these beaches are on the East side of the North Shore. These are all small beaches that are way less crowded and less touristy than the rest of the island. They are great for stopping for some quiet relaxing beach time, a romantic picnic, etc. when driving around the island.
WINDWARD SIDE - EAST
This whole area is my favorite part of the island and in my opinion this is the most beautiful beach on all of Oahu. From the soft white sand, crystal clear turquoise water, to the laid back atmosphere, this beach is hard to beat. Bathroom facilities, beach showers, and picnic tables are available on the park grounds so it is a popular spot for families. Since this beach is so breathtaking, it can get very crowded and the parking lot fills up quick. There is also the small town of Kailua where you can grab some shave ice or a bite to eat.
This beach is right next to Kailua Beach and also has stunning views. It is ranked as one of the best beaches in the world. If laying on the beach to relax and having a few cocktails is your thing, this is the beach for you. However, there is not a parking lot or clear entrance to this beach. You will park on the side of the road and enter through beach alleyways in between the homes. Another favorite activity is kayaking from this beach to the Mokes, which you can read more about in this post.
This beach is not as impressive as Kailua Beach, but if you want to avoid the crowd or take a relaxing nap on the beach and still get a beautiful view, on this side of the island, this is the place to go. I loved driving through Waimanalo as it is lush and green and surrounded by all the valleys. If you’re driving through this town, definitely stop here to check it out.
This is a cool beach to stop at to check out Mokoli’i island, also known as Chinaman’s Hat. You can walk/swim (during low tide) or kayak(high tide) over to the island. It is called Chinaman’s Hat because it is shaped like a rice picker hat. If you have more time, this beach is also great for a BBQ, picnic or camping as it has a very large grassy area with beautiful views of the valleys behind you.
LEEWARD SIDE - WEST
There are four lagoons located in the Ko'Olina resort area. They are semi-circle shaped man made water ways all connected by a mile and a half pathway. This is a great place to relax and have quality family time. You can read more about this beach area on the travel guide to Oahu.
Not a very touristy or crowded beach compared to others on the island. This is one of the best beaches to learn surfing. The waves are calm, but manageable enough to catch some small waves for beginner surfers. They also offer surf lessons. Although this is a nice beach I wouldn’t go out of my way to come here, but it is a great place to go if you’re staying in Ewa Beach or Kapolei.
I highly suggest coming to this beach if you’re on the West side. Out of all the beaches in Waianae, Makaha is definitely my favorite. I think this side of the island is extremely underrated. There is not as much to do as the main tourist areas, but the beaches are stunning and it has such a relaxing vibe. There is also the best boat tour EVER that you can read about more on this post.
SOUTH - SOUTH EAST
One of the smaller beaches on Oahu. This beach is popular for body surfing and body boarding. Also, one of the prettiest spots to catch the sunrise. I loved coming to this beach after hiking to the Makapu'u lighthouse. You can read more about hikes in Oahu, here.
Just past the Halona Blowhole you will find Sandy Beach, which is a fun hangout spot and popular for body surfers. I didn’t go to this beach often, as it has very rough water. It even has the nickname neck break beach (crazy, I know!), but if you’re adventurous and want to brave the intense waves, this is the place for you.
I couldn’t write this post and leave out the most well known area in Oahu, Waikiki. There are plenty of beaches to choose from in this area, but being a local these beaches were way too crowded and tourist heavy. However, it's definitely worth exploring for a day and walking up and down the beaches to take in the scene of the Waikiki vibe.
For more information on all of these beaches check out this page on Best-of-Oahu.