Oahu was once the home of Hawaiian royalty, housing its kings and queens among the radiant beauty of the island. What drew nobility to its shore then remains to this day. The Gathering Place calls to all seeking surf and sand on sun-kissed beaches. Hang-loose vibes and family-friendly fun abound on the coasts of Oahu, where the surf and sand appear endless. With so many of the best beaches in Hawaii found in Honolulu, you’ll want to plan carefully so that you don’t miss a single epic beach day. And with us as your guide, you won’t have to.
Table of Contents
- The 15 Best Beaches in Honolulu, Hawaii
- What Is the Famous Beach in Honolulu?
- Does Honolulu Have White Sand Beaches?
- Fly to Your Beach Paradise with Next Vacay
The 15 Best Beaches in Honolulu, Hawaii
Visitors to Honolulu know it has some of the best beaches in Hawaii—and some of the most exciting. From buzzing coasts in downtown Honolulu to big waves on the historic north shore, every Oahu beach offers a unique take on the perfect beach day.
1. Waikīkī Beach
The once-playground of Hawaiian royalty, lazing on this stunning stretch of beach will likely make you feel a bit like royalty too. One of the most famous beaches in Hawaii, and the world, Waikīkī stands out as one of the best beaches in Honolulu thanks to its gorgeous white sand, swaying palms, and blindingly blue ocean waters.
Backed by high-rise hotels and bustling avenues, beach-goers have their pick of resorts, shopping and dining experiences, and entertainment. Of course, that goes for the beach too.
The long stretch of sand called Waikīkī Beach in Honolulu actually encompasses eight different beaches, the most popular of which is Kahanamoku Beach. Named after the Olympic swimmer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, Kahanamoku Beach sits on Waikīkī’s western end, with plenty of sand and surf for all kinds of beach fun.
With everything from incredible views to fantastic fun, both on and off the beach, Waikīkī lives up to the name it’s garnered around the world.
2. Ala Moana Beach Park
If you’re looking for a family-friendly spot to set up camp and enjoy hours of fun under the sun, then Ala Moana Beach Park is calling your name.
Known as the People’s Park, Ala Moana Beach sits between downtown Honolulu and Waikīkī Beach, with the perfect blend of urban convenience and beachy fun. Even though Ala Moana Mall sits just across the street, Ala Moana Beach feels less urban than its neighbor in Waikīkī. That likely has something to do with the lack of high-rise resorts and crowded sand. Instead, over a mile of roomy golden beach is backed by an expanse of shady trees and a wide, grassy lawn, perfect for gatherings and barbecues.
From surfing the waves to strolling the park and playing tennis on the courts, Ala Moana Beach Park offers a little something for everyone. And as its name suggests, we suspect Ala Moana will continue to be a “Path to the Sea” for Hawaiians and visitors for years to come.
3. Sandy Beach Park
A favorite among Honolulu Beaches, Sandy Beach is one of the only sandy beaches along the rocky southwest coast, which must be how it got its name. But, more importantly, it’s the premier choice for adventurous wave riders to surf and boogie board.
The strong waves make swimming at Sandy Beach a not-so-great idea, but the shore breaks are ideal for experienced bodyboarders hoping to ride the waves. But getting in the water isn’t the only way to enjoy Sandy Beach. The long stretch of sand invites romantic strolls and colorful kite flying. And with the lack of shady trees, you’ll find infinite sun to work on your island tan—just don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen!
Surrounded by undeveloped landscapes, lofty sea cliffs, and a rocky shoreline, Sandy Beach is minutes away from civilization, but the remote location helps to make it feel like another world.
4. Sunset Beach
The north shore of Oahu is a highlight for big-wave surfing, and Sunset Beach is no different. While not precisely located in Honolulu, this Oahu beach is a must-see for the sand, surf, and sunsets.
Miles of sand encapsulate one of the world’s longest stretches of rideable surf. That means lots of beach for families to spread out and lots of surf for experienced riders to catch the waves.
Whether you want to swim, snorkel, or surf, Sunset Beach has it all. The calm waves in the warmer months make this an epic summer playground. Come winter, the waves kick it up a notch, and you can watch experienced surfers ride the giant swells from the safety of the shore.
And when your day of fun in the sun is over, stick around. Honolulu beaches are famed for their sunsets, and you’re guaranteed a spectacular show as the sun sets over Sunset Beach.
5. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay isn’t like other Honolulu beaches. Formed by the collapse of a volcanic crater, a series of natural events turned it into a beautiful crescent-shaped bay.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the waters here resemble a lake more than they do the frothing ocean. On gorgeous sunny days, the turquoise waters lie flat, allowing beginner and old-hat snorkelers to duck below and explore the stunning coral reefs that make Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. Here, you’ll find droves of marine life. The presence of monk seals, green sea turtles, and over 400 species of fish will make you feel like you’re swimming in an aquarium—or a giant fish bowl.
Because Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve, you must pay an entrance fee and book in advance. But the extra effort is more than worth it to step foot on the gleaming white shore and take in one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii.
6. Ko Olina Beach
Crescent-shaped bays aren’t all that unusual to find on the Hawaiian islands, but Ko Olina stands out as a popular beach regardless. Of course, that may have something to do with the four jewel-like lagoons glittering in the sunshine. Backed by the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club, these four lagoons are a short stroll from each other, and beach access is available to the public.
With soft powdery sand imported from Lanai and rock walls encasing the lagoons, visitors are in for a treat, whether lounging on the beach or swimming through the calm waters.
Thankfully, if you want a break from the shore, you don’t have to be a registered guest to wander the grounds. An outdoor bar offers drinks and late-night music, or you can wander beyond it for spectacular views out over the lagoons.
7. Diamond Head Beach Park
It’s no secret that Waikīkī can be a bit, well, much. Between the crowds, the noise, and the city at your back, you may find yourself searching for a little break. Just minutes down the beach, tucked away by the homes of the rich and famous, is the perfect escape: Diamond Head Beach Park.
Tide pools dot the beach, and the occasional tree swing sits at the ready. Offshore, the gentle waves invite surfers and windsurfers to enjoy the friendly sea. Walking along the sand and taking in the view is a treat, but exploring Diamond Head Lighthouse provides even more stunning perspectives of the coast. But topping it all off, the Diamond Head Trail hike leading to the summit outshines them all.
Easily one of the best beaches in Honolulu, Diamond Head offers simple beach fun and stunning views you won’t forget.
8. Kahala Beach
Inevitably, the best beaches in Honolulu come with their fair share of crowds, people hoping to enjoy their own little slice of paradise, whether on Waikīkī Beach, Sunset Beach, or others. But that’s not always the case.
If you want more than a little slice of paradise, you can head down to Kahala Beach for a secluded and uninterrupted stretch of soft sand and calm, clear waters. With no direct vehicle access, you’ll have to drive along Kahala Avenue while keeping your eyes peeled for the blue beach signs. Pedestrian pathways will lead you right to the sand and shore.
Stroll along the soft sand and pick out a spot to enjoy the peace and serenity of this hidden cove. Or, dive under the surface to discover curious marine life who don’t see much in the way of human traffic. With plenty of space to roam, dragging yourself away from lounging or swimming in this little serene haven may prove to be a challenge.
9. Lanikai Beach
Lanikai is more than just a scenic beach. The white sand, aqua blue waters, and picturesque islands just offshore sell Lanikai as a destination that’s not to be missed on your trip to Oahu. Four beach accessways lead right to Lanikai, with the first two opening onto the sandy shore and the others taking you directly to the lapping waves.
In the distance, two offshore islands, called the Mokes, make for a stunning backdrop to photos taken on the beach. Or you can get up close and personal with these bird sanctuaries with a kayak rented from the beach next door.
From your first step onto Lanikai Beach, it’s easy to see why someone would call it heavenly. And while the attempt to name it such may have failed, there’s no denying the heaven-like bliss that awaits at Lanikai. From soft sands to friendly locals and gentle waves, Lanikai shines as one of Honolulu’s best beaches.
10. Waimea Bay
The iconic north shore is home to Oahu’s Seven Mile Miracle. This stunning seven-mile run of sand stretching from Haleiwa Beach Park to Sunset Beach holds the crown jewels of Honolulu’s surf scene.
But, the most famous patch of sand on this golden coast has to be none other than Waimea Bay. Over 40-foot tall waves dominate the seas here in the winter, and when they reach a staggering 60 feet high, that’s when things get real. Surfers flock to Waimea Bay to ride the swells and compete in the illustrious big-wave tournament “The Eddie.”
Compared to that, summer at Waimea Bay should feel like a letdown. However, it’s anything but. Glass-like waters make it a perfect retreat for families and kids. Meanwhile, those with adrenaline in their veins can climb “The Rock” to take a heart-pounding leap of faith into the deep blue waters below. With amenities like picnic tables, outdoor showers, and short strolls leading to majestic falls, Waimea Bay is the perfect place to spend the day in any season.
11. Kailua Beach Park
A stone’s throw from Lanikai Beach, Kailua sits just to the south, and it’s easy to recognize these stunning beaches as neighbors. A similar white sand shore dominates the coastline, sloping into gorgeous blue waters. And while Lanikai has that secluded, private feel essential for any true paradise, Kailua certainly doesn’t disappoint. With over two miles of soft sand to lay out, finding your own patch of sand to claim for the day won’t be hard. And with facilities in the park, including restrooms and picnic tables, settling in for the day seems like a no-brainer.
But the ocean is the biggest draw here. Breezy winds make it an ideal spot for kite surfing, while the rolling waves are popular with the locals for boogie boarding. It’s also possible to rent a kayak and head out over the water, exploring Flat Island just offshore or visiting that elusive neighbor, Lanikai, which can’t be reached from the coast.
Kailua has all the beauty of Lanikai with all the necessary amenities to keep you glued to its shore for hours and hours.
12. Pu‘uloa Beach Park
Pu’uloa is a city beach park located less than 30 minutes from the airport. Surrounded by a residential area, Pu’uloa Beach Park sits quiet and out of the way, unbothered by the large swarms of guests at other Honolulu beaches. If crowds make you feel claustrophobic, Pu‘uloa is a siren’s call on the southwest coast. Here, any people you’re likely to run into are laidback locals enjoying a quiet moment on the beach.
Pavilions and courts decorate the park, with areas to play basketball and volleyball and picnic benches with a great view of Honolulu. You can even catch glimpses of Diamond Head off in the distance.
The rough waves don’t make for ideal swimming conditions out on the water, but the swells make for a fun time surfing with few interruptions.
Pu‘uloa Beach’s unassuming nature and quiet atmosphere make it a great getaway for a peaceful afternoon.
13. Waimanalo Bay
Even as a tourist, there’s nothing better than escaping the hoards of other tourists to find your own hidden gem. And for the special few, Waimanalo Bay is it. Together with its neighbor of Bellow’s Beach to the north, visitors are treated to three miles of gorgeous white sand and water blue enough to make the sky jealous. And speaking of jealousy, other Honolulu beaches have to be jealous of the views at Waimanalo Bay.
The sea extends for miles in a dark blue line that perfectly contrasts the bright sky, only interrupted by the Mānana Island Seabird Sanctuary rising up to the right of the bay. On either side, towering sea cliffs curve the beach into a gentle crescent. Scattered pockets of trees backed by tall, rising cliffs in the distance give the beach a feeling of seclusion and privacy.
Here, you can surf, bodyboard, and sunbathe to your heart’s content, unbothered by the rest of the world, even as you sit on one of the best beaches in Honolulu.
14. Waialae Beach Park
Another uncrowded Oahu beach, Waialae Beach Park is one of the best beaches in Honolulu for an untroubled retreat. Simply entering Waialae Beach Park tells you this beach is special. A large banyan tree sits at the entrance of the parking lot, welcoming newcomers to the peaceful shores.
This scenic park offers a picture-perfect setting for a day at the beach. The grassy lawns are dotted with lofty palms, and the picnic tables sit under plant-covered trellises, prettily draped in green foliage to keep out the sun’s hot rays. Find two good palms, and you have the perfect spot to string up a hammock and laze the day away.
Whether you’re strolling along the stone bridge connecting the park to the shore, flying a kite on the beach, or windsurfing out on the waves, Waialae offers an idyllic spot to while away the hours. And while it may only be a short drive from Waikīkī, Waialea feels miles away from downtown Honolulu’s hustle and bustle.
15. Magic Island Beach
The beach may be artificial but what awaits families here is nothing but authentic fun. Located in Ala Moana Beach Park, Magic Island is a manmade peninsula on the park’s east end and one of the best family-friendly beaches in Honolulu.
A large seawall protects against the heavy waves, leaving the waters inside the reef barrier calm. The clear and shallow waters make an ideal playground for keiki (kids) to splash and play. Of course, for adults who want a bit more adventure, the water beyond the sea wall provides underwater sights and the perfect waves for boogie boarding.
Pair all that with the splendid views of Honolulu and the ocean, and it won’t take long to discover the magic that awaits at Magic Island.
What Is the Famous Beach in Honolulu?
The most famous beach in Honolulu has to be the wonder of Honolulu county, Waikīkī Beach. Probably one of the most photographed stretches of beach, the miles of white sand backed by high-rise hotels and the Diamond Head Crater is instantly recognizable.
Made up of eight different beaches, each iconic in its own right, Waikīkī Beach offers a little something for everyone. Swim in the shallow waters of Duke Kahanamoku Beach, snap a pic with the statue of the legend himself on Prince Kuhio Beach, or enjoy live music and free feature films on Queen’s Beach. As we said, there’s something for everyone on Waikīkī Beach.
And if you can’t find it on the beach? The bustling city of Honolulu sits just beyond the high-rises, ready to make you fall in love with mouthwatering cuisine, rich history, and fascinating culture.
Does Honolulu Have White Sand Beaches?
Honolulu may not be able to claim any black sand beaches, but without question, it has some of the best beaches in Hawaii to sink your toes into if you’re looking for gorgeous white sand beaches.
- Waikīkī Beach
- Ala Moana Beach Park
- Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
- Ko Olina
- Lanikai Beach
- Kailua Beach
- Waimanalo Bay
Visitors can travel to any of these beaches for the mesmerizing sight of blue waves crashing onto white shores.
Fly to Your Beach Paradise with Next Vacay
White sand beaches and stunning surf are only the start of all Oahu offers. But while Honolulu’s beaches may be free, getting to them is anything but. Travel costs are only going up. So, whether you’re planning your first trip to the Gathering Place or your seventh, the most important thing is saving money while you do it.
Thankfully, you’re not alone. With Next Vacay at your fingertips, you can save time and money. With a team of expert deal finders scouring the web, Next Vacay locates the cheapest deals and verifies each one, confirming you’re getting the best pricing, availability, and comfort before the deals appear in your inbox like magic.
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