After over a year of exploring, here are our top 10 favorite beaches on the island.
TEXT BY JESSICA BLACKMUN // IMAGES BY JACKSON GROVES
While living on Oahu, hanging out at the beach was one of our favorite ways to spend a day. Most weeks we would hit up a beach at least 3 out of 7 days and we were constantly going to different beaches around the island to explore, and enjoy what each individual beach had to offer. This list is our opinion of what the 10 best beaches on Oahu are and why!
Waimea Bay, found on Oahu’s North Shore between Haleiwa and Pupukea, is one of our all time favorite beaches. The clean grainy sand and crystal clear cerulean waters are enough to please even the pickiest of beach goers.
During the summer, this beach is great for snorkeling, cliff jumping, and exploring the underwater caves. It is common to spot Hawaiian sea turtles and a wide variety of fish native to the Hawaiian waters. There are also cliffs where many people rock climb and slack line.
Whereas winter days at Waimea Bay offer monstrous waves that pound down with enough force to nearly sweep the whole beach away. This beach is home to The Quiksilver surf competition in memory of Eddie Aikau. He is known as one of the best big wave surfers. This competition requires such huge waves that until this past year, the waves haven’t even been big enough to hold this competition for the last seven years.
While finding parking at this beach can be a challenge, it’s a big enough beach that you can still spread out. After a day of hanging out at Waimea, we love to head down to Shark’s Cove and enjoy dinner at the awesome food trucks.
Need more convincing, click here!
This beach is another reason why we absolutely love the North Shore. Sunset Beach is home to many surf and SUP competitions. It is super close to the other beautiful beaches on the North Shore.This beach’s slanted sand is great for watching the different water activities.
When there aren’t any competitions on, this beach also almost always has parking which is something we can’t say for Waimea Bay. During the spring and summer, this beach is great for swimming. This is another one of the beaches that has beautiful clear water and is in a great location to spend the day at, before ending with an awesome food truck meal. Click here to read about how we made enjoying the beaches of the North Shore into a staycation camping weekend.
A ½ mile stretch of beautiful white sand and palm trees look out over the crystal clear waters at Lanikai Beach. Two islands called “Na Mokulua” less than a mile off-shore, create a beautiful paradise atmosphere on what is one of our favorite beaches on Oahu’s east side.
Lanikai Beach, which means “heavenly sea”, is often ranked in the world’s top beaches and even has some interesting snorkeling spots close to shore. The neighborhood behind the beach is an upper-class sector of Oahu, with many homes we all wish we could retire in. Imagine a two minute walk to one of the best beaches in the world in a small island neighborhood. I guess we can all dream. If you look back at the hills, you can also get a clear view of the famous Lanikai Pillbox hike.
Check out our full post on Lanikai Beach park, or if you want to hear more about the Lanikai Pillbox hike, click here!
This beautiful white sand paradise offers the kind of views that beach calendars are made of. Bright aqua waves lap the soft sand shore and the treeline comes right up to the edge of the sand. In addition to the main parking lots there are multiple street entrances to this beach which offer street parking.
This beach is popular for wedding parties and photo sessions as it similar to Lanikai but much more quiet and spacious.
One of the things that makes Waimanalo one of the best beaches on Oahu is the fact that it is gorgeous but not overrun by tourists. Check out our post about how to avoid tourists to see other great alternatives to the ‘popular’ spots on Oahu.
Surrounded by the cliffs with secret caves and clear water, this is one of our favorite beaches on the East side of Oahu. Cockroach Cove located to the right of the Halona Blowhole parking lot is one of the best beaches on Oahu because of how beautiful it is.
While it is right down from the main highway that takes you along the scenic coastline of the East side, it isn’t a super touristy beach.
Enjoy the soft sand while you watch body surfers take on the waves.
Want to read more about adventures on the east side? Click here to see how you can explore the east side of Oahu.
Sandy’s is known as one of the most popular beaches for bodysurfing and bodyboarding because of its barreling waves and consistent close shore break. It is also known as ‘neck-break’ beach due to the harsh waves that crash right on the sand. Lifeguards at this beach are notorious for telling tourists, or anyone who doesn’t look like they know what they’re doing, to stay out of the water.
Despite the fact that it isn’t great for swimming, Sandy’s is still one of our favorite beaches because of its accessibility, scenery, and entertainment. Opposite to the north shore, the summer waves here are big. Sandy’s also offers awesome sunrises most of the year. Want to plan a day trip? The Koko Head Stairs are close by!
Hanauma Bay located next to Sandy’s isn’t just a beach, but actually a nature preserve and is known as one of the islands snorkeling hotspots. Sadly due to overuse and excessive tourism, the area has suffered, but the Hanauma Bay Nature preserve shuts the whole area down every Tuesday to give the marine life a break.
There are over 400 different species of fish and the area is notorious for being a great area to spot sea turtles.
To fund the efforts of the nature preserve, there is $7.50 park entrance fee (however children, locals, and active military can get in free). Each guest is also required to watch a video explaining the do’s and don’ts of enjoying the area. There are also lockers and snorkel gear for rent. It is a well protected cove that is an excellent starting point for those new to snorkeling.
We absolutely love Cromwell’s. It’s close to the Waikiki area, but isn’t overrun by tourists. As soon as you walk onto the soft sand beach you can turn right where the beach goes along the backyards of a neighborhood or you can turn left and walk along the rocky path towards an open water swimming hole. In my book, the swimming hole alone is enough to get this beach qualified as one of the best beaches on Oahu.
The reef covers most of the ocean floor in this area, but there are a few open sandy areas near the immediate left of the entrance where you can wade in. Also, because of it’s close proximity to Diamond Head Beach, there are usually a couple of surfers out in the back. To see more beaches within walking distance of Waikiki, click here!
Electric Beach is on Oahu’s west side. We love it mainly because of the fact that we see sea turtles literally every time we go. While getting out through the initial shore break has proven to be a bit challenging for quite a few of the people we’ve taken here- the snorkeling here is great!
Electric’s got its name because of the electric power plant that it located right next to it. The power plant dumps out warm (but clean) water here which is why it is so popular for the turtles and tropical fish you find here. This area of Oahu’s west side is also a popular spot for dolphins! For more information on snorkeling at Electric beach, click here!
Makua Beach is another west side gem. This beach is great for camping, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, BBQing with friends, and just about any other beach activity. Just make sure you bring enough snacks, water, and everything else you need as there aren’t many stores in the area.
Makua is easily one of the best beaches on Oahu with its soft grainy sand, beautiful bright blue water, and lack of large crowds. Click here to see our full post about all that this awesome beach as to offer!
Click here to see our list of the 10 Best Hikes on Oahu!