There are so many beautiful beaches on the island of Oahu but if we had to pick just ten this would be the list. From snorkeling to sunsets to small adventures, these are the ten best beaches on the Oahu, Hawaii.
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BEST BEACHES ON OAHU
To make it onto this list, the beach needs to have something more than just palm trees and clear water. It needs to stand out from the rest. Every beach on this list offers something special, which is why I think it deserves to be rated as one of the best beaches on Oahu, Hawaii.
WAIMEA BAY BEACH
Waimea Bay, found on Oahu’s North Shore between Haleiwa and Pupukea, is one of my all-time favorite beaches on Oahu. The clean grainy sand and crystal clear cerulean waters are enough to please even the pickiest of beachgoers.
During the summer, this beach is great for snorkeling, cliff jumping, and exploring the underwater caves. It is common to spot Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and a wide variety of fish native to Hawaiian waters. There are also cliffs where many people rock climb and slackline.
The 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.
Read my full blog post about Waimea Bay.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
Sunset Beach is another reason why I absolutely love the North Shore. It’s home to many surf and SUP competitions and is really close to the other beautiful beaches on the North Shore. This beach’s slanted sand is great for watching the different water activities. There’s also a famous bent palm tree here that became an iconic photo spot.
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, before ending with an awesome food truck meal. This one made it easily onto my list of the best beaches on Oahu!
Lanikai Beach Park on Oahu is a half-mile stretch of beautiful sand and palm trees, which looks out over the crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Two islands called “Na Mokulua” are situated less than a mile off-shore create a beautiful paradise atmosphere on what is one of my favorite beaches on Oahu.
Lanikai Beach, which means “heavenly sea”, is often ranked in the world’s top beaches and even has some nice snorkeling spots close to shore. The neighborhood behind the beach is an upper-class sector of Oahu, with too many homes we all wish we could retire in.
Lanikai Beach is an excellent spot for swimming. The sandy beach has few rocks, corals, or lava tubes to watch out for. It’s very easy to enter and exit the water and often the wave conditions are minimal. However, it isn’t the most exciting place for snorkeling. It is quite clear and you may be lucky enough to bump into a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. However, aside from fish, there aren’t many interesting corals to explore compared to other sites on the island.
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 that offer street parking.
This beach is popular for wedding parties and photo sessions as it is similar to Lanikai but much more quiet and spacious. It actually won the award for best beaches in America one year so it’s hard to leave off my list of the top beaches on Oahu.
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.
What are my favorite pieces of gear for the beach?
There are three pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a beach adventure. These are three items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my beach essentials.
- Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a must for travelers. It hardly takes up any room and dries in seconds.
- Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack: The beach can be a great place to ruin your precious gear so having this ultralight dry sack for cameras, phones and valuables mean you have a safe place to store everything.
- GoPro Hero 12: The best and easiest way to capture your underwater and snorkeling adventures.
Surrounded by 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 Eastside, it isn’t a super touristy spot but one of my favorite beaches on Oahu.
Sandy’s is known as one of the best beaches on Oahu 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. In contrast to the North Shore beaches, 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.
The perfect way to cool off after your ridge hike is to head down for a snorkel. These days, you do need to book in advance or join a tour such as this one, Hanauma Bay Snorkel Tour.
Hanauma Bay is the most popular spot for tourists to spot a turtle or explore the underwater world of the Pacific Ocean. The coral here is amazing and it is a protected bay so it is perfect for a half-day snorkel adventure. If you are lucky you will even spot a turtle but you can be guaranteed to find hundreds of amazing fish and marine species. It is about a 30-minute drive from Waikiki.
I absolutely love Cromwell’s and think this is one of the best beaches on Oahu near to Waikiki. 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 its close proximity to Diamond Head Beach, there are usually a couple of surfers out in the back.
Electric Beach or “Electrics” is a 40-minute is one of the best snorkeling beaches on Oahu The official name of Electrics is Kahe Point Beach Park but locals know this spot by its nickname first. It is called Electric Beach because there is a power plant beside this narrow enclave.
The warm water from the power plant attracts an abundance of sea life, making it one of the best places to snorkel on Oahu. It doesn’t have postcard palms or a mile-long stretch of sand, but you don’t come here for landscapes. The real action is under the water.
BEST TOUR FOR SNORKELING WITH TURTLES AND DOLPHINS NEAR ELECTRIC BEACH
Tour: Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Half-Day Cruise (Best Seller)
Set sail along the turquoise waters of Hawaii’s coast heading towards Ko Olina coast. Keep your eyes peeled for the playful Spinner Dolphins who live in these waters. During the snorkeling session, jump in for a snorkel adventure of a lifetime
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Makua Beach is one of the most spectacular beaches on Oahu with amazing snorkeling, turtles, dolphins, and often big waves! It’s one of the best sunset beaches on the island and one of the most relaxing spots to get away from civilization.
On the far west side of Oahu, Makua Beach lies at the foot of majestic mountains, hiding behind a wall of trees. Crystal clear waters wash upon a long stretch of beach with a backdrop of Makua Valley and cliffs that seem to encapsulate the secluded beach.
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU
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