Discovering the Top 10 Best Beaches in Oahu, Hawaii

by | Dec 22, 2023

Looking for the perfect beach getaway in Oahu? As one of Hawaii’s most picturesque islands, Oahu boasts hundreds of beaches that are definitely worth a visit.

In this blog post, I’ll guide you through the top 10 must-visit beaches on the island – from calming turquoise spots to vast stretches of white sand with world-famous surf breaks.

Stay tuned with this Hawaii travel guide to find your dream Hawaiian vacation spot!

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This best beaches in Oahu post is written by Bryan Murphy, an expert in Hawaii travel and a top-rated podcast host. The post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this site if you use the provided links.

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Overview of Oahu Beaches

Oahu, the third largest of the Hawaiian islands, is famous for its impeccable beaches. With over 20 developed stretches of sand and surf, including the mesmerizing Waimanalo Beach Park, there’s a shoreline spot for every type of beachgoer on this stunning island.

In fact, Waikiki Beach is not only iconic in Hawaii, as per our guide to the best beaches, but it’s known as one of the most famous beaches globally.

It draws millions yearly due to its accessibility from Honolulu, sandy leisure areas for sunbathing and an outstanding lineup of restaurants and nightlife close by, making it a definite stop in your Hawaii vacation.

Moving around Oahu, including the unique side of the island like Hawaii Kai, gets even better with myriad unique experiences at each beach destination.

Lanikai Beach stands as Oahu’s number one beach; Kailua Beach Park ranks among its most beautiful while family-friendly fun awaits at Waimanalo Beach.

Experienced and professional surfers can ride world-class waves at Sunset Beach on the North Shore while snorkelers find underwater paradise at Hanauma Bay in east Windward Oahu region.

Whether you’re up for wind surfing, kayaking or paddling; gearing up for short hikes or planning picnicking days with loved ones – betting on Oahu will yield a memorable vacation marked by endless ocean blues and golden sands.

Key Takeaways of the Best Beaches in Oahu

  • Waikiki Beach is one of the top must-visit beaches in Oahu, known for its scenic beauty and clear waters.
  • Lanikai Beach, on the other side of the island, offers pristine white sand, stunning vistas, and a perfect location for sunbathing and picnicking.
  • Kailua Beach Park is considered as one of America’s top beaches with its pristine white sand, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and various outdoor sports and recreation activities.

Top 10 Must-Visit Beaches in Oahu

The top 10 must-visit beaches in Oahu include iconic spots like Waikiki Beach, Lanikai Beach, and Sunset Beach Park.

1. Waikiki Beach (South Shore)

best beaches in oahu - waikiki beach

Waikiki Beach ranks high among Oahu’s top destinations. It is popular among travelers, boasting over 18,765 reviews on TripAdvisor. This beach represents the epitome of Hawaii tourism due to its scenic beauty and clear waters.

Covering two miles along the Pacific oceanfront, it sets a vibrant atmosphere with numerous entertainment options. Restaurants and shops line the streets providing an assortment of dining choices for visitors.

Whether you fancy surfing, kayaking, or just lounging in the sun; Waikiki Beach offers a classic Hawaiian experience for all.

2. Lanikai Beach (Windward Coast)

best beaches in oahu - Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach boasts of fine white sand and stunning vistas, making it a top beach on Oahu. This white sandy beach should be on your bucket list for sure!

Offshore, you can spot two picturesque islands that add to the breathtaking landscape. As an ideal location for sunbathing and picnicking, this pristine beach is popular with both locals and tourists alike.

Watersports enthusiasts will enjoy kayaking, paddling or just dipping in its turquoise waters. The area around Lanikai Beach isn’t just about basking under the Hawaiian sun; nearby are short hikes that offer panoramic views of Oahu’s windward coast.

Simply put, a trip to Lanikai Beach brings together all the elements for a quintessential Hawaiian beach experience.

3. Kailua Beach Park (Windward Coast)

best beaches in oahu - Kailua Beach Park

Kailua Beach Park is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu, and it’s no wonder why. This beach is regarded as one of America’s top beaches with its pristine white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters.

Located near Lanikai Beach, another highly ranked beach in Oahu, Kailua offers a quieter and more tranquil experience compared to popular beaches like Waikiki.

Visitors can enjoy various outdoor sports and recreation opportunities here, such as snorkeling, sunbathing, wind surfing, kayaking, paddling, and even short hikes along the coastline.

With its natural beauty and less crowded atmosphere, Kailua Beach Park is a must-visit destination for those seeking a picturesque Hawaiian beach experience.

4. Waimanalo Beach Park (Windward Coast)

best beaches in oahu - Waimanalo Beach Park 1

Waimanalo Beach is a must-visit beach in Oahu, known for its powder-soft sand, beautiful turquoise waters, and enjoyable waves. This white sand beach is favored by both locals and visitors alike, making it a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and picnicking.

With positive feedback from beachgoers and 744 traveler reviews, Waimanalo Beach is sure to provide an unforgettable experience. However, visitors should exercise caution as there may be Man-of-War jellyfish present in the water.

5. Sunset Beach Park (North Shore)

best beaches in oahu - sunset beach

Sunset Beach (Oahu). (2023, November 30). In Wikipedia.

Sunset Beach Park is a must-visit beach located on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s also one of the best places to watch the sunset in Oahu. This beach is famous for its world-class waves, attracting experienced surfers from around the globe.

However, during the calmer summer months, Sunset Beach Park becomes a great spot for swimming and snorkeling.

The park offers convenient amenities such as restrooms, showers, and picnic tables for visitors to enjoy. Surrounded by lush greenery and breathtaking coastal views, Sunset Beach Park showcases the natural beauty that Oahu has to offer.

6. Ala Moana Beach Park (South Shore)

best beaches in oahu - Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park, is conveniently located between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. This beach offers a half-mile strip of white sand where visitors can enjoy activities like swimming, sunbathing, and fishing.

With picnic tables and grassy areas available, it’s a perfect spot for a relaxing day outdoors. The beach is known for its great views, palm trees, and clear water that’s ideal for swimming and other water activities.

7. Laniakea Beach (North Shore)

best beaches in oahu - Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach, located on the North Shore of Oahu near the town of Haleiwa, is a must-visit beach for its stunning beauty and abundance of wildlife. With golden sand and crystal-clear blue waters, it’s an ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing.

But what sets Laniakea Beach apart is its popularity among surfers and paddleboarders who flock here to catch the perfect wave. Wildlife enthusiasts also love this beach because it’s known for frequent sea turtle sightings.

So whether you’re looking to soak up the sun or admire marine life, Laniakea Beach has something for everyone.

8. Shark’s Cove (North Shore)

best beaches in oahu - Sharks Cove

Shark’s Cove is a must-visit beach in Oahu, known for its vibrant marine life and incredible snorkeling opportunities. Located on the North Shore of Oahu, this beach offers clear turquoise waters that provide excellent visibility for snorkelers and swimmers.

In addition to its stunning underwater ecosystem, Shark’s Cove also features beautiful tide pools to explore. Some of the best snorkeling can be found here during the summer months.

With its unique combination of marine biodiversity and natural beauty, Shark’s Cove is a popular destination for those seeking an unforgettable beach experience in Oahu.

Also, while here, be sure to check out the Sunrise Shack!

9. Banzai Pipeline (North Shore)

best beaches in oahu - Banzai Pipeline

Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach is renowned as one of the top beaches in Oahu and is considered one of the world’s best and most challenging surfing spots.

Its powerful surf conditions make it unsuitable for swimming, but this doesn’t deter professional surfers from flocking to its shores during the winter months.

With its impressive waves, Banzai Pipeline attracts thrill-seekers from all over the globe who come to test their skills on these legendary swells.

As part of the must-visit beaches in Oahu, Banzai Pipeline offers an exhilarating experience for both spectators and surfers alike.

10. Makapu’u Beach Park (Windward Coast)

best beaches in oahu - Makapu'u Beach Park

Makapu’u Beach Park is a must-visit beach in Oahu, offering breathtaking views of the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse and surrounding cliffs. This beach park is a popular destination for surfing, paddleboarding, swimming, and snorkeling.

It’s also family-friendly, with lifeguards on duty and picnic areas available for a relaxing day by the shore. Situated on the southeast coast of Oahu, Makapu’u Beach Park is known for its stunning sunrises that are definitely worth waking up early to witness.

Recommended Nearby Oahu Activities

Are There Any Coffee and Cafe Options Near the Top Beaches in Oahu, Hawaii?

Yes, there are top cafes on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Visitors to the top beaches in the area can find a variety of coffee and cafe options. Whether you’re looking for a quick caffeine fix or a leisurely beachfront breakfast, there are plenty of great options to choose from.

Unique Features of Oahu Beaches

Oahu beaches offer unique features such as excellent snorkeling spots, stunning sunset views, family-friendly environments, and world-class surfing hotspots.

Snorkeling Spots

The beaches in Oahu offer some incredible snorkeling spots, allowing you to explore the vibrant underwater world of Hawaii. Hanauma Bay is a popular choice, known for its crystal-clear waters and an abundance of colorful fish.

Another great option is Kualoa Beach Park, where you can kayak out to a sea turtle colony and snorkel alongside these majestic creatures while keeping a distance.

For those who prefer less crowded spots, Baby Makapu’u is worth checking out with its tide pools perfect for snorkeling.

Don’t forget to bring your own snorkel gear so you can fully immerse yourself in these amazing snorkeling experiences while saving money on rentals!

Sunset Views

Lanikai Beach is renowned for its stunning views of the sunset. As you relax on the soft, powdery sand, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking display of colors painting the sky as the sun dips below the horizon.

The tranquil atmosphere and crystal-clear waters only add to the beauty of this magical moment. Similarly, Waikiki Beach offers an equally mesmerizing experience with its two-mile stretch of white sandy coast.

As the sun sets over Diamond Head, you can take in the panoramic views while enjoying a leisurely stroll along the shoreline. If you’re looking for a more adventurous setting, head to Sunset Beach on Oahu’s North Shore.

Not only will you witness picturesque sunset views here, but it’s also a popular spot for surfers riding some of Hawaii’s most famous waves.

Lastly, make sure to visit Waimea Bay Beach Park where you can relax in awe as vibrant hues paint across both sky and sea during sunset hours.

Family-Friendly Beaches

Waimanalo Beach is perfect for families looking for a calm and safe place to enjoy the ocean. Its mild waves make it ideal for young children to swim in, while parents can relax on the soft sandy shores.

Kahana Bay Beach Park is another excellent choice, providing plenty of shade and picnic tables where families can enjoy packed lunches together.

For those interested in camping and fishing, Malaekahana Beach offers ample opportunities for both locals and visitors alike.

Lastly, Ala Moana Beach Park provides a range of activities suitable for all ages, including swimming, sunbathing, and even fishing if you’re up for it. So pack your beach towels and sunscreen because these family-friendly beaches are waiting to be explored!

Surfing Hotspots

The beaches of Oahu are known for their incredible surfing hotspots. One such hotspot is the legendary Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach. This world-famous spot offers some of the most challenging waves, attracting skilled surfers from around the globe.

Another must-visit surfing destination is Sunset Beach on the North Shore. With its powerful and consistent waves, it has earned a reputation as one of the best surf spots in the world.

Lastly, Waimea Bay Beach Park is famous for its massive winter swells, drawing thrill-seeking surfers who want to tackle big-wave riding. Surfing enthusiasts will find plenty of excitement and adventure at these Oahu hotspots!

Tips for Visiting Oahu Beaches

Pack sunscreen, beach towels, and a hat for sun protection. Check the weather forecast before going and plan your visit during less crowded times to fully enjoy the beauty of Oahu’s beaches.

Stay safe by following lifeguard instructions and be mindful of currents. Ready for an unforgettable beach adventure? Read on!

What to Pack

Pack your beach bag with essentials to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable day at the Oahu beaches. Remember to bring sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the strong Hawaiian sun.

Don’t forget to pack a lightweight beach towel or travel towel for drying off after taking a dip in the crystal-clear waters.

Additionally, it’s recommended to have a waterproof bag like Logan & Lenora bags that not only keep your belongings safe but also come with built-in organization features.

Lastly, consider bringing snacks and water to stay hydrated throughout the day. With these items in your beach bag, you’ll be fully prepared for an amazing time exploring the stunning beaches of Oahu.

When heading out for a day at the Oahu beaches, it is important to pack essential items that will make your experience more enjoyable and convenient.

Make sure you have all-day sun protection by packing sunscreen with a high SPF, as well as sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

To dry off after swimming or snorkeling, pack a lightweight beach towel or consider using compact travel towels which are easy-to-carry alternatives.

Stay organized by using waterproof bags like Logan & Lenora bags that come with built-in compartments for easy access to your essentials while keeping them protected from sand and water.

Safety Precautions

Beach safety is of utmost importance when visiting Oahu’s stunning shores. It’s crucial to stay informed about ocean conditions and surf forecasts before heading out for a swim or any water activity.

Always check for warnings or advisories issued by local authorities, as these can help you make informed decisions about beach safety. Additionally, it’s important to swim within your abilities and never venture into the water alone.

Remember to keep an eye on the ocean at all times and avoid turning your back to the waves. Lastly, be cautious of jellyfish stings if you’re planning a visit to Bellows Field Beach Park.

Additional Oahu Beaches Worth Exploring

Other Oahu beaches worth exploring include Kualoa Regional Park, Bellows Field Beach Park, Turtle Bay Beach, Sandy Beach Park, and Kuhio Beach.

best beaches in oahu - other beaches

Kualoa Regional Park

Kualoa Regional Park, nestled amidst the breathtaking views of Chinaman’s Hat and the majestic Ko’olau mountain range, offers visitors a serene beach experience away from the crowds.

This hidden gem boasts calm waters, ideal for kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. For those looking to explore underwater wonders, snorkeling is a popular activity here.

Another unique feature of Kualoa Regional Park is the opportunity to paddle out to a sea turtle colony and witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

With its picturesque setting and tranquil atmosphere, this park provides an escape into nature’s beauty while enjoying fun water activities – truly a must-visit destination in Oahu.

Ko Olina Beach

best beaches in oahu - Ko Olina Beach

Ko Olina, located on the western coast of O’ahu, is known for its four man-made lagoons, which offer secluded and wave-free beach access with calm waters, making them ideal for families and unprofessional swimmers.

However, always be aware of your surroundings and don’t turn your back to the ocean…ever.

The lagoons are lined with ultra-calm waters and strategically placed rock formations that minimize wave activity, creating a relaxing environment. Each lagoon has its own unique experience, and there is something for people of all ages and experiences. Lagoon 4 is our favorite!

The lagoons are popular for activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. Additionally, the area surrounding the lagoons is developed with shops and restaurants, making it a convenient and enjoyable destination for beachgoers.

Bellows Field Beach Park

Bellows Field Beach Park is a popular beach located on the east side of Oahu. With its offshore reef, it’s a great spot for bodysurfing and bodyboarding enthusiasts. However, visitors should be cautious of potential jellyfish stings while enjoying the water.

The park also offers camping facilities, making it an ideal destination for weekend getaways or national holidays. Plus, there’s plenty of parking available to accommodate visitors.

Turtle Bay Beach

Turtle Bay Beach on the North Shore of Oahu is a must-visit for beach lovers. With its stunning beauty and crystal-clear turquoise water, it offers the perfect setting for a day in paradise.

The calm waters and sandy bottom make it safe for families with children to enjoy swimming and snorkeling. This picturesque beach is surrounded by palm trees, creating a serene atmosphere that will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Whether you want to soak up the sun, catch some waves while surfing, or try your hand at paddleboarding, Turtle Bay Beach has something for everyone to enjoy.

Sandy Beach Park

Sandy Beach Park is a popular destination in Oahu known for its impressive waves, making it a favorite spot for boogie boarding. However, due to the strong currents and powerful waves, novice swimmers are advised to exercise caution. Just relax and stay on the beach.

There’s a reason why it’s known as ‘break-neck’ beach.

Sandy Beach Park also offers breathtaking coastal views that are perfect for beachcombing and beach picnics. So whether you’re an adventure seeker or simply looking for a serene spot to relax by the sea, Sandy Beach Park has something for everyone.

Kuhio Beach

Kuhio Beach is one of the additional beaches in Oahu that is worth exploring. While it may not be ranked as one of the best beaches on the island, it still has its own charm and offers a unique experience for visitors.

Located in Waikiki, Kuhio Beach is known for its bustling atmosphere and vibrant energy. It’s a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing, with lifeguards on duty to ensure safety.

However, keep in mind that Kuhio Beach does not have fine white sand or calm waters like some of the other renowned beaches in Oahu.

Despite this, Kuhio Beach remains a favorite among locals and tourists alike due to its convenient location near hotels, shops, and restaurants.

So if you’re looking to soak up the lively ambiance of Waikiki while enjoying some beach time, Kuhio Beach is worth checking out during your visit to Oahu.

best beaches in oahu - waikiki beach with people

Credit: Bryan Murphy from Hawaii’s Best Travel

FAQs Oahu’s Best Beaches

1. What are the top 10 best beaches on Oahu, Hawaii?

The top 10 best beaches on Oahu, Hawaii include Waikiki Beach, Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, Waimea Bay Beach Park, Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline, Sharks Cove, Waimanalo Beach Park, Ala Moana Beach Park, and Hanauma Bay Beach Park.

2. What is the best beach on Oahu for swimming and sunbathing?

Waikiki Beach is considered one of the best beaches on Oahu for swimming and sunbathing. Its calm waters and wide stretch of white sand make it perfect for these activities.

3. Where can I find the best waves for surfing on Oahu?

The North Shore of Oahu is renowned for its big wave surfing, especially during the winter months for EXPERIENCE and PROFESSIONAL surfers. Beaches like Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline are popular among surfers looking for the best waves. Waikiki is a great spot to learn how to surf with some great waves.

4. Which beaches on Oahu are known for encountering green sea turtles?

Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, and Haleiwa Beach are the most popular spots on Oahu where visitors can encounter green sea turtles basking on the shore.

5. Are there any secluded beaches on Oahu?

Yes, Oahu has several secluded beaches that offer a peaceful escape from the crowds, such as Waimanalo Beach Park on the island’s windward side and Yokohama Bay on the leeward coast.

6. What is the best beach for experiencing a shore break on Oahu?

Sandy Beach on Oahu’s southeastern shore is known for its powerful shore break, making it a favorite spot for experienced body surfing enthusiasts.

7. What are some of the best beaches in the world for snorkeling?

Hanauma Bay Beach Park on Oahu is considered one of the best beaches in the world for snorkeling, thanks to its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life.

8. How many beaches are there on Oahu?

Oahu is home to 125 beaches, ranging from popular and well-known stretches of sand to hidden coves waiting to be discovered.

9. What is the best way to explore the beaches of Oahu?

Renting a car and driving along the coastal highways is one of the best ways to explore the diverse beaches of Oahu. Each section of the island offers its own unique and beautiful beach experiences.

10. What are some must-visit beaches during a trip to Oahu?

Some must-visit beaches during a trip to Oahu include Waikiki Beach for its iconic status, Lanikai Beach for its powdery white sand, and the North Shore beaches for their big waves and breathtaking scenery.

Best Beaches on Oahu Wrap-Up

Oahu is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world. From the famous Waikiki Beach to the serene Lanikai Beach, there is something for every beach lover on this Hawaiian island.

Whether you’re looking to surf massive waves or simply relax on pristine white sands, Oahu’s beaches offer endless possibilities for a memorable vacation. So grab your sunscreen and get ready to explore these stunning coastal gems!

Bryan Murphy
Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.