Top 5 Beaches on O'ahu


With so many beaches on the island of O’ahu, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Depending on whether you are on the windward or leeward side of the island, the beaches can vary quite dramatically. These are my rankings for the top 5 beaches on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii!

5. Waikiki

I know what you’re thinking- really? Waikiki? The most overpopulated, over-touristed, cliche beach in all of Hawaii? Yes, really! I was so pleasantly surprised by Waikiki, because I expected it to be all the terrible things I had heard. But, there is a reason why the beach is lined with high end hotels- it’s simply worth it. The sand is soft, golden brown, and the water is crystal clear. There are many long sandbars that go out into the ocean, so you can be pretty far from shore and still only waist-deep.

It’s also very convenient to have shops and restaurants just across the street. You don’t have to get back into your car or walk farther than a few minutes to get anything you want to eat, drink, or do!

The best part in my opinion, is that there is no shame in acting like a tourist. Almost everyone at Waikiki is there on vacation and wants to enjoy themselves, so there is no shame in busting out your waterproof phone case and snapping a hundred pictures of you with the sunset. Waikiki is designed for tourists and often have free entertainment lining Kalakaua Avenue that showcase the history and culture of Hawaii. We were able to catch a band with kids hula dancing one night at sundown!

4. Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach is on the North Shore of O’ahu and has exactly what you would expect- turtles! They frequently climb up on shore to bask in the sun. Once they emerge and find their place on the sand, lifeguards will come out and rope off about 10 feet in each direction around them. Hawaiian Sea Turtles (or “Honu” in Hawaiian) are a protected species and you are absolutely not allowed to touch or bother them. It’s still a spectacular experience to see them on shore and to watch them swim in the water.

The beach and water itself is pretty rocky, so bring a pair of water shoes to protect your feet if you want to get in the water!

3. Sunset Beach

Another beach that is straight forward with the name- you’ll find some of the best sunsets on O’ahu right here. The shades of blue, purple, and pink put on quite a show! It was a #NoFilter moment for sure. The beach is near the Banzai Pipeline, so you can do some serious wave and surfer watching from here. Surf season runs during the winter months, but when I visited in late October we saw some pretty big swells. It is hard to imagine how large they can actually get!

There is also an iconic palm tree that grows sideways out of the hill behind the beach, and then curves up to the sky. This is the first time I had seen a tree like this on any island of Hawaii! You are not allowed to climb or sit on it, but the photo ops from the ground are just as spectacular.

2. Lanikai Beach

Hands down, one of the best beaches in all of Hawaii. Seen here from the top of the Lanikai Pill Box Hike, the water below is crystal clear and a shade of blue I have never seen before in my life. The iconic Nā Mokulua islets jet out of the water and you can watch a ton of birds nesting and flying around them. You can even take kayak or boat tours out to them for a private beach experience!

Parking can be difficult near Lanikai Beach, as there is no public lot. I would recommend turning off from Mokulua Road and find a spot to park on one of the side streets. There are many public access paths that lead from the street to the beach. You may feel like you’re trespassing in people’s yards, but they are, like all the beaches in the state of Hawaii, public property and you are allowed to walk through them. I’d recommend dropping a pin on Google Maps when you find the public access path closest to your car. There are so many of them and they all look alike!

1. Waimanalo Beach

Neighboring Lanikai Beach on the windward side of O’ahu is Waimanalo Beach. Every good thing about Lanikai Beach can also be found here, but there is so much more. You’ll also find less crowds, easier parking, and views of the Ko’olau Mountain Range that you can’t get from Lanikai.

We had an absolute blast riding the gentle waves up and down, followed by an afternoon snooze on the beach. There were so few people that we never felt bothered, annoyed, or like anyone would touch our things or get in our space.

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Written by meganywhere
Hi, I'm Megan! I got bit by the travel bug when I was in my sophomore year of college and was taking a music class about The Beatles. We learned all about Liverpool, London, and England- and I was obsessed. I didn't take my first trip abroad until 2016, where I traveled to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, London, and Iceland- it was quite the trip! Ever since then, I've been hooked. I've been addicted to seeing everything this world has to offer, how people around the world live, immersing myself in different cultures- all while stretching my dollar as far as I can. Most of my travels are solo, and weekend or long-weekend trips. I live in ... Read more

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