Planning a vacation to the capital city of Hawaii? Carve out time to sunbathe on the best beaches in Honolulu. Located on the island of Oahu, Honolulu is known for its stunning beaches, rich culture, and historic museums. For beach vacations, it’s one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.
Perched on the Pacific Ocean, Honolulu is home to smooth sand beaches, amazing views of the mountains and water, and a huge offshore reef perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s a perfect destination for families, couples, and solo travelers. Taking a holiday to Honolulu brings endless opportunities for adrenaline-pumping water sports as well as relaxing activities such as swimming and sunset walks along the sand.
Ready to plan the best Honolulu beach vacation? Find your next tropical oasis at one of these perfect Honolulu beaches.
Top-rated Honolulu beaches
The most popular beach in Honolulu, Waikiki Beach attracts visitors and travelers from all over the world ready to take advantage of its surfing and water sports. Find your way to this world-famous hotspot to enjoy the 2-mile stretch of sand and calm and shallow blue water.
Waikiki is also the best place to stay in Honolulu if you want to be near all the action. Pick a room in one of the high-rise hotels or rent a beach cottage right on the water.
After spending the day splashing in the water, head to the boutique shops or waterfront restaurants to watch the sun go down over the horizon.
Diamond Head Beach Park
Tired of the hustle and bustle of Oahu and Waikiki? Diamond Head Beach Park is just a short drive from the end of Waikiki and Kapiolani Park. And there’s plenty to do here besides just laying in the sand and getting a summer tan.
Strap on your hiking boots and head up the Diamond Head Trail. Climbing to the summit of the Diamond Head Crater, the trail offers stunning views of the volcano crater and South Oahu. You can also check out the Diamond Lighthouse for breathtaking views of the water.
After your hike, cool down on the soft sands. Swimming and surfing are the most popular activities at Diamond Head Beach Park as the gentle and warm waves lap your toes.
Ala Moana Beach Park
Looking for a true city beach park and a sandy place to lay and relax? Ala Moana Beach Park is a magnificent place to spend a day in Honolulu with the family. It’s one of the city’s top-rated beaches for kids thanks to its shallow swimming water.
The acres of shady trees and picnic tables make Ala Moana Beach Park an ideal spot to bring the kids. Let them run around on the playgrounds before taking them to one of the three concession stands to grab an ice cream. Magic Island Beach is the most popular part of the park, with its tall palm trees and warm water.
Before heading back to your hotel for the evening, spend an hour or two in the Ala Moana Center for beach gear or souvenir shopping. There are also a few restaurants and dessert shops nearby.
Waialae Beach Park
Just three miles from Waikiki, you’ll find Waialae Beach Park. The simple and beautiful family-friendly park teems with amenities, including picnic tables, outdoor showers, and beautiful waters. It’s not an excellent swimming beach though because of the shallow reef offshore.
Waialae Beach is more popular among windsurfers, picnickers, and surfers. Make sure you show up early; the parking lot is small and fills up quickly on the weekends.
You can also head to the east end of the beach to visit a man-made island. Home to Kahala Hotel and Resort, the island also has one of the area’s top surf sites, Razers.
Lanikai Beach is known as one of the most famous beaches in Oahu—and, indeed, in the entire world! And it’s no wonder why: With its pure white sand and turquoise blue water, it’s a gem. Lanikai has several public beach access points inviting you right into the calm waters. You’ll also get gorgeous views of the nearby mountains.
Located in a residential area, Lanikai Beach is full of locals and tourists to keep you company as you surf the calm waves or relax in your beach chair. The beach is also pet- and kid-friendly.
Throw your water shoes into the back of the car before heading out as parts of the beach can be rocky and sharp in some places.
Sandy Beach Park
If you’re near the Halona Blowhole, make sure to carve out time in your schedule to see the soft golden sand at Sandy Beach Park. The small stretch of sand is completely isolated making it a wonderful spot for surfing or spending a day in the sand with the kids. The strong waves at Sandy Beach are perfect for advanced surfers or those wanting to try their luck in the tough water.
The fine sand on this popular Honolulu area beach gets everywhere. Make sure to take advantage of the outdoor showers before climbing in your car or on the bus back home.
Just 10 minutes from Waikiki lies Kahala Beach. The large grassy areas and tall coconut trees make this stretch the perfect spot for relaxing with the family or having a quiet picnic. Kahala is much less crowded than Waikiki, giving you the seclusion and privacy you need for a fun beach vacation.
If you make it to Kahala Beach during your holiday in Honolulu, make sure to stay for the sunset. The colors, streaking across the sky over the turquoise water, make it one of the number one sunset spots in Honolulu.
At Kahala, there are also beautiful flower pathways perfect for family photos. Stop into the nearby restaurant or hotel if you get hungry.
Located at the base of Diamond Head, Makalei Beach is small and narrow, perfect for taking a shallow dip in the water on a hot day. The man-made rocky reef barrier makes it hard to have a true swim though. There isn’t much to do at Makalei, but you’ll love suntanning or laying out with a good book on this small stretch of beach.
Walk along the stone seawall for magnificent views of the luxury beach homes or have a quiet lunch at the benches or picnic tables. There are a few surfing spots offshore, too, if you have your board and want to ride along the waves. RiceBowls and Graveyards are the most common spots for surfing.
Halona Beach Cove
Also known as Eternity Beach, Halona Beach Cove will instantly be recognizable as it’s a popular filming spot for movies including From Here to Eternity and Pirates of Caribbean. The beach is a bit hard to get to since it’s secluded and unmarked. The extra effort to get here is worth it though.
Halona Beach Cove itself is located above the beach. You can follow the hiking trail to get better views of the cove and explore its interior.
The beach can be pretty rocky and there are no lifeguards on duty. Throw some sturdy shoes in your beach bag and make sure to keep an eye on wandering kids.
Kailua Beach Park
Rated as the second most beautiful beach in Oahu, Kailua Beach Park is breathtaking. Located next to Lanikai Beach, the park sits on the east shoreline of Oahu, otherwise known as the Windward Coast. With its turquoise water and white powder sand, it’s, by far, the area’s best beach for photo opportunities and one of the coolest Oahu tourist attractions.
Pack all your beach necessities and relax in the sand. Or get some exercise by walking along the 2.5-mile stretch of soft sand.
Kailua Beach Park always has excellent swimming conditions with gentle waves and calmer, glass-like waters. You can also bring along your gear for recreational activities including kayaking, surfing, or paddleboarding.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Formed within a volcano cone, Hanauma Bay Nature Wildlife Preserve is a marine life conservation area and an underwater park. Spend the day at the marine education center learning about how Honolulu protects its marine life and the type of fish that live in the bay.
Snorkeling is the top activity at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve with easy-to-swim spots for the kids. Despite the shallow, crystal-clear waters, touching the marine life and walking on the coral is not permitted. You can also take a few hours to swim, tan in the sun, or build sandcastles with the kids.
Kahanamoku Beach is the final two miles of Waikiki Beach to the west. Although named after famous Hawaiian surfer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, the beach is not a popular spot for surfers. It offers excellent swimming opportunities though, including in the ocean or in the 5-acre Kahanamoku Beach Lagoon.
The widest section of Waikiki, Kahanamoku has plenty of space for walking, jogging, or just laying in the sun. It’s also a popular sunset spot in the evenings.
Make sure to stop by the nearby Hilton Pier if doing an Atlantic Submarine tour is on your to-do list while in Honolulu.
Kuhio Beach Park
Known by locals as Kuhio Ponds, Kuhio Beach Park is divided by two huge concrete walls built over 40 years ago. The walls make Kuhio a fantastic beach for families, creating a safe enclosure of calmer waters for small children to swim in. You can also walk along the top of the wall for beautiful views of the water below.
Along with calmer swimming, you can also snorkel or bodyboard here. Make sure to grab some snacks at the food concession station before heading down to the water.
If you feel like exploring another beach on the same day, Kuhio Beach Park interconnects to Waikiki Beach and Duke’s Beach.
Pu’uloa Beach Park
For a calm beach on the outskirts of Honolulu, take a drive to Pu’uloa Beach Park in Ewa, offering excellent views of Diamond Head in the distance.
Other than relaxing in the sand, there isn’t much to do at Pu’uloa. The waves can get pretty rough here, too. You’ll want to stay away from the rocky shoreline where the coral is located. Many visitors still swim, but it’s not the best place to bring small children for a swim around Honolulu.
Pu’uloa Beach Park has one of the largest stretches of clean white sand in Oahu. It’s an easy place to get some exercise in if you want to go jogging or bike riding.
After spending time at the beach, hit up the basketball courts or gazebo for an evening barbecue.
Ehukai Beach Park
Visiting Ehukai Beach Park should be at the top of your list if you’re in Honolulu during the spring or summer. The swimming conditions are perfect with a large sandbar for some of the best surfing in Oahu. (The waves during the winter months are too dangerous and powerful for amateur surfers though.)
The small parking area at Ehukai Beach Park has cold water showers and a few picnic tables. Make sure to check with the lifeguard before plunging into the water as there might be some stinging seaweed around!
Overall, Ehukai Beach is a fantastic option; just try to avoid visiting in periods of windy weather if you’re planning to swim.
To visit one of the oldest and largest parks in Hawaii, head to Kapiolani Park. The popular Honolulu park has a rich history, dating back to the early 1800s. Along with 200 acres of stunning green spaces, Kapiolani Park is also home to the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium, two of the top attractions to visit in Honolulu.
If you’ve put on a little holiday weight since being in Hawaii, Kapiolani Park has plenty of trails for hiking, jogging, or casual strolling. The park also sits next to Kalakaua Avenue where you’ll find some of the tastiest eateries in Oahu. Grab takeout lunch at one of the restaurants and enjoy it at the park.
For an adventurous swimming experience on your Oahu travel itinerary, head to the energetic Kaimana Beach. The compact beach sits just south of Waikiki, with blue ocean waters setting the scene.
Surfing is the top activity at Kaimana. You’ll also find it a decent swimming spot if you’re comfortable in water that’s a little rougher than other Honolulu beaches.
No worries if you don’t feel like braving the water. The soft sand is a safe haven to eat your beach snacks and work on your summer tan. Although it’s less popular than Waikiki Beach, make sure to get here early to avoid fighting the crowds for a parking spot.