Thinking about a beach vacation in Hawaii? Don’t miss out on finding paradise at the best beaches on Oahu. The most popular of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu is drenched with amazing beaches. For a seaside vacation, there’s no doubt that Oahu is one of the top destinations in the United States.
On the island of Oahu, you can swim in crystal clear waters backed by the stunning mountain ranges and prehistoric volcanic craters. In the winter, the Banzai Pipeline awakens, creating some of the best big wave surfing in the world. Somewhere in between, you’ll find your perfect beach day.
Ready to plan the perfect Oahu beach vacation? Find your perfect patch of sand on one of these favorite Oahu beaches.
Top-rated Oahu beaches
One of the prettiest beaches on Oahu, if not the entire Hawaiian Islands, is Lanikai Beach. The soft sand and turquoise water at Lanikai are replicated but never duplicated. The soaring green palms coat the shoreline, creating a beautiful beach scene straight out of your wildest dreams.
A quintessential paradise, Lanikai Beach is the perfect place to laze down on the beach towel and bask in glorious sunlight. The soft crashing of the waves is as soothing as a lullaby, with the bigger swell meeting its end on the offshore reef. Being a safe spot to swim, Lanikai is also a popular beach for families.
Located on the windward side of Oahu, it’s a bit of a journey from Honolulu. This leads to it being a lot quieter than Waikiki, allowing you to fully appreciate what makes Lanikai so magical.
With a sprawling city backdrop, Waikiki Beach delivers that paradise feeling while remaining close to all the action. If you’re staying in Waikiki or Honolulu, you’ll have a simple time making your way to the famous beach. In Waikiki, the good times flow and the water looks the same as your blue-tinged cocktail.
Waikiki Beach stretches along the coast for two miles. Dozens of palm trees lead to the golden sand exotic Oahu waters. The warm and inviting ocean is roped off in parts. Enjoy peace of mind as you float along the surface while the ropes restrict the swell.
Behind Waikiki Beach is Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. For a quieter experience and peaceful swimming, enjoy the man-made lagoon, offering all the trimmings of Waikiki.
On Oahu’s North Shore, where the big barrels roll in and brave riders surf the gnar, Sunset Beach offers a wide two-mile stretch of sand. From the overarching palms to the crashing Pacific Ocean, you can find between 200 and 300 feet of soft white sand to laze upon.
In the summer months, Sunset Beach is calm and inviting. The open spaces are great for large groups, families and even couples just looking for some peace among the serenity.
When winter comes around, whales meander through the Hawaiian Islands, making spontaneous appearances off the shore. The waves also grow into titans as a swell, powered by the sharp reef, surges towards the shore.
Ehukai Beach, also known as the Banzai Pipeline, lies just down the road from Sunset Beach. Famed as a top-rated beach for surfers, Ehukai offers some of the best big-wave surf in Hawaii—especially in the winter season.
Kailua Beach Park
Just down from Lanikai is another addition to the buffet of spectacular Oahu beaches: Kailua Beach Park. Known for its calm, shallow waters, Kailua Beach offers ample room to lounge about.
The 2.5-mile beach is prime for those who like long walks on the sand. Stroll by the blue-green ocean lapping the shoreline, with the water begging you to dive in for a swim.
Being on the Windward Coast of Oahu, a consistent breeze sweeps along the coastline, creating some inviting opportunities for windsurfing. The off-shore waves are great for boogie boarding and even some adventurous sea kayaking. With resorts and recreational facilities behind Kailua, you can pick up a rental on a whim.
Kailua Beach also forms part of a lush 35-acre park for a picnic away from the sand.
Ala Moana Beach Park
A popular beach for families, the calm water of Ala Moana Beach Park makes it a great place to bring the little ones on your Honolulu itinerary. The beach is set within a larger state recreation area, between the happening Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu. You can easily rock up to Ala Moana on foot.
Despite its proximity to either area, Ala Moana Beach rarely sees a large traveling crowd. One of the most beautiful beaches in Honolulu, it’s a hit with locals, who can enjoy a quieter scene with the same stunning views of Waikiki and Kualoa.
With the waves cut off by the reef, Ala Moana Beach is a lovely spot for snorkeling and a great opportunity to break out your standup paddleboard. Afterward, you can explore the Ala Moana Center, the biggest mall in Hawaii.
With the Koko Crater looming overhead, Sandy Beach is a gorgeous stretch of sand on the southeast tip of Oahu. Here, the waves roll towards the bronze sand in large sets, offering some of the best year-round surf on the island. For this reason, you’ll find cars with boards strapped to the roof heading down Kalaniana’ole Highway every morning.
From the parking lot, you’ll be greeted by a couple of food trucks selling cheap eats to beach bums, locals, and travelers. They make for a handy snack break whenever the rolling waves tire you out.
There are lifeguards on duty overlooking the enthralling Sandy Beach. It’s a glorious spot for surfing and body-boarding. With a swirling current and waves crashing close to shore, though it’s not the best beach for a leisurely swim.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Great numbers flock to Sunset and Ehukai beaches to see the Banzai Pipeline go to work. Despite this, Waimea Bay Beach Park remains the most popular beach on Oahu’s North Shore. For good reason, too.
Waimea Bay has an aura and presence that’s rarely matched. Unique landmarks, such as the massive sea stack in the middle of the bay, provide for a different sort of beach day on your Oahu trip itinerary.
On Waimea Bay, you can swim in the turquoise water with the fish visibly swimming all around you. The Rock stretches out to sea, offering cliff jumping and scenic views.
When the 30-foot waves arrive in the winter, big-name surfers take over, using this natural playground to showcase their mesmerizing skills.
Diamond Head Beach Park
Looking towards the South Shore now, Diamond Head Beach Park is a different world. With the sharp and burnt cliffs rising out from the beach beside you, the lush greens of Oahu are left behind.
Away from the nearby crowds on Waikiki Beach, relax on the sand while admiring the immense Diamond Head Crater hovering above. The beach is known for its surf, with more room for riders to move about.
When the swell dies down, the reef comes to life offering a vibrant snorkeling experience on a colorful reef surrounded by tropical marine life. From dry land, you’ll also be able to explore the tidal pools at low tide.
A protected bay in more ways than one, Hanauma Bay is an idyllic paradise with no equal on the island. The beach and bay were formed on top of a prehistoric volcanic crater. From there grew a spectacular reef that’s clear as day from the golden shores of Hanauma Bay.
As it’s a part of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, access to the crystal clear water is restricted, with only a certain amount of swimmers per day. Visitors will also have to pay a fee to enter the preserve. But there will never be a tinge of regret thanks to the range of colors that welcome you on arrival.
From there, enjoy calm swimming with the waves cut short by the immense interior reef.
Waimanalo Beach Park
One of the longest beaches on the island, Waimanalo Beach Park is a great option to escape the pack. Located on Oahu’s Windward Coast, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park covers four miles of pristine coastline. The waves are small but inviting. It’s a great spot for body surfing and getting out your boogie board.
The length of the beach is perfect for a long beach stroll, especially at sunrise when the splash of warm colors paints the eastern sky. Behind the park, you’ll have great access to amenities with designated picnic areas surrounded by towering ironwood trees.
Also known as Turtle Beach, Laniakea Beach means wide sky thanks to the endless horizon laid out before you. Beyond the impeccable views, Laniakea is known for two things. The first is being a part of the 7-Mile Miracle, a stretch of North Shore beaches that welcomes gigantic waves in the winter. The second is its green sea turtles.
The captivating animals call Turtle Beach home, creating memorable experiences for visitors that will be hard to replicate. As they bask in the sun, you can admire their beauty and the exciting sensation that comes with sharing this space with wildlife.
To make the most of the unique experience, sign up for a Turtle Bay snorkeling tour, to swim alongside your new favorite animals.
Makapuu Beach Park
Combining epic scenery, body surfing, and some of the most spectacular Oahu hikes, Makapuu Beach Park has a little of everything. Although it’s a smaller beach than many others on this list, you’ll find 1,000 feet of bright white sand to laze on. The consistent South Shore swell and strong currents make for some enthralling bodyboarding, with surfing not allowed.
Only strong swimmers make their way into the water at Makapuu Beach Park, as the rip currents can quickly turn things for the worst. But for those who stay on the sand, you’ll bask in the amazing views over the blue water, with Makapuu Point and its red-roof lighthouse to your left.
You can also hike to the easternmost point of Oahu on the three-mile Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail.
Kahana Bay Beach Park
Located on the Windward Coast, Kahana Bay Beach Park is one of the quieter and more remote beaches on the island. The salt and pepper sands offer a rustic experience backed by ironwood trees with plenty of shade to go around.
The water at Kahana Bay Beach is calm and shallow but doesn’t have the same clarity as other favorite beaches along the coast. This is in part because of the Kahana Stream rushing into the bay. The north end has a jetty and a great camp spot while the bay is popular among kayakers.
If you just want to enjoy a secluded beach day with friends away from it all, you can’t go wrong with Kahana Bay Beach Park.
With the road to Oahu’s North Shore cutting inland, very few travelers make their way to the island’s western coast and Yokohama Bay. But those that make the trip find the sparkling and empty white sands of Keawaula Beach.
Also known as Yokohama Beach, Keawaula features turquoise waters that look as amazing as ever. There’s barely a footprint in the sand. The gorgeous coastline of Yokohama Bay remains untouched by development, with the impressive Waianae Mountain Range providing a stunning backdrop.
Often empty, Keawaula Beach can be your own private paradise. For an adventure, head to the end of the bay for a hike to Kaena Point.
Kualoa Beach Park
Away from the glitz and glamour in Honolulu, Kualoa Beach Park is yet another gorgeous beach that offers a welcome retreat from the action. Just off of the scenic Kamehameha Highway, you’ll cross an expansive beachfront lawn in order to arrive at the beach.
One of the coolest places to visit on Oahu, the park has a storied past. Chiefs brought their children here to learn about Hawaiian culture. Today, Kualoa Beach Park is on the National Register of Historic Places.
From the sandy stretch of beach, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of Mokoli’l, an off-shore island also known as Chinaman’s Hat. It’s common for beachgoers to paddle out to the island, which is only 1800 feet from the beach.
Makaha Beach Park
With great swimming, surfing, and bodyboarding, Makaha Beach Park ticks all the boxes. On the Leeward Coast of Oahu, you’ll enjoy pleasant conditions protected from the winds with more blue sky days.
Makaha Beach Park is perfect for those who enjoy wading in the water, especially in the summer. When the winter rolls around, keep your eye out for migrating whales.
Meanwhile, however, the rip current can make swimming difficult. During these months, the swell picks up with the northern end reserved for surfers.
The beach is manned by lifeguards year-round and comes with on-site amenities including showers.
Nanakuli Beach Park
An international diving hotspot, Nanakuli Beach Park is home to some of the best underwater experiences on Oahu during the summer. The coral protects swimmers from looming waves while presenting colorful reefs and tropical fish in abundance.
The southern end of Nanakuli Beach is particularly good for snorkeling and scuba diving thanks to the lack of currents. Back on dry land, you’ll have access to picnic tables and large lawns to rest up before going back in for another adventure.
Like many beaches on the island, the winter months change Nanakuli’s personality as it becomes a haven for surfers.