20 Best Beaches on Oahu (+ Map So You Can Visit Them!)

This site uses affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Many things make Oahu famous, but perhaps none are as iconic as the island’s beaches. This guide contains a list of the best beaches in Oahu – including a map so that you can find each of them with ease!

Are you planning your Oahu visit last minute?

If you’re traveling to Oahu last minute, you want to ensure you have your Oahu tours and lodging booked ahead of time! These are our top picks:

🌴  Most popular tours on Oahu:

  1. Full-day Oahu island tour (highly recommended; great intro to Oahu!)
  2. Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial Tour (essential for your trip!)
  3. Paradise Cove luau (great for families!)
  4. Waikiki afternoon glass-bottom boat tour (top-seller in Honolulu)
  5. Diamond Head morning hike from Honolulu (great for active travelers)

🛌  Best hotels near the beach on Oahu:

  1. Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina (best for families!)
  2. Turtle Bay Resort (a famous place on the North Shore!)
  3. Paradise Bay Resort (in Kaneohe)

🚗  Traveling to Oahu independently? Be sure to book your rental car ahead of time to ensure availability!

Oahu has a beach for everyone. If you’re a surfer, head to the North Shore and check out Sunset Beach or Banzai.

If you’re a snorkeler, check out gorgeous Hanauma Bay. And if you’re looking to sunbathe on soft white sands, check out Lanikai Beach on the windward side.

Lanikai Beach is one of the best Oahu beaches
Lanikai Beach is one of the best Oahu beaches

This guide will contain several beaches giving you plenty of options to plan your itinerary for Oahu.

GOOD TO KNOW: At the end of this guide, I have included some FAQs and answered them according to my many visits to these beaches. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

The best Oahu beaches are listed below along with reasons to visit and things to do nearby, but please let me know if you have any questions (or a suggestion of one that I missed).

Best Beaches in Oahu

1. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is located on the windward coast of Oahu (in the east) by the town of Kailua. It is extremely famous for its crystal clear waters and pristine white sands—so much so that it has been voted the #1 beach on Oahu and one of the best in the Hawaiian islands.

From the shore, you can spot the Mokolua Islands (two small islands referred to as the ‘Mokes’), a famous place to go kayaking on the island and a great place for bird enthusiasts.

Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach

When visiting Lanikai Beach, you need to make a plan to do the Lanikai Pillbox Hike. This famous Oahu trail leads to WWII-era bunkers that give you some of the best views over the beach.

It is free to go to Lanikai Beach, but beware that the parking lot will fill up on nice days. While the lot is quite large, it is easily the best beach on Oahu and it is not a hidden gem by any stretch.

Some cool places to visit near Lanikai Beach are the Lanikai Monument, Kalapawai Market (close to Kailua Beach Park, but you can still walk there), and Sunrise Shack (an awesome breakfast place near the Kalapawai Market).

2. Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is easily one of the most iconic beaches in the world, and the Oahu beach has become an epicenter for Hawaii tourism throughout the years.

You have a few miles of dazzling, fluffy white-sand beaches with a bright blue sea bordered by tall palm trees. The waves there are mild since many portions of the beach are roped off for swimming. Also, they’re protected with jetties.

Waikiki Beach - best beaches in Oahu
Waikiki Beach is definitely one of the best beaches in Oahu

Fort DeRussy Beach (fronts the Royal Hawaiian Hotel), Kuhio Beach, and Queen Surf Beach are among the beaches that make up Waikiki as a whole. Swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, catamaran, and outrigger canoe trips are all popular activities in the area.

A disadvantage of Waikiki is the incessant crowds. Expect to see a very large number of people hanging out along the beach almost every day. But, you can escape them a bit to check out the sunset!

Anyway, if you’re more or less okay with that, head down there so you can claim to have been to one of the world’s most famous beaches.

Some of the best things to do around Waikiki Beach are to see the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue, enjoy a hula show at Kuhio Beach, and walk under the famous Banyan Tree.

3. Sunset Beach

A beach that varies dramatically when the seasons change? Sunset Beach is it!

This two-mile-long surfer’s beach is located on the North Shore. It boasts truly massive waves in the winter, making it extremely risky for all but skilled swimmers and professional surfers.

Surfer at Sunset Beach
Surfer at Sunset Beach

On the other hand, it has calm waters during the summer, making it a great spot for swimming and snorkeling (and other water sports). It has magnificently clean water and white-sand beaches that stretch 200–300 feet wide.

When there are no surfing events, parking is pretty easy to get, but you may need to walk just a little to get to the beach.

Some of the best places to visit near Sunset Beach are Haleiwa (a short drive away), Ted’s Bakery, The Sunrise Shack, and Ehukai Bunker. It is also not far from Banzai Beach, another place that is renowned for winter surf.

4. Malaekahana Beach

Malaekahana Beach is one of the few unique beaches on Oahu that is not (usually) overcrowded, and it is a must-visit for beach lovers!

It’s a mile-long beach with white sand that is located in Malaekahana Bay on Oahu’s northeastern shore, between Kahuku and La’ie. Activities offered there are volleyball, relaxing in the sun, and hiking.

The main feature of the beach is the excellent swimming opportunities (it is good for most levels of swimmers, usually).

Malaekahana Beach
Malaekahana Beach

Keep in mind to wear reef shoes in the water, as the waters near the shore and seabed can be rough. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a great choice would be to rent out cabins on Malaekahana’s northern left end.

During the winter season, use caution when entering the water, as there are strong currents there and no lifeguards are on duty.

Some of the best places to visit near Malaekahana Beach are the CLIMB Works Keana Farms zipline complex, Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Ry’s Poke Shack (my favorite on Oahu), and La’ie Point State Wayside.

5. Kahana Bay Beach Park

If you’re not into swimming and just looking for a peaceful place to sit on the sand and relax, then Kahana Bay Beach Park should most definitely be one of your top choices!

This beach is famous for its salt and pepper sand, Kamani trees, and jagged cliffs. The beach at the south end is very vacant and spacious, but the beach at the north end, near the jetty, is a popular spot for camping.

Kahana Bay Beach Park
Kahana Bay Beach Park

Because of the runoff from the Kahana Stream, the water isn’t as clean as other Oahu beaches, but it’s ideal for kayaking. Fishing is also a popular thing to do around here.

There are also various hiking paths as well as camping and picnic facilities in the area. On the beach, there are no bathrooms or showers, and there are no lifeguards on duty.

Some of the best things to do near Kahana Bay Beach Park are to visit Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park, hike the Crouching Lion Trail, check out Kualoa Ranch, enjoy BBQ from Uncle Bobo’s, and stop at the Shrimp Shack (a bit north of the beach).

6. Kailua Beach Park

Another great match of crystal-clear waters and powder-like sand is Kailua Beach. Only a mile north of Lanikai Beach, this beach is often regarded as one of the best Oahu beaches and is a worthwhile stop on your island itinerary.

Unlike Lanikai Beach on Oahu, this beach boasts restrooms, beach showers, and picnic tables on the park grounds. The beach is located within a 35-acre park that offers a variety of outdoor sports and recreation opportunities.

Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach

There are numerous restaurants and shops in Kailua, including Island Snow, a place known to be visited by Barack Obama when he is in the area.

Some of the best things to do at Kailua Beach Park (and nearby) are to go kayaking to the Mokes, visit the Kalapawai Market (they have really good poke and to-go packed lunches), and grab lunch at Easy ‘Que in town.

7. Waimea Bay Beach

Waimea Bay Beach is considered to be one of the best beaches for swimming on Oahu during the summer months.

Throughout the summer season, the waves are gentle, making them perfect not only for swimming but also for snorkeling and paddleboarding.

Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay

It must be noted that during the winter months, the beach can experience waves as high as 20 to 30 feet, which are among the world’s highest. The Eddie Aikau Surf Competition (better known as ‘The Eddie’) is held at Waimea Bay when the waves are really large.

🌴 PRO TIP: Don’t miss Waimea Valley, which sits right behind Waimea Bay! This is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Oahu and is home to the famous Waimea Falls.

When there, you can stop by one of the many food trucks that line Kamehameha Highway near all of the main surf spots. It’s the perfect chance to have a bite to eat with the locals.

8. Diamond Head Beach Park

Diamond Head Crater and Beach is located within walking distance of Kapiolani Park. Even though the beach is not suitable for swimming due to the jagged and rocky coral reef near the shore, it’s a surfer’s paradise.

Diamond Head Beach Park is full of beautiful, steep rugged cliffs and the waters have an abundance of diverse, colorful fish. The views there are also picturesque, and the great thing is that the beach tends to be less crowded than Waikiki Beach.

Diamond Head Oahu
Diamond Head Oahu

An amazing activity at Diamond Head is hiking the famous Diamond Head Trail. It’s one of the most rewarding hikes on Oahu, with incredible 360-degree views from the top.

Although it might appear to be a hard hike, the 760-foot top can be reached in approximately 40 to 60 minutes. The hike does require reservations nowadays, so be prepared.

9. Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach is known for its large waves that crash right near the shore, making it great for surfing or boogie boarding. It’s not entirely isolated, but it does attract fewer guests than most other beaches on Oahu.

The beach is located about 10 minutes past Hanauma Bay and about 40 minutes from Waikiki. It’s a 1,200-foot length of golden sand on Oahu’s southeastern coast.

The area has modest facilities (showers and bathrooms), and food trucks are an easy find at Sandy Beach.

Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach

This is a huge surf site with year-round strong waves, which unfortunately makes this beach not a good fit for novice swimmers. It’s loved by bodysurfers and bodyboarders, as the waves break very close to the shore.

Some places close to Sandy Beach worth visiting are the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse, Hanauma Bay (a world-famous snorkeling spot – but it requires reservations), and the Halona Blowhole.

10. Nanakuli Beach Park

One of the best places for diving in Oahu is Nanakuli Beach Park. Nānākuli Beach, which stretches for over 500 feet between two limestone cliffs, is a stunning stretch of shoreline. Kalanianaole Beach is another name for the Oahu beach.

Situated on the leeward side of Oahu, Nanakuli Beach Park is one of the best of Oahu’s beaches and one that is worth visiting if you happen to be in the area.

Nanakuli Beach
Nanakuli Beach

The beach park offers views of the beautiful scenery of the Waianae Mountain Range and is less touristy than others. Amenities are limited here, and be sure to leave valuables in your car while you’re at the beach.

Note that even though the waters there seem tranquil, the current can be very strong. If you’re not a strong swimmer, stick to the southern end of the beach, where conditions are milder.

11. Makaha Beach Park

This beautiful Oahu beach welcomes a comparably lower number of tourists and tends to be more popular with locals. Still, Makaha Beach Park has the title of being the most popular beach on the leeward side (besides the Ko Olina lagoons).

It’s one of those perfect places where you can have a little picnic and relax in the sun while admiring the palm trees and the sound of the ocean.

Things you can entertain yourself with include scuba diving to explore the reefs, snorkeling to discover the rich marine life, bodyboarding, surfing, etc.

Makaha Beach
Makaha Beach

For swimming, venture to the middle part of Mākaha Beach as it’s the best place to go swimming. The northern area of the beach has stronger waves and currents, which is preferable for surfers.

Note that there is no lifeguard on duty. There are restrooms, showers, and a few picnic tables available.

One of the best things to do near Makaha Beach is to venture up to Ka’ena Point State Park and go on the short hiking trail there. There is even a beach known for spotting Hawaiian green sea turtles and monk seals (I saw both there).

12. Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park is the place where you can find everything for everyone. Located just across the street from Ala Moana Mall, Ala Moana has acres of leafy trees, picnic tables, and a large stretch of grass to play on.

The area also has tennis courts, a yacht club, three concession stands, and, to top all of that, a half-mile strip of white sand beaches.

Ala Moana Beach Park
Ala Moana Beach Park

The south town-side surf locations in Ala Moana are well-known. You’ll have to put in some effort to get to the waves, which requires a paddle to the reef.

Another popular thing to do here is to go standup paddleboarding! I loved sitting in the park watching the standup paddleboarders and those doing paddleboard yoga in the mornings.

Some of the best things to do near Ala Moana Beach Park are to go shopping at Ala Moana Mall and explore Kaka’ako (one of the hippest neighborhoods in downtown Honolulu).

13. Pokai Bay

Pokai Bay is known to be a good beach for those traveling with kids who want to go in the water. It is located near Waianae and has shallow waters and sandy bottom (with very tranquil seas).

You can enjoy activities such as swimming, building sand sculptures with your children, or visiting an ancient Hawaiian cultural site called Heiau Kuilioloa nearby.

Pokai Bay
Pokai Bay

It’s worth noting that Pokai Bay Beach, which spans 15 acres, is the most protected coastline on the western coast of Oahu. The reason for that is an offshore breakwater that keeps it safe from strong currents and big waves.

Some of the best things to do near Pokai Bay Beach are to visit Heiau Kuilioloa, enjoy lunch at Aloha Poke, and go for a stroll at Lualualei Beach Park.

14. Bellows Field Beach Park

This popular beach park is located on the eastern side of Oahu (the windward side) and has wonderful swimming opportunities and a great sunbathing beach, both protected by an offshore reef.

Bellows Field Beach Park is quite popular among bodysurfers and bodyboarders. The breaks are usually fairly small and are not similar to Sandy Beach.

The park’s east end is protected by an outer reef and is popular with swimmers. Be mindful that trade winds push jellyfish toward the shore, which can cause very painful stings! Swimmers must take this into account when going into the water.

Bellows Field Beach Park
Bellows Field Beach Park

Amenities at the beach include restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. It is open to the public on weekends and national holidays.

Camping is a popular thing to do at Bellows Field. Check out their website for more information.

Some of the best things to do near Bellows Field Beach Park are to visit other popular beaches (Lanikai Beach and Waimanolo Beach Park are two!), check out Hunananiho State Park, and have lunch at the Hawaiian Island Cafe in Waimanolo.

15. Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline)

Ehukai Beach is often referred to as the Banzai Pipeline (even though that is simply a part of the beach) and is renowned for being one of the best surf breaks in the world during the wintertime.

The reef break at Banzai creates ideal barrels in the winter months that make it a fantastic surfing hotspot and many famous competitions are held here as a result.

Banzai Pipeline was a popular place on my last visit!
Banzai Pipeline was a popular place on my last visit!

Some of the best places to visit near Ehukai Beach Park are Sunset Beach (another surfing paradise just a little bit to the east), Waimea Valley, and the cute town of Haleiwa.

16. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

On the southeastern shore of Oahu is the renowned snorkeler’s paradise, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.

This colorful bay is teeming with colorful fish and coral formations and has become so popular that you even need a reservation these days (so plan ahead).

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is closed on Tuesdays to give the marine life a little rest. Non-residents are required to pay a fee to enter (in addition to the reservation!) and it is currently $25 per person and can be paid when you check in at your reservation time.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Parking is $3 per vehicle. You can make your reservations on the Honolulu Parks and Recreation page.

Some of the best things to do near Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve are visiting the Halona Blowhole (one of the best in Hawaii!), the Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike, Makapuu Beach Park and the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail, and the trailhead for the Koko Crater Railway Hike.

17. Shark’s Cove

Shark’s Cove is part of Pupukea Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore and it is one of the best places to go snorkeling on the island during the summer months.

While the name suggests otherwise, it is a pretty calm area where you won’t find sharks (opt for shark cage diving instead!) but rather colorful fish and other marine life. Shark’s Cove is one of the best beaches for kids on Oahu.

Because of the unique landscape, the rocky area creates mini-tide pools in the lava rocks, which keeps the area calm for snorkelers.

Shark's Cove
Shark’s Cove

In winter, however, the swells hit the North Shore, and the snorkeling is not as safe here (although I went in February one time and it was fine). It is a better spot for divers during these months.

Some of the best places to visit near Shark’s Cove are Haleiwa town, Ehukai Beach Park (Banzai), and Lanikea Beach (known for being a sea turtle resting area).

19. Lanikea Beach

Lanikea Beach is a beach on Oahu’s North Shore and it is well-known for being an ideal spot to see a Hawaiian green sea turtle (honu).

You can find free parking along the streets and head over to see if any are hanging out on the shore. It is a short drive (and a short walk!) from Haleiwa town and I have honestly seen a turtle every time I have visited.

Lanikea Beach
Lanikea Beach

But, please respect the turtles and their space.

Some of the best places to visit near Lanikea Beach are Papa’lloa Beach, Waimea Valley (and Waimea Bay across from it), and the famous Haleiwa Bridge.

20. Ko Olina Beach Park

Ko Olina Beach Park is located in the southwestern part of Oahu and it is part of the Ko Olina resort community there. This beach park has 4 manmade lagoons with sandy shores and turquoise waters with gentle waves.

The lagoons are encircled by a coastal walkway and you can do a plethora of activities here from snorkeling to paddleboarding, and more.

Ko Olina Beach Park
Ko Olina Beach Park

Some of the best things to do near Ko Olina Beach Park are to go to a luau (Germaine’s Luau and Paradise Cove Luau are two famous ones), visit the Kalapawai Cafe & Deli in Kapolei, and visit Hawaiian Electric Beach Park to the north.

Best Beaches on Oahu FAQ

Which side of Oahu has the best beaches?

While I think the beaches on the leeward side (western side) of Oahu are fantastic, it is the beaches on the North Shore and windward side of Oahu that is the most developed for travelers.

They are easier to reach and have more amenities built up.

Are there sandy beaches on Oahu?

There are plenty of sandy beaches on Oahu! Some of the best ones are Lanikai Beach (a beautiful white-sand beach), Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline, Waikiki Beach, and Sandy Beach.

Waikiki Beach at sunrise
Waikiki Beach at sunrise

Can you swim in Oahu beaches?

Yes, but please take note of when the swells come through. Swimming on the North Shore beaches during winter is not the safest idea.

Are Oahu beaches free?

Most of them are free. You will need to get a reservation for Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve and pay a fee of $25 per person (and a parking fee of $3 per car) to access it, however.

While most beaches are free, you will need to pay for parking in certain places.

Waimea Bay Beach
Waimea Bay Beach

Where can I see sea turtles on Oahu?

One of the best places to see sea turtles on Oahu is at Lanikea Beach on the North Shore. I have seen them every time I have visited! You can also frequently see them at Ka’ena Point State Park, but it is a bit wilder and you need to hike a bit.

Turtles can show up anywhere on Oahu… so keep your eyes peeled and be respectful to the beautiful animal.

Where is the clearest water on Oahu?

If you’re looking to go snorkeling in clear water, I think Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve takes the cake! Otherwise, Lanikai Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and has gorgeous turquoise-hued water.

Best Oahu Beaches (On a Map!)

🗺️  HOW TO USE THIS MAP: You can use your fingers/mouse to zoom in and out. To get more info about a place, simply touch/click the icons. Want to save this map for later use? Click the ‘⭐’ by the map title and it will add it to your Google Maps account (Saved > Maps or ‘Your Places’).

Did I miss any of the best beaches in Oahu in this guide?

Please let me know your favorite Oahu beaches in the comments! Thanks!

More Oahu Travel Guides

Pin this Oahu Beaches Guide

Looking for the best beaches on Oahu? This guide shows you a list of the top Oahu beaches - from snorkeling spots to surf meccas (and more!). Map included! | Surfing Oahu | Sunset Beach Oahu | North Shore beaches | Beaches in Hawaii | Hawaii beaches | Waikiki Beach | Honolulu beaches | Beach parks Oahu | Swimming in Oahu | Oahu snorkeling | Oahu best beaches | Things to do in Oahu | Places to visit Oahu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *