Beach-Lover's Guide to Oahu, Hawai'i
Michelle & Justin Salzer
Oahu, Hawaii is one of the world’s most attractive tourist hotspots known for its picturesque beaches, world-renowned surf pipelines and welcoming Aloha culture. Of all the Hawaiian islands, Oahu tends to be the busiest with a wide variety of things to do and see, delivering lifelong memorable experiences for all types of travelers.
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Where to stay in Oahu, Hawaii
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Turtle Bay Resort
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Things to do in Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu has a lot of beaches and each one offers something unique for a beach-goer’s desires. There are beaches for relaxing, for surfing, for jumping off rocks, for fishing or exploring tide pools. As locals, we wanted to share with you a few of our favorite beaches and what we love about them!
#8 - Waikiki
Do you love the city? Do you love the beach? If you answered yes to both, then you might be in your element in Waikiki! From retail therapy at the Ala Moana Shopping Center to business lunches on the water, Waikiki has got it all: surfing, shopping and people-watching–oh my!
If you’ve got little ones, they might enjoy the Honolulu Zoo or splashing around the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. As with any city, be sure to plan in your parking strategy in advance to avoid driving around endlessly and losing your Aloha spirit.
#7 - Lanikai
This little gem is tucked away in a local neighborhood, so if you need amenities (bathrooms, parking or showers), this isn’t for you. But what it lacks in facilities, it makes up for in picturesque beauty, so have your smartphones out and ready to post that social media humble brag.
It is one of the smaller beaches on this list and tends to get crowded, but the stunning scenery and snorkeling make up for it. Plus it’s fantastic for keiki (kids) as its waves are incredibly small due to the large reef in front of the beach.
#6 - Kailua Beach
If you and your precious pups enjoy long walks on the beach, then this is the beach for you. Personally, we simply love taking lunch breaks here to clear our mind and get our dose of “Vitamin Sea.” Kailua Beach is a short walk from the parking lot. It offers a boat ramp as well as public restrooms and showers.
The waves here are often calm enough for relaxing in a floatie or mild boogie boarding, and the palm trees lining the shore provide a shady respite from the sun. If you’re craving something to nibble or need to stock up on groceries, the nearby town of Kailua town is a great place to find what you need.
#5 - Makapu’u Beach
Our teenagers absolutely loved boogie boarding and body surfing here. The waves are pretty decent which makes the experience quite thrilling for those seeking a little more adventure on the water. While there are keen lifeguards on duty during the day, we definitely would not recommend this place for young families or anyone wanting to float around in a tube.
We like to walk the (paved) Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, take our obligatory 360-degree photos (if we must), then head over to Makapu’u Beach to relax in the ocean after the trail hike.
#4 - Shark’s Cove
Who doesn’t find wildlife fascinating? While technically not much of a ‘beach,’ the tide pools of Shark’s Cove are a great place to unleash your curiosity. Be sure to bring your water shoes as you’ll be walking on lava rocks, and check the tide report before you come as Shark’s Cove is inaccessible at high tide.
If you get hungry, the food trucks right across the street offer some delicious local grinds. The sunsets here are gorgeous with other beaches to explore very closeby. (Three Tables Beach is where we fell in love.)
#3 - Hanauma Bay
This beach is formed in the cone of an extinct volcano. I know, ‘Say no more, right?! Hanauma Bay is an idyllic beach for snorkeling and seeing tons of local sea life. To visit this tourist hot spot, you do have to make a reservation and watch a safety and environmental protection video before entering the bay, but don’t let those small inconveniences stop you from experiencing the beauty of this beautiful beach. Get your waterproof cameras ready and keep your eyes open for honu (sea turtle) sightings.
#2 - Sunset Beach
Located up on the famous North Shore, this popular surfing spot is fantastic for all beach-goers. In the summer months, the waves here are fairly flat, so it allows groups of all ages to enjoy this long stretch of sand.
The sand up here, compared to Waikiki or Kailua beach especially, will be very different. It’s far more coarse and thick compared to the fine white sand of the more southern shores. There’s a good amount of parking (both across the street and right in front of it), public showers and restrooms and a long stretch of beach to find your ideal spot.
#1 - Waimea Bay
Hands down, Waimea Bay is unanimously our family’s favorite beach! The kids love to snorkel and jump off the rock here. We especially love watching the sunsets from here. If you’re a surfer, you already know that waves can reach up to 10 feet here during the winter season.
While parking may take a little time to find, there’s plenty of beach to set up for the day and it’s good to know there are restrooms nearby. You may even notice that the sand in the North Shore doesn’t stick to you as much as other types of sand.
Places to eat & drink in Oahu, Hawaii
Here are some of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat on our beach days!
Where to eat breakfast in Oahu
Cinnamon's Restaurant: The menu offers a variety of breakfast and lunch options where you can try popular Hawaiian dishes like Loco Moco and Kalua Pig. A local favorite, be sure to come early to avoid a long wait.
Empty Elle Bagels: For delicious coffee and bagels, try this local laid-back cafe. The restaurant’s name is a play on MTL as they serve Montreal-style bagels with generous toppings.
Where to eat lunch in Oahu
Nalu Health Bar: This cute cafe in the town of Kailua offers delicious sandwiches, smoothies and acai bowls.
North Shore Food Trucks (Kahuku): If you’re wet and tired from surfing, eating outdoors is a likely option for you. From Huli chicken to Thai curry, there's a food truck that's just right for everyone.
Where to eat dinner in Oahu
Seven Brothers Burgers (Laie): After a tiring day of swimming at the beach, our family loves to fill up on the juicy burgers at this locally-owned restaurant. Michelle's go-to is the Paniolo Burger and Justin's is the Shem Burger.
Sunset at Turtle Bay (Kahuku): For dining on the water and catching a North Shore sunset, this restaurant is the perfect spot.
Where to get dessert in Oahu
Matsumoto Shave Ice (Haleiwa): This iconic store always has a long line for good reason! They serve a vast variety of delicious flavors and the line moves pretty quickly. We recommend trying the lilikoi, li hing and lychee flavors!
Ted’s Bakery (Haleiwa): Don’t miss out on Ted’s famous Chocolate Haupia pie. Just. Don’t. All we can say is that it’s a very sad day for us if we have been to the North Shore without having some of Ted’s pie.
Michelle & Justin Salzer
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