Five Jaw Dropping Beautiful Beaches on Oahu

Oahu is an island in Hawaii, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are amazing beaches here – but even knowing that Hawaii is paradise and exists in this perfect tropical zone, people are still often surprised by the beauty of our beaches. Here are five of the most beautiful beaches on Oahu – not just the most beautiful on this island, but in the world. None of them is more than a forty minute drive from Waikiki.


Lanikai Beach


Voted as the most beautiful beach in America over and over again – this sweet little Windward Oahu community beach in Kailua literally means “Heavenly Water” in the Hawaiian language. Powdered sugar sand, the view of the Moku Lua Islands, calm waters filled with fish for snorkeling and the color blue in that incredible tone that is nothing short of, well, heavenly. Go to Lanikai Beach.




Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo BeachIt’s only separated from Lanikai by a point of land and a military base on Oahu, but it might as well be a hundred miles for the difference in crowds and conditions. Where Lanikai is filled with Japanese tourists and haole people, Waimanalo is filled with local people – if there is anyone there at all. It still has the views of the Mokes, but the surf can pound at Waimanalo Beach and the sand is a bit less powdery but still pretty divine. Waimanalo Beach is great for body surfing, getting away from the crowds, and enjoying paradise.








Sandy’s Beach

Sandy's Beach OahuA whole different world awaits you at Sandy’s on the South Shore of Oahu. Also known as ‘Breakneck Beach’, this is where President Obama likes to go to bodysurf when he’s in town. Sandy’s has much larger sand particles that tend towards the color we think of sand being – tan. It’s filled with local body boarders, surfers, bikini beauties, and adventure lovers. The sun can pound down on you at Sandy’s and there isn’t anyplace to hide from it. Also, don’t snake a wave or ‘drop in’ onthe locals or you might get a different kind of pounding.



Waikiki Beach

WaikikiWaikiki Beach is one of the best beaches in the world. It’s actually made up of five different beaches and stretches from near the Waikiki Acqaurium all the way down to Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s awesome. Yes, it’s almost always filled with people but never in the way that beaches in California, Florida, New Jersey, Italy or other beachy destinations are. Waikikik has thick, course sand and waves that range from beginner to pro. What could be more jaw droppingly beautiful than sitting on Waikiki watching the sunset with Diamond Head on your left, the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel on your right, and a strong Maitai in your hand? Not much.



Makapu’u Beach

Makapu'u BeachI almost didn’t include this beach on the list, because I hate sharing my favorite spots with the internet, but the truth on this one is out and frankly, I’m not the one spilling the beans here. Just across from Sea Life Park – at the point where the South Shore and the Windward Side are still sort of merged – you will find Makapu’u Beach Park.  Great body surfing, great surf, nice sand, and plenty of beauty with Rabbit Island and the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse and the jagged cliffs above. This is a very local place, so be respectful. Also, as everywhere, don’t leave any valuables in your car.

Lanikai – The Beach, The Neighborhood, The Legend

I lived in Lanikai once. It’s a bit of a heavenly dream combined with a heavy sadness.


Lanikai is consistently ranked among the top beaches in the world. It’s the only beach in the USA that makes those lists. It’s powdery white sand, the view of the Mokulua Islands, the calm and protected waters sitting like a piece of blue sik encrusted with turquoise jewels. Lanikai is a bit of heaven. The name means Heavenly Sea – but rather than having been named by Hawaiians, this beach was named by savvy haole developer Charles Frazier when he bought the land from Harold Castle and created the Lanikai Subdivision in 1924.

The beach itself is a relatively small strip of sand in a pocket of Kailua town on the windward side of Oahu – while it used to be more than a mile long, erosion and climate change have reduced it to just 1/2 mile of heaven and social media and internet coverage have made it one of the most crowded beaches on Oahu during weekends and holidays – despite efforts by residents and the City and County of Honolulu to discourage people from going there. Those efforts include draconian parking restrictions, fines of $200 and more for illegal parking, and no restrooms, showers, or lifeguards.


Living in Lanikai more than a decade ago was amazing. I’d walk to the beach in the morning or sometimes climb to the famous Lanikai Pillbox before my morning swim. Then home for a shower. Today, the crowds, the parking, the uptight neighbors venting their frustrations at the crowds and the parking – I wouldn’t live there today – even if I coudl afford the $4000/month rent or had the ability to buy one of the median average of nearly $2 million dollar houses in the neighborhood.


The people who live in Lanikai would like nothing better than to make Lanikai a private, residents only, beach. Who can blame them? But Hawaii state law guarantees that all beaches in Hawaii are public access (with a few military exceptions) – so instead they have passed laws that prohibit commercial vehicles or tour companies from dropping off visitors in Lanikai or even stopping on the street for visitors to take pictures of the residence where Barack Obama frequently stays on his vacations to Oahu.


Obama’s stays in Lanikai were at about the same time that Japanese guide books started listing Lanikai as one of the must-see places to visit in the Hawaiian Islands. It wasn’t long before big tour buses began dropping of literal busloads of tourists in the neighborhood. Prior to this, small tour companies and private guides used to bring small groups to Lanikai – companies like Oahu Nature Tours which I used to work for. The small tour groups didn’t bother anyone very much – but the buses and the Obama seeking tourists – it lit a fire under the neighborhood association and since Lanikai is more than a little bit affluent, it wasn’t long before all commercial activity in Lanikai was banned. Not long after, all public parking during holidays and long weekends was banned.


Today, if you want to visit Lanikai – your best bet is to park at Kailua Beach Park and then walk up the hill to the Lanikai Marker (no, it’s not the entrance to the Penis Park) where you get great views of the Mokulua Islands (the Mokes) and Flat Island on the Kailua Beach side. You can also take ‘Da Bus’ into Lanikai from either Honolulu or Kailua.

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