A few years ago my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. We had never had the time or funds we thought to go to Hawaii. I decided that year just to do a little research and priced some airline packages. To our surprise a trip to Hawaii was not as expensive as we had imagined.
The experience my husband and I enjoyed on Kauai that first trip has brought us back now 4 more times and to enjoy three more of the islands of Hawaii. I’m sure there are other places as relaxing as Hawaii, but for us this is the place. In this post I hope to share a “Sprinkle” of what we have enjoyed and learned.
Why Hawaii ? The safety of being in the USA, no passport needed for US residents, English speaking, no foreign currency needed, I love gaining hours when traveling rather than losing them, and the culture is so laid back compared to life on the mainland. Plus, all the tropical fruit you can eat.
But this post is about beaches, so I’ll get on topic. Just know, you need to go to Hawaii, and Oahu is just as fine a place to start as any of the Hawaiian Islands.
I’ve broken the beaches into two categories… Honolulu area and North Shore. There is a northwest set of beaches above Honolulu that are incredible I hear, but in our nine days we didn’t have time to fit them in to this trip. That just tells me I get to go back again.
Best beaches near Honolulu and Waikiki in my opinion ….
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
You have to get to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve early or the parking lot will be full. I planned this as our first beach to visit, but we were a little slow the morning after we arrived on Oahu. Though we arrived at 9:00, the ranger was setting up the “lot full” sign and turned us and everyone behind us away. If you run into the same problem just keep on going to Lanikai Beach up the road.
We came back to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve the next morning at 7:30, early enough to get a parking spot and BONUS not pay the $7.50 per person entrance fee.
This bay is one of the prettiest places to snorkel in Hawaii.
If you are new to snorkeling and plan to snorkel, can I encourage you to do a couple of things before you get in the water?
First, sit down and people watch for a good 30 minutes. By taking the time to watch others you will learn where NOT to get in, where TO get in, and How To get in the water. I’m not someone who goes over and tells someone to get off the reef, but anything not sandy and blue is reef and unless your drowning it’s not for standing on. This preserve is waist deep for a long way out. We saw so many visitors walking all over the reef trying to figure out how to get there snorkel on correctly. Get in where it’s sandy, and if you aren’t familiar with your snorkel stay near sandy areas until you are familiar with it. You’ll save your body from slipping on the rough reef and you’ll save all those little creatures hiding in the reef that you haven’t seen yet.
Moving on, rant over. Seriously though, watch some people first.
Such a pretty beach, rain or shine. Which it will probably be both while you visit.
Gentle waves, soft sand, and warm water. Pretty good snorkeling too.
Look at that huge reef, ready for exploring right behind us. Such amazing clear water and a beautiful backdrop with the islands just lounging there in the ocean. Later in the week we kayaked to the island on the left. (I’ll tell you about that in another post coming up. Excursions Worth Every Penny)
Lanikai is a must visit beach. Plenty of room for everyone.
Kalama Beach Park
This beach is just up the road from Lanikai Beach. Again a full parking lot, but if you are determined like we are you can drive on and keep watch for small signs that say “Beach Access”. On the beach side of the road, there is often narrow pathways and a sign offering beach access. I guess often is a little liberal, every now and then is more like it. But, we are often thankful for those almost hidden passageways that get us to these amazing beaches, like Kalama Beach. Here the waves were bigger than Lanikai Beach. Great for a little body-surfing and playing in the water. We almost had the beach to ourselves and it was Friday afternoon.
Waikiki Beach was unlike the other beaches on Oahu. Filled with people and lined with resorts, shops, and restaurants. Boats come and go from here often, taking people out on excursions and adventure trips. Honeymooners float on various pool rafts including one couple we saw with a blown up engagement ring rafts. Though not for snorkeling per se, I have heard talk about the turtles swimming right up on shore, even with all the people around.
I have to say, this was the warmest beach we visited on the island, I literally needed to get in the water to stay cool.
My guys getting set up in front of the well known pink Royal Hawaiian Resort. At least one was paying attention when I said smile. Ha.
Lots of people, but you have plenty of room to enjoy the water.
North Shore of Oahu
After spend our 4 days in Waikiki, we headed to the North Shore for the rest of our trip. The following are the beaches we spent our free time visiting.
Three Tables Beach
I read about this beach a week before we left for vacation and put it as a side note to visit.
This little beach became our favorite spot on the North Shore. We returned here three of our four days on the North Shore of Oahu. If you aren’t watching for it you might miss it.
The snorkeling here was our best on the island. Great variety of fish in a small location.
Those rocks on the surface are the Three Tables.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Just south of the Waimea Valley entrance is the small Waimea Bay Beach Park. Looking toward the north end of this spacious beach you can get a good view of the Mission off in the distance. On the south end is a rock outcropping where locals and tourists have fun jumping off from various heights. It was great fun watching young and not so young navigate when to jump into the waves, including one of our sons. Our boys didn’t find great snorkeling here, the Big Rock, I guess I’ll call it was the best part.
The pictures below speak for themselves as to why you should visit and when to visit Sunset Beach. Its at the far northern end of the Banzai Pipeline which we will talk about next. Get here well before sunset to find a parking spot.
After walking down the beach toward the Pipeline we climbed up the sandy walls and watched the waves tumble in. It was the perfect place to use our underwater camera for some videos of the surf. The sunlight coming through the waves just before they foamed up was stunning. Well at least you know why my man is sitting in front of a pretty good sized wave. I do recommend that walk though, it allows yo to enjoy all of Sunset Beaches soft sand and waves.
The sky was incredibly beautiful when we visited. Every cloud that passed by allowed you to view the sunset in a newly spectacular way. All we could so was sit on the beach and quietly take in the show. I even managed to get a few pictures between people and heads.
Wow, what a beach! Though we didn’t stay long it was an expansive stunning spectical. We arrived at the tail end of some surfing lessons and watched disappointingly as they left. There were a few people playing in the waves, but the surf was quite violent, and after watching other people get hammered by waves while we got pelted by blowing sand we decided to head on… that’s how we came upon Three Tables Beach.
Kuilima Cove / Turtle Bay Resort
Turtle Bay was the closest beach to our vacation rental while on the North Shore. It was as expected, a very pretty beach. We never did see a turtle here, but the snorkeling was good and it was easier to enter the water here than some other snorkeling beaches. Restrooms and restaurant right on the beach makes it very family friendly. T.C.’s helicopter from the Magnum P.I. TV show flies over head often, reminding you in case you could forget, that you are in Hawaii.
Hukilau Beach Park
Do you recognize the name? In all my researching for our trip I never read anything about Hukilau beach. I didn’t even know it was a beach until we passed it on our way to our Kayak excursion in Kailua. It’s right there on the side of the road just north of Laie. By the looks from the locals, I expect they like to keep Hukilau Beach to themselves.
Look how pretty it is. A great place to take a walk and enjoy another another view of Hawaii.
There are so many pretty places and beaches all over Hawaii. These were our favorite beaches on Oahu. I hope you are encouraged to visit the island, some of these might become your favorites too, but don’t stop with just these, there are so many more to explore.