It’s been said that no matter what beach you aim for on Oahu Island, you won’t be disappointed. But whether that’s true or not, priorities change. For some visitors easy access from the capital of Honolulu on the south coast is all important, while others will want to have the combined hedonism and high-energy atmosphere of the city at hand after a day of surfing, swimming or sunbathing on the sand.
In truth, whatever you’re after from a beach around Honolulu, you can rest assured there’s something that fits the bill. For those with a car, access to the more remote spots on the east coast will be easier, while a trek down the Kalanianaole Highway isn’t impossible for those using other modes of transport. Either way, here are five of the top coastal spots near the state capital, with options for everyone, from families to fun-loving partygoers looking to explore the strip.
The Copacabana of Hawaii, Waikiki Beach is where it all happens. Stretching over two kilometres from the Diamond Head state monument in the east to the smaller Kahanamoku Beach in the west, the pearly white stretch of largely restored sand is now famed for its offering of bubbling bars and high-fashion shopping outlets, not to mention some of the most beginner-friendly surfing swells in all of Hawaii. Accommodation options abound here too, with a great number of Honolulu’s best known hotels and resorts clustered around the seaside promenade at Kalakaua.
Carved out of the rugged coastline on the southeast side of Oahu Island, the postcard-perfect Hanauma Bay represents one of the snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing meccas of the whole Hawaiian archipelago. More than 400 individual species of marine life can be found drifting in the Pacific coral reefs here, many of which – like the black sea turtle – are rare and endangered. What’s more, close to the beach the recent addition of the bay’s Marine Education Center has helped visitors understand the conservation efforts and protection measures now in place, while local tour operators offer regular wildlife-spotting excursions into the bay.
Long, quiet and paradisal Waimanalo Beach is one of the undisputed kings of beachcombing and relaxation close to Honolulu. At just under three miles, it boasts one of the longest continuous sand stretches on Oahu Island and offers guests a pleasant mix of low-swelling waves (perfect for the budding bodyboarder) and shady deciduous tree covering. On the south end of the beach there’s plenty of parking, along with shower and picnic facilities, while Waimanalo is easily accessible at just under one hour’s drive from downtown Honolulu.
Perched out on the easternmost point of Oahu Island, Makapu’u is worth the visit if only for the breath-taking coastal panoramas that dominate on the Kalanianaole Highway route from Honolulu. The beach here offers some great body boarding and body surfing swells, though it’s best to pay attention to the rugged rocks; they can rise unexpectedly from the frothy waters and are sometimes difficult to spot. Nearby there are a number of worthy attractions, from the 1909 Makapuʻu Point lighthouse, to the Sea Life Park, where it’s possible to explore the natural history of Hawaii’s coral reefs.
Well placed for all the military personnel based in Honolulu, the Hickam Harbor Beach is known for its quiet, calm and family-friendly atmosphere. While small, the spot boasts a great range of a facilities, from water supervision for younger swimmers to barbeque and picnic areas open to the public. What’s more, visitors can rent kayaks and canoes for sea paddling from one of the tour operators based in Hickam Harbor itself, while the built up location makes it a great spot for runners and strollers making their way in from the city centre.