8 Incredible Oahu Beaches / by Anna Terry

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The title says it all. Eight incredible beaches for you to check out and add to your Hawaii must-do list. We’ve either napped, swam, or surfed on all of them and they have passed the Restless & Roving inspection. Believe me, it was hard work. So read up, pack your bikini, trunks or banana hammock and get ready for a sun filled, sandy good time.

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North Shore

Waimea Bay
One of my favorite beaches to go to on the North Shore! Located about ten minutes away from the town of Haleiwa, Waimea Bay was one of the first spots for big surfing on the North Shore back in the day. Surfing season is technically during the winter time (November to February) and unfortunately (or fortunately), we were there during September, when the waves were calm and the water was crystal clear. No matter, Waimea Bay is a great place to go swimming during the off-season. One big draw is the huge boulder that people like to climb up and jump off into the turquoise blue waters below. If you are in Hawaii during the winter, I highly suggest you make the trek up to the North Shore to check out the surf action. Unlike other places, Hawaii measures their the size of the waves from the back of the wave, so what could be measured as a 9-11 ft wave, is actually 20 ft tall from the front. I mean, they are some monster waves! Unfortunately, because Waimea Bay is such a picturesque place to work on your tan lines, the parking lot to the beach fills up FAST, no matter the season. Be prepared to get there fairly early in the morning (suggested: 9 am) or come late in the day before sunset (suggested: 4 pm) when people are leaving for the day. You could also park in the Foodland parking lot for free (driving towards Kahuku) and make the walk down the valley to the bay (15 min). Either way, come with snacks and drinks and get ready to swim/sunbathe the day away.

Sunset Beach
In my opinion, this beach is the best for people watching. Yes the view is incredible, and you can’t beat the golden sand and glistening blue water, but the tourists that come through here are the real entertainment. Buses of tourists get dropped off to take selfies near the surf, and if you are lucky you might see one or two bowled over by a big wave! Sunset Beach is one of the first beaches you hit when you are driving from the windward side over towards Haleiwa. Like Waimea, this whole stretch becomes a prime surf spot in the winter months, but when we were there in September, the waves were relatively tame.

Bonsai Pipeline
Across the street from a little elementary school lies a beach that is the epi-center for what surfers deem “tube rides”. There is a shallow reef right off shore where the waves crash forming the perfect tunnels for surfers to ride on. Coming to this beach during high surf season is absolute madness. Traffic and parking are a nightmare. But, Bonsai Pipeline is still impressive even in the off-season. The treachourous surf can make swimming a little scary. Instead, maybe grab a beach chair and your SPF to watch those that are brave enough to swim out there and ride those giants.

Mokuleai Beach
I hadn’t spent much time in the Mokuleai area besides trips to the Polo fields and one terrifying sky diving trip. But let me tell you, I may not go to any other beaches on the island from here on out. The beaches out there in the country are less crowded and essentially untouched by the droves of tourists coming through. Shane went snorkeling with one of our friend and they explored the edge of the reef where the deep water begins. Meh, a little too scary for me. But he saw some really cool stuff while he was out there like turtles, eagle rays and all sorts of fish. The water is crystal clear and unlike other places of the North Shore, pretty calm. Fair warning, Mokuleai is the unofficial nude beach for Oahu so be prepared to see some naked folks strutting their stuff.

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Windward

Lanikai Beach
I hadn't spent much time on the windward side beaches but boy was I missing out. Located in the town of Kailua, Lanikai is a small stretch of beach and has been deemed as one of the best beaches in the world. With beautiful crystal clear water and two little islands right off shore, it is a very popular spot for photographers. Look up to the mountain side nearby and you’ll see people hiking up like little ants to the two pillboxes at the top of the mountain. The downside of it being so beautiful, it can get very crowded. There isn’t a lot of parking since it’s in a residential area. Avoid parking in front of a drive way or mailbox so that you don't get ticketed or even worse, towed! (This is good to keep in mind wherever you park on the island)

Waimanalo Beach
My favorite beach on the windward side of the island has to be Waimanalo. Slightly less crowded and crazy than Lanikai, the view is equally gorgeous. We got lunch from Uncle Kenecke’s Grill on the main road and brought it down on the beach to eat in the shade of palm tree. I haven’t mentioned this before but Hawaii is the only place in the world where I will go willingly into the water. I am such a baby with cold water, but Hawaii’s water temp is perfect for swimming (in my opinion). The water is calm here and you can go swimming without having to worry about being flung around by crashing waves.

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Honolulu/Waikiki

Waikiki Beach (Hale Koa)
The beach outside the Hale Koa in Waikiki holds a special place in my heart. When my family was living out on Oahu we spent A LOT of time at this hotel. In my opinion, it’s one of the better beaches on the Waikiki strip. While all the beaches are open to the public, a lot of them are overrun by the residing hotel guests with beach chairs and umbrellas. On top of that, the beach itself on Waikiki is slowly disappearing! Luckily, the Hale Koa offers plenty of beach to lay out on for both its hotel guests and non guests. Also, one of my old haunts, the Barefoot Bar, is practically right on the beach there so you can belly up and order a Mai Tai or two. No matter what day or season, more than likely, it is a sunny day in Waikiki. You can almost always count on the weather on that part of the island which is ideal for having a lovely beach day. The waters are calm enough for swimming but farther down the beach towards Diamond Head, you can surf. The waves are small and spaced out, perfect for those who are novice surfers. If you are driving, parking in Waikiki can be expensive, so I would suggest coming on a Sunday to take advantage of the free street parking.

West

Barbers Point Beach Park
We spent the day here for some surf and sun. Shane and his sister Tegan caught the surf, I decided to just catch some sun. The waves at Barbers Point are usually for intermediate skill level surfers, but beginners can also try their luck catching some. This is where I tried my hand at surfing for the first time (a long time ago) and failed miserably. No, I don't mind watching from the shore. Located on what was once an old Air Force base out west in Kapolei, Barbers Point is a small beach with restrooms and a great area to picnic. Swimming in this area is not ideal as the crashing waves along the shore line can be a little intense. But that doesn't stop most people from riding the waves in and being tossed around. I’ve never seen so many little kids enjoying being pummeled by waves and dragged all over the sand. To each their own I guess!