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The Ultimate Guide To Honolulu’s Best Beaches

The Ultimate Guide To Honolulu’s Best Beaches

waikiki honolulu's best beaches

At just nine to 10 hours from Australia’s east coast, Hawaii is far more accessible than you probably think – and bustling capital Honolulu remains your gateway to all its glories: a volcanic island paradise where the white sand lies and the waves curl high.


We crack open a box of leis, tune up the ukuleles and toss the hula hoops, as we take a dip into some of Honolulu’s best beaches – the stunningly surfable, and the swimmable.



As a matter of principle, you’ll need to make at least one pilgrimage to Hawaii’s own Copacabana. A bustling hot spot of high-rise amusement, Waikiki is typically choc full of crowds. Still, this famous stretch is a local institution, and there’s no denying the allure of those stunning blue waters and golden sands.

Duke Kahanamoku

The statue of Duke Kahanamoku draped in leis. Image: Luke H. Gordon / Flickr

The Duke was a Hawaiian surfing legend who pioneered the ancient sport to the masses in the early 20th century. This curved, sandy stretch east of Waikiki bears his name: a popular sunbathing and swimming spot in the heart of town where the Duke cut his teeth back in the day.

FYI: Dr Beach, one of the world’s top coastal experts, rated the Duke’s stretch the best on the planet in 2014.

Ala Moana Beach Park

Sunset at Ala Moana Beach Park. Image: Anthony Quintano / Flickr

A local favourite, Ala Moana Beach Park is a half-mile strand of golden delight on the other side of the Kahanamoku Lagoon. While still inherently urban, the waters are clean and inviting, perfect for a little light paddling, while the reef 200m offshore makes a fine surf break.

Kahala Beach

Kahala Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii
Kahala Beach. Image: Sarah_Ackerman / Flickr

A 15 minute drive further west towards Waialae-Kahala (preferably in a red open-top Eldorado Biarritz) takes you to gorgeous Kahala Beach, a narrow stretch of sand with a cosy, no-frills vibe, and likely bereft of other humans – the antithesis of wild Waikiki, and perfect for a quick dip or laze under the sun’s warmth.

Diamond Head Beach Park

Waikiki and Diamond Head, Honolulu, Hawaii
View of Waikiki and Diamond Head. Image: kimubert / Flickr

Named for the volcano on the adjacent point, Diamond Beach is more than worth the short trip outside the heart of town. Though swimming isn’t Diamond Head’s drawcard, surfers are well covered here with a number of reef breaks offshore. The diamond views, tide pools, and the stunning lighthouse on the point are added bonuses to the relatively crowd free vibes.

Kailua Beach

 Kailua Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii
Sunset at Kailua Beach. Image: Floyd Manzano / Flickr

So we’re heading a little outside the city outskirts here, but who can blame us – this island is girt by majestic ocean coastline at every turn. Situated on Oahu’s eastern edge, Kailua’s point of difference is that it’s much calmer and cooler than some of the city’s brasher spots. As it’s on the ‘windward’ side of the island, it’s also a great spot for windsurfing.

Waimanalo Bay Beach

Waimanalo Bay Beach Park
Raku Ho`olaulea at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park. Image: Bytemarks / Flickr

On a sparkling Hawaiian day, few beaches in the world match the sheer visual delight of a swim at Waimanalo Bay Beach. Past the outskirts on the northern coast, Waimanalo (not to be confused with the more family-friendly, lifeguard-laden strip further south) is relatively free of the tourist hustle common to other spots on Oahu. This is a boon, as it remains one of the most visually spectacular.

You probably won’t be hanging ten, or even five, here, but there’s enough swell and whitewash to keep any grommet satiated.

See Also
Vivonne Bay, South Australia

Sherwoods Beach

An isolated nook south along Waimanalo, Sherwoods Beach is proximate to a strip of ironwoods known as Sherwood Forest. A nod to Robin Hood, so the story goes that criminals used to rip off goods from cars parked here. It’s still nicely secluded (though apparently not as much as it used to be). This is the sort of the idyllic stretch that the cheesy phrase ‘long walks on the beach’ probably originated. An episode of Hawaii Five-0 was apparently also filmed here – crank the surf guitars and hit that water.

Makapu’u Beach

Sunset over Makapu’u Beach. Image: jai Mansson / Flickr

Hugging the dark lava rock mountains on the edge of Oahu’s easternmost point, Makapu’u Beach is a wild, sprawling nook for those who like their waves a little bigger and their whitewash a little rougher. The rip can get a little strong from the unexperienced along Makapu’u, but the shorebreak by the Makapu’u Lighthouse makes a swell spot for budding board riders.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay. Image: Prayitno / Flickr

East of Honolulu on the southern peninsula, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a must-see. A protected marine life conservation area, curved Hanauma sits within a volcanic cone, a pristine state park supporting over 400 species of marine life. A popular snorkelling spot, there’s nowhere better on Oahu to swim amongst the rainbow-coloured fishies. 

All this, of course, is merely what’s possible within the hold of the capital: Oahu is an endless loop of incredible beachside bliss, and Honolulu is just a taste of the goods. Hit the skies for the big Hawaiian hub – it’s your next endless summer in the making.

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