5 Oahu Beaches (Kailua Beach vs Lanikai) | Hawaii, USA

Last Updated on August 6, 2022

If you book a trip to Hawaii, there’s a high chance that you’ve obviously got beaches on your mind and there are certainly plenty to choose from!  My week in Oahu felt a bit like a beach crawl, jumping in for a swim at every given opportunity!  In this post, I share with you 5 of the best beaches in Oahu and give you some tips for visiting!

Oahu Beaches

I mainly stayed on the Windward side of the Island.  Ironically enough, I say that Oahu is one of my favourite places in the world, yet I really wasn’t a fan of Waikiki.  It was crazy busy and I found a lot of the tourists rude, but just a 30 minute drive from the airport, on the other side of the mountains, paradise can be found!

Top Oahu Beaches

Kailua Beach

Lanikai Beach

Laniakea Beach

Kualoa Regional Park

Waikiki Beach

1. Kailua Beach, Oahu

🚙Parking: Yes, large car park

🚾Facilities: Toilets & showers, shops with food nearby, rentals, picnic benches

Kailua Beach Oahu

Out of all the beaches in this post, Kailua is the most ‘visitor friendly’.  There’s a large parking area, toilets, plenty of beach space, shady trees and there was even a rope swing when I was there!  Kailua was my base in Oahu so it was in walking distance from my accommodation (there aren’t many hotels on this side of the Island, I stayed in an Airbnb type rental).

I hired a stand up paddle board from the ‘Kailua Beach Adventures‘, they even give you wheels so you can pull it to the beach! There was more than enough space to paddle it around and not have to worry about hitting any swimmers or people getting in the way.  You can even buy a pass for $3 that lets you paddle out and ‘land’ on Popoi’a Island and Moku Nui, if you feel like going on a little adventure!

SUP Hawaii

It had always been my Mum’s dream to see ‘white sand and blue sea’ and I thought she was going to cry the first time she saw Kailua Beach!  My sister hates swimming but even she couldn’t resist going in the water here, so that must say something!!! I could quite easily live in the town of Kailua, they even decorate their mailboxes!

2. Lanikai Beach

🚙Parking: No, mostly private parking. It’s best to park and walk from Kailua

🚾Facilities: None

Lanikai Beach Oahu

Lanikai Beach has been named one of the best beaches in the USA and even in the world!  It’s not hard to see why.  The water is bright blue, crystal clear (good for snorkelling) and the sand is as soft as powder! However, it is a right pain to get to! It’s in a rather posh residential area of Kailua and finding a spot to park is a nightmare. 

I would suggest doing like we did and parking at Kailua Beach Park and then WALK the rest of the way to Lanikai…yes that will mean dragging all of your beach gear there! It is around a 2 mile (40 minute) walk though. The Kailua Beach Boat Ramp car park is the closest. It is quite small but it have toilet facilities.

There is a LOT of beachfront property along Lanikai Beach, it IS a public beach but the only access is along paths between the houses. There’s also no toilet facilities (the nearest being at Kailua Beach), so bear that in mind if you are planning a trip!

Kailua Beach vs Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is the better looking of the two beaches. It feels like a desert island beach, probably because it’s not the most convenient to reach! However for the ease and facilities available, I think Kailua is the better option if planning a day trip.

3. Laniakea Beach Oahu

🚙Parking: Yes, parking area on opposite side of the road

🚾Facilities: None

Laniakea Beach is up on the North Shore of Oahu. Again, like Lanikai, there are no toilet facilities and there’s a small car park on the side of the road BUT it is a little bit special. Special because it’s a popular spot for THESE guys!

Laniakea Beach Oahu
Laniakiea Beach aka Turtle Beach!

No, I don’t have my camera shoved in its face, I’m a little way from it.  Laniakea Beach is known ‘Turtle Beach’ and volunteers do ‘man it’.  Not only are they there to protect the turtles (I’m sure you’ve seen the lengths people go to for selfies…while in Australia, I saw a guy trying to ride on the back of a wild dolphin…) but they monitor when they come up to the beach, their behaviours etc.  

The volunteers are happy to answer any questions you may have about turtles.  I’ve swum with them a couple of times now (in Belize and in the Maldives) and I could never get bored of seeing them, such amazing creatures!

Oahu Beaches Turtle Beach Hawaii USA

Our car rental GPS had a guided tour of the island pre programmed onto it. While driving around the island it would point out places of interest…Laniakea Beach was mentioned on it too! A good give away point as to whether there may be a turtle is to look for other cars and people as they are bound to be there for it too 😉

There’s a small parking area opposite the beach, but you will need to cross the highway. It can be very busy so take care!

4. Kualoa Regional Park

🚙Parking: Yes, large car park

🚾Facilities: Toilets, picnic benches

Kualoa Regional Park Beach Oahu
Kualoa Beach Park

Now the beach at Kualoa Regional Park HAS a car park, toilets, picnic beaches etc. But it actually doesn’t have that much sand…meaning your towel WILL get wet, it’s more like a lay on the grass kinda beach…and what little sand there is, is a little bit stoney, white! But stoney!

Saying all that, it was actually one of my favourite Oahu beaches! Why? Because it looked the most Stereotypical Hawaii! The (stoney) sand was white, the sea was a milky blue colour, but it was surrounded by the typical volcanic looking Hawaiian landscape!  (LOADS of movies have been filmed at Kualoa and for good reason too!)

Unsurprisingly, Kualoa Regional Park is just around the corner from Kualoa Ranch which is well worth a visit, especially if you are a movie nerd. There are several adventurous tours you can go on! My favourite is the ATV ride!

Kualoa Regional Park Beach Oahu
Looking back at Kualoa Beach Park from the sea!

Kualoa Regional Park also has a good view of Mokoli’i Island (aka Chinaman’s Hat).  Just like the islands near Kailua Beach, it is open to the public if you are feeling fit enough to paddle out to it or wade across at low tide! (Featured in the header image at the top of the post!)

Related ReadingFlorida Keys: A Guide To Key West Beaches!

5. Waikiki Beach

🚙Parking: Yes, parking garages nearby

🚾Facilities: Toilets, many shops and restaurants nearby, rentals, free evening Hula shows & more

Ok ok! I know at the start of the post I said I wasn’t a fan of Waikiki BUT Waikiki Beach still needs to be visited, mainly because the sunsets are AMAZING.

Hawaiian Sunset Waikiki Beach

It’s more of a people watching beach.  It was always on my bucket list to ‘surf Waikiki’ but it’s a little like trying to go above 50mph in a traffic jam on a motorway, it’s frustrating, people are in your way and you’re likely to just smash into them. But I loved all the surf board rentals dotted along the beach (they make great photo props) and of course you’ll see the Duke Kahanamoku statue of the former Olympic athelete and surfer.

Oahu Waikiki Beach USA

A large man floating in a rubber ring almost drowned me in the ‘swimming zone’ when a large wave pushed him right into me. Even though the water is BRIGHT blue and the waves are awesomely fun to jump in, there is rubbish floating in the sea which is kind of a dampener, especially after a week of being spoilt by the beaches mentioned above that are deserted!

Waikiki Beach Oahu Hawaii

The best way to experience it is in an Outrigger Canoe, you get the thrill of surfing but the chances are you’re not going to be drowned by a rogue rubber ring and you’re not liable for decapitating anyone with a surfboard as someone else is in charge of steering!

Waikiki Beach is actually split into 8 different beaches/sections but it is widely known as just Waikiki Beach.  You can walk the full length of the beach and there are plenty of shops, attractins and restaurants very close by!  In the evenings you can even enjoy watching hula dance performances!

7 Day Oahu Itinerary: Things To Do On The Windward Side of Oahu, Hawaii

Do you have a favourite Oahu beach?

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18 thoughts on “5 Oahu Beaches (Kailua Beach vs Lanikai) | Hawaii, USA

  1. I watched a lot of Hawaii Five-0 so I want to make it to those beaches some day! But wow the turtle pic, that is some detail! Very cool 🙂

  2. Lanikai & Kailua look amazing! I admit that I had some Hawaii 5’O flashbacks while reading this, too. Thanks for indulging my daydreams with these drool-worthy pictures.

  3. How beautiful! I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii, but it’s just too far of a flight from Europe when traveling to Asia is so much cheaper. Still hope I will make it there one day!

    1. Yeah it was far! We combined it with a USA road trip so flew London – San Francisco, drove to LA and then flew to Hawaii! I wish I had gone to more of Asia while I was living on that side of the world!

  4. Hi, I am really glad to see such an amazing beaches and I am excited to visit these as well. I also appreciate that you share the beauty of these beaches with all of us. Thanks for sharing!

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