Honolulu is home to some of the world’s best adventures and sights. Whether you stay in bustling Waikiki or on the outskirts of town, you’re sure to create core memories and have the time of your life.
But the beaches of Honolulu will likely be the highlight of your vacation. From the iconic shoreline fronting the Royal Hawaiian Resort to the quieter Waialae Park, you’re sure to find your new “happy place” in Hawaii on one of these amazing beaches.
Ready to learn more about the best beaches in Honolulu? Here are some of Oahu’s best beaches and experiences — from downtown Honolulu to the far corners of the island!
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN HONOLULU
- Best For Instagram-Worthy Pics: Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger has a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center and bar in Honolulu. Inspired by local influencers and artists, this hotel is Hawaii’s original craft hotel with a creative island vibe.
- Best on Waikiki Beach: Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is located on 22 acres on the widest stretch of Waikiki Beach. Tropical gardens, ponds and waterfalls define the resort. Enjoy five swimming pools including the 10,000 square foot beach front Super Pool and the best slides in Waikiki.
- Best Historic Luxury Hotel: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort is located in the heart of Waikiki, in Honolulu, and offers a fitness center, full-service spa, an on-property bakery, exclusive area on the beach, beach activities, two outdoor pool options, and cultural activities.
WAIKIKI BEACH – HONOLULU’S MOST ICONIC SHORELINE
It’s one of the most famous beaches in the world: Waikiki. Comprised of eight stretches of sand in a vibrant, touristy neighborhood, it’s as kitschy as it is iconic, and as breathtaking as it is crowded.
From Hilton Hawaiian Village on the west side to Kapiolani Park in the east, Waikiki is the place to go for that perfect Hawaiian beach trip.
This isn’t where you go when you want a spacious, secluded setting. But it’s where you go for calm waters, people-watching, and relaxing, while being steps away from some of the state’s best shopping and dining.
Most of Honolulu’s hotels are in Waikiki, allowing visitors to walk to this lively locale. Sip Mai Tais, take surf lessons, sunbathe, or swim around in scenic lagoons. Honolulu beach vacations aren’t complete without a trip to Waikiki Beach.
Ahead we’ll highlight a few of our favorite spots along Waikiki Beach so you can have the best Honolulu beach day possible.
KAHANAMOKU BEACH AT HILTON HAWAIIAN VILLAGE
The westernmost area of Waikiki is Kahanamoku Beach, which fronts the Hilton Hawaiian Village. One draw of this incredible location is its namesake: the family friendly beach area honors Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic athlete who brought international attention to Waikiki and defined modern Hawaii surf culture.
But the man-made lagoon at Kahanamoku Beach makes this area even more distinct. You can hop on an aqua bike or bring your own float to this man-made swimming area.
Kahanamoku Beach is frequented by Hilton guests but is open to the public, so feel free to come and enjoy this unique setting.
ROYAL HAWAIIAN BEACH
The beach fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel may be the most recognizable area of Waikiki. This is where you’ll see the rows of pink umbrellas with Diamond Head in the distance. It has a vintage postcard vibe yet is steps away from some of Honolulu’s most modern shops and restaurants.
Royal Hawaiian Beach runs along many of Waikiki’s top hotels. This makes it a busy spot but also a lot of fun. Do some people-watching and sightseeing while swimming in the calm, blue ocean.
If your goal in Waikiki is to swim in calm waters, head over to Kuhio Beach. Breakwalls protect the shoreline in this beautiful spot, so it feels more like a saltwater pool than the open ocean. Small children will love it.
Adventurers head beyond the break wall, where you’ll find two popular surf spots: Queen’s and Canoes. You can book a surf lesson or watch the athletes from the calm swimming area. Either way, you’ll love spending a few hours on this scenic and popular beach.
SANS SOUCI BEACH (KAIMANA BEACH)
The easternmost subarea of Waikiki is Sans Souci Beach, also called Kaimana Beach. Located at the base of Diamond Head in front of the Kaimana Resort, Sans Souci is a little bit more spacious and quiet than other Waikiki areas.
Sans Souci translates to “without a care” in French, and it embodies the laid-back spirit most Honolulu vacationers seek. This is a great beach for swimming – It has calm water thanks to a vast offshore reef, and the ocean floor is soft and sandy.
Parking at Sans Souci beach is limited, especially on weekends when local families enjoy days off here. So arrive early or catch the bus from your Waikiki Hotel.
Looking for more things to do around Waikiki Beach? Try some of these awesome adventures!
- Take an Afternoon Glass Bottom Boat Tour Around Waikiki. Join the Haleiwa Queen cruise from Oahu, enjoy the clear view of the Pacific Ocean floor as you cruise over live tropical reefs and one of Hawaii’s shipwrecks on a glass-bottom boat.
- Snorkel With Green Sea Turtles. Take a city cruise for the rare opportunity to snorkel with endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles and fish at the Turtle Canyons off of the Waikiki coast. Enjoy light snacks and drinks along the way.
- Learn to Scuba Dive Off The Coast Of Oahu. Venture out into the deep blue waters off the coast of Oahu for a magical scuba dive experience for beginners. Explore Hawaii’s tropical reefs and the amazing creatures that inhabit them alongside an experienced instructor.
DIAMOND HEAD BEACH PARK – HONOLULU’S BEST PLACE FOR A LONG WALK
Not far from bustling Waikiki, you’ll find Diamond Head Beach Park. It’s far quieter than its westerly neighbors since it typically has poor swimming conditions and a narrow shoreline. But what it lacks in swimming and sunbathing, it makes up for in sweeping views and laid-back vibes.
Diamond Head Beach Park is a popular surfing area and an ideal place to take a sunset stroll. There’s a grassy park area where you can picnic or people watch, all within close proximity to one of Honolulu’s most popular destinations: Diamond Head Crater.
Parking for the beach access is on Diamond Head Road. It’s a different parking lot than the one you’ll use to hike the crater, though you may still include both destinations in your Diamond Head adventure.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Kaluahole Beach, Makalei Beach, and Le’ahi Beach Park are a few small areas between Kaimana and Diamond Head beach parks. They are typically very narrow (or nonexistent when the tide is high) and not great for swimming. However, you may want to visit to see locals fishing or surfing, or to check out the sights.
ALA MOANA BEACH PARK – ONE OF THE BEST DOWNTOWN SWIMMING SPOTS
Just outside of Waikiki, you’ll find a sandy beach with a little more space and a unique beauty. A reef protects the shoreline at Ala Moana Beach Park, and ample parking makes for easy access.
Take advantage of the calm waters by swimming or snorkeling. The sand here is soft and it has shallow waters – a good place for families who want a great swimming spot away from the Waikiki strip. Young children especially love it here.
Ala Moana is one of Oahu’s most popular beaches, but it is definitely worth a visit. There’s a large, grassy area, picnic tables, a volleyball court, and several tennis courts. Plus, it’s right across the street from Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest open-air shopping mall.
MAGIC ISLAND – A RESORT-WORTHY LAGOON
Though technically part of Ala Moana Beach Park, Magic Island deserves its own place on this list of best beaches in Honolulu. In the 1960s, a peninsula was constructed at the end of Ala Moana Beach Park. The plan was to build a sprawling resort, but they instead turned it into an extension of the large park.
Today it’s a fun area that vacationers of all ages will love.
A break wall protects the small swimming area, so it’s typically a nice calm area to splash around or explore. But when the surf is high, it can also be a fun place for boogie boarding.
Magic Island is located on the east end of Ala Moana Beach Park, just a short walk from the parking lot. It’s a great place to exercise, picnic, or watch surfers in the distance.
WAIʻALAE BEACH – THE BEST BEACH FOR WEDDINGS AND PICNICS
The Waialae – Kahala neighborhood is just east of Diamond Head. It’s here that you’ll find luxury homes, upscale dining, and many of Honolulu’s best attractions.
It’s also home to many small, sparkling beaches, including Waiʻalae Beach. This small pocket of shoreline typically has crystal-clear waters, plenty of parking, and restrooms onsite.
Waiʻalae Beach is a popular spot for weddings. After all, the views are amazing, and you don’t have to deal with the crowds of nearby Waikiki. But it’s also a nice place to picnic, snorkel, swim, or simply relax. A small green space has picnic areas, palm trees, and gentle breezes.
Waiʻalae Beach is in a residential area near the Kahala resort on Kahala Avenue.
HANAUMA BAY NATURE PRESERVE – THE BEST PLACE FOR SNORKELING
Of course you expect to see incredible beauty when you visit Honolulu. But it’s still surprising just how beautiful Hanauma Bay is. This nature preserve is home to so much tropical marine life, making it a snorkeler’s paradise.
Hanauma Bay carries a lot of cultural and environmental significance. Hawaiian royalty once used the area for fishing and relaxing, but then in the late 1900s tourism and overuse strained its delicate ecosystem.
These days, visitors have to take a few extra steps to enjoy Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. You’ll make a reservation in advance, pay an admission fee, and watch an orientation video before entering the beach area.
Is it worth the extra effort? Absolutely. A beach day at Hanauma Bay is full of adventure, beauty, and fun.
Hanauma Bay is near the Hawaii Kai neighborhood of Honolulu.
THE BEST BEACHES OUTSIDE OF HONOLULU
WAIMANALO BEACH – A SPRAWLING RURAL RETREAT
Though it stretches nearly three miles long, Waimanalo Beach is easy to miss. This scenic site is located in a small town on the outskirts of Honolulu.
There’s a lot of agricultural land here, and the Paniolo (cowboy) culture is strong. There’s a small commercial center with a grocery store and fast food, but most visitors pass by Waimanalo quickly on their way to Kailua or other windward destinations.
But what’s hidden in plain sight here is a park that’s unbelievably beautiful. Waimanalo Beach is broad and wide, and nearly deserted on weekdays. It’s the perfect place to escape the noise and crowds of Honolulu while being just outside of the city limits.
When you visit Waimanalo Beach, you can choose to park near the ballfields or in the wooded area near Bellow Airforce Base. This forested park is called Sherwoods.
With lots of space and unique scenery, Waimanalo is definitely one of the best Oahu Beaches.
LANIKAI BEACH – ONE OF THE WORLD’S BEST BEACHES
What makes Lanikai one of the world’s best beaches? You can start with its beauty – white sand, bright blue water, and small islets not far from shore. But there’s more to Lanikai than its good looks.
There’s excellent snorkeling around the reef, and there’s a lot of space to stretch out and relax. If you seek adventure, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and head over to Mokulua Nui, one of the two small islands less than a mile offshore.
Whether you want to explore the water or relax on the sand, Lanikai is sure to offer an unforgettable beach day.
You’ll find this great spot in the town of Kailua. Parking is limited, and signs mark the small pathways to the sand.
KAILUA BEACH PARK – AN ADVENTURER’S PARADISE
If your ideal beach day includes activities and adventures, Kailua Beach Park could be the perfect spot for you. It’s a great place to try out a number of water sports, like kayaking, Stand up paddle boarding, kitesurfing, and canoeing.
The shore breaks create fun bodyboarding opportunities, while the calmer areas are great for swimming.
But even if you prefer a more relaxed experience, Kailua could be your place. It’s scenic and laid-back, and it’s often ranked as one of the prettiest beaches in the country. The crystal clear waters here are inviting and luxurious.
Kailua Beach is about a mile away from Lanikai Beach. They’re both fun, beautiful spots that are worth the half-hour drive out of Waikiki.
MALAEKAHANA BEACH – THE BEST CAMPING BEACH
If you truly want to escape the noise and crowds of Downtown Honolulu, consider camping at Malaekahana Beach near Laie. Whether you want to stay for an hour or overnight, you’re sure to love the relaxed local vibes and incredible scenery on Oahu’s windward side.
The long, white-sand beach of Malaekahana is the perfect place to sunbathe, take a stroll, or hop in for a swim.
Malaekahana Beach Campground offers tent sites and huts for overnight stays, and it’s all within minutes of the Polynesian Cultural Center, horseback riding, and great hiking.
MAKAHA BEACH PARK – PART OF A SCENIC DAY TRIP FROM HONOLULU
Makaha Beach is home to some of the island’s best big-wave surfing. You may be surprised to find such skilled surfers away from the North Shore. This small town is on the leeward coast, about 34 miles west of Honolulu.
The winter swells at Makaha are a sight to behold. On calm summer days, the soft sand and gentle waves make this an ideal spot for swimming. You’ll find the beach park right off Farrington Highway, shortly after the town of Waianae.
If you’re visiting Honolulu, you should consider heading west for a day trip. Stop by Ko Olina, Makaha, and Makua Beach. It’s a big adventure, but worthwhile to experience the seclusion and beauty of Oahu’s west coast.
THE BEST BEACHES ON OAHU’S NORTH SHORE
We recommend any Honolulu visitor venture out to the North Shore of Oahu to see the impressive surf, try out unique food trucks, experience the laid-back vibes, and take in some of Oahu’s best beauty.
Wondering which shorelines to check out while in this unique place? Ahead we’ll feature a few of the North Shore’s most beautiful beaches so you can step into adventure and a relaxed island spirit.
WAIMEA BAY BEACH PARK – A BIG WAVE SURFING DESTINATION
Waimea Bay Beach Park is a must-see for any Honolulu beach hopper. In the winter months, large waves draw expert surfers to the water. You’ll want to watch from the shore, as this is a dangerous time for swimming.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in the summer months, there are a lot of great things to do at Waimea Bay. It is a great place for swimming and snorkeling. You can also watch adventurers leap off the 30-foot rock that serves as the prominent landmark for this North Shore Beach.
You’ll find Waimea Bay in the charming town of Haleiwa. It’s close to one of the best things to do in Oahu: the Waimea Valley botanical gardens and waterfall, a must-see private park where you can hike, swim, and attend a luau.
SHARK’S COVE – THE BEST TIDE POOLS AND SCUBA DIVING
Want even more North Shore adventure? Nearby Shark’s Cove at Pupukea Beach Park is a great place to go! At low tide, you can explore the many tide pools. And in the summer it has excellent snorkeling conditions.
Shark’s Cove was also named one of the best scuba diving spots in the world.
Don’t worry, the cove gets its name from its shark-like shape, not because these feared creatures lurk in the water. You’ll likely see green sea turtles, tropical fish, eels, and maybe even a monk seal.
However, Shark’s Cove can be a dangerous place due to big waves, strong currents, and its rocky setting. Only enter the water on calm days, stay within the cove, and don’t venture into the lava tubes or caves where you could get stuck.
Shark’s Cove is about one mile north of Waimea Bay, with parking right off the highway.
SUNSET BEACH – THE BEST PLACE TO END YOUR DAY
If you keep driving north another couple of miles, you’ll find Sunset Beach, a location whose name really says it all. This is where you could end your day of North Shore Beach hopping, as it’s the ultimate place to watch the sun dip into the Pacific waters.
Like the other North Shore locations, this has strong waves in the wintertime and a great swimming locale on calm summer days. Sea turtles and fish flock to the shoreline’s colorful reef.
There are restrooms and lots of parking across the street from Sunset Beach, all of which is right off Kamehameha Highway in the Pupukea community of Oahu’s North Shore.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: While on the North Shore, consider checking out Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach) and Papa’iloa Beach, both of which are about 3 miles south of Waimea Bay.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HAWAII
- YOUR HAWAII VACATION
- HILO: 16 Spectacular Things To Do In Hilo, Hawaii
- KONA: 16 Things To Do In Kona Hawaii (And The Kohala Coast)
- KAUAI: 22 Breathtaking Things To Do In Kauai You’ll Love
- OAHU LUAUS: 12 Absolute Best Luau In Oahu You’ve Got To See
WHERE TO STAY IN HONOLULU
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