Best Beaches on the Leeward Side of Oahu

Most visitors to the island of Oahu stay in the fabulous Waikiki area and plop there towels down on Waikiki Beach, unaware that the Leeward Side is packed with great beaches, all just a stone’s throw away. Here’s an introduction to the some of the best beaches on the Leeward Side of Oahu.

I’d be remiss not to start with the world-famous Waikiki Beach itself. After all, this is where the action is, and not everyone on a Hawaiian holiday is looking for peace and quiet. Even if it’s just for an unforgettable sunset walk, you’ll want to visit Waikiki Beach during your stay on the island of Oahu. With its stunning view of Diamond Head crater, Waikiki Beach is easily one of the best beaches in the world. Unfortunately, everyone knows it, and it can get pretty crowded. Somehow, though, there’s always room for more. I’ve never had a problem finding a spot on Waikiki Beach to drop my towel on the sand. Waikiki Beach is great for swimming (think sandy bottoms) and surfing (relatively mild but fun waves), but it’s not a great snorkeling site. Look for Waikiki Beach Center (in front of the Pink Palace, aka the Royal Hawaiian Hotel) to find the sandiest patches of beach. I’d still recommend wearing a pair of reef shoes, so as not to cut your feet or stub your toes. This part of Waikiki Beach can get the most crowded, so branch out from there.

Although technically considered part of the Waianae Coast, my favorite beaches on the Leeward Side are the beaches at the Ko Olina Lagoons. Okay, so they’re manmade. That’s why they provide such excellent swimming opportunities. No reef shoes needed here. The bottoms are sandy and the views are spectacular. The water is ultra-protected at these four semi-circular lagoons created by developers in the 1990s. Although you won’t see much underwater, it’s a fine place to practice snorkeling, since you can float around all day without worrying about the ocean getting rough. Just take H1 (it becomes I-93), and look for signs to Ko Olina.

If you don’t want to stray too far from Waikiki, check out Ala Moana Beach Park. Ala Moana offers a wide beach (especially compared to Waikiki), with seemingly endless sand and shallow, protected waters. This is a great place to swim if you’re a novice or have children. Honolulu residents often play volleyball on the enormous lawn behind Ala Moana.

The peninsula on the Diamond Head side of Ala Moana is called Magic Island. The water feels like water in a bathtub, gentle and relaxing, but reef shoes are advisable. Yes, it’s another wonderful place to swim. You may be seeing a pattern here. The Leeward Side by definition is the side away from the wind, and thus has calmer waters. The windward side is great for water activities that require wind, such as parasailing. The North Shore is the expert surfer’s dream and the novice surfer’s nightmare.

So, there you have it – the best beaches on the Leeward Side of Oahu. Enjoy your stay, and don’t forget to check out my articles on the Windward Side, the North Shore, and the Waianae Coast. Aloha!

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