Oahu boasts some of the greatest beaches in Hawaii, because there is a beach for every interest! No matter what you desire to do while at the beach, you can accommodate your needs in Oahu.
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The following beaches are my favorites, based on the activities you can do at each location:
Learning to Surf: Waikiki Beaches - The beaches on the Waikiki strip are great for beginning surfers. The swells are only a few feet, making it a great location to practice surfing, without risking life and limb. The water is much more calm than on the North Shore or other areas of Oahu. Plus, Waikiki is home to dozens of surf schools where you can get specialized, individual lessons. These beaches are great for learning or practicing before heading out into the "big deep".
Beautiful People Watching: Waikiki and Honolulu beaches - Nearly any beach along the hotel strip in Waikiki and Honolulu will be full of beautiful (and some not-so-beautiful) bodies. Due to the hotel strips, it is simply the closest and most convenient for most people, including the bikini-clad sun bathers, beach volleyball enthusiasts and your average family. Plus, the convenience of nearby shops and restaurants tends to attract all sorts of people who are in Hawaii to do the typical "beach thing". This includes laying out, swimming, body boarding, boogie boarding, learning to surf, building sand castles and taking long walks on the beach. Sounds great, right? It is, if you enjoy being around lots of other people.
Snorkeling: Hanauma Bay - As you approach the Bay and look down at the beautiful crescent-shaped enclosure, you can see the reefs and calm water, assuring you that you have the right spot for snorkeling. Hanauma Bay is a state park, so it is one of the only beaches that has a charge for entrance. However, the fee is minimal (few dollars) and the results are well worth it. The Bay is enclosed by the reef, cutting down on the ocean swells and waves that come in. This creates an ideal setting for snorkeling. The reefs are home to thousands of fish and the water is shallow enough (in many places) to walk around. There are also rentals for snorkeling gear available right on the beach, so even inexperienced, first-timers can get everything they need on the spot. There is also one food stand, but it is pricey and it gets crowded during lunch time, so consider bringing your own snacks. Arrive early on holidays and weekends because once the parking lot and beach is full, no more people are allowed entrance. So, if snorkeling is on your "to-do" list, get there with plenty of time to spare. (I would suggest arriving no later than 9am on busy days.)
Hanauma Bay is also great for other typical beach activities, from swimming to building sand castles, to just sun bathing. But, the real adventures in the Bay are out by the reefs. Be careful not to touch the coral - it cuts easily and the coral can be "poisonous" creating infections in the skin. So, wear appropriate gear, especially on your feet, and of course, use masks and snorkels. This is a great place to test out under-water cameras!
Surf Competitions: Pipeline and Sunset Beaches - These North Shore beaches boast some of the best sufers and surf competitions around. Ocean swells are largest in the winter months, so most competitions are planned around December. However, many competitions are not planned at all, they depend solely on the ocean conditions. If you visit during winter months, ask locals and pay attention to the local news to find out when and where the big competitions will be (these include competitions featuring the "biggest swells" of 25-50 feet). So, pay attention to where and when the locals show up to get an idea of where to go to watch surf competitions. The Bonsai Pipeline (at Pipeline Beach) is one of the most famous surfing locations, but this beach's rocks make it less appealing for normal beach activities. Inexperienced and beginning surfers should be careful on these beaches - pay attention to the warning signs posted during periods of high swells and undertoes.
The surf competitions are a great opportunity to witness surfing (and surfers) at their finest. The crowd at the competitions are fun and into the sport, though many are there simply to eye the surfers. Bring along your own food, not much in the way of snack shops within walking distance. During other times of the year (outside the winter months), you may not get to see the competitions, but these beaches are still full of surfers, practicing their sport.
Body and Boogie Boarding: Hukilau Beach - This small beach on the Windward side of the island is a great place for body and boogie boarding. The waves are just the right size and come close enough to shore to carry in even the beginning boarder. This is a local's favorite beach and you will often see Laie and Kahuku residents on this beach. The waves can get fierce at times, but most of the time, it is a great place to "play in the waves". This is also a great spot for "jumping" the waves and swimming. The sandy beach is not the best for laying out, so if you plan a trip to this beach, plan to spend most of your time in the water!
Romantic Walks ALONE on a Beach: Temple Beach - Temple beach is a small stretch of land in front of the Mormon Temple, in Laie. Just down the road from Hukilau, it is quiet and peaceful, much like you see in the movies. The beach is "protected" by the surrounding lands and, therefore, the water remains very calm and serene. It is a great place to enjoy the peace and beauty of the ocean, without all the tourists. This is not the spot for body or boogie boarding, but if want to relax, swim, build sand castles, run along the beach, or go for a romantic walk, it doesn't get any better than Temple Beach.
Rock Jumping: Waimea Bay - This beach, located on the North Shore, has a great rock formation sticking out into the water. It is perfect for jumping off into the ocean. There are spots where you can jump anywhere from 2 feet high up to about 20 feet high. Daring teens are often seen jumping and diving off the rock formation. It is a fun beach. During the summer months, this beach's water is calm, almost like bath tub water, but during the winter, wow, it can get pretty crazy. The beach is closed at times, due to the dangerous swells and currents, so pay attention to the signs. But, in the summer, it makes for a great play and swim spot.
Beautiful, Sandy Beach and Clear Water: Waimanilo Beach - This beach is located a few miles from Hanauma Bay and it is a beautiful beach, with the clearest, cleanest sand on the island. There is no reef, so the water is clean and clear and the sand is free from ocean debris and trash. It is just a great, clean, beautiful beach. The water is so clear you can see through it. It is a gorgeous spot. The waves are small to moderate, so you can have fun playing in the water, or simply enjoying the sandy beach.
Rough Water: Pounders Beach - Like the name indicates, Pounders Beach, on the Windward side of the island, has rough water and close-to-shore swells. Locals think it is a great place to body and boogie board, but even the locals get "pounded" from time to time. This beach does have lots of "blue bubbles", so watch out. Blue bubbles might be considered the scorpions of the sea. They wrap around you (arms or legs) and have a fierce sting. Locals know how to remove them and treat the stings, so if you get caught by a blue bubble, ask for help. Still, the beach is a fun beach for playing and "rough-housing" in the water.
Overall Best Beach: Sunset - I still think Sunset is my favorite beach. At dusk, Sunset boasts...beautiful sunsets, of course. It is picturesque and incredible. During the summer months, it has fun waves that are small enough to enjoy, but big enough to play in. During the winter, shore swells are big enough to body and boogie board, and the far-out ocean swells are great for surfing. The sand is pretty clean and clear, making this beach great for laying out, building sand castles and just relaxing with family and friends. This North Shore beach is my overall favorite beach...the ideal Hawaiian spot for playing in the ocean and having fun!
Well, these are my favorite beaches! Of course, there are lots of other small, great beaches along Oahu's shores, so make sure you explore - don't just stick with the tourist spots.
For other tips on Oahu and Hawaii, check out my other Epinion reviews!
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