Destinations USA Hawaii Beach

8 Beautiful Beaches in O’ahu Hawaii [with map & accommodation guide] • Our Globetrotters

Plan the perfect Hawaiian beach getaway for your family

It’s no secret that Hawaii’s beaches are as close as you can get to paradise in the USA. Some of the best beaches in the Aloha State are located in O’ahu, the third-largest island in the archipelago and one of the best spots to visit for first-timers to get acquainted with Hawaii.

If you’ve already started your O’ahu research, you’re no doubt already overwhelmed at the choices; what sort of accommodation should you choose? Near the action or something secluded? Resort or vacation home rental? Are you an active family looking for hiking and water sports opportunities, or are kids’ clubs and a deck chair to unwind most important to you?

The great thing about the O’ahu coastline is there’s something incredible to suit all interests.

In this guide to the best O’ahu beaches, we’ll take you through what to expect at each of the popular beaches and beach parks, what facilities you’ll find nearby, and our top picks on where to stay nearby to make the most of the azure waters of O’ahu.

This post is part of our best beach vacations series and Discover the USA

Please stay up to date with latest travel information for Hawaii before you fly.

The Most Beautiful Beaches in O’ahu Hawaii – Perfect for Families

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Waikiki Beach

Set on the west coast of O’ahu, Waikiki Beach is the coastal area of the capital Honolulu, arguably the most spot on the island of O’ahu for locals and tourists alike. If you love a bustling beach vacation with everything from swimming and sun-bathing to people watching, this is going to be the beach for you.

Waikiki’s gentle waves are ideal for beginner’s surfing lessons. If learning how to catch waves has always been on your bucket list, you’ll find many surfing instructors available here or simply relax at the beach and watch others try their moves.

Waikiki Beach and its numerous resorts and condos are just a stone’s throw away from entertainment, cultural events, delicious food, incredible exotic drinks, and performing arts you’ll find in Honolulu.

Waikiki tends to have a vibe you either love or hate! There’s so much to see and do, your older kids will never get bored, and you can rest assured they are safe in the calm, lifeguard patrolled waters.

Where to stay: Try Hokulani Waikiki by Grand Hilton Vacations Club or Halekulani for classic family resorts, or if you love a self catering condo try Aston Waikiki Beach Tower.

Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach)

Heading just a little further eastward along the North Shore, Laniakea means “wide sky”, and it is easy to see how it earnt it’s name (if you go past the first 30 yards where most people hang out).

Hawaii Oahu Beaches - Laniakea Beach Turtle Beach

Aside from its natural beauty and gorgeous white sand, the highlight of Laniakea are the giant green turtles (or honu) that inhabit the area. Seriously, it’s full of them!

You are most likely to make a spotting in the summer months when waters are calmer (May to September), but spotting’s can be made year-round. Volunteers on the beach help control the crowds for the beaches most popular visitors to have some space.

They were once on the endangered species list, However, today, thanks to the protection efforts of the government and volunteers, they can be easily spotted swimming happily around the island of O’ahu.

Laniakea is also a prime location for big surfing waves during the winter months. It’s not ideal for a full day at the beach, the strip of beach is narrow and not very protected, but undoubtedly a beach stop every family will want on their O’ahu itinerary.

Where to stay: Enjoy an ocean front beach house vacation rental with uninterrupted sea views.

Ko Olina

Last but not least, we couldn’t possibly skip Ko Olina! Ko Olina is a series of picture-perfect beach lagoons that Hawaiian travel magazines are made of! Situated on the leeward (west) side of O’ahu, these beaches are hugely popular with families with young children (and it can be very crowded, especially on weekends!) But don’t let this put you off; the pros can massively outweigh the cons.

Hawaii Oahu Beaches - Ko Olina

Beginner snorkellers will love Ko Olina for its calm and protected waters, though there’s not as much marine life to be seen (once you’ve learned the ropes, head a little further north on the leeward side to Paradise Cove, Kahle Point and Electric Beach).

Getting about with babies and toddlers is made easy with a network of pathways and plenty of shaded grassy areas between the four lagoon beaches. You’ll find showering and change facilities on hand and everything you could possibly need for the perfect beach vacation – including epic sunsets!

If its a great mix of beach time, convenient facilities, restaurants and entertainment nearby, Ko Olina will suit your family to a tee; it’s no wonder parents so frequently vote it as the best family beach in O’ahu.

Where to stay: The first name that comes to mind is always Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa – but there are more! Try Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club or Beach Villas at Ko Olina to name but a few.

More accommodation options on O’ahu

If you’re still trying to narrow down the choice of where to stay on O’ahu for that perfect family beach vacation, this map helps provide a great comparison between available VRBO properties and hotels via Booking.com.

As a general, but very flexible, rule of thumb:

Resort-lovers – stay on the leeward coast around either Ko Olina or Waikiki

Wave-lovers – the North Shore will be your best bet

Nature Lovers – water sports, hiking and a bit of serenity can best be found on the Westward coast

For first-timers, the island itself is relatively easy to navigate but can be snarled with traffic in peak season. Do pick the location you think will suit you most of the time, then plan to make day trips – be it on a tour or in your own rental car to some of the other beaches in O’ahu so you can get a full appreciation of what O’ahu is all about.

Best Snorkeling Beaches in Hawaii

Are you coming to O’ahu for the fabulous snorkeling opportunities? Beyond the beches we’ve already mentioned above, you may also want to try:

Queens Beach Sans Souci Beach – near to Waikiki, next to Kapi’olani park. From here you can enjoy the marine conserve right off the beach. You are near to Waikiki’s other top attractions such as the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium.

Kuilima Cove – found on the North Shore near Turtle Bay Resort, this is a great spot for beginners as its close to popular hotels for easy access. The waters here are calm even in winter as the rock barrier reduces large waves and you get great visibility.

Three Tables – on the North Shore near Waimea Bay. This area is recommended for more experienced snorkelers as you can get stronger waves and currents than some of the calmer bays but you’ll find a great tropical fish population.

Sharks Cove – Also on North Shore near Waimea Bay. The awesome vision you can experience here with a good range of marine life to be spotted makes this little spot in Hawaii a top choice for snorkeling if you want to see a great range of tropical fish. The downside due to its popularity, it can be crowded during surf season (Fall through Spring). It is also the time of year you can find strong currents, so an area recommended for experienced swimmers.

Aweoweo on the north shore is where you should head if its snorkeling with turtles you’re after. There are no lifeguards here, so take care. The beach is tucked within a residential area so expect limited parking and facilities, but a great spot to set up your tent for the day and make some truly magnificent marine sightings.

Kahe Point/ Electric Beach – can often boast some of the island clearest waters. Situated on the leeward (west) side of the island, it’s just north of Ko Olina. It’s best for your intermediate to advanced snorkelers as there are no lifeguards at this beach and waters aren’t as calm as in the more popular bays. It’s perfect for your tweens and teens though with strong swimming skills .

More frequently asked questions about beaches in O’ahu

What is the best snorkeling spot in O’ahu?

It really depends what stage your at in your snorkelling journey and what sorts of things you enjoy. Hanauma Bay is a great spot for all with a natural setting, not surrounded by high rise resorts.

Another good spot for beginners is Ko Olina or Kuilima Bay with good facilities nearby, lifeguards and calm water.

Where can I see turtles

The best turtle beaches can be found at Aweoweo Beach Park and Turtle Canyon. You’ll need to reach turtle canyon by boat or kayak but it’s worth the reward.

Another spot, close to the larger resorts of O’ahu to try is Paradise Cove.

Before travling to Hawaii on a beach vacation

  • From 2 January 2021, a Hawaii Law came into effect banning sunscreens made with the harmful chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate – the two chemicals that are considered particularly bad coral and marine eco systems. PLEASE double check your labels, even if it says Reef safe; they will be confiscated for sure if you have packed the wrong thing.
  • If you think you’ll be snorkelling a few times, it makes sense to buy you and your kids your own snorkeling kits – no need to worry about using rented gear. For occasional use only, try a rental on tours or places like Snorkel Bob’s have a location near Waikiki, known for stocking reputable brands.
  • Check current rules in relation to the State of Hawaii’s Safe Travel Program.
  • Pack all your beach day bag essentials! Pop on over here we have a comprehensive guide to what we always pack for a big day out at the beach.

Getting There – How to get to the best beach in O’ahu Hawaii

Honolulu airport is one of the busiest in Hawaii, servicing multiple US and international destinations, making O’ahu the most popular tourist island in Hawaii. Traveling out of peak season is certainly recommended, if possible.

Once you’re on the island, the Daniel K Inouye International Airport (HNL) is only 20 minutes from Waikiki with taxi, Lyft and Uber options, or you can hire your own car if you want more flexibility.

For reaching the North Shore resorts, expect more like 35-40 minutes by taxi or ride shares, or 2 hours by bus.

Try out these shared transfer services from HNL airport, great if you’ve got a group of you.

You may also like to read from our blog:

Have you ever visited the island of O’ahu in Hawaii? Which beaches were your favorite ones? Let me know in the comment section below!


Further reading for beach lovers

Looking for more beach vacation ideas in the US? Why not try:

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USA Vacations Oahu Beaches

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