12 Best Beaches on Oahu With Stunning Views and Epic Waves

Time to pack your boogie boards and sunglasses.

Oahu's Most Famous Beach, Hanauma Bay

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What makes one beach better than the next? For some, it’s soft sand you can happily sink your feet into, or cerulean waters flecked only by the coral or kelp visible through it. Others seek whitecapped waves that demand to be ridden by a surf or boogie board, or an underwater oasis teeming with sea life, easily accessed so long as you packed your snorkel.

All this is to say that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. But no matter the sort of beach you’re after, we’d wager a hefty sum that Oahu has it. The most populous island in Hawaii is home to more than 100 beaches — some right near the tropical metropolis of Honolulu, others more isolated and quiet. These are 12 of the best beaches on Oahu — catch some rays or waves for us while you’re there.

01 of 11

Haleiwa Beach Park

Wave hitting the shore of Haleiwa Beach

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Though Oahu’s North Shore is known for its massive waves, the sea at Haleiwa Beach Park is relatively calm. Bring your snorkel, be on the lookout for turtles, and when you’ve worked up an appetite, walk the mile to Haleiwa town for must-try eats at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, Matsumoto Shave Ice, and Kono’s, to name a few.

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Ko Olina Beach Park

Ko Olina Beach Park Oahu Hawaii

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On the west side of the island, Ko Olina is home to four lagoons (and several luxury resorts), and rock levies break the waves and ensure the waters here are calm for swimming. It’s quieter in this area, especially when compared to beaches in Honolulu.

03 of 11

Shark’s Cove

Rocky coastline of Shark's Cove

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Part of Pupukea Beach Park, this North Shore spot is incredible at low tide. Wade around the shallow basin dotted with lava rock — there are no sharks, despite the name, but you’ll spot plenty of other sea creatures. Pack a mask and snorkel.

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Waikiki Beach

Sailboat Off The Shore Of Waikiki Beach In Honolulu

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This is Hawaii’s most iconic beach, boasting brilliant turquoise waters and views of Diamond Head, a volcanic cone that stands nearly 600 feet tall. A large reef breaks the waves here, making it a great spot for floating, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. Plus, you’re near all the city amenities you could need before or after a beach day. Fancy cocktail at The Royal Hawaiian’s Mai Tai Bar, anyone?

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Kuilima Cove

Green plans along Kuilima Cove

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This tiny cove is home to Turtle Beach and nestled just east of Turtle Bay Resort. Open to the public, the calm waters here are good for kids, and turtles and monk seals are somewhat common sightings. Head east by foot and you’ll soon arrive at Kaihalulu Beach, another great stretch of sand on the North Shore.

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Lanikai Beach

Mother and daughter paddleboarding at Lanikai Beach
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Regularly named the island’s most beautiful beach, Lanikai is ideal for swimming and watching the sunrise. There’s not much here in terms of sea life, but folks love the view of Mokulua (a.k.a. “the Mokes”), a pair of oft-photographed islets just off the coast.

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Kailua Beach Park

Palm trees along Kailua beach
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This beach is Lanikai’s neighbor, but it’s more than two miles long and particularly suited for families, thanks to its chill and easy waters. It also has bathroom facilities (many beaches do not) and picnic tables. Grab a to-go meal from any number of Kailua town eateries, like Boots & Kimo’s or Paia Fish Market.

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Sunset Beach

A low hanging palm tree at Sunset Beach

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Among Oahu’s many surf spots is Sunset Beach. The waves here aren’t too massive, so as long as you have a bit of surf experience under your belt, you should enjoy the waves. And given its name, it’s great for hanging out at sundown as well.

09 of 11

Waimea Bay

Friends climbing and jumping off rock into ocean

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Winter brings waves that climb nearly 30 feet in this North Shore bay, but summer waters are calmer for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Its location also makes it great for a joint trip to Waimea Falls, accessed right behind the beach via Waimea Valley.

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Makaha Beach

Makaha beach on Oahu island in Hawaii
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Set on Oahu’s western coast, this beach lures visitors with its beautiful sunsets and soft, white sand. It’s also loved for swimming outside the winter, when waves tend to get a bit larger and currents stronger.

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Hanauma Bay

Oahu's Most Famous Beach, Hanauma Bay

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With gorgeous turquoise waters, Hanauma Bay has long been a popular snorkeling destination, to the point that the state has instituted ticketed and timed entry. Arrive with your “Leave No Trace” mentality so future generations can enjoy it, too. Sea animals like this enclosed bay, so you’ll likely spot tropical fish and morays. In the winter, this is a whale-watching spot as well.

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