The most popular beaches to frequent on O’ahu are all along the East side of island. North Shore is popular for surfing, West side of island is popular for camping, but East side beaches are the most exotic and worth checking out, especially if you are staying in town! All along the east coast, you can stop at all these different beaches that bring their own unique style of paradise to this beautiful island. You can rent a car, or take the 22 Bus from Waikiki, and enjoy the scenic route along the coast to check out what all these different beaches are all about!
Here are the best beaches on the East side of O’ahu.
1. The Most Popular and Main Beach in Waikiki, Queen Kapi’olani Beach
This is the main beach in Waikiki at the end of Kapahulu Drive, with a Starbucks and Lulu’s Restaurant on the corner, and the busiest beach in Waikiki. This beach is definitely the most crowded, but if your first time in Waikiki, definitely check it out!
This beach represents what Waikiki is all about, city life meets island life. So, not only are you getting some energy from the Waikiki city, but you also still get a touch of a slow pace paradise, where you can still sit back and enjoy the beautiful view of palm trees and the city. Also one of the best spots to watch a beautiful sunset!
2. Sans Souci and Kaimana Beach
The less crowded and more mellow beaches of Waikiki, would be Sans Souci and Kaimana Beach. Just keep heading up north from main beach, and you will see more locals hanging out that live in the neighborhood. Here is where you can enjoy laying out in hammocks, or posting up on the grass, or have a BBQ with friends. The best is walking around here and embracing the laid back beach vibe. I really feel like I am living the simple, easy island life when I am here. Whether you are craving a quiet beach day solo, or wanting to kick it with friends, this is a cool spot to be in town!
3. Makalei Beach
Another favorite spot for locals is Makalei Beach, which is located at the eastern end of Waikiki on Diamond Head Road. This beach is hidden in a lovely neighborhood filled with luxury beach houses, but still a great spot if you are looking for a laid back mellow beach day. Not a popular beach for swimming, really, since there is reef right on shore, but great for a quick dip, and to relax on a secluded narrow beach, away from the Waikiki crowd. Also great for picnics or BBQs with friends, but the best is to sit on the grass, under some tall palm trees, and watch the waves crash along the sea wall. The sunsets here are also pretty killer!
4. Diamond Head Beach
Next beach on Diamond Head Road along the coast, you will see a stunning shoreline view of Diamond Head Beach. This beach is more popular for surfing, and not the safest for swimming, but the view is definitely worth the quick stop to walk along the beach and check out!
5. Cromwell’s Beach
One of my personal favorite beaches is Cromwell’s Beach. You can access this beach walking up from Diamond Head Beach, and it’s located on Kulamanu Pl in the upscale community of Ka’alawai. This is a very popular spot for locals, and a lot of my friends that grew up on island always enjoyed this place as a kid. Definitely not a beach that tourists frequent, so nice to come here and swim around in the beautiful bright blue water enjoying your own private piece of paradise.
What makes this beach even more special, is a hidden lagoon that you can walk to by climbing over some rocks that is on the left side of the beach. Walking to the lagoon, you can appreciate the beauty that this beach has to offer. The beach was named after Doris Duke’s husband, James Cromwell, and their famous estate surrounds this cool blue lagoon. Doris Duke was a famous American heiress and socialite in the 1930s.
6. Kahala Beach
Another hidden secret spot that is popular with locals is Kahala Beach. Located on Kahala Road in a luxury neighborhood, there are various access points along the avenue to enter the beach. Mostly good for surfing beyond the reef since the waves can be really strong and it gets windy there. Definitely still worth checking out if you are looking for a quiet, lazy day of laying out!
7. Halona Beach Cove
This beach is another one of my personal favorite hidden gems, Halona Beach Cove, or also known as Cockroach Cove. This spot is mostly known for the famous Halona Blowhole, where people stop along the scenic coast to watch the famous big waves blow. To the right of this stopping spot, is a sign that says DO NOT ENTER. It is almost too much of a tease to not continue along this hidden path, and you soon enter a beautiful hidden cove surrounded by lava formed cliffs.
This beach almost looks like something you would see in a fantasy, a secret paradise that is so enticing it is too tempting to pass up. Every time I walk down, it is like a forbidden fruit, inviting me to enter this alluring hidden piece of paradise. The waves can be very strong and turbulent, so only recommended to swim when the water is calm, and stay close to shore.
8. Sandy Beach
The most popular beach for body surfing, surfing, and body boarding, or just hanging with friends, is definitely Sandy Beach Park. Famously known for the powerful shore breaks, this beach is awesome to watch some serious experienced surfers shred the waves. Whenever I come here, I always end up watching the surf all day. Especially the body surfers and body boarders, they put on quite a show just killing it out there!
The shore break can be very, very dangerous, so only recommended for experienced surfing. If the waves are mellow, still a good beach for swimming. You can even walk to the right of the beach, and check out the cool tide pools. This is a great spot to hang with a good group of friends, because you will see a lot of beach parties here!
9. Makapu’u Beach
Another popular beach for surfing and especially for it’s beauty, is Makapu’u Beach. Even living here, when I come to Makapu’u, I sometimes feel like I am in a different country. This beach just oozes paradise, the water is an incredible blue, and you always see hang gliders flying in the sky! This beach is also famous for it’s lookout and the lighthouse trail that you must not miss!
Seeing the panoramic view from the lookout of Makapu’u seriously looks like a painting, almost unreal. Hanging on the beach, there is a strong shore break, so only recommended for experienced surfers. Still an awesome spot for a relaxing beach day. There are tide pools to the right also, but only recommended to check out if the waves are mellow. This is the last beach that the 22 Bus will go to, and from here it heads back to Waikiki.
10. Waimanalo Beach, Kailua Beach, and Lanikai Beach
These three beaches are located outside of town and in the same proximity of each other. Definitely worth a visit at each, if you can make it happen! In my opinion, these three beaches are the most gorgeous, all white sand and turquoise blue water. The neighborhood here gives off a cool beach town vibe similar to California. Not a lot of tourists frequent here, but because these beaches are in local neighborhoods, parking can be a pain to get here.
Recommended to check out during the week, and if you come here plan for a long beach day. You can sit back and relax, and rent water toys. The water is always mellow here, so more popular for swimming or playing with water toys. If you are taking the bus from Waikiki, take either the 56 or 57 towards Kailua.