So you want to go to the east side of Oahu as a part of your time on the island!
Some of the best beaches in Hawaii can be found in this area!
So then, which are the best Oahu beaches that are on the east side of Oahu aka the windward coast of Oahu?!
First, the quick list of the top 5 beaches on Oahu to know about when you’ll be making your way to windward Oahu.
Then, a bit more about each of these beaches, including some nearby places you might want to go when you’re in the area!
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5 best beaches on the east side of Oahu
aka best things to do on windward Oahu!
1. Hanauma Bay
Go here for possibly the most popular snorkeling spot on Oahu.
2. Lanikai Beach
Go here for a picture perfect white sand beach, along with views of the famous twin islands… the Mokes!
3. Kailua Beach
Go here for one of the best beaches on the east side of Oahu with beach facilities… and to go ocean kayaking to a small island!
4. Waimanalo Beach
Go here for a white sand beach on Oahu that gets less tourist visitors.
5. Makapuu Beach
Go here for boogie boarding and to visit another beach that gets less tourists.
More below about what to do in East Oahu near each of these beaches!
Here's some info on Hawaii trip prep!
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PLUS... Oahu tour, or on your own: Can you visit Pearl Harbor without a tour?
A little more about these top east Oahu beaches!
…aka the best things to do on windward Oahu!
1. Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay is located at the southeastern point of Oahu.
This is one of the most popular spots for snorkeling on Oahu, so if you want to get some good snorkeling in when you’re in Hawaii, this is one spot to consider.
It’s a pretty easy drive to get here from Waikiki, and you’ll also be able to get a direct bus from Waikiki to Hanauma Bay too.
IMPORTANT!!! The cost to visit Hanauma Bay has gone up recently so be sure you are getting the most accurate cost info before you go. Check current entry fees from the County of Honolulu.
Starting July 2021, the Hanauma Bay entry fee is $25 per person, age 13 and older.
Alternative to Hanauma Bay: If you are will to pay for snorkeling (because it’s HAWAII and you’re willing to pay for amazing experiences!), consider going for one of the best Oahu snorkeling tours from Waikiki! That will get you a boat ride on the ocean too!
And if you’re staying in Waikiki, you don’t have to think much about how to get there if you book a tour that starts in Waikiki. You can make it a beach walk with ocean views to get to your tour! (With Hanauma Bay, you need to take the Oahu bus, you need a car, or you need to book a shuttle.)
Things to do near Hanauma Bay
If you’re looking for a good workout in which you’ll be rewarded with stunning views…
DON’T miss the Koko Head Hike
This hiking trail has also been called nature’s stairmaster because the hike is basically a whole bunch of stairs to reach the summit of Koko Crater.
But there are amazing views waiting for you at the top which could make it worth your effort!
This crater is basically right across the street from Hanauma Bay.
So, it could be perfect to go to for the hike that’s sure to get you sweating, and then cool off with a nice recovery of swimming and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay!
2. Lanikai Beach
For picture perfect beach views, Lanikai Beach can be one of the best beaches on Oahu!
It has even made the list of one of the best beaches in the world by a number of publications.
This is also where you can go to see the famous twin islands of Oahu, aka the Mokulua islands aka the Mokes.
One of the negative parts of going to this beach though is that parking can be a struggle.
So if you don’t mind a little extra activity…
You might consider parking at Kailua Beach and walking over to Lanikai Beach…
Or you might consider renting a bike in Kailua and then biking over to Lanikai Beach.
Another down side of Lanikai Beach is that there are no proper beach facilities here.
Things to do near Lanikai Beach
Once again if you like working for stunning views…
DON’T miss the Lanikai Pillbox Hike
You can make this into a longer hike or a shorter hike.
For the longer hike, it can be a point-to-point hike basically making this a ridge trail as you walk along the mountain range. (Of course, you can also make it an out-and-back hike!) You can consider this the full Kaiwa Ridge Trail.
But more popular is to do the short version, starting on the beach/coastal side, and then going a short distance up to the pillboxes, and then going back down.
Either way, you’ll get those amazing views of the Mokulua Islands from above!
3. Kailua Beach
Another one of the things to do near Lanikai Beach is to go to Kailua Beach!
Kailua Beach might be a bit more convenient than Lanikai Beach in many ways, because of the parking situation and beach facilities.
As a proper beach park, Kailua Beach has a parking lot, bathrooms, showers, and lifeguards on duty too.
Things to do near Kailua Beach
If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to see the famous twin islands…
DON’T miss kayaking to the Mokulua Islands
You can also sail to the twin islands off the shores of Kailua: Hawaiian sailing adventure tour to the Mokuluas.
And then you’re looking to be a little active without having to be too active…
DON’T miss renting a bicycle in Kailua
Getting around Kailua town by bicycle can be a fun little thing to do!
You can also take the bikes and head to Lanikai Beach, too!
4. Waimanalo Beach
This is a beach that doesn’t get as many tourists as some of the other beaches on Oahu.
So there might be a better chance that you can get a little bit more of a quieter beach experience if you go to Waimanalo Beach.
If you’ll be driving to Kailua or Lanikai, you can make Waimanalo be on the way from Waikiki if you make it a drive along the coast (as opposed to an inland drive). So you could stop to check it out along the way!
5. Makapuu Beach
Makapuu Beach is another beach that doesn’t get as many tourist visits as other beaches on Oahu.
This beach might have a bit rougher waves as it can also be considered a good beach for boogie boarding.
You can buy boogie boards in Waikiki at the ABC convenience stores for like $20.
The rougher waves also means that you’ll want to be careful a bit more here!
Things to do near Makapuu Beach
If you’re looking for more stunning coastal views…
DON’T miss Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
This is a paved coastal trail that will offer you stunning views nearly the entire way!
If you’ll be on Oahu during whale season, it could be a good place to try your luck for spotting whales from far away.
There are binoculars on the trail for you to attempt to spot whales.
Generally speaking the best time for whales on Oahu is considered to be January through March, although the season in which whales visit Hawaii are said to be from November to May.
But even if you won’t be on Oahu during whale season, the ocean views will always be there!
Waikiki to the east side of Oahu
Because Waikiki is a bit of a distance from the east side of Oahu, going by car can be the most convenient.
Driving time from Waikiki, although always dependent on traffic, will generally be:
- To Hanauma Bay – 20-30 minutes
- To Makapuu area – 30 minutes
- To Waimanalo area – 30-40 minutes
- To Kailua area – 30-40 minutes
But even if you won’t be driving when you’re on Oahu, you can find a bus to go to that side of the island.
You will just want to make sure you have time and patience though, because the buses aren’t as frequent.
Google Maps is good for giving you a general timetable for buses on Oahu – just type in the starting point and destination, and then select public transportation as your method of travel!
And those are some of the best beaches on the east side of Oahu to consider making a part of your trip to Hawaii!
Also see more of the best beaches around Oahu.
And also the best of hiking on Oahu.
HAPPY EAST OAHU BEACH TIME!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
Possibly among the best Oahu maps for tourists!The Franko maps of Hawaii have a high level of detail for activities and it's beachproof aka waterproof. There's an "adventure" guide map and a "snorkel/dive" guide map. Plus a wall map for home to get you excited for your upcoming trip to Honolulu!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of these amazing tours on the Oahu:
- Sailing the ocean on a Hawaiian canoe to a small island
- Hidden gems of Oahu circle island tour + North Shore snorkeling
- Kayaking the ocean to a small island
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight: Oahu waterfalls, mountains, and valleys including the North Shore and Sacred Falls
- Sunset cruise on the ocean