SUN, SAND & SURF
Second, only to Kauai, some may argue, the island of Oahu has some of the finest beaches in the state, ranging from world-famous Waikiki Beach and family-favored Ala Moana Beach Park to equally famous Lanikai and Kailua on the Windward Side. Up north is the surfing mecca of the world, which includes Haleiwa, Waimea Bay, Pipeline and Sunset Beach. In the sunny summer months, the best surf comes to the south shores, and Waikiki is the place to be. In the winter, the north shores attract hundreds of world-class surfers and thousands of spectators who come to watch these expert watermen challenge some of the world’s largest waves.
BEST BEACHES FOR SWIMMING
Ala Moana Beach Park is where local folks gather for picnics, after-work jogging, surfing and, long-distance swimming. The calm and protected deep-water swimming area, dredged in the 1920s, is ideal for distance swimmers who perform their laps in the channel parallel to the beach. Wading is best at the extreme ends of the crescent-shaped beach, with most families congregating at the Magic Island end of the park. The grassy side of the park has tennis courts, food concessions and lots of room for large gatherings of picnickers.
Waikiki has established its fame around a lovely mile-long beach, a scenic setting below Diamond Head and gentle breakers. The entire world has flocked here for more than 100 years. Hawaiian royalty chose Waikiki as its favorite oceanside playground, followed in later years by an endless stream of film icons, tycoons and international stars, who have been coming here since the day ocean liners first steamed into the Islands. There are protected, shallow areas for toddlers, as well as body-surfing and surfing for the adventurous.
Kaimana Beach, sandwiched between the historic Natatorium and the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, is also known as Sans Souci (carefree in French) and Dig Me Beach (a tongue-in-cheek sobriquet, as in “check me out”). It’s perhaps the most popular beach for locals who tend to shy away from the tourist-covered beaches in Waikiki. There are showers, but no other facilities. Locals rely on the hotel and nearby shops for drinks, meals and, snacks. The hotel’s Hau Tree Lanai is also a popular spot for lunch or brunch, especially if you want to enjoy the sight of sunbathers without getting sand in your shoes.
Kailua Beach is situated on the long, scenic curve of sand that graces Kailua Bay. It attracts Windward residents, visitors, canoe paddlers, swimmers, bodysurfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers and, kayakers. Windsurfing was practically invented here and gained great popularity with the world-famous talent of Robbie Naish, a Kailua boy who gained international fame with his phenomenal abilities. Each sport has its own kuleana (territory), so choose a spot that is predominantly populated by swimmers. Most of the beach is called “Shorebreak” because of the wind-propelled waves that break on the shore, offering fun bodysurfing and fast-breaking, short rides for surfers. Most surfing takes place near Kalama Beach and Castle’s Beach (where President Barak Obama often spends his holidays).
Lanikai Beach is considered one of the top 10 beaches in the universe and just about everyone in the world seems to have discovered this, as the weekend crowds attest. Despite the crowds, it’s still one of the best places in Hawaii to swim in calm, shallow waters, with the additional perk of the scenic peaks of the Mokulua Islands just offshore. Sailboats, kayakers and, standup paddlers add to the festive feel of this favorite beach.
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