More Windward Side Beaches

If you have a car, older kids and a bit of adventure inside, each of these beaches makes for a full day of fun, offering a beach experience different from Waikiki and different from each other. Try them all, pick a favorite, and return.

Then, show off to your friends; make snide remarks about how overdone Waikiki is, and mention the local beach you alone discovered.

Lanikai

Really just an extension of the Kailua Beach, Lanikai is usually wonderful because it rarely has more than a handful of mellow folks relaxing on it at any time. There are no showers or toilets, just a mile or two of soft sand and gentle waves. The bottom is soft sand, and the shore offers lazy views to nearby small islands that will seduce the most frazzled traveler. You lay back and count grains of sand between your toes, the kids wade in the shallow warm water and all is good with the planet. The Dr. Beach guy says this is the best beach in the US, and he seems real right.

Makapuu

This is one of our favorite active beaches, and good fun for kids say 10 and up who are comfortable in the water. Teenagers and boogie boarders will also enjoy themselves here. The beach is small, a cresant maybe 150 yards long. The attraction is powerful waves, strong enough to knock you back a bit but not as rough as say nearby Sandy Beach. There is some undertow, more on the stage left end of the beach but get past the rocky outcropping near the center and you should be fine. Lifeguards are on duty. We wouldn't bring infants here, but even small kids enjoyed playing in the bubbly surf and, as noted, older kids loved the waves forever.

Parking is free, and there are toilets, showers and picnic tables. There is only a small patch of shade on the beach, so take care in the sun. No food or drinks are sold. The view out to sea is to die for, and worth a stop even if the waves are over your head. Across the street is Sea Life Park (see our review) which might be a nice stop for one parent with smaller kids while the other parents enjoys the waves with an older child.

Kualoa (China Hat Beach)

This beach is very popular on weekends for local people, but does not offer so much for the visitor unless you are kind of in the area for some other reason. There are acres of grassy areas, with a narrow soft sand beach and very light surf. The sand molds well for sand castles, and if you are on the beach for more than 8 seconds the kids will be swept off in some game with the local children, but otherwise this is a bit slow and offers little you can't enjoy at Kailua or Lanikai without the nice extras of those places.

Sandy Beach

Yeah, right, all beaches are sandy. Spend a few minutes going Tyson postal with this beach and then let's talk big guy. Sandy Beach has some very rough waves, making it a favorite for body surfers and boogie boarders. It also has a nasty undertow that forces sand into, through and on your bathing suit and special places. This is not a beach for young kids in any way, but if you have older children who are strong swimmers, the waves can be great fun. There are showers and some icky toilets but otherwise this is a serious beach. Parking is free and abundant, so you might want to stop by anyway just to watch others wipe out. If you park off the pavement, note that the sand is soft and will swallow your tires. Drive like you would drive on ice and snow and you'll be OK. Otherwise, surfer folks will always give you a push out while your teenage son dies many deaths from embarrassment and shame.

The From Here to Eternity Beach

No matter what some lame tour guide tells you, the famous love scene with Burt Lancaster and the famous woman whose name I have forgotten right now (maybe Deborah Carr?) from the movie “From Here to Eternity” was NOT filmed at Hanauma Bay but here, next to the scenic lookout not too far from Hanauma Bay by car. The place is easy to miss, but if you are driving from Waikiki, pass Hanauma Bay, go around the bends a few times and pull into the first marked scenic outlook point on your right. There are some gorgeous views from the parking area, and folks say that in the winter months you might even see a whale or two in the distance. Maybe so, but we are interested in the beach below the outlook to the right.

You can easily walk down the rocky path to the beach but small kids and clumsy parents might want to be careful. The beach is small but pleasant, and you will likely share it with no one but maybe a few local teenagers. As long as you stay close to the sandy ramp where Burt got sand in his suit it is quite safe. The water more than a few yards out is rough, so exercise caution. Behind you is a scary tunnel that leads just to the other side of the road, but the kids might enjoy exploring it nonetheless (the ceiling at the opening is high enough for an adult to stand but narrows to crawling height at the end. Watch for dips in the floor).

Mom and Dad: No messing around on the beach.

User Feedback

I am planning my family’s first ever big vacation. We will be leaving for Hawaii in 9 days!! I can’t wait. I looked all over the internet for sites about vacationing with kids (age 6 and 3) and this was the best. Thanks to you, I have an itinerary that is sure to please the whole family and give us a vacation we will talk about for years to come! P.S. Thanks for the great planning tips! I will definitely be prepared!

Shelley Edwards

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