8 Great Beaches on Oʻahu for Families
From Ko ‘Olina to Turtle Bay, O‘ahu boasts family-friendly beaches perfect for languid summer weekends.
With longer days—today we’ll have 13 hours, 25 minutes and 52 seconds of daylight!—and sunshine-y weather, summer is the perfect season for outdoor fun. And in Hawaiʻi that means hitting the nearest beach.
Oʻahu alone has dozens of family-friendly beaches along 112 miles of coastline with lots to do for kids of all ages. You can take surf lessons in Waikīkī or camp at Waimānalo Beach Park, snorkel at Hanauma Bay or explore tidepools at Makapuʻu.
Before you head out, though, check ocean conditions—these can change quickly!—and talk to lifeguards. Visit hawaiibeachsafety.com to check for current wind, surf and ocean conditions.
Yes, Waikīkī can be crowded with visitors, especially in the summer months. But there are so many beaches in this area—from Duke Kahanamoku Beach on the ʻewa end near the Hilton Hawaiian Hotel to the tranquil Kaimana Beach on the opposite end—you can find a nice spot to spend the entire day. Kids love to jump off the Kapahulu Groin into the ocean—check tides and conditions!—and there are several concessions along the shoreline that rent out surfboards, bodyboards and stand-up paddleboards, too. Take a surfing lesson with your family or hop into an outrigger canoe and catch waves with the veteran Waikīkī beach boys. If you have little ones, consider the lagoon fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s calm—no waves here!—and open to the public. There are tons of take-out shops and restaurants in Waikīkī to grab a quick lunch or snack, and if you forget something—sunscreen, water, Spam musubi—visit a nearby ABC Store.
Ko ʻOlina Lagoons
Ko ʻOlina on Oʻahu’s West Side boasts 642 acres and a string of four white-sand, man-made lagoons connected by a pave path that fronts the hotels in the area. (If you’ve stayed at the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, you’ll know the lagoons we’re talking about.) All four lagoons—Koholā, Honu, Naiʻa and ʻUlua—are open to the public, though parking can get full early on weekends. Rock breakwaters protects these lagoons from the open ocean, so the conditions are always calm and great for kids. Take a stroll on the pathway, which meanders for more than 1 1/2 miles along the shoreline. There are no lifeguards here, and, because Ko ʻOlina is privately owned, you aren’t able to bring alcohol, pets, tents, beach umbrellas, bikes, kites or Frisbees here. Food options are plentiful—you can eat at one of the hotels’ restaurants or walk over to Ko ʻOlina Center & Station for breakfast, açaí bowls, coffee and Mexican food. Don’t leave without a stop at Black Sheep Cream Co. for its unusual ice cream creations.
Kualoa Regional Park
The 4,000-acre Kualoa Regional Park in Windward Oʻahu has everything you could want in a beach: big grassy area, picnic tables, restrooms, showers, lifeguards and an expansive sandy beach. Plus, older kids can kayak offshore—or even to Mokoliʻi Island (aka Chinaman’s Hat) and hike to the summit. For a nominal fee, you can get a camping permit for one of the more than 20 campsites at this park. As for food, stop by Aunty Pat’s Café at Kualoa Ranch for local-style bacon fried rice or a loco moco, or grab ʻono Hawaiian food, hand-pounded poi or—our favorite—the Sweet Lady of Waiāhole (warm kūlolo and haupia ice cream) and at Waiāhole Poi Factory.
Baby Makapuʻu Beach
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
One of the most popular snorkeling spots on Oʻahu is Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve—and now is the best time to visit if you’re a resident. Not only is the state limiting the number of people who visit the bay every day, but residents are able to get in free and without reservations anytime from 6:45 to 9 a.m. on the days the bay is open. (It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.) This protected bay—the favorite fishing ground of King Kamehameha V—has a shallow fringing reef just offshore, with depths up to about 10 feet. The reef flat extends about 100 yards and numerous fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles can be found here. Bring snorkel gear and look for butterflyfish, wrasse, goatfish, tangs and the state fish, humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa. (Download this helpful fish ID card.) And if snorkeling isn’t your—or your kid’s—thing, no worries. The beach is great for building sandcastles, too. Parking is $1 for residents ($3 for non-residents). Head into nearby Hawaiʻi Kai for shave ice, pitaya bowls and bubble drinks at Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snacks, poke bowls and edamame from Hanapaʻa Market, or omelets, Benedicts and waffles from Koa Pancake House.
Situated next to Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, Kuilima Cove is an oft-overlooked spot with calm waters and sandy shores. It’s a great place to snorkel, too, especially for beginners and kids, with lots of fish—butterflyfish, parrotfish, wrasse, tangs—swimming in the protected bay. Splurge at one of the dining options at Turtle Bay Resort or stop at Kahuku Farms for pizzas, paninis, freshly squeezed lemonade, smoothies or—our pick—grilled banana bread topped with vanilla caramel and vanilla haupia.
Known as Yokohama, Keawaʻula is a gorgeous beach on the island’s West Side. While it’s not always the safest place to swim—check with lifeguards first—it boasts a wide and often uncrowded stretch of sand that’s great for lounging, playing and picnicking. Look for dolphins offshore and, in the winter months, you can often see migrating humpback whales. More adventurous families can hit the 3.5-mile (one way) Kaʻena Point Trail and see nesting seabirds, albatross and the occasional Hawaiian monk seal.
Pūpūkea Beach Park
Pūpūkea Beach Park is dividing into several sections—and the northern end is great for kids and families. Shark’s Cove (above) is a great place to explore the tidepools, especially at low tide. (Kids should never be left unattended.) Further south is Three Tables—its name comes from the three reef formations that are visible during low tide—where you can snorkel or wade to find reef fish or crabs. Summer is the best time to venture anywhere on the North Shore, as surf is small and conditions tend to be calmer. (Winter brings huge surf, which can make these areas dangerous.) Stop at Foodland across the street for snacks and beach essentials.