Hawaii: Scenic drive on a Harley around the Aloha state
So many stunning beaches, so little time! Wondering how to make the most of our trip to Hawaii with just a few days of vacation, we decided to rent a Harley in Honolulu, stopping by the top beaches in Oahu. Have you ever thought about visiting Oahu riding a motorcycle around the Island? From Waikiki to Turtle Bay with the most incredible turquoise blue waters in between, I invite you to visit Oahu beyond Honolulu in this unforgettable scenic drive in the Aloha state.
While most Oahu beaches are beautiful and inviting, there are definitely some favorites that stand out. During our 5 days itinerary in Oahu, we devoted an entire day to visit the top beaches in this road trip around the island. Even though the drive takes around 4 hours, you’ll need the entire day to appreciate so many incredible places along the way. If you’re on the hunt for the most breathtaking beaches, we’ve got you covered with a list of the 10 top beaches to visit in Oahu.
Best beaches to visit in Oahu, Hawaii
1.Waikiki, Oahu’s main resort area
Honolulu, on the Oahu’s south shore is the capital of Hawaii and gateway to visit the entire island. The Waikiki neighborhood is its center, a vibrant gathering place for visitors from around the world, famed for its iconic beach backed by palms and high-rise hotels. This is Oahu’s main resort area to accommodate guests who prefer to stay close to the ocean. A variety of Oahu attractions, including Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head Crater, Iolani Palace, the Nuuanu Pali Lookout are just half hour from this area where it’s easy to buy a day trip tour from tourism agencies downstairs. Along the main strip of Kalakaua Avenue and Kuhio Avenues visitors will find high-end boutiques, shops, and restaurants. And after the Waikiki sunset, the fun continues with amazing nightlife and live music. We decided to stay in Waikiki and this was the initial and final destination from our day trip.
2. Hanauma Bay, Oahu’s best coral and sea life
Our first stop was Hanauma Bay, which is a beautiful 10 miles ride from Waikiki. Calm and shallow, Hanauma Bay is home to some of Oahu’s best coral and sea life. Formed in an ancient volcano cone, this is a natural bay, excellent for snorkeling in a safe and beautiful environment. This place became a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967. The City & County of Honolulu took over in 1990 to integrate public access, reef restoration, and education. Today, Hanauma Bay it’s the only dedicated snorkeling beach on Oahu, run and regulated by the city. There is a fee per person to enter this beach and we stopped just to take a few pictures and enjoy the views.
3. Sandy Beach, great picnic area
The east coast of Oahu is where we stopped more often during this road trip. Because we had other activities planned in the North Shore and the other side of the island in the next few days, we decided to prioritize our time enjoying the top-rated beaches, parks and towns around this area. From Hanauma Bay to Lanikai Beach, there are so many places you cannot miss in this region. Located in a residential neighborhood, Sandy Beach is dangerous for swimmers but most people stop to enjoy the food trucks and the great picnic area to eat with a view. Lānaʻi Lookout is a great spot to take pictures on the way.
4. Makapuu Beach Park, best sunrise in Oahu (at least one of them)!
As you drive around the Makapuu Point Lookout, make sure to pull over and take a moment to enjoy one of the most scenic views of the windward side of Oahu, including the hillside that leads up to the Makapuu Lighthouse, and a spectacular view of Makapuu Beach Park. Popular among bodyboarders and bodysurfers, Makapuu is the easternmost point on the island. Most visitors enjoy hiking to the top of the sea cliff to watch a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise which is considered to be one of the best places to see the sunrise on the island.
5. Waimanalo Beach, best for swimming
3 miles later is one of the most family-friendly beaches on Oahu, the mild waves at Waimanalo make this beach ideal for anything beginner or anyone with children. Waimanalo is calm, offering several miles of white sand to walk and numerous water activities including swimming, body surfing, and boogie boarding. Makai Research Pier is a beautiful place for pictures in the area.
6. Lanikai, of the best beaches in the world
Consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the world, Lanikai translates to “Heavenly Ocean” and it’s literally a paradise. Fine white sand, clear blue water and a laid-back atmosphere, this is a mandatory place to visit in Oahu. The two islands you see printed on just about everything are the Mokulua Islands, or “the Mokes.”, which is also one the top postal cards when the topic is beach in Oahu. Both islands are protected sea bird sanctuaries and most people enjoy going around them by kayak or stand-up paddleboards while enjoying the landscape. The calm waters and outer islands make this a prime beach to snorkeling and have fun in the water.
To get the full Lanikai experience, some people also consider arriving early in the morning to watch the sunrise and hike the Lanikai Pillbox trail. Note that only street parking and limited spots are available for visitng Lanikai beach.
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
7. Kailua Beach Park and Kailua downtown
Located less than a mile away from Lanikai, Kailua Beach Park offers picnic tables, bathroom and shower facilities. The beach area is part of a 35-acre park, with volleyball, basketball courts, and many other recreational activities. In addition to the warm aqua-blue water, the downtown Kailua area, which is only 5 minutes away from the beach, has its charm with some neat shops and some great restaurants worth visiting. This is a great place for a delicious meal on the road.
8. Turtle Bay
Most people visit this beach to catch a glimpse of a honu, which is the famous Hawaiian green sea turtle. From Kailua Beach to Turtle Bay it takes around 1 hour drive where we had the chance to enjoy the breeze on all faces while enjoying stunning views from the Oahu Coast all the way to the North of the island. Turtle Bay is located on Oahu’s northeastern and it’s protected from large waves. The Luxury Resort which also has the name: Turtle Bay is one of the top attractions in this area. When we researched about Oahu we knew we would love the North Shore and decided to buy a tour to come back the next day to explore this region. I highly recommend that you do the same. There is a specific time where visitors can see the turtles and you may need a few hours to explore the beautiful Waimea Falls, so the best alternative is to return with a guide and spend the entire day in the North Shore area.
9. Sunset Beach, big-wave surfing town
Sunset Beach is considered one of the longest stretches of rideable surf in the world, and it’s also a venue for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing particularly in the winter months, when you can watch big-wave surfing with swells up to 30 feet tall, along with the world’s premier surfing competitions. If you enjoy surfing, this is the place to be! And, as the name suggests, this is a great spot to watch the sunset too.
10. Ehukai Beach, massive tubes in Oahu
Just 1 mile away is Ehukai Beach, known for the massive tubes and powerful waves that make this one of the most dangerous surf spots in the world and one of the venues for the Triple Crown of Surfing. For amateurs and tourists, it’s great to enjoy the waves breaking over a sharp reef no more than a few feet from the surface. Banzay Pipeline is a great place to stop and take some pictures. Here is the map with the itinerary for this trip.
If you have time, you can also visit the Ko Olina Resort and Marina, this man-made beach resort which offers some beautiful well-maintained beaches. This is home to the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, providing the ultimate kid’s Disney Hawaii vacation experience, the luxurious Four Seasons and other incredibles beachfront properties. Yokohama Bay is the last beach along the other side of the coast. According to the locals, Keawaula Beach area it’s one of the the favorite among photographers and Pokai Bay Beach is the top dog-friendly beach in town.
We returned to Waikiki very happy to visit so much in a single day. It’s easy to rent a motorcycle and the experience is unforgettable.