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Trip Report - Beach Style

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Trip Report - Beach Style

We embarked on a 6 day journey intent on hitting as many beaches as we could along with a few hikes. We rented a car, stayed at three different places (Makaha, Kahaluu, and Waikiki), and tried to keep the whole trip at around $1,000 per person (including airfare, hotel, food, drinks, and rental car). Here are our experiences:

AMAZING BEACHES

1. SUNSET BEACH: A pro surfer paddles back to shore with his board sawed in half…Jeff Spicoli pedals past on his retro beach cruiser…an acoustic guitar gently weeps along the narrow strip of concrete roadside. All of these sights and sounds made for an awesome experience. And who can forget the surreal experience that ensues when large tour groups take over the beach with camera in hand taking the obligatory money shot of the surfers then jump back into their air conditioned tour buses. Anybody know what that pose with head slightly cocked and peace sign fingers is all about? I hear it’s big in Japan, LOL. Afternoon is prime time for a SUNSET.

2. LANIKAI BEACH: Resisted the urge to skip this beach after circling the Lanikai side streets for 10 minutes to find a barely legal parking spot. Was rewarded with super soft flour sand and postcard views of the offshore Mokus (you’ll swear you’ve seen this same image before in a travel brochure of a “bikini-clad woman walking along a perfect white sand beach, her kids laughing and splashing in front of a beginner sailboat charting into perfect blue waters with an upright sail spitting the two distant islands in the background”). Lots of rental kayakers and families. My sense was a lot of tourists who base camp in Kailua hit this beach, with very few locals present, but we were here on a busy weekend afternoon so that perception could be skewed a bit. Also worth noting, we had perfect sunny conditions with very few clouds at this beach while at the same time it was rainy and cloudy at the Nuannu Pali lookout only a few miles away. Crazy!

3. YOKOHAMA BEACH: Pure white sand, very few people (I think I counted only a dozen or so), a beautiful natural backdrop, the occasional whale sighting, and an “end of the road” feeling made this a great beach to start out our trip. We chilled here after hiking Kaena Point trail. Amazing rainbows were out in full force.

4. WAIMEA BAY BEACH: Surf was down (5-8ft) when we got here on a clear blue sky weekend morning. Got here early after grabbing some coffee at Coffee Gallery in Haleiwa. Definitely had no problem finding a parking spot. But by 10:00 am, the small lot for the big wave beach was full. Seemed like a 50/50 split of local families and tourists. Huge descending beach with nice sand. Didn’t see many surfers of any kind…only a couple of stand up paddle surfers along the northern rocky edge. Kind of a letdown from that standpoint.

5. MAKAPU’U BEACH: Truth be told, we didn’t actually spend any significant time here. No parking was available at the time and we were jonesin’ for some ice cream, but after catching a glimpse from the Makapu’u Head lookout we wish we had the extra time to spend here. What an amazing spectacle of nature. Hang gliders circle overhead like giant birds in the sky. Dark black cliffs empty into perfect blue waters.

WORTH YOUR TIME:

6. Kailua Beach: Not a lot of flat beach area but a nice soft approach to the beach from the parking lot on tightly cut green grass. Plus the grassy berm planted with large trees creates a nice separation from the parking lot and the main access road to the beach. Lots of kayakers making their way to Flat island and the distant Mokus past Lanikai. Sand was not as soft as Lanikai.

7. Waimanalo Bay Beach: Didn’t have enough time to stop here, but the vertical green cliffs across the highway looked amazing and the sand and water conditions looked very similar to Kailua and Lanikai. Drove by on a Sunday and it appeared the locals have kept this card close to the chest.

8. Makaha Beach: Spent the afternoon of our first day here. I think there were more surfers in the water then there were people on the beach. They were gearing up for the Buffalo Big Board surfing competition the next day. Makaha Valley provided a nice green backdrop.

9. Sandy Beach: Man is the sand HOT here. Not much shade other than under a few palm trees which the locals had claimed to watch the surf breaks and catch up on their reading. Cool distant view of the Halona Blowhole to the west. Had a very ‘high school’ feel to it with teens catching the waves after school let out.

10. Halona Beach Cove: Would be an AMAZING beach if it weren’t for the hundreds of gawkers above at the Halona Blowhole parking lot. Good photo op anyway.

BEST OF THE REST:

11. Haleiwa Beach: Just at the end of Haleiwa town. Stopped for some photos early in the morning, but had to head down the Kamehameha to Waimea Bay to grab a parking spot.

12. Kuoala Regional Park Beach: What appeared to be another local’s favorite beach with families grilling and playing games. Great view of Chinaman’s Hat and the Ko’olau Mountains.

13. Pounders Beach: Nice almost deserted beach that we shared with some sand crabs and a local fisherman….until the clouds came then we drove a few miles down the road to sunnier conditions.

14. Pokai Bay Beach: Caught the sunrise at the Ku’ilioloa Heiau on the first night of our trip after flying into HNL. Very few people around….only the lifeguard packing up his truck and some kids in the parking lot.

15. Kahana Bay Beach: Not much going on here. A boy scout troop had set up camp underneath the large pines next to the beach. There was also some construction going on near the Kahana stream. So we snapped a few photos of the bay and headed back for another day at SUNSET BEACH.

IF YOU DON’T RENT A CAR, I GUESS YOU’RE STUCK WITH THIS:

16. Waikiki Beach: We were in Waikiki for 2 full days. I think we spent 10 minutes total on this beach. I’m actually surprised Disney hasn’t gotten a piece of the action yet. If you like jam packed beaches with more beginner surfers per capita than tourists in $30/day beach chairs then by all means head here. But this was not for us. Luckily the Sheraton Waikiki had some great pools and a killer water slide.

What we learned is Oahu is a beautiful place with a lot of natural diversity. Each side of the island is very unique. You really need at least a week to explore the whole thing. And just remember if it’s cloudy on your trip just drive a few miles down the road and you will find the sun again. Happy Travels!

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1. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

Kudos. What a beautifully composed, cogent and detailed post....

It is wonderful when a visitor begins to truly appreciate Oahu, recognizing it has a distinct beauty and depth of culture found nowhere else in Hawaii. The royalty knew what they were doing when they picked Oahu for their capital and home over everywhere else in the islands.

The ignorant downplay Oahu. Those in the know experience something wonderful.

Next time you come out I would be happy to point you towards a few incredible beaches you missed.

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Saint Cloud...
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2. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

Nice beach report.

You are mostly right about some of the beaches "belonging to locals". But that seems to be the case only on weekends & holidays. No problem with them during the week.

I usually recommend driving tours & beach time away from Waikiki on weekdays.

And I agree with you about renting a car.

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3. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

Very nice description of the beaches on Oahu,Thanks

We love Waimanalo it's probably our favorite it is so big and wide open lots of parking too. I have been during the week and the weekend Memorial Day weekend. at that and still no worries parking there.

Edited: 4:26 pm, March 06, 2010
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4. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

Very nice job with your report! Loved it.

Amberloo wrote:

<<<Next time you come out I would be happy to point you towards a few incredible beaches you missed.>>>

Do tell, Amberloo!

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5. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

Nice perspective!

"All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine." J. Spicoli

Minneapolis...
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6. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

@amberloo

Unfortunately the wife is itching to get started with the baby phase of our life journey together, so it might be awhile til we get back to Oahu...diaper expenses and such.

What beaches did we miss?

Cheers!

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7. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

What a great trip report.

Man do I miss Sandy Beach. I used to boogyboard at Sand Beach years ago. Got tossed up and ginded into the sand several times.

12 years later, I doubt if these older bones can handle Sandy Beach.

Thanks for posting.

Saint Cloud...
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8. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

"12 years later, I doubt if these older bones can handle Sandy Beach."

So true. I used to body surf at Sandy Beach in early 70's while I was stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Now I just watch others there.

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9. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

M&F...

Four more beaches I would highly recommend on Oahu are (from south to north along the windward side):

Bellows Beach, just up the road from Waimanalo Bay State Park, accessible to the public only on weekends (Friday through Sunday or Monday Holiday).

Kokololilo Beach, on the south side of Pounder's Point. Sounds like you were on the north side of the point.

Malaekahana State Recreation Area, just north of Laie Town.

And my personal favorite, Kawela Bay, at the westerly edge of the Turtle Bay Resort.

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10. Re: Trip Report - Beach Style

Hey Amberloo,

We are visiting Oahu in August. ( Me, my Hubby and two sons aged 15 and 11) - you said you would give some insight into missed beaches!!!! So can you give us any recommendations please???? We are staying on the West side of the island, so are there any other "Must See" or "Not to be missed" attractions??

Thanks in advance!

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