In the spirit of the soon-to-arrive New Year, let’s countdown five lesser-known best beaches on Oahu. Some you may have heard of, others perhaps not. We’ll share a little gem about each sure to please even the most discerning, travel blog reading, thrill seeking and spirited travelers, including revealing not only the area’s best beach, but the country’s top rated. And, the answer may surprise you. Enjoy.
Duke Kahanamoku Beach
Dr. Beach named Kahanamoku Beach the #1 “Best Beach in America” in 2014, for a litany of reasons. Because of its safety ratings, ease for families, proximity to services, cleanliness of water, sand “feel” and more — he announced to the world this favorite. The best part? For guests of THE MODERN HONOLULU, all you need to do to get there is walk out of your guestroom, meander past the Sunrise Pool, descend the ramp that leads you towards Duke’s Lagoon, and Kahanamoku Beach is just on the other side – a mere two-minute stroll. Indeed, the #1 beach in America is steps from THE MODERN HONOLULU.
From Friday afternoons to Sunday just after sundown, the kind folks at Bellows Air Force Base open the checkpoint gates and allow civilians to frolic on one of the only ironwood tree-lined beaches on the island. You’ll park in a shady grove of beautiful conifer trees that provide all the necessary cover for when the sun is too strong. Make your way to a wide swath of sand with an almost milky, aqua blue ocean that faces Maui and Molokai (visible on super clear days). If you’re partial to beach volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, touch football or whiffle ball, this is the spot for you. Loads of space and some great eats nearby. (Sweet Home Waimanalo BBQ is a winner.)
Go west, young men and women… This is what locals have referred to for decades as “Our Waikiki.” That is, crystal clear water, constant (albeit mellow) surfing waves, a wide sandy beach, lifeguard towers and plenty of people to mingle with. It’s a bit of a maze getting there, but this gem just past the airport and Ewa Beach on the West Shore of Oahu is worth the ride. You can act out your best “Gidget” fantasy with plenty of room for wipeouts.
These days, with the influx of winter visitors soaking up the big wave surf contests at “The Big Three” spots on the North Shore (Waimea, Sunset and Pipeline), it may seem hopeless to find a serene spot. But Malaekahana (pronounced “Mel-eye-kah-hanna”) is a taste of “old Hawaii.” This gorgeous bay is serene and peaceful, with only a handful of weekend campers allowed to hunker down in tents among the dunes. With no vendors, hardly any man-made structures within eyeshot of the beach, this is the perfect spot to bring a cooler, blanket and your besties for some no frills beach time.
For decades the sleepy, residential beach town of Kailua has been gaining in popularity with visitors. There are boutiques, cafes and coffee shops, countless breakfast joints and picture-perfect beaches. And while the masses head to Lanikai, you should break “left” where the crowds go “right.” Kalama Beach Park boasts a “blink and you might miss it” parking lot with a palm-lined path that leads to a crescent of sand on Kailua Beach. It’s far enough from the bustling area, and ideal for enjoying some solo body surfing alongside the locals — in what happens to be one of President Obama’s favorite spots during his annual vacation. Bring a boogie board — there’s a perfect shore break for trying your hand at wave sliding.