Southeast Oahu: scenic views, beaches and hikes not to be missed
The southeastern tip of Oahu is a particularly interesting area to discover. It offers beautiful panoramas, beautiful beaches as well as unmissable hikes!
1Panoramas not to be missed
Let's start this article with the few points of view that you can discover at the bend of the Kalanianaʻole Highway.
Halona Blowhole Lookout
This viewpoint is located directly along the Highway. From here one can enjoy the panorama of the rocky coast and Sandy Beach. The main interest is supposed to be the Halona Blowhole, which is located at the rocks below, to the left of the observation platform. It is a natural breath of water formed by the waves that rush into a small lava tunnel, but that we never managed to see despite our many passages ... It sometimes goes up to 9m high.
It is not impossible that we came each time at the wrong time (low tide, calm sea...).....
If the Blowhole is not in action, you will be comforted with a beautiful view of the pretty sandy beach coiled at the bottom of Halona Cove, visible from the right edge of the parking lot. However its access is more or less forbidden by a sign along the Highway, at the end of the small wall.
Beware, descent and swimming can be dangerous.
There are no facilities on site. A large parking lot is available.
Don't miss the superb panorama easily accessible from the Makapu'u Lookout. This lookout marks the entrance to the East Shore if you are coming from Honolulu. You won't be able to leave from here without having taken some magnificent pictures of this just sublime panorama, as long as the good weather is there.
The parking lot is located along the Highway. It is often full and you have to wait for a space to become available.
2Beaches and Beach Parks
Eastern Oahu is dotted with beautiful sandy beaches! You'll have plenty to choose from! Here are the beaches and Beach Parks that you will meet in order along the Kalanianaʻole Highway from East Honolulu to Kailua.
Kawaikui Beach Park
This Beach Park has a large lawn with some palm trees. Here the beach is not very pretty because often strewn with dried algae. The view on the other adjacent beaches is nicer but they are less easy to access.
A shower and sanitary facilities are available on site as well as picnic tables. Swimming is not lifeguarded. There is an adjacent parking lot for easy parking.
Wai’alae Beach Park
We will come to Waiʻalae Beach Park above all for its small green space crossed by two bridges and adorned with a few palm trees, all decorated with picnic tables in the shade of an arbor. The beach located on the left side of the park is not very interesting compared to other beaches in the area, even if the small bay that emerges is rather pleasant to look at.
Sanitary facilities and showers are on site. Swimming is not lifeguarded. There is an adjacent parking lot.
Koke'e Beach Park
This tiny Beach Park is located in the heart of a residential area. It provides access to a small rocky area that is partially submerged. The "beach", which is more a kind of reef, is located below a green area of the Beach Park that can be reached by a short downhill path.
Be careful when you get down because the rocks along the water are slippery. Swimming is not easy here because the beach is almost non-existent, but it will please young children because the rocks form small shallow pools. Beautiful specimens of black crabs are also present here.
There are no amenities on site. There is no parking, you will have to park in the adjoining streets in the subdivision.
Hanauma Bay State Park
Hanauma Bay is a beautiful but very touristic nature reserve located about 15 kilometers from Honolulu. This ancient crater partly open to the sea offers an interesting coral reef to discover by snorkeling. The sandy beach that borders the hollow of the bay completes this magnificent landscape that can be contemplated from above.
Unfortunately the site is a victim of its beauty and its proximity to Honolulu. Every day hordes of tourists arrive here so much that the parking lot is saturated from the first opening hours. Some of them then come to trample the corals, destroying them without the slightest scruples and this despite the awareness video that it is mandatory to watch before accessing the site.
We never wanted to go down there because we were sickened by the overcrowding. Many of you also gave us your sad testimonies about this place, so beautiful and protected.
As for snorkeling, although we didn't try it and according to the feedback we got, it seems interesting but not as much as the famous spots of Big Island, the "tourist mass" scaring away the fishes.
Fortunately, however, COVID-19 is not all bad. The many weeks of closure in 2020 have brought the reef back to life and it is now full of fish again! Since 2021, access is now limited to 720 people per day (112 people per hour) ... hoping that this limitation will be maintained as long as possible to prevent this beautiful reserve from suffering again the ravages of over-frequentation.
The access to the beach is not free of charge. It will cost $12 per person (from 12 years old) to go down on the sand and enjoy the snorkeling. The parking is also paying at $3 per day.
We recommend that you consult the Hanauma Bay website for all practical information (schedules, limitations, rates) as changes are frequent.
A large parking lot is available. If this one is full, you probably won't be able to go down there, even to take a few pictures, the guards will forbid the access. Swimming is lifeguarded. Snack bar, showers and sanitary facilities on site.
Sandy Beach Park
This wide and long sandy beach is rather pleasant with beautiful waves that will please all those who like to throw themselves into the waves. It is a favorite site for surfing.
Swimming is lifeguarded. Shower and toilets are on site as well as a few picnic tables. The access is easy from the Highway, a large parking lot where you can leave your car along the beach.
Sandy Beach dunes
A little after the Sandy Beach Park, you can come for a walk along the ocean, along a wild sandy beach lined with rocks where the waves come to crash. The place is also one of the two starting points of the Kaiwi Shoreline trail.
A large parking lot of dirt and stones allows you to park, but be careful if you come with a low vehicle. There is no infrastructure on site.
Alan Davis Beach
Round trip of 1.5 km - 20 minutes
It will be necessary to walk a little to reach this small isolated and hidden beach below the relief. The place is peaceful, relatively unknown and probably more beautiful with a little sun!
Access is fairly quick by taking part of the Kaiwi Shoreline trail, a wide and smooth trail that connects the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail parking lot and Sandy Beach dunes. The trail is quite flat and a bit muddy. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the beach from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail parking lot.
The parking lot is shared with the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail and the first few meters are common. Expect to have to park quite far along the roadside on busy days.
This pretty beach borders the small bay visible from the lookout of the same name. Few people come here to swim although the setting and the beach are charming!
A parking lot is easily accessible. There are toilets and showers near the parking lot, as well as a small Heiau (Hawaiian temple) a few dozen meters to the left of the parking lot. Swimming is supervised but beware of the currents.
Kaupo Bay Tide Pools
A short distance from Makapu'u Beach, is this interesting little place on the seaside to eat with its picnic tables (in the sun) or why not try to swim there. It seems that the place is a potential snorkeling spot when the sea is calm...
There are also some Tide Pools (small natural pools among the rocks) which are located just in front of the parking lot, on the edge of a small sandy area.
The place is very popular with locals on weekends and offers a pleasant swimming area for the younger ones. There is a parking lot for parking. There are no amenities on site, swimming is not lifeguarded.
Kaiona Beach Park
This small Beach Park does not look like much, yet it offers access to a beautiful strip of sand with crystal clear waters! Here the ocean seemed rather calm for swimming compared to the neighboring beaches and the place was frequented only by locals the two times we came.
A toilet block with a shower is located at the end of the grass strip, on the other side of the parking lot. There are also several picnic tables in the sun. Swimming is not lifeguarded.
Waimānalo Beach Park
Continuing northward is Waimānalo Beach which stretches 1.5 km along the park and the town of the same name. Here you will find calm, turquoise water and clear sand. We appreciate the wooded setting and the steep relief on the south side. The perfect recipe for relaxation!
Two parking lots allow easy parking and are equipped with showers and sanitary facilities, right next to a small campsite and a large playground. Picnic tables are available and swimming is supervised.
Sherwood Beach Park
In the same line of Waimānalo Beach, here is still a very pleasant place and rather little frequented. Here a pretty pine forest borders the beach which is nice to look for some shade, and why not install your hammock between two trees.
The clear sand as far as the eye can see can only encourage you to swim here. We love the still wild side of this little frequented beach!
Swimming is lifeguarded in front of the parking lot. There are sanitary facilities with shower and picnic tables. It is also possible to camp on site. Access to the beach is via a small side road that branches off from the highway and leads to the parking lot.
Bellows Field Beach Park
Still a continuation of the previous beaches, this Beach Park also offers a large campsite under the trees which is really ideal for a few nights stay!
The swimming area near the parking lot is not the nicest one, but you can go a little further to the end of the campsite where you can park your vehicle very close to the water. Here the pines are superb with the turquoise blue of the sea behind. A feast for the eyes!
Avoid coming here on weekends because Hawaiians come here to camp with their families and the place is often full.
Swimming is supervised at the campsite level. Access is from Tinker Road from Waimānalo. Please note that it will not be possible to continue further north on Tinker Road as it enters a military base.
This is one of the pearls of Hawaii: coconut palms, clear sand, turquoise water, snorkeling opportunities and a breathtaking view with the islands of Moku Iki, Moku Nui and Popoia Island in the background. A magical experience! This beach has been cited several times as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
Lanikai remains one of our favorite beaches in Hawaii despite the fact that it is increasingly popular.
Although lined with houses, this beach remains a little "wild" and we will appreciate the very gentle slope of the sand that gives a lagoon effect as found in the atolls. Don't hesitate to walk a bit along the waterfront towards the South to find a bit more peace and quiet.
The access is not the easiest because there is no parking. You will need to park along Mokulula Drive or one of the perpendicular streets between Kaelepulu Drive and Onekea Drive. If there is a lot of people, it will be difficult to find a parking space. There are several pedestrian accesses along Mokulula Drive to reach the beach. There are no amenities on site. Swimming is not lifeguarded.
Kailua Beach Park
This great Beach Park in Kailua is super nice! There are large, lightly wooded green areas, ideal for picnics with a little shade and a beautiful beach of clear, fine sand!
One will just regret the very high frequentation here which removes a little charm to this beautiful place even if the beach is long and it is possible to move away a little to isolate oneself.
Several large parking lots are available for parking, each with its own toilet and shower block. In case of affluence, the parking lots can be full and you will have to wait or look for a place in town. All amenities are available and swimming is lifeguarded.
Kalama Beach Park
In the same lineage as Kailua Beach is this other Beach Park. Not very crowded, it gives access to the same beautiful beach, but much further.
We will find there much less people and by walking a few meters we can easily find ourselves alone. On the other hand unlike Kailua Beach, here the waves are more numerous and the calm lagoon effect is not present at all. However the clear sand gives a very nice color to the water.
A small parking lot allows you to park at the level of the green areas. From here, to access the beach, walk towards the sea through the grassy area. You will then reach an old house near which a toilet block with a shower has been installed. The beach is just behind the vegetation. Swimming is not lifeguarded.
3Walks and hikes
The Southeast sector of Oahu offers great hiking opportunities, including some of the most famous. Here are the ones we were able to test.
Kuli’ou’ou Ridge trail
Round trip of 6.9 km - 3h00 - Medium
The Kuli'ou'ou Ridge trail is a pleasant and popular hike of Oahu which allows to climb gently up to the Kuli'ou'ou Ridge from where one can admire a beautiful panorama of the area around Waimanolo in the northeast of the island.
We really enjoyed doing this hike early in the morning, in the fresh air. Although the main part of the climb is not really interesting, the landscapes at the end of the trail and the views of the surroundings are worth the detour!
For more information about this hike, the itinerary and the landscapes to discover, please visit our dedicated article:The Kuli'ou'ou Ridge trail: hiking on the Oahu ridges
Koko Crater Trail
Round trip of 2,3km - 2h00 - Difficult
The Koko Crater trail is one of the most popular hikes in Oahu. Its fame is mainly due to the fact that this hike follows the old railroad used by the railcars that ran into the Koko Head mine.
Today the mine is no longer in operation, but its railway has become the playground for thousands of walkers who come to venture there every day and climb to the top of Koko Head from where the view overlooks the coast from Hanauma Bay to Waikiki. But be warned that this hike, in addition to being very crowded, is also very steep and challenging.
For more information about this hike, the ascent and its difficulties, please visit our dedicated article: Koko Crater Trail: climbing the famous Oahu Crater
Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail
Round trip of 4km - 1h30 - Easy
This trail is easy and accessible to people with reduced mobility and strollers. It allows you to gain a little height to have a beautiful view of Makapu'u Bay, the most eastern point of Oahu.
The path is a paved maintenance road reserved for pedestrians. It will be a quasi-continuous ascent up to the final viewpoint near the small lighthouse. On the way, some small belvederes along the path offer nice views and propose explanatory panels on geography or history.
Along the way, we will be able to note the presence of the Makapu'u Tide Pools below the road, about 700 meters before reaching the final viewpoint. These are small natural pools of sea water that fill up when the ocean is agitated.
Attention, the access is forbidden, even if many people go down there to bathe.
Once at the top, 3 successive lookouts reveal the North-East coast of the island. We can see very clearly the islets of Kaohikaipu Island for the closest one, Rabbit Island following, and in the distance Moku Iki and Mokulua Island facing Lanikai Beach.
Although the view is pleasant, it does not have much to envy to the one that can be seen at the Makapu'u Lookout, accessible by car. We will gain here just a little height, some views on the way and the satisfaction of having arrived here.
Note that there is no shadow on the whole trail which can be painful in hot weather.
The parking lot is common with the Kaiwi Shoreline Trail (see next point) and has about 20 spaces. On busy days, you will need to park along the road leading to the parking lot, as the area is quite busy. Expect to have to park far away!
Kaiwa Ridge (Lanikai Pillbox) trail
Round trip of 1,5km - 30 minutes - Medium
The Kaiwa Ridge trail, more commonly known as the Lanikai Pillbox trail, is a hike that offers superb views of Lanikai Beach and the east coast of Oahu. The flip side of the coin is its high attendance.
We really enjoyed this short hike which reveals beautiful landscapes and this while being accessible to all. In spite of its popularity, the views of the surrounding beaches and the ridges further west make it one of our favorites that everyone can enjoy on Oahu.
For more information about this hike and the itinerary, visit our dedicated article: Kaiwa Ridge (Lanikai Pillbox) trail: the most beautiful view of the East Oahu beaches
We have come to the end of this long article! Now it's up to you to make your choice...