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  3. The beaches of the North Shore of Oahu: surfing and snorkeling
Sandrine
Written by Sandrine Published on 02/03/21

The north coast of Oahu offers a wide range of varied landscapes and a multitude of sandy beaches. There is a rather wild and windy coastline west of Hale'iwa, while it is bordered by long and wide sandy beaches around Pūpūkea, offering great snorkeling opportunities thanks to the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District which protects the area.

1The wild coast from Waiālua to Ka'ena Point

Let's start this article with the western sector, from Waiālu to Ka'ena Point, the small cape at the northwest end of Oahu. This rather wild part of the island is relatively unvisited, and yet it deserves to be discovered.

ʻĀweoweo Beach Park

Here's a place we really like! Located north of the small residential town of Waiālua, the ʻĀweoweo Beach Park serves the lovely beach of the same name. But more than the Beach Park itself, it is the whole long ʻĀweoweo Beach that is appreciable.

ʻĀweoweo Beach Park - Oahu
The beach at the Beach Park

Here is a place of calm, far from the bustle of Honolulu. The beach is rather narrow but offers a nice place to lay your towel at the water's edge. The ocean is relatively calm, protected by a coral reef in the distance and a reef at the edge. The color of the water is a beautiful blue which encourages swimming and it is not rare to see turtles.

ʻĀweoweo Beach Park - Oahu
The beautiful color of the water!
ʻĀweoweo Beach Park - Oahu
The infrastructures of the Beach Park

The long sandy beach is easily accessible from the Beach Park as well as from various locations by parking on one of the streets along the beach and then walking along one of the beach accesses to the waterfront.

There is a shower and sanitary facilities at the Beach Park, as well as children's games and some picnic tables. Swimming is not lifeguarded.

Polo Beach

Polo Beach is located in the continuation of ʻĀweoweo Beach. One will come to seek calm on this wide and long sandy beach, a little swept by the waves and shaded by a few trees along the way. The place is wild.

Polo Beach - Oahu
The quiet Polo Beach
Polo Beach - Oahu
East side view

Access is from the Farrington Highway. A small place on the shoulder of the road allows several cars to park not far from Dillingham Ranch. It will be necessary to continue on foot on a path of approximately 300m which skirts some paddocks with horses before leading to the beach.

There are no amenities on site. There is no lifeguard on duty.

Mokulēʻia Beach Park

Still in the same beach line, this is another wild spot especially if you access from the small access on the east side of the beach, at Camp Mokulēʻia before reaching the Beach Park.

Mokulēʻia Beach Park - Oahu
The beach from the wild access before the Beach Park

We find again the quietude of the seaside where we will hear only the noise of the waves. A little further, the vast grassy expanse of the Beach Park opens again on the beach. This time the vegetation is more scattered, but the calm always present.

Mokulēʻia Beach Park - Oahu
The beach in front of the Beach Park

There are chemical toilets and showers at the Beach Park. The swimming is not lifeguarded.

The first access is from a small parking lot along Farrington Highway, near Camp Mokulēʻia. Here, a 'beach access' allows you to reach it. The second access is easily from the Beach Park, where there are plenty of spaces for parking.

Mokulē'ia Army Beach

Here is another very large sandy beach with few visitors. The setting with the ridge in the background is quite nice although the beach itself lacks charm. The latter is a little more exposed to the wind which makes it an ideal spot for kite surfing. However, the presence of the reef just at the edge of the water makes the entry in the water a little bit tricky at low tide.

Mokulē'ia Army Beach - Oahu
The wide beach suitable for kite surfing

There are several small parking spaces and lots along the road and access to the beach. There are no amenities. There is no lifeguard on duty.

Mokulē'ia Rock Beach

The long strip of sand ends here, as well as the road. The sand leaves place little by little to the black rocks. From now on the waves sweep the shore, the coast being more and more exposed to the wind.

Mokulē'ia Rock Beach - Oahu
The beach gives way to rocks

The place is beautiful, especially at the end of the day, when the sea spray forms a kind of fog on the foothills of the ridge. To discover the rest, you will have to take the hiking trail that leads to Cape Ka'ena.

This path runs along the cape on both sides. It is possible to drive it back and forth unless you leave a car on each side (the road makes a large detour through South Oahu to get to the South Shore).

We only took the southern path to get to the end of the cape, but the northern path seemed to us to be interesting, in a wilder and sandier landscape than the southern access which is very rocky. On the other hand, it seemed to us much more windy.

Ka'ena Point Trail - Oahu
The beginning of the Ka'ena Point Trail which leads to the end of the cape, on the north side

There is a dirt parking lot at the very end of Farrington Highway. There are no amenities on site.

2Hale'iwa Beach Parks in Pūpūkea

Let's go back to the center of the north shore, from the charming little town of Hale'iwa. We can linger there to discover the heart of the city and its stores, all in a cool atmosphere, turned around the surf. On the sea side, many beach parks allow access to the numerous beaches.

Kaiaka Bay Beach Park

This large beach park offers a large expanse of shaded grass ideal for picnicking, as well as a campground. The beach at the front of the park is not very crowded, but the ocean is often rough here. Swimming is not supervised.

Kaiaka Bay Beach Park - Oahu
The beach at the edge of the Beach Park

Restroom facilities with showers are available within the Beach Park. The road (Fresh Air Camp Road) loops around the park allowing you to park closer to the picnic tables.

Haleʻiwa Aliʻi Beach Park

Located near Hale'iwa harbor, this beach park offers all the necessary facilities for a short stay at the beach: restrooms, showers, picnic tables and supervised swimming. The fact is that this small beach is very popular with beginner surfers for its small rollers.

Hale'iwa Harbor - Oahu
The beach and its humble waves

Parking is easy at the Beach Park, in the heart of the green spaces.

Hale'iwa Beach Park

Hale'iwa Beach Park is located on the other side of the harbor, north of the town. The place is quite nice, especially at low tide. The beach is cute with its palm trees although it is close to the parking lot. The place can be very crowded, especially on weekends.

Hale'iwa Beach Park - Oahu
End of the day at Hale'iwa Beach Park
Hale'iwa Beach Park - Oahu
The beach on the north side

Restrooms, showers and children's playground are available on site. The swimming is not lifeguarded. There is a large parking lot nearby.

Pua'ena Point Beach Park

We like to walk here, first under the palm trees, then along the sandy beach and finally at the edge of the rocks where huge rollers come crashing.

Adjacent to the Hale'iwa Beach Park, you will have to go deeper into the vegetation before reaching the pretty sandy beach. There are no crowds here, unlike the two other beaches nearby, and yet the beach is much more beautiful, especially at the end of the day.

Pua'ena Point Beach Park - Oahu
The beach along the small bay

Take the time to walk a little along the ocean until you reach the small rocky point. The walk is pleasant at the last light of the day.

Pua'ena Point Beach Park - Oahu
At the end of the beach
Pua'ena Point Beach Park - Oahu
View of the bay and the beach from the rocky area

With a little luck you will even see turtles. We saw them every time!

Parking is available in a small lot at the very end of Hale'iwa Beach Park, to the north. Alternatively, you can easily park in the large parking lot at Hale'iwa Beach Park and walk along the ocean to reach the bay. All amenities (restrooms and showers) are located in the green areas of Hale'iwa Beach Park.

Laniakea Beach

This large and wide sandy beach, lined with private properties and coconut trees, is protected by a reef that juts out to the sand along the beach. There is shade from some trees at the northeast (right) end of the beach. This area is the prettiest with small black rocks.

Laniakea Beach - Oahu
The beach on the south side
Laniakea Beach - Oahu
The beach on the northeast side

It should be noted that the ocean can be very rough during the winter and make swimming dangerous, on the contrary, the water will be very calm in summer.

There are no facilities on site. Swimming is not lifeguarded. Parking is available along the entire length of Kamehameha Highway, on the roadside.

3Beaches and snorkeling around Pūpūkea

We now arrive in Pūpūkea, the main town in Northeast Oahu. Here the seabed is protected and therefore makes it the ideal place for snorkeling. In winter, the big waves are impressive and make the joy of surfers.

Waimea Bay Beach Park

Located at the entrance of Pūpūkea, Waimea Bay Beach is a beach famous for its big waves in winter. It is also a favorite place to see surfers at work. There is a good chance that swimming is forbidden during the winter.

But if, like us, you come at the end of March, you will discover huge waves crashing on the beach and many experienced surfers trying to catch the big waves. The show is very pleasant to watch!

Waimea beach - Oahu
Waimea beach at the end of March.
Vagues à Waimea beach en mars - Oahu
Big waves at Waimea beach!

In summer, the scenery changes and this beach becomes very pleasant and suitable for swimming. Its location below the road makes it a pleasant place to relax, as it is surrounded by greenery. The beach is wide enough to find space.

You can also try a snorkeling session here, as the area is part of the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District which is a protected area.

But we never had the opportunity to come here on a calm sea day, so we can't tell you more about the quality of the snorkeling here.

Swimming is supervised. Restrooms and showers are located near the parking lot along Kamehameha Highway.

Three Tables Beach

Three Tables Beach is the first of Pūpūkea's beaches. Separated from the road by a barrier of thick vegetation, this beach is moderately frequented. Thus, one will appreciate the shade and the green setting brought by the trees, and snorkel there only if the conditions are good.

Three Tables Beach - Oahu
The beach from Shark's Cove

The ocean here is rather rough and beautiful waves come crashing on the sand, which makes the place a good surfing spot during the winter. In the summer, the ocean will be calmer, and you can enjoy snorkeling, as the area is part of the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District which is a protected area, the experience there is generally better than at Shark's Cove. The swimming is not lifeguarded.

A first parking lot is located just in front of the beach. A second, larger parking lot is located 200m north of the beach and gives access to restrooms with shower.

Shark’s Cove

Shark's Cove is one of the places known to be one of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu with Hanauma Bay. Unfortunately, we were not convinced by this promising area.

At first sight, the place is rather charming. A small beach of orange sand is next to a shallow natural pool closed by small rocks. The natural pool is large and the water color is beautiful and clear.

Unfortunately, the place is a victim of its own success. As there are not many easy access snorkeling spots on Oahu, you should expect to find many people... a lot of people.

Shark’s Cove - Oahu
The beach and the natural pool
Shark’s Cove - Oahu
The right side of the pool at Shark's Cove
Shark’s Cove - Oahu
Other view of the natural pond

As a result, what could be an interesting snorkeling spot turned into a kind of giant paddling pool where the fishes fled in front of the large number of snorkelers present in the pool.

It is a pity because the place is nice and the experience could be quite different without the crowds. It is probably because of the crowds that we found the snorkeling disappointing compared to what you can see on the other islands of Hawaii.

Nevertheless, if you are only staying on Oahu, or if you are traveling with young children, the experience can be interesting. It is still a good opportunity to go and see some small and not very shy fish. That's why we gave this site 4 stars.

If you want to try the experience, remember to wear sea shoes. The rocks are numerous and can be sharp. Fins are not really necessary because the area is quite small and shallow. In case of rough sea, the experience will be less pleasant, as the waves pass over the rocky barrier.

For good swimmers, it should be noted that the real Shark's Cove Bay (the natural pool area borrowed the name of the bay) is located north of the beach where the deeper water forms a small bay. This area is rich in fish thanks to the protection of the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District and will potentially offer better quality snorkeling, but beware as the bay is often very rough if not dangerous.

Shark’s Cove - Oahu
Shark's Cove Bay, on the right side of the basin

Roadside parking is available all along Shark's Cove Bay and the natural pool area. The parking lot can get full quickly. A restroom with shower is located just above the small beach. Swimming is not supervised.

Pūpūkea Beach Park

Near Shark's Cove is this little unknown Beach Park which houses a kind of pond rather cute but where I had doubts about the freshness of the water which does not seem to be renewed frequently.

Pūpūkea Beach Park - Oahu
The small pond near the sea

Si vous souhaitez vous y rendre il faudra se stationner au parking de Shark's Cove, le long de la route, puis rejoindre la zone rocheuse située au nord de la petite baie.

4The long sandy beaches of Pūpūkea at Kuilima Cove

Let's leave downtown Pūpūkea to continue our progress towards the northeastern tip of Oahu. Make way for the wide, huge sandy beaches that line the shoreline.

Ke Iki Beach

Ke Iki Beach is the first of a long series of beaches that follow one another and look alike. It's a big, wide sandy beach, that's all. It is simple, but for Hawaii, it is quite ordinary. One thing is for sure, you'll find a place here!

Ke Iki Beach - Oahu
The very wide and long sandy beach
Ke Iki Beach - Oahu
Sand and beautiful colors

Restrooms and showers are located at the small parking lot at the beginning of Ke Waena Road. There is lifeguard surveillance at this location. It is also possible to reach the beach from several beach accesses that can be reached from the small alley where it is also possible to park.

Ehukai Beach Park

In the continuity of the first one, we still find this wide strip of sand, without particular charm but with all the conveniences on the spot thanks to the small Beach Park.

Ehukai Beach Park - Oahu
The wide beach of Ehukai Beach

Picnic tables (in the sun), shower and restrooms are located in the green areas in front of the parking lot.

Sunset Beach Park

This third beach is just like the previous ones, although a bit busier, especially on weekends. It's simple with some cute palm trees at the lifeguard station. The road joins the edge of the beach at the northeast end which is a little less nice.

Sunset Beach Park - Oahu
The beach can be seen behind the palm trees
Sunset Beach Park - Oahu
The end of the beach on the northeast side
Sunset Beach Park - Oahu
The lifeguard station

There are several places to park along the road, facing the beach. Another parking lot is located in the green areas of the Beach Park on the other side of the road, at the end of the beach where there is a restroom with a shower and picnic tables. Swimming is supervised.

Kawela Beach

We move away a little from the city to find calm in Kawela Beach, an atypical beach which will change a little of the previous ones with some rocks in the water. A small island is located just in front of the beach as a decoration. We will find here a lot of shade with pine trees at the edge of the sand and especially tranquility with a wilder setting.

Kawela Beach - Oahu
The beach and its small island
Kawela Beach - Oahu
View of the beach from the north

A small parking lot allows you to park in front of the beach. Only chemical toilets are available. The bathing is not lifeguarded.

Kulima Cove

We were not really excited by this last bay of the North Shore of Oahu, where the beach is unfortunately very crowded and largely covered by the sunbeds and beach umbrellas of the big resort just behind the beach. Only a few meters at the ends of the beach are free of sunbeds. It's a pity because the bay offers a nice beach without too many waves.

Kulima Cove - Oahu
The big resort at Kulima Cove
Kulima Cove - Oahu
The right side of the beach

The place is famous for snorkeling when the water is not murky but we did not test it.

Showers are available near the beach. To come here, you will have to be able to park in the small public parking lot with about 30 spaces inside the resort, the other spaces being reserved for hotel guests.


Here we are at the end of this article. From Kulima Cove it will be possible to continue the tour of the island of Oahu to discover the East Shore.

To continue
East Shore of Oahu: beaches, landscapes and points of interest
What to see, what to do along the East Shore of Oahu: our complete guide to all the beaches, activities and points of interest to discover.

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