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  3. East Shore of Oahu: beaches, landscapes and points of interest
Sandrine
Written by Sandrine Published on 26/02/21

The East Shore of Oahu is the largest on the island. It has the particularity of being framed by superb steep walls on one side and a countless number of sandy beaches on the other. The landscapes that we will find here are atypical and superb. It will be necessary to borrow at least once the long Kamehameha Highway during your stay to discover this sector of the island.

In this article, we will focus on the different beaches and points of interest that we will discover here. Let's take the Kamehameha Highway, from Kaneohe, south to the northern tip of Oahu.

1From Keneohe to Ka'a'awa

Let's start by leaving the large urban area of Keneohe and heading north. The most beautiful reliefs of the island are probably here! We can't get tired of contemplating these dizzy walls often fogged, giving off a Dantesque atmosphere! On the other side, at the edge of the ocean, the blue and the sandbanks give way to a sublime palette of colors!

He’eai State Park

He'eai State Park offers access to a small community center with workshops on the Hawaiian ecosystem. But you can also come here to enjoy the green spaces that offer beautiful views of the ridges and colors of the ocean dotted with white sandbanks.

He’eai State Park - Oahu
The view from the main building
He’eai State Park - Oahu
View of the lagoon on the south side
He’eai State Park - Oahu
The north side ridges

Don't hesitate to take the small path that goes down and quickly goes around the building. There is a small parking lot and restrooms are available. The access is free.

Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In is a nice Buddhist temple, but although the setting and the environment are exceptional, the visit of the place is unfortunately not very interesting.

Let me explain: if like us, you have already been to Japan, you will be disappointed by this temple without any real charm when you look at it closely because it is hardly maintained.

Tourists have fun ringing the big prayer bell without paying attention to the meaning of this gesture, and feed the carps although it is forbidden.

Otherwise a big Buddha is enthroned inside the temple that we visit quickly. The time to go around the pond, the visit is already over!

We will appreciate on the other hand the magnificent landscape of the often foggy peaks. The access road which crosses the big cemetery of Valley of the Temples and lined with palm trees is worth the glance and the sight of the temple in the middle of pines is still very beautiful.

Admission is $5/adult and $1/child. There is a large parking lot for parking. There are no amenities on site.

Kualoa Regional Park

This park with large expanses of grass below the steep relief is an interesting place to picnic by the ocean, facing the islet of Mokoli'i.

Kualoa Regional Park - Oahu
The green spaces of the park
Kualoa Regional Park - Oahu
The small adjoining beach

A large campground is accessible at the end of the road, facing the sea. If you want to enjoy the ocean, the swimming is lifeguarded but the beach is not very wide. Restrooms and showers are located between the parking lot and the beach. Several parking lots are available.

Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch is the name of Oahu's major activity center. A whole range of excursions is offered, such as the famous tour of the sets used in the filming of Jurassic Park on board an ATV, or going to the remains of the great Jurassic Park gate and walking among the dinosaur skeletons still in place. Finally, fans of the series LOST or Hawaii 5-0 will also be served.

Other tours are also offered such as horseback riding, ziplining and a jeep tour in the jungle.

Kualoa Ranch - Oahu
Sign at the entrance of Kualoa Ranch
Kualoa Ranch - Oahu
Inside near the stable

We can't tell you more about these tours because we haven't tested any of them yet, but if you are interested in discovering the different tours offered, please visit the Kualoa Ranch. Reservations are required.

A large parking lot allows parking on site. Be careful, the place is very busy and there are many buses.

Kualoa Rock Beach

This cute strip of sand is right in front of Kualoa Ranch, but its location directly beside the road is unfortunately not conducive to swimming. The beach is very narrow, so you'd better go here at low tide.

There are no amenities, parking available on the shoulder of the road. The swimming is not lifeguarded.

Ka’Ō’lo Point Beach

We particularly appreciated the turquoise color of the water at the edge of this charming beach dotted with rocks, with a few trees that provide some shade. Unfortunately the proximity of the road spoils the interest of the place.

The reef being quite far, the ocean can be sometimes rough. There are no facilities on site. Swimming is not lifeguarded. Parking is available on the shoulder of the road.

Kalaeʻōʻio Beach Park

Kalaeʻōʻio Beach Park provides access to a cute little beach lined with some pine trees providing shade. The setting is nice even though the road doesn't go very far and the ocean is a little quieter than at the previous beach.

Kalaeʻōʻio Beach - Oahu
The north side at Kalaeʻōʻio Beach Park

If you continue along the road for a few hundred meters after the Beach Park, you will find small quiet places below the small parapet that runs along the road. Although the beach is not wide, the place is still pleasant on sunny days.

Kalaeʻōʻio Beach - Oahu
The beautiful color of the water after the Beach Park
Kalaeʻōʻio Beach - Oahu
The beach is thin but pretty

The green areas of the Beach Park are very basic and only provide a few picnic tables. There are no amenities at this location. There is no lifeguard surveillance. You will have to park on the shoulder of the road.

Ka’a’awa Beach Park

In the continuity of the previous beaches, the Ka'a'awa Beach Park opens on this beach just as pretty but this time equipped with restrooms and shower. A small grassy area separates the beach from the road, which is not unpleasant. The coconut trees finally add a touch of exoticism to the picture.

The swimming is not lifeguarded. A mini parking lot allows you to park.

Swanzy Beach Park

Always in the same continuity as the previous beaches, this last Beach Park opens this time on a vast green space decorated with some games for children and several shaded picnic tables. There is also a thin beach on the left end but we regret the presence of the small parapet which takes away a little the charm here.

Swimming is not lifeguarded. Restrooms and shower on site. A parking lot allows you to park.

Crouching Lion trail

1,3 km round trip - 1 hour - Average but dangerous - 100m of difference in altitude

This short but intense hike is very interesting because it allows to appreciate a superb view of Kahana Bay, the Ka'a'awa coast and the ridges on the land side. The intensity of the ascent is equal to the beauty of the panorama!

It is important to know that the path is officially forbidden and at the sight of the danger once up there, we understand why. Nevertheless, the prohibition sign at the entrance of the trail does not seem to dissuade many people, so the place remains very frequented.

If the rain has been here recently, then the climb can become epic and the descent much worse...

At the time of our passage, the undergrowth of the first hectometers was slightly wet, which spiced up the descent with a few small slips despite the hiking boots. And to think that it hadn't rained for several days...

Crouching Lion trail - Oahu
The trail to the Crouching Lion
Crouching Lion trail - Oahu
One of the slippery sections

Arrived at the top of the Crouching Lion, you will be able to admire this beautiful sight on the rocky peak and the turquoise colors of the ocean which reminded us those of Polynesia.

Crouching Lion trail - Oahu
Kahana Bay from the top of the Crouching Lion
Crouching Lion trail - Oahu
The view of Ka'a'awa
Crouching Lion trail - Oahu
Another view of the Ka'a'awa reef

A hundred meters before the panorama, the path splits in two, on the left towards the Crouching Lion and on the right towards another rocky peak and a viewpoint on the ridges inland. From this rocky outcrop, the view of the Crouching Lion and the sea in the background is sublime.

Be careful if you are prone to vertigo, either on this peak or on the Crouching Lion, the slightest mistake can be fatal...

Crouching Lion trail - Oahu
View of the ridges and the path leading to the summit

A small parking space along the road allows a few cars to park about 150m after the trailhead (going up to the north of the island), but it is very often full.

2From Ka'a'awa to Lāʻie

We move away from now on the vertiginous ridges to enjoy a pleasant seaside with numerous beaches of clear sand.

Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park

This State Park is located at the end of Kahana Bay. It gives access to a rather wild beach, in an arc, which borders the bay.

Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park - Oahu
The beach side at the level of the 2nd parking
Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park - Oahu
The beach at the 1st parking lot
Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park - Oahu
The picnic area to the south

There are several parking lots to enjoy the area. The first parking lot on the east side of the beach leads to a wooded area, ideal for a lunch break in the shade of the trees with many picnic tables. There is a shower and chemical toilets.

The next parking lot, further north of the bay, provides access to a campground (also accessible from the other parking lot) and a third parking lot is on the other side of the road with shower and restrooms.

Punalu'u Beach Park

We will find at the level of Punalu'u Beach Park a not very wide beach, however photogenic with its palm trees but which did not charm us more than that. The infrastructures of the Beach Park are also a little left to the abandonment, pity.

Punalu'u Beach Park - Oahu
Punalu'u Beach Park

A small parking lot allows you to park in front of the Beach Park. Restrooms in the parking lot. The swimming is not lifeguarded.

However, it is also possible to stop about 2.5 km after the Beach Park to enjoy the beach that continues as far as the eye can see. The beach is much nicer there and it is easy to park on the side of the road.

Punalu'u Beach - Oahu
The beach extends over several kilometers.
Punalu'u Beach - Oahu
Another nice area for swimming.

Hau'ula Beach Park

This city beach park is well maintained, clean but the beach is not really interesting. Parking, shower, restrooms and picnic tables are available. Swimming is not supervised.

Hau'ula Beach Park - Oahu
Beach and green spaces

Kokololio Beach Park

This large Beach Park is bordered by a wide grassy strip with some picnic tables and a campground. But you have to go behind the hills to discover a very nice beach, not very frequented during the week. We really liked this place isolated from the road (rare in this sector of the island).

Kokololio Beach Park - Oahu
Overview of the beach
Kokololio Beach Park - Oahu
The beach on the south side
Kokololio Beach Park - Oahu
The campground

On weekends, many locals come to the campground.

Large parking lot, shower, restrooms and picnic tables on site. Swimming is not lifeguarded.

3Around Lāʻie

Lāʻie is the main city on northeast Oahu around which there are several long, sandy, wild-looking beaches.

Lāʻie Beach Park

One thing that will stand out about Lāʻie Beach Park is the lovely view of the entire coastline and the ridges to the south that give this beach a lovely setting. The nicest area is on the right. The beach itself is rather basic, frequented by locals and the ocean rather rough as it is not protected by the reef, with big waves crashing on the rocks to the south, from which it is possible to jump (but rather dangerous).

Lāʻie Beach Park - Oahu
The beach on the north side
Lāʻie Beach Park - Oahu
The south side reliefs in the background

On site there are only showers and 3 picnic tables. A parking lot is available. The swimming is not lifeguarded.

Laniloa Beach

This other beach in Lāʻie is a nice, long strip of rather wild-looking sand, which this time has the advantage of being protected by a more or less distant reef. You'll be at peace here.

Laniloa Beach - Oahu
The beach on the north side, Lāʻie Point in the background
Laniloa Beach - Oahu
The view on the south side

Please note that there are no amenities on site. You will have to park along Kamehameha Highway and then walk to the beach via one of the access paths.

Lāʻie Point State Wayside

Here is a nice viewpoint that is a change from the beaches! We will find the large pierced rock at the very end of Lāʻie Headland. Turning around, the view of the relief of the center of the island is also interesting.

Lāʻie Point State Wayside - Oahu
The pierced rock
Lāʻie Point State Wayside - Oahu
Overview of the rocky cape

It will be more interesting to come here in the morning to admire the ridges of the center.

The access is at the very end of Naupaka Street where there is a small parking lot. It is possible to walk to the end of the rocky outcrop.

Mālaekahana Beach & State Recreation Area

This is the last interesting beach to swim on the East Shore of Oahu. Nestled in a bay, this long, wild beach offers either calm or rough waters depending on where you choose to go.

Mālaekahana Beach - Oahu
Mālaekahana Beach

The beach is framed by a campground on the north side and the State Recreation Area to the south, which offers many picnic tables in the shade.

Access is either on the north side, thanks to a parking lot along the road before reaching the campground, or at the State Recreation Area. You will find showers and restrooms.

We are now at the extreme north of Oahu and thus at the end of this article.

To continue
In the heart of Oahu: visit of the pineapple and coffee plantations
Central Oahu has a vast cultivated plain. You can visit a coffee farm or enter the vast pineapple kingdom at Dole Plantation.

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