Waimanalo Beach: The Complete Guide

Waimanalo beach Hawaii
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Waimanalo Beach

Address
Waimanalo Beach, HI, USA

Imagine a miles-long beach with sand as soft as powder and stunning turquoise water as far as the eye can see. If you’re planning a trip to Oahu, you won’t have to! Waimanalo Beach is a true hidden gem on this popular island, though many visitors never make it there.

History

The white sandy beaches of Waimanalo have long been known as a hotspot for some of Hawaii’s most significant archaeological treasures. While a majority of historians believe the island of Kauai to be the original landing spot of Native Hawaiians, archaeologists have found artifacts in Waimanalo that suggest the Oahu beach could be the oldest inhabited settlement in Hawaii. This gorgeous beach is extremely important to Hawaiian culture and should be respected as such.

People on Waimanolo Beach
TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

What to See and Do

Waimanalo stretches for bout 3 miles, making it one of the longest uninterrupted beaches on the island. This huge stretch of sand has more than enough room for larger groups of friends or family, whether you’re playing paddle ball or need space for a couple of beach umbrellas. Sunbathers should know that the majestic Koolau Mountains are visible as a backdrop to the beach, so the sun typically disappears behind the ridge earlier in the afternoon compared to other Oahu beaches. A large grove of prehistoric-looking Ironwood trees (known locally as Sherwood Forest) helps to provide even more shade.

Also important to remember is that Waimanalo faces the eastern windward side of the island. That means that it can get pretty breezy on the beach, especially in the afternoons, though the ocean air can definitely come as a relief during the warmer summer months.

The waves break close to shore and are not too high, making Waimanalo an excellent bodyboarding beach. Typically, conditions are ideal for beginners, so you’ll see a ton of parents and older siblings out here teaching kids how to ride the waves. That doesn’t mean that the shore break isn’t known to get very powerful at times, so sticking close to the lifeguard tower is always a good idea. Snorkeling isn’t hugely popular here, since the fine sand particles can often lead to poor visibility.

Waimanalo has two campgrounds, both of which can be reserved through the City and County of Honolulu website. Reservations for camping come in either 3-day permits ($32) or 5-day permits ($52), so if you only want to stay one or two nights, you must pay for the extra night.

A little tip: keep an eye out for Portuguese man o' war, a small blue jellyfish known to congregate in especially large numbers at Waimanalo during certain times of the year. They’re partial to the surface of the water but are also commonly seen on the sandy parts of the beach itself, where unobservant beachgoers could step on them and get stung. If there’s a high risk for these little guys, lifeguards will post signs on the beach and near the lifeguard stations to alert beachgoers. The jellyfish's sting is rarely fatal, but it is extremely painful.

What to Do Nearby

Besides simply marveling at the spectacular windward coastline on the way to Waimanalo, there are plenty of notable spots to explore besides the beach. If you’re coming from the south, check out Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling, Halona Blowhole Lookout for photo ops, the hiking trail at Makapuu, or Sandy Beach to watch the local surfers in action. From the north, Bellows Beach Park is a nice spot to camp, and the town of Kailua is a favorite for kayaking.

Food-wise, Waimanalo is the perfect spot for a beachy picnic. Grab some poke to-go at Paina Cafe in Koko Marina Center if you’re heading up from Honolulu, or a sandwich at Kalapawai Market in Kailua. For food options in Waimanalo itself, look no further than Ono Steaks and Shrimp Shack for killer mango fish tacos and garlic shrimp plates; it is less than a two-minute drive from the beach.

Location

Waimanalo has two main entrances, one near the south end across from Nakini Street and another on the north end between Aloiloi Street and Tinker Road. The former is considered the official Waimanalo Beach Park while the latter is technically called Waimanalo Bay State Recreation Area. Both spots come complete with showers, restrooms, a lifeguard tower, trash cans, picnic tables, and campsites available.

Getting There

The easiest and fastest way to get to Waimanalo is by driving yourself, which will take about 45 minutes from Waikiki. For those without a car, Oahu has a pretty accommodating public bus system compared to the rest of the islands, and you can even download an app to make it even more convenient. Starting in Waikiki, purchase a day pass ($5.50) and take the number 23 bus from Saratoga Road and Kalakaua Avenue to get to Waimanalo Beach. The 23 runs about once an hour, so another option would be to take the 22 bus to the Sea Life Park stop before hopping off to catch the number 67 at Waimanalo. You can also take the E Country Express to South Hotel Street before getting on the 67. Both options will take just under an hour and a half one way. Ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft are available, too, but will cost at least $45 each way, so we wouldn’t suggest this unless you’re splitting the fare with a couple of friends.

Once you arrive, there is a dedicated parking area for Waimanalo Beach Park on the right ocean side of Kalanianaole Highway (also known as Route 72). Although it seems a little off the beaten path for tourists, this spot is one of the most popular beaches on the island for locals, so be sure to get there early to grab a parking space.

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The Complete Guide to Waimanalo Beach on Oahu