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Top 5 Kid-Friendly Beaches on Oahu

As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the water. My parents cultivated this passion by enrolling me in swim lessons when I was only 6 months old. Every Saturday morning for 18 years, the pool was my refuge as I progressed from water wings to All-American. As a mother, one of my greatest personal joys has been teaching my children to swim and watching them enjoy the water.

Living in Hawaii provides my ohana with a bountiful array of beaches to delight in as we splash, play, and relax in the beautiful waters around us.

Top 5 Kid-Friendly Beaches on Oahu 

1. Ko’Olina Beach

Ko’Olina boasts 2 miles of beautiful coastal frontage and lies 17 miles west of Honolulu on Oahu’s leeward side. This is the best beach for small children as it includes four man-made lagoons with white sand beaches that are connected by walkways surrounded by palm trees, manicured bushes, grassy lawns, and vacation club resorts. Ko’Olina means “fulfillment of joy” in the Hawaiian language and this area historically served as a sacred place for rest and relaxation by Hawaiian chiefs and monarchs. The reef-protected waters offer a perfect place for little ones to splash safely, older ones to rent a paddleboard, and everyone to observe underwater creatures, such as the octopus and sea cucumber we saw last weekend.

2.  Hanauma Bay

Hanauma literally means “curved bay“, synonymous with the shape of the bay or perhaps the shape of the indigenous canoes that were launched there. Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve and the first established Marine Life Conservation District in the State of Hawaii. This sanctuary, located along the southeast coast of Oahu, inhabits about 400 species of fish and is known for its abundance of Green sea turtles and parrotfish making it an ideal place for family snorkeling. My children love viewing the myriad variety of sea life living amongst the coral. Hanauma was also used as a recreational area by Hawaiian nobility for fishing and entertainment. There is an entrance fee for non-residents of Hawaii and all new visitors are required to watch a short film about conservation of the Bay’s resources. To allow the fish to feed uninterrupted and maintain preservation efforts, Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays. Parking is limited and waters are clearest in the morning, so its recommended to head over early if possible.

3. Waimea Bay

In the summer, Waimea Bay (“reddish water“) typically has clear and calm water and is located on the North Shore of Oahu. My older children enjoy the days when the surf is a little more robust and allows for body surfing and boogie boarding. The water here is deep and the currents can be strong. Its recommended that you check the daily surf before venturing out as the water is sometimes closed for swimming if the undertow and waves are significant. However, these bigger waves also attract crowds to watch the gigantic wave breaks and the local pro surfers who ride them. My children love swimming the shoreline, undulating melodically along the large swells or using them to glide the perfect body surf to the shore. Better for proficient swimmers and fun sand play for younger kids.

4. Waikiki Beach

The mecca of Honolulu tourism happens at Waikiki Beach, and although it is universally more crowded with the surge of visitors, there’s a good reason it is so popular. Nestled along Kalakaua Avenue on the south shore of Oahu, Waikiki means “spouting fresh water” in the Hawaiian language for the streams that once fed wetlands separating Waikiki from the island interior. My older children enjoy longboard surfing here with the water’s long rolling break, which also makes it ideal for tandem surfing and beginners. The smaller waves are generally good for water frolicking youngsters as well. Waikiki hosts eight distinct beaches, and sunsets are gorgeous along this stretch most of the year. After watching the sunset, every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort lights up the sky with a dazzling display of fireworks, usually around 7:45pm, but its recommended to check the website for seasonal time changes. My kids love topping off the day with this special finish after playing at this iconic beach.

5. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is breathtaking and its Hawaiian translation appropriately means “heavenly sea.” Located on the windward side of Oahu, this 1/2 mile stretch of powdery clean, white sand and clear turquoise waters is consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world. Because it is located in a residential area and only accessible by public beach access paths, there are no lifeguards, no restrooms or showers, and no public parking lot. The kids love playing in the beautiful waters and taking photos in front of the Na Mokulua or “mokes” islands. This is a great beach to bring coolers and pack drinks and lunches, a football, water and sand toys, and plenty of reef-safe sunscreen for a full day of family festivities at one of the most stellar beaches in the world.

My list of Top 5 Kid-Friendly Beaches on Oahu covers a little bit of everything from serene salt water pools to exciting body surfing waves. Contact me, Mere Johnson, at merejohnson@hawaiilife.com and (808) 223-8750 if you’re interested in buying or selling property near these world-renowned beaches for you, your kids, and your ohana to enjoy together. You are destined to have an amazing experience when venturing to any of these Hawaiian beaches, and I hope that this list makes it a little easier for you to live and enjoy your best Hawaii Life!

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