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Some favor the cool grass and rolling hills of Kakaako Park, where you can picnic with a view. Others dine in style and watch nature's beauty from the 32nd floor Hanohano Room in the Sheraton Waikiki. But a favorite for most is seeing the sun melt into the horizon from a beach blanket, toes curled into the warm sand. Ala Moana Beach Park's Magic Island, while crowded, is a good spot. For a more private view, try Lanikai Beach in Kailua or Sunset Beach on the North Shore.
Concealed from the public eye for many years as part of the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station, this beach is reminiscent of Waikiki but without the condos and the crowds. It is a long, sloping beach with numerous surf breaks, but it is also mild enough at shore for older children to play freely. It has views of Pearl Harbor and, over that, Diamond Head. Although the sand lives up to its name, the real joy of this beach comes from its history as part of a military property for the better part of a century. Expansive parking, great restroom facilities, and numerous tree-covered barbecue areas make it a great day-trip spot. As a bonus, a Hawaiian monk seal takes up residence here several months out of the year (seals are rare in the Islands). Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: surfing; swimming.
You'll be one of the few outsiders at this Waianae Coast beach at the very end of the road. If it weren't for the little strip of paved road, it would feel like a deserted isle: no stores, no houses, just a huge sloping stretch of beach and some of the darkest-blue water off the island. Locals come here to fish and swim in waters that are calm enough for children in summer. Early morning brings with it spinner dolphins by the dozens just offshore. Though Makua Beach up the road is the best spot to see these animals, it's not nearly as beautiful or sandy as "Yokes." Amenities: showers; toilets; parking (no fee). Best for: solitude, sunset, swimming.
Made popular in that old Beach Boys song "Surfin' U.S.A.," Waimea Bay is a slice of big-wave heaven, home to king-size 25- to 30-foot winter waves. Summer is the time to swim and snorkel in the calm waters. The shore break is great for novice bodysurfers. Due to its popularity, the postage-stamp parking lot is quickly filled, but it's also possible to park along the side of the road and walk in. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling (in summer); surfing (in winter); swimming (in summer).
One of the most beautiful beaches on the island, Waimanalo is a local pick, busy with picnicking families and active sports fields. Expect a wide stretch of sand; turquoise, emerald, and deep blue seas; and gentle shore-breaking waves that are fun for all ages. Theft is an occasional problem, so lock your car. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunrise; swimming; walking.
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