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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Now known more for its resort (the Turtle Bay Resort) than its magnificent beach, Turtle Bay is mostly passed over on the way to the better-known beaches of Sunset and Waimea. But for the average visitor with the average swimming capabilities, this is a good place to be on the North Shore. The crescent-shaped beach is protected by a huge sea wall. You can see and hear the fury of the northern swell, while blissfully floating in cool, calm waters. The convenience of this spot is also hard to pass up—there is a concession selling sandwiches and sunblock right on the beach. The resort has free parking for beach guests. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; swimming.
The beach is broad, the sand is soft, the summer waves are gentle, making for good snorkeling, and the winter surf is crashing. Many love searching this shore for the puka shells that adorn the necklaces you see everywhere. Carryout truck stands selling shave ice, plate lunches, and sodas usually line the adjacent highway. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; sunset; surfing.
Nicknamed Dig-Me Beach because of its outlandish display of skimpy bathing suits, this small rectangle of sand is nonetheless a good sunning spot for all ages. Children enjoy its shallow, safe waters, which are protected (for now) by the walls of the historic natatorium, an Olympic-size saltwater swimming arena that's been closed for decades. Serious swimmers and triathletes also swim in the channel here, beyond the reef. Sans Souci is favored by locals wanting to avoid the crowds while still enjoying the convenience of Waikiki. The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel is next door. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (fee and no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.
Probably the most popular beach with locals on this side of Oahu, the broad, sloping beach is covered with sunbathers there to watch the "Show" and soak up rays. The Show is a shore break that's like no other in the Islands. Monster ocean swells rolling into the beach combined with the sudden rise in the ocean floor causes waves to jack up and crash magnificently on the shore. Expert surfers and body boarders young and old brave this danger to get some of the biggest barrels you can find for bodysurfing. But keep in mind that the beach is nicknamed "Break-Neck Beach" for a reason: many neck and back injuries are sustained here each year. Use extreme caution when swimming here, or just kick back and watch the drama unfold from the comfort of your beach chair. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: surfing; walking.
So named as it was once the site of Queen Liliuokalani's beach house, this beach draws a mix of families and gay couples—and it seems as if someone is always playing a steel drum. Many weekends, movie screens are set up on the sand, and major motion pictures are shown after the sun sets (www.sunsetonthebeach.net). In the daytime, there are banyan trees for shade and volleyball nets for pros and amateurs alike. The water fronting Queen's Surf is an aquatic preserve, providing the best snorkeling in Waikiki. Amenities: lifeguards; showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking.
If you're making a circle of the island, this is a great stopping point to jump out of your car and stretch your legs. It's easy, because the sand literally comes up to your parked car, and nice, because there is a sandy bottom and mostly calm conditions. Plus there are full facilities and lots of shade trees. Often overlooked, and often overcast, Punaluu can afford you a moment fresh air before you get back to your sightseeing. Amenities: showers; toilets; parking (no fee). Best for: solitude, swimming.
This gorgeous swimming and snorkeling beach is protected by a long breakwater left over from a now-defunct boat harbor. The beach's entire length is sand, and a reef creates smallish waves perfect for novice surfers. Amenities: toilets; parking (no fee). Best for: snorkeling, swimming, surfing.
You may have to do a little exploring to find Papaoneone Beach, which is tucked away behind three condos. Duck through a wide, easy-to-spot hole in the fence, and you find an extremely wide, sloping beach that always seems to be empty. You'll have to park on the street. The waters are that eerie blue found only on the west side. The waves can get high here (it faces the same direction as the famed Makaha Beach), but, for the most part, the shore break makes for great easy rides on your boogie board or belly. The only downside is that, with the exception of a shower, all the facilities are for the condos at the adjacent Beach Lovers Hawaii, so it's just you and the big blue. Amenities: showers. Best for: solitude, swimming (carefully).
There is a reason why the producers of the TV show Lost chose this beach for their set. On the remote northwest point of the island, it is about 10 miles from the closest store or public restroom; you could spend a day here and not see another living soul. And that is precisely its beauty—all the joy of being stranded on a deserted island without the trauma of the plane crash. The beach is wide and white, the waters bright blue (but a little choppy) and full of sea turtles and other marine life. Mokuleia is a great secret find; just remember to pack supplies and use caution, as there are no lifeguards. Amenities: parking (no fee). Best for: solitude.
The big attraction here is tiny Goat Island, a bird sanctuary just offshore. At low tide the water is shallow enough—never more than waist-high—so that you can wade out to it. Wear sneakers or aqua socks so you don't cut yourself on the coral. The beach itself is fairly narrow but long enough for a 20-minute stroll, one-way. The waves are never too big, and sometimes they're just right for the beginning bodysurfer. The entrance gates, which close at 6:45 pm, are easy to miss, and you can't see the beach from the road. Families love to camp in the groves of ironwood trees at Malaekahana State Park. Cabins are also available here, making a perfect rural getaway. Amenities: showers; toilets; parking (no fee). Best for: walking, swimming.