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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
A little guesthouse called Gray's-by-the-Sea stood here in the 1920s; now it's a gathering place for eclectic beach types from sailing pioneers like George Parsons to the "bird men" of Waikiki: stop and watch the show as up to six parrots are placed on the heads, shoulders, and arms of squealing tourists waiting impatiently for their photos to be taken. The tides often put sand space at a premium, but if you want a look back into old Waikiki, have a mai tai at the Shorebird and check out a time gone by. The Halekulani Hotel and Outrigger Reef hotel are on this beach. Amenities: parking (fee); food and drink; lifeguards; showers; toilets. Best for: partiers; walking.
This is one of the finest beaches on the south side of Oahu. A wide, soft, ultrawhite beachfront with gently lapping waves makes it a family favorite for running-jumping-frolicking fun (this also happens to be where the NFL holds its rookie sand football game when Hawaii hosts the Pro Bowl). The new, heavily shaded grass grilling area, sand volleyball courts, and aquatic rentals make this a must for the active visitor. The beach fronts Hale Koa Hotel as well as Fort DeRussy. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming; walking.
Named for Hawaii's famous Olympic swimming champion, Duke Kahanamoku, this is a hard-packed beach with the only shade trees on the sand in Waikiki. It's great for families with young children because it has both shade and the calmest waters in Waikiki, thanks to a rock wall that creates a semiprotected cove. The ocean clarity here is not as brilliant as most of Waikiki because of the stillness of the surf, but it's a small price to pay for peace of mind about youngsters. The beach fronts the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa. Amenities: food and drink; showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; walking.
What sets Ehukai apart is the view of the famous Banzai Pipeline. Here the winter waves curl into magnificent tubes, making it an experienced wave-rider's dream. It's also an inexperienced swimmer's nightmare, though spring and summer waves are more accommodating to the average swimmer, and there's good snorkeling. Except when the surf contests are going on, there's no reason to stay on the central strip. Travel in either direction from the center, and the conditions remain the same but the population thins out, leaving you with a magnificent stretch of sand all to yourself. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; surfing.
You have to like a little hiking to like Diamond Head Beach. This beautiful, remote spot is at the base of Diamond Head crater. The beach is just a small strip of sand with lots of coral in the water. This said, the views looking out from the point are breathtaking, and it's amazing to watch the windsurfers skimming along, driven by the gusts off the point. From the parking area, look for an opening in the wall where an unpaved trail leads down to the beach. Even for the unadventurous, a stop at the lookout point is well worth the time. Amenities: parking (free); showers. Best for: surfing, solitude, windsurfing.
Bellows is the same beach as Waimanalo, but it's under the auspices of the military, making it more friendly for visitors—though that also limits public beach access to weekends. The park area is excellent for camping, and ironwood trees provide plenty of shade. The beach is best before 2 pm. After 2, the trade winds bring clouds that get hung up on steep mountains nearby, causing overcast skies until midafternoon. There are no food concessions, but McDonald's and other takeout fare, including huli huli (rotisserie) chicken on weekends, are right outside the entrance gate. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: solitude; swimming.
A protective reef makes Ala Moana essentially a ½-mile-wide saltwater swimming pool. Very smooth sand and no waves create a haven for families and stand-up paddle surfers. After Waikiki, this is the most popular beach among visitors, and the free parking area can fill up quickly on sunny weekend days. On the Waikiki side is a peninsula called Magic Island, with shady trees and paved sidewalks ideal for jogging. Ala Moana also has playing fields, tennis courts, and a couple of small ponds for sailing toy boats. This beach is for everyone, but only in the daytime. It's a high-crime area, with lots of homeless people, after dark. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.
on the Beach
Outrigger Luana Waikiki
Ala Moana Hotel
OHANA Waikiki Malia
Airport Honolulu Hotel