One of Hawaii’s best swimming beaches and frequently ranked among the world’s nicest beaches, the dreamy Lanikai Beach is a hidden gem known for its soft sands and aquamarine/blue water massaged by gentle onshore trade winds.
About half of this now half-mile long beach on Oahu’s windward coast has disappeared in recent years due to seawalls built along the shore, so perhaps you should enjoy what is left while you can. The postcard perfect beach is like a saltwater swimming pool. Lanikai means “heavenly sea,” and aptly describes these crystal azure waters nestled in fine white sparkling sand and swaying palms, and with an offshore reef that keeps the water near shore very calm.
Having lured many models and photographers over the years, Lanikai is a very popular spot for photo shoots. No surprise considering the breathtaking scenery and surreal surroundings that the locale has to offer.
Swimming, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, sunbathing.
The protected lagoon at Lanikai Beach is like a big, tropical swimming pool making it good for children. Nearshore reefs allow for good snorkeling without having to worry about being too far offshore. Reef fish and sea turtles are commonly seen.
A popular adventure is paddling kayaks to the scenic offshore islands of Mokulua (Two Islands) which are seabird sanctuaries. The larger island is about about one mile off the south end of Lanikai Beach and is up-current and upwind so only experienced kayakers should attempt this due to potential strong currents and high surf.
Need to Know
Lots of colorful fish can be seen amidst the coral reefs, with the best snorkeling in the area between Mokumanu Drive and Haokea Drive. The best place to launch a kayak is at the far end at Laniko Drive. The prevailing onshore tradewinds make Lanikai a great sailing and windsurfing beach. The Koolau mountains block the afternoon sun so come early for sunbathing.
In the Hawaiian language, Lanikai literally means “royal sea” or “heavenly sea.” However, people believe that its real name is actually Kaohao, which means “the tying.” Legend says that there once was a high chief named Hauna, who used to beat up two women in Konane. Hauna took the women and tied them together with a loincloth and led them to the beach where the canoes were. Eventually the name Kaohao was given to the beach because of the incident that took place.
From Kailua take the Pali Highway to where it becomes Kailua Road. Turn right on Kalaheo Ave. and drive along the coast about two miles. After passing Kailua Beach Park turn left at the T-intersection and go uphill on Aalapapa Drive which loops back as Mokulua Drive. Park where you can on Mokulua Drive and take one of the eight public access paths to the beach.
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