When traveling to Hawaii, specifically Oahu, you’ll find that all the guidebooks tell you to go to Waikiki Beach (probably the most-touristy spot on earth) to supposedly get a taste of what island life is like.
But everyone knows that the lesser known spots where native residents actually hang out are way cooler. So next time you’re on Oahu, go where the locals play. You’ll have more fun, experience beautiful people and less vacationers in aloha shirts with cameras.
Not all of the following are as tourist friendly simply because the waves can get really big and there are currents to pull you out, so it’s not as safe to go swimming all the time. But even if you go on a day when the lifeguard tells you not to go in the water, you’ll still get to observe and hang out with residents surfing, body-boarding, playing and just chilling like we always do on any given day in paradise.
1. Sandy Beach Park
Sandy’s is no doubt the go-to destination in Oahu on most days for anyone living east of downtown Honolulu. This is the place where you will see the most locals, from surfer bums, tailgaters, school kids and everyone else looking to chill and hang out with their friends. Most days the shore break gets rough which is why many of us just like to go there to tan and soak up the sun with our homies.
2. Makapu’u Beach Park
Makapu’u, referred to as Maks for short, is a favorite for many of us living in the eastside town of Hawaii Kai especially for those who love body-boarding. Maks has been my first choice for as long as I can remember because it’s perfect for spending late-mornings and afternoons and then driving down the road to Koko Marina for lunch. Right across the street from Sea Life Park, this beach is fun to float and splash around when it’s mild or to sit back and watch the more skilled boarders rip barrels when it’s huge.
3. Cockroach Cove
Nestled in between Makapu’u Beach Park and Hanauma Bay is an adorable cove with turquoise water and golden sand that seems like a dream. It even took me many years to finally visit this place because I couldn’t find the rock path that led down to it (FYI it’s right next to the parking lot of Makapu’u lookout closer to Sea Life Park). No doubt one of the best kept secrets on the island, here you can lay out in the sand, go for a dip, look out at the ocean on the rocks and even jump off when the tide is high enough.
If Cockroach Cove is a dream then Lanikai is absolute heaven. With calm and clear sea foam green water and the softest pearly white sand you’ll ever step on, guaranteed you will never want to leave this place once you find it. Located on the windward side of the island in Kailua, the winding residential streets that lead to the beach are often packed with cars of locals and tourists alike. Make sure you know where you’re going because the road gets confusing, but once you get there, it’s absolute bliss.
5. China Walls
China Walls in Oahu is a pretty unique and obscure place found in the residential Portlock area in Hawaii Kai. There’s no sand, only large rocks, but the view of the deep blue water is gorgeous. Because there are lots of rocks and the waves get choppy it’s definitely not recommended to go in the water unless you’re a good swimmer and you’re strong enough to climb back out. But it’s a nice place to lounge and eat lunch by the water if you’re looking for a different kind of beach scenery.