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Surf’s Up, Kiddos! Top 9 Family-Friendly Beaches on Oahu, Hawaii

Discovering the beauty of Oahu’s beaches is an unforgettable experience for families and visitors alike. With an array of stunning coastal destinations to choose from, we’ve curated a list of the top 9 kid friendly beaches on Oahu. Whether you’re seeking a tranquil sunbathing spot, eager to ride the waves, explore underwater wonders while snorkeling, or simply relish in marine life encounters, Oahu’s beaches have something special for everyone.

Growing up amidst the splendor of Hawaii, I have fond memories of frequenting these pristine shores, and now, as a parent, I’m delighted to see my own kids falling in love with these same beaches. It’s worth noting that in Hawaii, all beaches are public treasures, ensuring that everyone, including those near attractions like the Ko’Olina Lagoons (close to Disney Aulani) and the iconic Waikiki beaches nestled behind the hotels, can revel in the island’s natural wonders. Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the hidden gems of Oahu’s family-friendly beaches.

Table of Contents

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Before you go outside, remember these sun safety tips! Protecting your kid’s skin from sun damage early will benefit them throughout their lifetime.

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    03/25/2024 11:06 pm GMT
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    03/25/2024 11:05 pm GMT

1 - Hanauma Bay: An Underwater Paradise

*Reservations are REQUIRED

**Closed every Monday and Tuesday to provide fish with two days of undisturbed rest, plan your visit accordingly.

Nestled on the shores of Oahu, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve stands as an iconic haven for snorkel enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. Renowned as Oahu’s most celebrated snorkeling destination, Hanauma Bay boasts calm, crystal-clear waters that invite you to immerse yourself in an enchanting world of marine wonder. Here, you can delight in swimming, snorkeling, and the mesmerizing sight of hundreds of fish species, colorful corals, and fascinating marine creatures.

Ideal for families and kids, Hanauma Bay offers an extraordinary experience, even for those who prefer to keep their feet in the water. Thanks to its strict “No Fishing” policy, the fish here are remarkably unafraid of snorkelers, often swimming playfully right through your legs!

Conveniently located approximately 30 minutes from Waikiki, Hanauma Bay is the perfect destination for a full day of beachside enjoyment, whether you’re exploring the underwater realm or basking in the sun on the pristine sands. Rest assured, lifeguards are diligently watching over your safety, snorkel gear is readily available for rent at the beach, and a convenient snack shop awaits you at the Visitor Center. Dive into an aquatic adventure at Hanauma Bay and create cherished memories of your Oahu visit.

2 - Waikiki Beaches: A World of Sun and Surf

Undoubtedly, Waikiki Beach stands as the crown jewel among Oahu’s renowned coastal treasures, capturing the hearts of visitors and kids from around the globe. Nestled within arm’s reach of all Waikiki’s hotels and vacation rentals, these beaches offer an array of experiences that will leave you in awe. Here, we unveil our top 4 picks for your Waikiki adventure.

Kahanamoku and Hilton Lagoon

Kahanamoku Beach: Adjacent to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort, Kahanamoku Beach beckons you with its expansive sandy shores and tranquil waters. It’s a haven for relaxation, especially when accompanied by little ones. While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to explore the Hilton Lagoon, officially known as the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. This man-made saltwater lagoon features an inviting island and is a paradise for babies, toddlers, and kids. The lagoon offers a variety of water activities, including stand-up paddleboarding, pedal boating, kayaking, and aqua cycling. The best part? You don’t need to be a hotel guest to access these amenities. And for those seeking inner peace, consider joining a Standup Paddleboard Yoga class – a unique way to achieve a state of zen.

Kūhiō Beach

Kuhio Beach: Situated near the Honolulu Zoo on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki, Kuhio Beach is a hidden gem divided by two concrete seawalls. These walls work their magic by creating a tranquil, sandy ocean pool where children can play safely, shielded from the rolling waves of the ocean. Here, you can step into the water without a worry about coral underfoot.

Queens Beach

Queen’s Beach: Adjacent to the seawall of Kuhio Beach, Queen’s Beach offers an ideal haven for older kids seeking the thrill of riding waves or venturing out to test their skills in boogie boarding. However, a word of caution: as you venture farther from the shore, you’ll find yourself floating above abundant coral formations, so scraped knees can become a badge of honor, especially during wipeouts.

These four Waikiki beaches promise unforgettable moments, catering to visitors of all ages and interests. So, whether you’re yearning for calm waters, family-friendly activities, or a taste of ocean adventure, Waikiki’s beaches have something special for everyone.

3 - Ko’Olina Lagoons: Tranquil Paradise on Oahu's Leeward Coast

Nestled within the Ko’Olina Resorts, a hidden gem of Oahu awaits: the Ko’Olina Lagoons. Comprising four enchanting crescent-shaped beach coves, these man-made marvels beckon visitors throughout the year. Here, tranquility reigns, and the calm waters make it an idyllic playground for young children, ensuring endless hours of fun under the Hawaiian sun.

Located on Oahu’s leeward (west) side, the Ko’Olina Lagoons offer a sunny and arid climate, providing the perfect backdrop for your beachfront escape. If you’re fortunate enough to stay at one of the exquisite resorts in the area, parking is a breeze. However, for day-trippers, an early arrival is essential, as parking spaces are limited. The largest public parking lot can be found at Ko’Olina Lagoon 4, but be prepared, as it tends to fill up rapidly.

What truly enhances the allure of the Ko’Olina Lagoons is their accessibility. A well-maintained paved walking path connects all four lagoons, allowing you to explore each one at your leisure. So, whether you’re seeking a tranquil oasis for relaxation or a picturesque setting to create cherished memories, the Ko’Olina Lagoons promise an unforgettable experience on Oahu’s pristine leeward coast. 

4 - Ala Moana Beach Park / Magic Island: A Local and Family-Friendly Haven

Ala Moana Beach, a beloved destination for both locals and tourists, offers an unparalleled beach experience just steps away from the Ala Moana Shopping Center. This beach holds a special place in our hearts, particularly when traveling with children, and we make it a point to visit at least twice every time we’re on Oahu.

With its expansive stretch of golden sand and tranquil waters, Ala Moana Beach stands as an oasis of delight for kids and families. In the early morning hours, you’ll witness many locals embracing the soothing rhythm of paddleboarding as part of their daily routine.

For those seeking the ultimate family-friendly spot, venture to the east end of Ala Moana Beach, where you’ll discover our personal favorite – Magic Island. This enchanting locale features yet another man-made lagoon, boasting waters so calm they resemble a peaceful dream. While it may require a brief stroll from the parking area, the effort is well worth it. Magic Island boasts a sandy shoreline, inviting still waters, and awe-inspiring vistas that encompass the beauty of Ala Moana and the iconic Diamond Head.

Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island together offer an idyllic setting for families to create treasured memories, from sun-soaked days on the sandy shores to delightful swims in the serene waters. It’s a place where the beauty of Hawaii shines bright, making it a must-visit on your Oahu journey.

5 - Lanikai Beach: A Slice of Paradise on Oahu

Lanikai Beach, often hailed as the “most beautiful” of all Oahu’s coastal treasures, consistently secures its spot among the world’s finest beaches. The moment your feet grace the sands of Lanikai, you’ll be convinced you’ve stepped into a dreamscape. The sand here is an unparalleled sensation – the softest, finest grains that evoke the very essence of paradise. Our four-year-old daughter once mused that this sand felt like what clouds would be underfoot.

Situated in the charming community of Kailua, Lanikai Beach’s entrance lies nestled within Lanikai’s residential neighborhood. Over the years, its popularity has soared, presenting a parking challenge for visitors. Street parking along residential streets is the norm, but it’s essential to park legally, as unauthorized cars may be towed. Once you’ve secured a parking spot, discovering one of the six public beach access ways along Mokulua Drive becomes a breeze.

Lanikai Beach, with its azure waters and powdery sands, is nothing short of a heavenly retreat. It’s a place where the beauty of Oahu unfurls before your eyes, inviting you to savor the purest essence of island paradise. Whether you’re embarking on a family adventure or seeking a serene escape, Lanikai Beach offers a picturesque backdrop for unforgettable moments in Hawaii’s embrace.

6 - Kailua Beach: A Coastal Gem on Oahu's East Side

Nestled in the picturesque town of Kailua on the eastern shores of Oahu, Kailua Beach stands as a delightful neighbor to the renowned Lanikai Beach. A mere stone’s throw away from Kailua’s charming local eateries, this beach offers the perfect escape for those seeking sun, sea, and sand.

Stretching over two miles in length, Kailua Beach is an idyllic haven for families and children. What sets it apart is the convenience it provides, boasting bathroom facilities that can be a rarity at some other beaches, and inviting picnic tables that encourage relaxed, leisurely moments by the shore.

The gentle waves and playful wakes that kiss the shoreline are a source of endless fun for kids, making this beach a perennial favorite for families. And to top it all off, the sand here rivals the softness of Lanikai Beach, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience for beachgoers of all ages.

Kailua Beach, with its welcoming atmosphere and ample amenities, invites you to create treasured memories as you revel in the beauty of Oahu’s east side. So, pack a to-go meal from one of Kailua’s local eateries, and let the golden sands and sparkling waters of Kailua Beach be your canvas for a day of relaxation and seaside adventure.

7 -Waimea Bay: North Shore's Iconic Playground

Waimea Bay, perched on the North Shore of Oahu, emerges as a crown jewel among the island’s coastal treasures. Renowned for its awe-inspiring 30-foot winter waves and serene, picturesque beach in the summer, this destination is an absolute must-visit for any traveler. Here, you’ll witness a captivating blend of natural wonders and playful human interactions.

In the winter months, Waimea Bay is world-famous for its colossal waves that beckon daring surfers from around the globe. The sheer power of these waves is a sight to behold and an unforgettable experience for those who brave the swell. Yet, it’s not just the thrill-seekers who flock here – in the summer, families and children also find delight in the cool waters of the Waimea River, which meanders down from the majestic Waimea Falls to merge with the sea. On occasion, locals create pathways to allow the river water to flow back into the ocean, creating a delightful summer spectacle.

As summer graces Waimea Bay, the beach transforms into a serene haven, with waves still sizable but more suitable for older kids eager to test their mettle against the ocean’s power. This local favorite offers one of the largest sandy expanses, providing ample space for beachgoers to relax and soak up the Hawaiian sun.

Whether you’re a spectator in awe of nature’s might or a water enthusiast seeking adventure, Waimea Bay delivers an exceptional blend of excitement and tranquility on Oahu’s North Shore. It’s a place where the raw beauty of the Hawaiian coast takes center stage, inviting you to revel in its magnificence and allure.

8 - Sunset Beach: A North Shore Turtle Oasis

Sunset Beach, located on Oahu’s illustrious North Shore, stands as another iconic gem along this renowned coastline. Much like its neighboring Waimea Bay, this beach undergoes a captivating transformation between seasons, making it a year-round destination for diverse seaside pleasures.

In the winter, Sunset Beach evolves into a mecca for surfers, as massive waves crash along its shores, drawing surf enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. These challenging waves create a thrilling spectacle that’s awe-inspiring to witness.

As the summer sun graces the North Shore, Sunset Beach undergoes a serene metamorphosis. The once turbulent waves recede, giving way to calm and inviting waters. This is when Sunset Beach truly shines as a family-friendly haven, ideal for relaxation, beachcombing, and snorkeling. If you’re fortunate, you might even catch a glimpse of Hawaiian sea turtles, as they frequent the North Shore during the summer months. It’s essential to remember that the Endangered Species Act strictly prohibits touching, capturing, killing, or harassing these gentle creatures, and fines have been imposed on tourists who disregard these rules.

Sunset Beach owes its name to the breathtaking sunsets that grace its horizon, rivaling some of the most stunning sunsets in Hawaii. As the day comes to a close, you’ll be treated to a visual feast of colors that paint the sky, casting a spell of tranquility and wonder over this North Shore paradise.

Whether you’re a spectator of the surf or a beachcomber seeking solace, Sunset Beach offers a timeless allure that captivates the senses year-round. It’s a place where nature’s grandeur unfolds before your eyes, inviting you to partake in its beauty and marvel at the enchanting sunsets that grace this North Shore oasis.

9 - Shark’s Cove: An Underwater Paradise on Oahu's North Shore

Nestled on Oahu’s North Shore, Shark’s Cove stands as one of the most renowned snorkeling and diving destinations in the region. This small, rocky bay boasts a serene oasis teeming with marine life, making it an irresistible spot for families seeking underwater adventures. Our family never misses a visit to this treasured spot whenever we return to Oahu.

Shark’s Cove’s unique rocky terrain sets it apart, offering a mesmerizing glimpse into the vibrant aquatic world below. While the rocky seabed can be challenging for small children to swim in, it presents a fantastic opportunity for them to wade into the tide pools and marvel at the marine life thriving within. To fully enjoy your exploration, be sure to bring reef walkers to protect little feet from the rocky substrate.

For the best experience, plan your visit during the summer months when the North Shore’s legendary winter waves subside, leaving behind tranquil waters for snorkeling and discovery. Shark’s Cove has even earned acclaim from Scuba Diving Magazine, ranking as one of the “Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World.”

With its captivating underwater wonders and safe tide pools for young adventurers, Shark’s Cove offers a unique and enriching experience for families. It’s a place where you can embark on a journey beneath the surface, uncovering the secrets of the ocean’s depths while creating cherished memories on the North Shore of Oahu.

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What is a Portuguese Man-of-War?

A Portuguese Man-of-War, also known as a Man o’ War, is not a jellyfish but a marine organism belonging to the family Physaliidae. It consists of a colony of specialized individuals, each with a specific function. The main part of a Man-of-War is a gas-filled bladder or sail that sits on the ocean’s surface, giving it the appearance of a small, colorful, translucent balloon. Below the bladder hang long, venomous tentacles that can extend up to several feet in length.

Encounters with Portuguese Man-of-War can be concerning because they can deliver painful stings when they come into contact with humans. These stings can vary in severity, depending on the individual’s sensitivity and the number of tentacles involved.

To avoid Portuguese Man-of-War, you should be cautious when swimming or snorkeling in areas where they are known to be present, particularly on the windward (northeast) side beaches of Hawaiian Islands. If you spot a Man-of-War in the water or on the beach, it’s essential to keep your distance and not touch it.

If you happen to get stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War, follow these steps:

Seek help: If you are at a beach with lifeguards, immediately inform them about the incident. They are trained to provide assistance and assess the situation.

Remove tentacles: If lifeguards are not present, carefully and gently remove any tentacles that may be attached to your skin. Use a flat object like the edge of a credit card or the back of a knife to scrape them off. Do not touch them with your bare hands.

Rinse with saltwater: Rinse the affected area with saltwater, not freshwater, as freshwater can worsen the pain by triggering the nematocysts (stinging cells) to release more venom.

Apply vinegar: Some sources suggest that spraying white vinegar on the affected area may help neutralize the venom. While this is not always a proven remedy, it may provide relief to some extent.

Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help alleviate pain and inflammation.

It’s crucial to monitor the area for signs of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or a severe rash, and seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur.

In summary, while Portuguese Man-of-War stings can be painful and should be taken seriously, avoiding contact with them and following appropriate first-aid measures can help manage the discomfort and minimize potential complications.

Pack for Success

Essential Packing List for the Beach

A day at the beach, especially with young kids, is no easy feat. Here’s a list of must-have items to make your day as easy and fun as can be.

Sunscreen is not optional, especially for kids during the sunny summer months. We personally love the mineral based ones for their young skin, Thinkbaby and Mustela, but there are so many out there to choose from.

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    $12.00
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    03/25/2024 11:06 pm GMT
  2. Mustela Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 Broad Spectrum
    $11.49
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    03/25/2024 11:05 pm GMT

Foundation brush! Say that again? We saw this nifty hack on Instagram, for easy face application of sunscreen. Our kids love it.

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Beach Chairs: As I age, sitting on the ground is NOT as comfortable as I remembered. We splurged on this ultra compact chair from Helinox that we love (we use for camping too). We also have a set of Tommy Bahama Lay Flat chairs for relaxation. For the kids, we have a set of character themed kids chairs too!

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Sunglasses: We fell in love with Weefarer glasses, they are so stylish and come in fun colors and many sizes.

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Sun Hat: Keeps those little faces and heads safe from the UV rays with one from Amazon or Target, or splurge on the mom-owned George Hats for some fun and stylish looks. 

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Water friendly shoes:  Crocs and Native shoes are great to take the kids from the water to the playground. 

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  1. Speedo Unisex-Child Swim Goggles Sunny G Ages 3-8
    $13.96
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    03/11/2024 06:52 am GMT
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    03/11/2024 04:02 am GMT
  3. Speedo Unisex-child Swim Goggles Hydrospex Ages 6-14
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  4. Seago Swim Goggles 2 Pack, Wide View, Kids 3-15
    $12.79
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    03/11/2024 04:03 am GMT
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Inflatable floaties for your toddler! We love this inflatable that also has a removable sun protection canopy. These are great for those swimming pool outings too.

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Beach toys! If you are heading to a nice sandy beach, bring those sand toys! I am especially excited to try my new surfer dude, that has been surfacing on social media, a wave powered mini surfer!

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Pop-up tent, which are great for littles when they need a little break (or shade). We have the Pop ‘N Go Playpen from the California beach company that was great when we had crawling babies, and this pop-up tent that has now become our go to tent as the kids grow older.  

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    03/10/2024 05:53 am GMT
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~ Beach Towels/Blankets – nothing worse than sitting on hot sand.

~ Snacks, lots of water, lunch 

~ Baggies for diapers, wet clothes, garbage or found “treasures”

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