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Best Kailua Beaches on Oahu’s East Shore to Visit this Summer (seriously amazing!)

Of all of the beauty and adventure to experience on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, you might not find anywhere as amazing as Kailua’s beaches! The windward side of the island (east shore) boasts turquoise, clear waters and white sand that place them at top of the list of the world’s best beaches.

Kailua spans several miles of coastline, which is made up of four incredibly stunning beaches that are calling your name! When planning your trip to Oahu, don’t sleep on adding at least one full day to exploring the Kailua beaches on Oahu.

Couple walking along the water at a beach in Kailua
Photo Credit: Tara in Honolulu with Flytographer

When we visit Oahu, we usually plan to spend our first few days on the windward side before venturing out to the rest of the island. These east shore beaches are beautiful from sunrise to sunset and we can’t get enough of them. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to moving there someday! *wink, wink*

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Palm trees along the white sand in Hawaii

Beautiful Kailua Beaches Oahu

Whether you have are planning a full week on Oahu or only have 5 days, be sure that these Kailua beaches make it in your plans! There are true paradise beaches and should not be missed! Seriously, if you visit Oahu and stay in Waikiki without heading east, you are going to regret it forever!

Have I convinced you yet?! 🙂

We always rent a car for easy exploring around the island. If you would rather not, you can Uber to Kailua, take TheBus (route 67 to Kailua), or book a private tour to hit up all the best spots (a general group tour will not give you time at these beaches).

Pro Tip: Download this East Shore Audio Tour for entertaining, cultural, historical, and educational background on the gorgeous spots you will see on your drive!

Kailua Beach Park

Kailua Beach Park is the main beach in Kailua and also the largest. Spanning 2.5 full miles of coastline, if you are looking for a quiet spot, just head down the beach. There is plenty of space to spread out!

White sand at blue water at Kailua Beach Park

It has a large parking lot (bonus! It’s free!), restroom facilities, rinse off showers, picnic areas, and a lifeguard. The addition of BBQ pits and volleyball courts will basically give you everything you need to easily stay all day.

Kailua Beach Park is a fantastic place to launch for a kayak tour that you will blow you away. Take a self-guided kayak trip or a guided tour with a guide to the Mokes (twin Mokolua Islands) and Flat Island for exploring and great snorkeling.

Kailua Beach with white sand and clear blue water
The Mokes

Entering the beach near the northern end will allow you to take advantage of any beach rentals that may interest you, such as boogie boards and paddleboards.

The southern end of the beach is where you will find the boat ramp along with a shallow area that is great for young children. There are lifeguard stands here.

sandy path to Kailua Beach

There is not any food on site, so we recommend running over to Kalapawai Market to pick up a picnic lunch or sunset dinner when you get hungry (this is a great sunset spot on Oahu). They are located just north of the beach parking lot and serve everything from breakfast bagel sandwiches to fish tacos to fresh salads.

We also love going to Bob’s Pizzeria after a day of swimming to fill up on tasty, very reasonably priced, pizza. AND, don’t miss Island Snow! We always grab a shave ice here after a full day in the sun.

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach is arguable the most beautiful of all the Kailua beaches. Located just south of Kailua Beach Park, the sand is so soft and the water is incredibly blue and clear. Palm trees dot the long beach and canoes line the yards of the lucky ones that back up to the beach.

Sunrise at Lanikai Beach with silhouettes of the two Mokolua Islands

Of all the beautiful places to see the sunrise on Oahu, Lanikai Beach is my absolute favorite! Every time we visit Oahu, we hop out of bed early that first morning (not too hard to do when traveling east!) and watch the sunrise on Lanikai Beach to kick off our amazing trip in the very best way. *TIP* Plan to arrive 30 minutes before sunrise for the best views!

Before you hit up that powdered sugar like sand and warm, crystal clear water, do yourself a favor and take an early morning hike up to the Lanikai Pillboxes. The views are incredible and they are one of our favorite easy hikes on Oahu.

Two children sitting on the pillbox overlooking Lanikai Beach and the turquoise water

Snorkeling at Lanikai is the best of all the Kailua beaches although it isn’t where I would recommend to go if snorkeling is your top priority. There is a coral reef near the northern central section of beach between the access paths off of Kaiolena and Mokumanu where we have had the best luck. You might even get lucky enough to snorkel with turtles here. Stay aware of the current and waves here as this is not a secure bay with calm water like Hanauma Bay.

Sunrise at Lanikai Beach

The tricky part about visiting Lanikai Beach is that parking is very difficult. This is a neighborhood, so parking is only available on the street and there are many “No Parking” signs that are enforced. You’ll need to arrive early, park in a legal spot on the street without blocking driveways.

On many weekends, NO street parking is allowed at all. So you can park in the lot at Kailua Beach Park and walk a mile down Mokolua Avenue. Due to the extra effort required to access it, the beach always seems to have plenty of space. It is VERY worth the effort, but be sure to be prepared, especially if you have a lot of gear to haul.

Kalama Beach Park

Kalama Beach Park is a lesser known beach in Kailua located just north of Kailua Beach Park and just south of Castles Beach. This beach is equally beautifu lto the other beaches along this stretch of coastline with stunning blue water and white, soft sand. The tiny trail that leads from the parking lot is lines with lush vegetation and is one of my favorite parts of this beach – it just whispers “paradise.”

Family photo in the green vegetation along the path to Kalama Beach Park in Kailua
Photo Credit: Tara in Honolulu with Flytographer

Kalama Beach has a small parking lot and restroom facilities with showers as well as a picnic area. If the lot is full, you can also park in the Kailua Beach parking lot and walk a mile down the beach (or via busy Kalaheo Avenue).

This Kailua beach is a great spot for kitesurfing and body surfing due to the frequent winds on this side of the island. You won’t find any great snorkeling at this beach.

You won’t find lifeguards here, but the sand is soft and the waves are typically small and made up of warm, clear, incredible water. Like the other east shore beaches, jelly fish should be watched out for during the summer months.

We actually did a family photosession with Flytographer on Kalama Beach and it was so much fun! We had requested Kailua Beach as our photo location as we love it so much and our photographer suggested Kalama Beach instead for less crowds – it was the perfect suggestion! Our children laughed and splashed in the waves, and I came home with the best vacation souvenir ever!

Couple walking along the surf at Kalama Beach at sunset
Photo Credit: Tara in Honolulu with Flytographer

If you book a photo session through my link, you can get $25 off your first photo session (and sometimes up to $50 off during select months)!

Castles Beach

Castles Beaches is definitely a hidden gem on this list as I actually didn’t even know it existed the first few times we were there! More of a local’s neighborhood beach, and without the amenities of Kailua Beach Park, Castles Beach is just as beautiful as the others.

Sandcastle building at one of Kailua's best beaches

If you are looking for a quieter spot to nap on the sand and float in the waves without renting water gear or needing a bathroom, Castles Beach is your spot. The water is just as blue and the sand is just as soft and white, but the crowds are fewer here.

Expect small waves here for gentle surfing and perfect for body boarding. There isn’t a reef here, so don’t plan on it being a great snorkeling spot.

There is not much of a designated parking area here, so you will need to find a spot along the residential streets leading to this beach. Map it to this Beach Access Point or you might find it tricky to find your way to the beach.

Body boarding at a beach in Kailua

Make sure to respect the residents and follow the parking signs carefully. Do not block any driveways, of course! You can also park in the Kailua Beach Park lot and walk up the street or beach to Castles, but expect it to be about a 2 mile walk up busy Kalaheo Avenue if you do that.

As with all the beaches in Kailua, the sunrise from Castles Beach is AH-MAZING!

Kailua Beach Packing List

  • Reef Safe Sunscreen: There are several great options but this one is our favorite
  • Sand Castle Buckets: We love these collapsible sand buckets. We have owned them for several years and pack them in our suitcases
  • Beach Towels: We bring these packable, quick dry towels with us every time
  • The beach is super soft sand, so no water shoes necessary here!
  • Plenty of water and snacks! We love to pick up fun local treats that we don’t usually have from Costco or the market
  • Body Boards or Tubes: The small waves here are very fun, so plan to rent gear or bring your own
  • Life Jackets: When our kids were young, we always packed life jackets, even when flying! It kept them safe in the ocean and made up for a much more relaxed time in the waves for all of us
  • Goggles: Our children hated the saltwater in their eyes when they were young. Goggles to the rescue!

Tips for Visiting Beaches in Kailua Oahu

Plan plenty of time to visit! They are the ultimate paradise beaches, and you don’t want to kick yourself because you planned a short visit and now never want to leave!

This is the windward side of the island – and yes, it does get windy! Wind can bring in Man-of-War jellyfish, so keep your eyes peeled. We have not had a problem on any of our visits.

Sunrise is BEAUTIFUL at all of these beaches. Make sure to experience it at least once (but preferably every day!).

Only Kailua Beach Park and Kalama Beach Park have restrooms and parking lots. There are a couple food spots near Kailua Beach and water rentals, but no other beaches have amenities. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and plenty of water.

Ho'omaluhia Gardens near Kailua on the windward side of Oahu | Gorgeous green lush gardens that you can walk or drive through

Things to Do Near Kailua Beach

The east side of the island is our personal favorite and there is so much to do nearby when you are ready for a break from the sand.

Head to Ho’omaluhia Gardens for an easy, smooth stroll through incredible lush landscape with gorgeous views of the Ko’olau Mountains. This is one of the best hikes on Oahu to do with children.

Book a tour of Jurassic Valley to check out beautiful filming locations at Kualoa Ranch. Choose from ATV tours, horseback riding, catamaran sails, jeep excursions, and more. If we were to book only one tour on the island, this would be it. Even for non-movie fans, the valley is so insanely beautiful, that it will take your breath away!

Keep driving to the North Shore for some shrimp trucks, fantastic snorkeling at Three Tables, and shave ice in quirky Hale’iwa.

Thank you for sharing!

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