lanikai beach

Lanikai Beach Overexposed


If you had to pick a secret beach on Oahu would you select A or B?

According to Coastal Living magazine, photo A shows the top secret beach in the USA to enjoy the scenery without the crowds.  Budget Travel associate editor, Beth Collins, agreed in Reader’s Digest.  What beach are they talking about?

Their pick for seclusion is Lanikai Beach on the windward side of Oahu.

With so much national press, we decided to go back to Lanikai to check it out for ourselves.  Photo A is what we found when we got there.  I will say that Lanikai Beach is off the beaten track.  You have to drive through the city and traffic of Kailua on Oahu’s windward side to get there.  Traffic was congested most of the way.

Once you’ve made it to Lanikai don’t expect to see a sign for the beach.

You’re in a residential neighborhood and the only beach access is on trails scattered between homes.  The best path we found after several attempts was at Kai’olena Drive.

There’s no parking lot, restrooms, facilities or lifeguards.  While this sounds secluded, it’s not.  Our photo was taken mid-week in July and shows the number of people vying  for their spot on the beach.

Lanikai Assessment:  Turqoise waters, white sand and post-card views of Mokumanu and Mokolua islands are nice but the narrow beach and number of people there made us want to leave. It can be beautiful without the crowds however, as shown above.

What about Photo B?  It’s taken the same day at near-by Waimanalo Beach.

We took this photo shortly after leaving Lanikai and winding our way back through Kailua to the highway.  Compared to Lanikai, we found seclusion mid-week in July without having to go far from the highway.

Waimanalo Beach borders the highway and has facilities, parking lot, lifeguard and restrooms.  Sometimes security has been an issue here.  I’ve never had a problem but am always careful to lock the car and keep personal belongings in the trunk or with me.

Waimanalo Assessment:  Same turqoise waters as Lanikai but much easier to reach.  The view when you’re in the water of the surrounding mountain is simply spectacular.  We enjoyed the extra space that Lanikai lacked.

Conclusion:  Have you ever been lured to a place by a photo only to be disappointed when you arrived?  That’s what happened to us at Lanikai.  The view pictured here is how Lanikai is protrayed in the media.  It looks secluded and isolated until I turn my camera around in photograph A to show the action behind me.  If you’ve been to these two beaches, we’d like to hear what you have to say.

9 thoughts on “Lanikai Beach Overexposed”

  1. The views from Waimanalo Beach are amazing, to be sure. A couple of years ago we stopped there on our way to Lanikai and played in the surf for a couple of hours. We were nearly the first people there but by the time we left there were a lot of younger people drinking and harassing beach goers who weren’t locals. We left not because we were necessarily harassed but because we already wanted to go to Lanikai. Once at Lanikai we found our way to a beach that had the softest sand, warmest & calmest waters and the best crowd we experienced in Oahu (nothing like the people tramping all over Waikiki, throwing sand in your face without a backward glance). I personally LOVED Lanikai; maybe growing up in SoCal, hanging out at Huntington Beach has skewed my perception, but that crowd above looks just fine to me.

  2. I’m more of a North Shore girl. I have only been to Lanikai once. The day I was there it was super crowded. Makapuu is my favorite Windward beach although parking is tough to find.

  3. No matter what anyone says -Lanikai is the \perfect beach\, if you ran into too many windsurfers – you were out too far, or don’t love a beautiful view
    I was there fro a week and though there were ‘some’ people on the beach – not many, and beyond beautiful – the water, the view, the sand – all of it.
    Most of the people on the beach were locals…and thats fine – it’s Their beach!
    the fact that we are even allowed to lay and frolic on such a beautiful strip of land is a gift.
    thanks for the gift Hawaii
    Still secluded enough, still beautiful and perfect!

  4. For 3 years living in Kailua we preferred almost any beach over Lanikai. For the most part, there were too many windsurfers running us over. We preferred Waimanalo and Bellows, followed by Sandy if the shore break wasn’t too big. We avoided Kailua beach because of the numerous sewage releases (without notice) because the prevailing unspoken… Read More policy was….’Oh, it gonna rain? More better we let some out (untreated) and not overtwork the system.’ Huh? EEEWWWW. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents worth!

  5. Thanks Natalie, Renee, Cathy and Vicki for taking time to comment on Lanikai and our website. We appreciate what everyone has to say. It comes down to personal choice and finding the right “vibe.”

    Note to Renee, it’s fine to comment either here or on Facebook.

    Best Aloha,

    Rob from Beat of Hawaii

  6. Unfortunately, Lanikai receives so much media coverage these days that it is no longer a hidden or locals only beach. Too bad as it really is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island of O’ahu. That’s tourism for you.

  7. Hi guys, thanks for your article on Lanikai and Waimanalo beaches…I have mostly been to both beaches in January and early February….I have probably visited Lanikai about 40 times over the course of 10 years or
    so…and Waimanalo maybe 5 times. I love Lanikai. Not many people
    there then. I also love Kailua Beach but the waves are too big for me there most of the time to swim alone. Love walking Lanikai & Kailua and
    watching the sunrise, equal mix of local people & visitors. At
    Waimanalo at those times I do not feel welcome whatsoever, and get some hostile stares; I feel very nervous there and won’t walk the beach alone. The far portion of Waimanalo beach is owned by the military and open on weekends, I do not get those bad vibes there. Perhaps time of year, if you’re a woman, and if you are travelling alone need be considered.

    Love your column, subscribe on facebook, too, should I have replied via facebook?

  8. We love Lanikai. It’s one of our favorite beaches b/c it is absolutely beautiful. We have been there twice. The first time was in mid-August and it wasn’t crowded at all. The second time was mid-June and it was more crowded, but not too badly that we didn’t enjoy ourselves. I have never been to Waimanalo though, so I can’t comment on that.

    Thanks for maintaining such a great site.
    Fello Hawaii Fans,
    Cathy & Tim

  9. It was nice to read about Waimanalo beach. It is my favorite on Oahu and I always wonder why no one is there. I think the view is just beautiful – ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Two of the best features of Hawaii’s scenery. I’ve gone there on the weekends and it can be really busy then and I think it is mostly local people – rather than tourists. I love to sit and watch the ocean and it is beautiful there.

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