East Oahu - Postcard Beaches!
Some of the most well known Oahu Beaches are located on the islands eastern coast which includes one of Hawaii’s most dramatic stretches of coastline. Beginning with what is probably the world’s best known, and visited, marine sanctuary, Hanauma Bay, Kalanianaole Highway twists and turns for approximately one spectacular mile with panoramic views of the ocean and a rugged lava coastline.
Along this stretch are lookouts where you can see the neighboring islands, Molokai and Lanai, on a clear day. During the winter months, you’ll also be able to spot whales that have come to feed and nurse their young in the warm waters of the islands.
A hike down from the Blow Hole Lookout parking lot takes you to this cozy cove that's a bit protected from the waves.
The waters along this rocky coast drop off immediately to depths of around eighty feet making it a very desirable spot for fishing. One particular spot on this coast is Bamboo Ridge, a flat portion on the shoreline named for the old surfcasting poles fabricated from bamboo.
Despite the treacherous waves that crash upon the ridge during times of high surf, the “ridge” continues to be a popular fishing spot especially at night when the giant trevally or ulua are most apt to bite.
Continuing north, past Bamboo Ridge and the Blowhole lookout, the highway levels off and the cliffs give way to one of the most famous Oahu Beahes, Sandy Beach. Here you’ll find some of the best bodysurfing in the state due to a strong shorebreak which also takes its toll in injuries and frequent trouble calls for the lifeguards due to the shallow water in which the waves break and riptides caused by receding waves off of the steep beach.
Drive through the parking lot at Sandy Beach and you’ll see a variety of activities going on in the area including surfing, fishing, diving, skimboarding, and even high performance kite flying in the large grassy area between the parking lot and the highway.
Beyond Sandy Beach Park, the beach continues and the shoreline switches more to lava rock between the sand and the ocean. While not too desirable as a swimming beach, this “rougher” beach area might suit you if you’re looking for a bit more solitude and an opportunity to observe some shoreline fishing techniques...
... and, maybe, you'll get lucky and come across a Hawaiian Monk Seal like we did, sunning itself on the beach without a care in the world!
Leaving the Sandy Beach area, Kalanianaole Highway continues up a short hill and almost seems to be heading away from the coastline until you reach the top, a spot which gives you a breathtaking view of the nearshore islands Manana Island (Rabbit Island) and Kaohikaipu Island, and Makapuu Beach below. Also from this vantage point is an excellent view of the entire coast of Waimanalo all the way to Lanikai and Kailua Bay.
Like Sandy Beach, Makapuu is extremely popular for bodysurfing and bodyboarding and it’s not unusual to see surfers getting into the action, too, when an east swell hits the area. When the waves are down, it's an excellent spot to go snorkeling (especially if the parking lot is closed at Hanauma Bay as it often is due to the crowds.)
Sandy Beach and Makapuu are two Oahu beaches where it pays to understand the the potentially dangerous shorebreak conditions and rip currents.
Just past Makapuu is a little cove known to locals as "Cockroach Bay". Here is where many of us got our first taste of surfing (mine was with a gigantic balsa wood board which my father had purchased from someone at work.) If you’re looking at trying surfing and have little to no experience, this is a great place to be as the crowd (many of them beginners themselves) is quite mellow and the waves are as easy to handle as they are long. Here, you’re able to catch a wave from the outermost break all the way into the shore.
Past “Cockroach Bay,” the coastline continues through the Waimanalocommunity, which includes beaches as beautiful as you’ll find anywhere! The beaches in Waimanalo don't offer as good nearshore snorkeling as the other sides of the island because of the usual wave action stirring up a lot of sand. But if you're looking for sandy beaches and great swimming conditions, this spot will do just fine!
Whatever you do while on Oahu, don't miss spending some time on the East Shore!