Ala Moana Beach Park, Oahu: Escape the crowds at Waikiki Beach, and head here to one of Honolulu’s hidden gems, a favorite of locals!
Whatever water or beach activity you were planning on Waikiki Beach, the same at Ala Moana Beach will be a far better experience, whether it is sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, surfing or even something exotic like yoga on a paddle board in the middle of the ocean!
And why not? Right in the middle of a bustling city, Ala Moana Beach Park is a large, developed and well-maintained 100-acre public park and beach, with a protected, shallow, man-made lagoon peninsula, aptly named Magic Island.
With the sheltered, crystal-clear blue waters and finely powdered golden sands come fun family water activities and family beach days!
Many of our beach days when we visited Oahu last time were actually spent at Ala Moana Beach, rather than Waikiki Beach, and we were able to pack in a lot of fun things to do here, something almost impossible to accomplish in busy and crowded Waikiki.
Continue reading to check out what is available, and you too can have a productive family vacation by shifting some beach activities to Ala Moana Beach Park!
Hey, by the way! Visiting Oahu and planning your bucket-list activities? Check out our guide to the highest-rated Turtle Canyon snorkeling tours!
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Ala Moana Beach Directions
Just north of Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Beach Park is easy walking distance from Waikiki, across the Ala Wai Canal on Ala Moana Blvd, and a left on Ala Moana Park Drive.
Uber and bus transportation are also good options.
The Waikiki Trolley pink line runs from Waikiki to Ala Moana Center, and the Waikiki Trolley Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Honolulu pass is a fun option for getting there, and for sight seeing.
>> Check pricing and availability on the Waikiki Trolley Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Honolulu pass now!
Ala Moana Beach Parking
Your best bet for parking is the large, free Ala Moana Beach Park lot on your left, as soon as you turn into Ala Moana Park Drive (expand the Ala Moana Beach map below).
Roadside parking on Ala Moana Park Drive is also possible, but most of these spots go quickly, unless you are the first ones there early in the morning.
The times we drove here, we had no issues finding a spot, but we came mostly on week days.
Ala Moana Beach Map
The Ala Moana Beach map below shows the location of Ala Moana Beach, and the main attractions nearby.
Ala Moana Beach Access
From the parking lot, take the walkway to the beach. Depending on where you park, you may have to walk a few minutes.
Ala Moana Beach Reservations
No reservations are currently required for the Ala Moana Beach.
Ala Moana Beach Amenities / Facilities
Location: 1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grass areas, walkway, tennis courts, shade trees, beach volleyball
Food Nearby: Hawaiian barbecue and other restaurants in walking distance
Parking: Large parking lot, roadside parking on Ala Moana Park Drive
Directions: From Waikiki, head north on Ala Moana Blvd, cross the canal, and turn left on Ala Moana Park Drive.
Ala Moana Beach park is open from 4:00 am to 10 pm. Lifeguards are on duty from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm daily.
Ala Moana Beach Park is huge, with a nice perimeter walkway, picnic pavilions, 10 tennis courts, outdoor bowling greens, ponds, and shade trees.
Best Things to Do at Ala Moana Beach
Resurrected from swamp land, Ala Moana Beach Park, with its man-made lagoon, Magic Island, is a hugely popular public park, and is aptly named, translating to “path to the sea.”
At different vantage points along Ala Moana Beach and the park, you get beautiful views of the downtown Honolulu skyline, Waikiki, and the landmark Diamond Head Crater in the distance.
With calm waters protected by an underwater reef system and sea wall barriers at the lagoon, fine golden sands, and large, open grass areas, Ala Moana Beach Park is one of the best family beach day locations on Oahu.
1. Ala Moana Beach Snorkeling
The waters along the half-mile stretch of golden sands at Ala Moana Beach are protected by an underwater coral reef, running parallel to its entire length.
These coral reefs are teeming with colorful tropical fish, making Ala Moana Beach a great place for snorkeling, especially if you don’t have time to explore the best Oahu snorkeling spots.
As you explore the outer reef, you’ll see some bigger fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles, but unfortunately the ocean shelf drops sharply, so you’re at much greater depths.
Either you need to be an experienced swimmer or you can do what we did, use good flotation jackets and belts.
The lagoon at Magic Island is an excellent snorkeling location for kids and beginners, shallow and strongly protected by the sea wall barriers, while still having extensive coral reefs, with abundant tropical fish.
To recognize and identify these fish, refer to our detailed Hawaii Fish Snorkeling Guide.
2. Surf Ala Moana Beach
The protective underwater coral reefs running parallel to Ala Moana Beach result in surf break far from shore, well beyond the outer reefs.
Though that usually means gentle waves near shore, surfers will have to paddle out to beyond the outer reef, about 400 yards from shore.
Those willing to invest in the long paddle will be delighted by waves of varying levels, and you can pick and choose the right waves for a thrilling surf ride.
Orange buoys in this area are meant to keep the boats and cruise ships out, letting surfers enjoy the waves in peace.
Unlike Waikiki Beach, Ala Moana Beach is much less crowded, but equally gratifying, especially if you’re a beginner and wanting to learn without running into other surfers.
Our kids took this Surf HNL: Ala Moana Surf Lessons!!!, and had a great learning experience!
>> Check pricing and availability on the 5-star rated Surf HNL: Ala Moana Surf Lessons!!! now!
3. Standup paddle board at Ala Moana Beach
While our kids were taking their surf lessons, we opted to try our hand with standup paddle boarding!
We took this Surf Honolulu: Ala Moana Stand-up Paddleboard Lesson, and chose the small group (upto four students) option, which worked out well, with sufficient personalized attention.
The instructor was really good, and taught us the main paddling techniques on land, before we entered the water.
The ocean waters were relatively calm, and we were able to paddle while maintaining our balance, and by the end of the 2.5 hours lesson were comfortable enough to start looking around, and enjoying the views of the skyline and the Diamond Head crater from the ocean!
We were confident enough to try it on our own the next day, and managed quite well, even though the waters were a bit rougher.
>> Check pricing and availability for Surf Honolulu: Ala Moana Stand-up Paddleboard Lesson now!
4. Ala Moana Beach Swimming
With relatively calm waters near the shore, you’ll find a lot of people in the water, either taking a refreshing dip or swimming laps parallel to the shore.
We saw a group of experienced swimmers head out further from shore, but be aware that the ocean floor inclines steeply, so you are in deep waters not too far from shore.
The white buoys dotting the waters are a rough guideline for swimmers to stay within, and if you plan to venture further out, check with the lifeguard before doing so.
The lagoon at Magic Island is a great option for kids and beginning swimmers as well.
5. Stay Back for Spectacular Sunsets
Ala Moana Beach Park is my favorite place to view sunsets, and is one of the best sunset locations on Oahu!
Almost any location on Ala Moana Beach is great, but my preference is to head towards the tip of Magic Island, where you can view some of the surfers riding their last waves before the light runs out.
Sunsets are spectacular, with the golden orb sinking into the warm Pacific Ocean waters amidst a stunning array of colors, often framed by the sunset cruising yachts!
If you haven’t taken a sunset cruise, you must! To see the sunset, and then to turn around and watch the spectacular Honolulu skyline lighting up is simply epic!
On our first trip to Oahu, we took this Waikiki Sunset Cocktail Cruise and just loved the romantic experience of sipping cocktails and watching the golden sun dip below the Pacific Ocean waters from comfortable deck chairs!
6. Enjoy Friday Night Fireworks & July 4th Fireworks
Ala Moana Beach Park is the hub for many social and cultural events in Honolulu, including the July 4th Independence Day fireworks.
You need to get here early to get a good seat.
Not vacationing on Oahu during July 4th? Every Friday night at about 7:45 pm the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort holds a weekly fireworks show from their Hilton lagoon.
The Magic Island lagoon and the Ala Moana Beach Park are some of the best places to see these fireworks!
7. Stroll or Jog the Walkway
With about 3 miles of well-maintained, paved walkway forming a perimeter along Ala Moana Beach and the park, one of my favorite things to do here was to take a leisurely jog, probably my only exercise routine on vacation.
And what a wonderful way to exercise in nature, with a pleasant ocean breeze, the turquoise blue ocean waters, golden sands and grass parks all around!
Feeling adventurous? Renting a bike or eBike is easy, and a very different way to explore Waikiki and get to Ala Moana Beach Park.
One day we tried the self-balancing scooters, and had great fun!
Check out some of the popular 5-star rated rentals:
8. Yoga on a Paddle Board
Feeling relaxed and comfortable with standup paddleboarding and want to take it to the next level?
We were stunned to see yoga classes being offered on paddleboards, and experienced yogis holding all kinds of poses in the middle of the ocean waters!
If you like yoga, this popular, 5-star rated Paddleboard Yoga Class in Honolulu is a must do, and make sure your partner is on the beach with a zoom lens taking photos for your Instagram!
>> Check pricing and availability on the popular 5-star rated Paddleboard Yoga Class in Honolulu now!
9. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Ala Moana Beach
With more than half a mile of finely powdered golden sands, finding a private, secluded spot for a bit of sunbathing is not difficult.
You’ll see many people working to pick up a tan on their Hawaiian vacation!
Looking for a quiet, shaded spot to read a good book? You have a lot of shade trees, benches and picnic tables dotting the park, even epic banyan trees and some amazingly tall palm trees.
10. Admire Turtles and Monk Seals on Ala Moana Beach
Didn’t spot a Hawaiian green sea turtle while snorkeling?
We saw a couple basking in the sun at the Magic Island, and volunteers had placed orange cones and were shoo’ing off tourists who came in too close to take selfies.
Make sure you are at least 10 feet away, the Hawaiian turtles are endangered and protected by law.
Monk seals, also endangered, are much rarer here, though we did spot one on the day we came in early.
11. Lantern Floating Ceremony
One of the most picturesque festivals held at the Ala Moana Beach Park is the Memorial Day Lantern Floating Ceremony!
The Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii draws over 50,000 people, and is huge community event with a traditional Hawaiian cultural ceremony, so make sure you get here early!
The festival is held in remembrance of those who died, and lanterns with written prayers and personal messages are floated.
The lit lanterns floating into the sunset ocean waters is one of the most epic and memorable sights on Hawaii, and a must see for those vacationing here on Memorial Day!
Other Activities at Ala Moana Beach Park
At 100+ acres, Ala Moana Beach Park is huge, and offers many other activities.
You have 10 tennis courts, right in the middle of the grass park area. Adjacent to the tennis courts is a grass bowling lane.
One of the newer additions are a couple of beach volleyball courts.
LL Hawaiian barbecue stands are conveniently located at the two ends of the grass park.
Canoe clubs, yacht clubs, and rentals for diving, snorkeling, and other water adventures are all over.
Tired of the beach? Head to the Ala Moana Center across the street, one of the largest open-air shopping malls in the world, with over 300 stores and restaurants!
Snorkeling and Water Activities Gear Checklist
Though you can rent snorkeling gear or use the ones that come with tours, we invested in our own gear, mainly due to Covid-19 (why take the risk?).
- Snorkeling Gear Set: We love our Cressi Light Weight Premium Travel Snorkel Set for All Family, compact and easy to pack, great fitting, and very clear underwater. The Zenoplige Mask Fins Snorkel Set is a great budget option.
- Sunscreen: Hawaii’s sun can be harsh. Avoid sunburn with sunscreen compliant with Hawaii’s 104 Reef Act. The Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray, moisturizing with Vitamin E, is our go-to when we travel to Hawaii. Apply liberally and regularly!
- Underwater Camera: Want to capture Hawaii’s incredible underwater seascape and marine life? Your best budget option is the Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof Disposable Camera, reasonably cheap with good underwater photos! If you want high-end photos and video, you must invest in the premium GoPro HERO12 – Waterproof Action Camera, (waterproof to 33 feet)!
- Inflatable Life Jackets: If you’re planning paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and other water sports, and prefer your own life jacket, consider one of these two US Coast Guard approved options: the Onyx M-16 Series Belt Back Manual Inflatable Life Jacket or the Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket.
- Water Shoes: Some of Hawaii’s beaches have sharp lava rocks or coral reefs, good water shoes will protect your feet (but please do not walk on the reef!). We use the Merrell Hydro Moc rubber shoes (men’s, women’s), great for slippery rocks. If you prefer sandals, we recommend the Keen Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandals (men’s, women’s).
- Waterproof Waist Pack: Keep your rental car keys, cards, and phone dry and safe while you swim or snorkel with a dry bag. We love this 2-pack AiRun Tech Pouch with waist strap. The transparent one is touch-screen friendly!
Ocean Safety Tips
Hawaii’s beaches are beautiful, but ocean activities can be dangerous. Ocean conditions are dynamic and can change without warning.
Here are some tips to enjoy the ocean and beaches safely:
- ALWAYS heed posted warning signs.
- Check conditions just before you arrive at your chosen beach, and watch conditions at the beach for a bit before you decide to enter the water.
- Swim at a lifeguarded beach and ask the lifeguard for advice before you enter the water.
- Never turn your back on the ocean, whether you are standing at the shore or on a cliff above. If you see wet rocks or sand, it means the water has been here recently.
- Know your limitations, especially if you are not an experienced swimmer. If in doubt, do not go out.
- If you choose to enter the water, go with a partner or in a group.
- Know that alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills in the water.
- Keep children close and always keep your eyes on what they are doing in the water.
- Watch for sharp coral or rocks or sea urchins.
Best Oahu Tours
Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?
Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!
The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.
Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!
Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.
A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu adventure for your bucket list.
We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.
Renting a Car in Oahu
If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.
Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).
While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.
We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle
If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!
This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!
Where to Stay in Oahu
Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.
While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.
Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!
On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.
More Oahu Travel Inspiration
Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!
Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.
Of course you’ll want to learn about all the exciting things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, and Waikiki, the touristic core of Oahu. We also have an article on the best places to eat in Waikiki!
Check out our guide to the best beaches in Oahu, and a round-up of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu. Also read about must-visit Oahu waterfalls and botanical gardens in Oahu you have to visit.
Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!
More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.
Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.
We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!
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