Kailua Beach, Oahu! Quintessential Hawaii!
An Oahu beach perfect for both families and thrill seekers, with finely powdered white sands, crystal clear turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees.
Located on the lush, windward side of Oahu, Kailua Beach has regular, predictable trade winds throughout the year to keep windsurfers and kite boarders happy.
At the same time, the large, protected Kailua Bay offers sheltered ocean waters for leisure water activities like kayaking, canoeing, standup paddle boarding and more!
Looking for some exercise on your vacation? How about a few laps, swimming near the shore, parallel to the beautiful Kailua Beach?
With so much to do at Kailua Beach, no wonder we spent several beach days here with the family on our last Oahu vacation. The kids couldn’t get enough of the sand, beach and water!
Join us in planning your family beach day at Kailua Beach, and we’re confident you’ll have an equally amazing time!
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Kailua Beach Directions
Less than a dozen miles from the tourist mecca, Waikiki, Kailua Beach is easily accessible, and much less crowded than the beaches in Waikiki!
You can enter “kailua beach park kawailoa road kailua hi” on your GPS or Google Maps for driving directions to Kailua Beach Park.
From Waikiki (or Honolulu), take the H1 freeway to exit 21A, Pali Highway, Highway 61. Continue towards Kailua town to Kailua Road exit.
Kailua Road turns right (separating from Kuulei Road), and then left (separating from Wanaao Road).
You will reach a T-junction at N. Kalaheo Avenue. Take a right on Kalaheo Road and a left on Kawailoa Road, which has direct access to Kailua Beach parking lots.
You will cross Buzz’s Original Steak House, a veritable beach landmark on the right, and you will find beach parking just after that on the left.
Though you can get to Kailua Beach by bus, it’s not worth the time it takes, about 90 minutes.
Kailua Beach Parking
Kailua Beach has ample parking in three fairly large lots (expand Kailua Beach Map below for additional details).
The main parking lot is off Kawailoa Road, just past the bridge over Kawainui Canal and Buzz’s Original Steak House. The beach restrooms and showers are close to this lot.
The second parking lot is off Lihiwai Road (just before the bridge on Kawainui Canal). This beach access road has multiple parking areas, and if you continue along the road, you’ll come to additional parking just behind Kalapawai Market.
To get to the Kailua Beach boat ramp parking lot, continue on Kawailoa Road and turn left on Mokulua Drive.
Kailua Beach Map
The Kailua Beach map below shows the location of Kailua Beach, and the main attractions nearby. Expand the map for directions to the beach and parking lots.
Kailua Beach Access
Kailua Beach can be directly accessed from all three parking lots, all you need to do is walk from the car to the beach.
Kailua Beach Reservations
No reservations or permits are currently required for Kailua Beach.
Kailua Beach Amenities / Facilities
Location: Kailua Beach Park, Kawailoa Road, Kailua, HI (East Coast of Oahu)
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, boat ramp
Food Nearby: Buzz’s Original Steak House (across street), Kalapawi Market
Parking: Multiple free public parking lots
Directions: Pali Highway (Hwy 61) to Kailua Road, to Kailua Beach Park
Kailua Beach Park is open from dawn to dusk, with lifeguards on duty daily from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Kalapawai Market, a beachfront grocery store, sells snacks and sandwiches. For a proper meal or happy hour, you can try Buzz’s Original Steak House, just across the street from Kailua Beach.
You can rent kayaks, paddle boards, boogie boards, surf boards, snorkeling gear, beach chairs, life jackets and more from nearby Kailua Beach Adventures (130 Kailua Road, Suite 101b) or other rentals close by.
Try Hawaiian shave ice to cool off at Island Snow, in the same block as Kailua Beach Adventures.
Best Things to Do at Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach is actually one end of a two and a half mile long, 50-150 feet wide, stretch of finely powdered, golden sands.
The section further up north is called Kalama Beach Park, and the northernmost end is Castles Beach. As you walk from Kailua Beach towards Castles Beach, the beaches tend to get less crowded.
Kailua Bay, a crescent-shaped bay, shelters the beaches from strong waves and currents, and offers a large expanse of ocean waters for water sports and activities.
Unlike some of the other Oahu beaches, the ocean floor is sandy, and there are no corals here to speak of. As a result, the waters are a stunning, turquoise blue, a picture perfect postcard of tropical paradise!
Further to the south are two other islands, colloquially called the Mokes, for Mokolua. They too are part of the Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary, and many sea birds nest here as well.
Kailua Beach Park is home to many local events, including the popular July 4th fireworks show.
1. Kayaking, standup paddle boarding & canoeing
Favorite water activities at Kailua Beach are kayaking, standup paddle boarding and canoeing, and on any given sunny day, the sea horizon will be dotted with colorful canoes, kayaks and paddle boards.
The ocean waters are relatively calm within the bay, and you’ll find a lot of local rentals offering introductory classes, in case you are a complete newbie.
An older couple in our group opted for a private lesson to learn standup paddle boarding from Surf, Kayak or Standup Paddle board in Lanikai, Kailua, Oahu, and were quite comfortable with the sport after the lesson!
>> Check pricing and availability on Surf, Kayak or Standup Paddle board in Lanikai, Kailua, Oahu, now!
For more adventurous tourists seeking half-a-day’s worth of fun, guided or self-guided tours to the Flat Island and to the Mokes (about 2 miles away) are the best option!
We took this popular, 5-star rated Kayaking Tour of Kailua Bay with Lunch, Oahu, and loved the experience.
The tour company also obtained permits to land at the bird sanctuaries, and we got to observe many nesting Hawaiian sea birds from a distance. Make sure you take binoculars!
We added the option of swimming in Queen’s Bath, a freshwater pool in a lava tube on Mokolua Island, and our kids loved it!
I highly recommend the tour to you, and feel free to double up on a tandem kayak for more fun and company!
>> Check pricing and availability on the 5-star rated Kayaking Tour of Kailua Bay with Lunch, Oahu now!
2. Kite Board & Wind Surf at Kailua Beach Park, HI
Adventure tourist seeking to pick up a new fun sport? How about kite boarding or wind surfing?
With steady, predictable, trade winds blowing over the bay, Kailua Beach is the perfect spot to learn.
We enrolled them on a private lesson with #1 eFoil, wing foil, windsurf or kiteboard lesson in Kailua, Oahu, and the personal attention seemed to jumpstart their skills.
They were comfortable kiteboarding around Kailua Bay for the rest of the afternoon after one lesson, and loved zipping with the breeze!
>> Check pricing and availability with #1 eFoil, wing foil, windsurf or kiteboard lesson in Kailua, Oahu, now!
3. Swim Laps at Kailua Beach, Oahu
The calm waters and gentle ocean waves at Kailua Beach are great for swimming laps along the shore or for a refreshing dip in the pleasantly warm waters.
Though Kailua Beach doesn’t have a fringing coral reef underwater, the shore break is relatively gentle. Waters are relatively shallow near the shore, and unlike some beaches, the floor doesn’t slope sharply into ocean depths.
Long-distance swimmer? Swimming to the Flat Island is reasonably close for most experienced swimmers.
We even saw some serious swimmers trying to reach the Mokes, about 2 miles away, and wisely they had group members on kayaks in case they needed help.
If you have younger kids, your best option for an ocean dip with the kids is near the boat ramp, where a lifeguard is usually on duty.
4. Sunbathe, Relax with a Book, or Take a Leisurely Stroll
Sun worshipper? Beautiful Kailua Beach is made just for you: finely powdered sand, turquoise waters, and the soothing sound of gentle waves, rhythmically crashing on the shore.
Searching for a more private spot to sunbathe? Keep walking north towards Kalama Beach Park and Castles Beach, the crowds thin out as you move farther up.
If you want to curl up with a good book, you’ll find lots of shade from the grove of ironwood trees bordering the beach.
Personally, I preferred jogging on the wet sand, with the waves coming to my feet. With 2.5 miles of beach, you get a pretty good workout in nature!
5. Come Early for Spectacular Sunrises
As with most of the east coast of Oahu, sunrise views from Kailua Beach, and the nearby Lanikai Beach, are phenomenal.
We made it a point of reaching Kailua Beach Park before sunrise on the second day at the beach, and the beach and neighborhood were quiet and peaceful, but for a few locals walking their dogs.
Kailua Beach has some of the best sunrise views you can get on Oahu without hiking!
The sun rises from beyond the Mokes, often to the tune of fiery colors!
6. Hike Lanikai Pillbox Trail
One of the most popular hikes on Oahu, the Lanikai Pillbox trail is an easy to moderate, 1 mile round trip hike on a ridge to two pillboxes, World War II observation posts, that offer spectacular, panoramic views of Kailua Bay, Lanikai Beach, the Mokes, and the Koolau mountain range.
On clear days most of Oahu’s prominent landmarks are visible, including Kaena Point, Diamond Head crater, Chinaman’s Hat, and the Honolulu skyline.
We did this as a sunrise hike, but make sure you have the proper hiking gear, especially headlamps.
7. Kailua Beach Snorkeling
Unfortunately, the clear, sandy beach floor at Kailua Beach is not among the best snorkeling in Oahu, with very few coral reefs to explore.
While you may see the occasional Hawaiian green sea turtle or tropical fish, your best snorkeling options near Kailua Beach are to head to the Mokes with a kayaking and snorkeling tour, or to the nearby Lanikai Beach that has better coral reefs.
At Kailua Beach, you may find some decent snorkeling near the rocks close to the boat ramp.
8. Surf & Boogie Board at Kailua Beach, Hawaii
While Kailua Bay next to Kailua Beach is more popular for the smaller wave water activities like standup paddleboarding and swimming, those seeking to surf or learn to surf should continue up to Castles Beach at the northernmost end of the beach stretch.
The waves are more for beginners and kids, and you’ll see a bunch of local kids with their boogie boards here.
No boogie board? Try your hand at body surfing, where you use your body to catch and ride waves!
While you can boogie board near Kailua Beach, you will have to paddle out to near the Flat Island, where surf breaks are a lot more amenable for surfing!
Kailua Beach is a great place to pick up surfing if you haven’t tried it before. Our kids took a private session with this Surf, Kayak or Standup Paddle board in Lanikai, Kailua, Oahu.
Our kids had a much better learning experience at Kailua Beach. Way better than Waikiki Beach, which was really crowded. After the lesson, they were getting quite adept at catching and riding the waves near Flat Island.
>> Check pricing and availability on Surf, Kayak or Standup Paddle board in Lanikai, Kailua, Oahu, now!
Other Activities at Kailua Beach
Like yoga? Check out Island Flow Yoga that offers classes and private training, including sunrise beach yoga at Kailua Beach.
Biking on the Kailua Beach path and around Kailua town is popular with tourists who like to explore on wheels, with many rentals conveniently nearby.
For a different kind of fun, you can also try mopeds and scooters. In fact, we rented them for a day in Honolulu and toured the East Coast of Oahu, and had great fun.
Here are some popular, 5-star rated moped, scooter, and e-bike rentals:
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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