Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii!
Calm, crystal-clear blue waters. Finely powdered, whitish-golden sands. Epic sunrises from behind two iconic islands. Pristine.
What a stunning beach! Routinely making the list of the top 10 US beaches and the top 50 best beaches in the world, Lanikai Beach is a must visit destination in Oahu!
Lanikai translates to “heavenly seas” in Hawaiian, aptly named!
We’ve visited Lanikai Beach many times, and here are three tips that you need to keep in mind:
- Visit on working weekdays
- Come early, especially for the sunrise and snorkeling
- Park at neighboring Kailua Beach Park and walk over
If you follow these tips, you’ll have as wonderful an experience at Lanikai Beach as we did!
More of an upscale neighborhood beach, backed by multi-million dollar beach homes, Lanikai Beach is beautiful but pristine and undeveloped, and may not be the best Oahu beach for you!
When we vacationed with smaller kids, Lanikai Beach was more for a quick stroll, and we spent the bulk of the time at the equally beautiful neighboring Kailua Beach Park.
The reason is simple: Lanikai Beach has absolutely no amenities (no showers, no restrooms, no lifeguards, and no public parking).
Want more tips to plan your trip to Lanikai Beach, Oahu? Read on, and decide what you want to do there!
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Lanikai Beach Directions
Lanikai Beach, located on the windward side of Oahu, is about 30-45 minutes from Waikiki and Honolulu.
You can enter “lanikai beach kailua hi 96734” on your GPS or Google Maps for driving directions to Lanikai Beach.
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 S. Kalaheo Avenue. Take a right on Kalaheo Road and a left on Lihiwai Road, which becomes Kawailoa Road, and go past Kailua Beach Park.
Turn left on Alala Road which becomes Mokulua Drive and runs parallel to Lanikai Beach.
Depending on where you want to park (see parking below), you will either turn into the Kailua Beach Boat Ramp parking or continue on Mokolua Drive and look for street parking.
You will cross an iconic landmark, Lanikai Monument, where the road curves to the right into a residential neighborhood.
Lanikai Beach Parking
Your best parking option for Lanikai Beach is actually at the neighboring Kailua Beach Park, which has multiple free public parking lots.
Use the one next to the boat ramp at the start of Mokulua Drive, and you are roughly a 10 minute walk away from Lanikai Beach.
You cannot walk along the coast, you have to walk on Mokulua Drive to one of the access paths to the beach.
Since Lanikai Beach is in a residential neighborhood, street parking on Mokulua Drive is difficult and risky. You will be ticketed to the tune of $200+ if you park illegally, block a driveway, or park on the bike path side, and traffic officers regularly patrol this area.
When we visit, I don’t even bother searching for a roadside parking spot here, just not worth the risk and hassle.
Also, starting recently, on weekends, parking is not allowed on Mokulua Drive.
Lanikai Beach Map
The Lanikai Beach map below shows the location of Lanikai Beach, and the main attractions nearby.iframe src=”https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/3/embed?mid=1Ak7L6dE4N7KfmjjfpS8kz2F409JpCR4&ehbc=2E312F&noprof=1″ width=”100%” height=”480″>
Lanikai Beach Access
If you parked on Mokulua Drive or streets in the residential neighborhood, there are about 4 beach access paths from Mokulua Drive to the beach, that take you between residential home fences.
Lanikai Beach Reservations
No reservations or permits are required for Lanikai Beach.
Lanikai Beach Amenities / Facilities
Location: Lanikai Beach, Kailua, HI 96734
Beach Amenities: None
Food Nearby: Restaurants in the town of Kailua
Parking: Mokolua Dr street parking, Kailua Beach Boat Ramp Parking lot
Lanikai Beach has absolutely no amenities. Let me repeat that: no facilities, no amenities!
Located in an upscale, beachfront residential community, you won’t see any restaurants, food trucks, concession stands or rentals at Lanikai Beach.
Feeling peckish? The closest spots are Buzz’s Original Steak House across from Kailua Beach Park, or snacks and sandwiches from Kalapawai Market, a grocery store about 10-15 minutes drive.
Vacationing with younger kids? Neighboring Kailua Beach Park may suit you better, with restrooms, showers, ample parking, gear rental stores and lifeguards on duty.
Best Things to Do at Lanikai Beach
Voted as one of the best beaches in the world, visiting Lanikai Beach is on every tourist’s Oahu bucket list!
And with the increased visibility and popularity come crowds, especially on weekends!
If you like your space, your best bet is to come early on a working week day. That’s what we usually do, and it makes a world of difference!
You get to enjoy stunning Lanikai Beach in relative peace, and swim and snorkel without stumbling over someone else.
Come during the golden hour, and you’ll likely see photo shoots of models posing against a breathtaking background of blue ocean waters and the two Mokulua islands.
1. Lanikai Beach Snorkeling
Lanikai Beach has extensive coral reef formations, especially on the northern section of the beach (left side when facing the ocean), where you can find reefs even in shallow waters.
The waters at Lanikai Beach are usually calm, and we usually snorkeled in the morning when visibility was excellent.
There are no rentals, we actually invested in our own snorkeling gear, ideal for travel, and used it throughout our visits.
To identify these beautiful fish, consult our detailed Hawaiian Fish Snorkeling Guide.
Note, while waters are usually calm here, there are no lifeguards, so be aware of ocean safety tips, and enter the water at your own risk.
2. Lanikai Beach Swimming
Unlike many of Oahu’s other beaches, the ocean floor at Lanikai Beach inclines gently, providing a large area of relatively shallow and calm waters for a refreshing dip or swimming laps parallel to the shore.
The blue turquoise waters here are so inviting, you’ll see quite a few people in the water, wading or swimming.
Life jackets and flotation belts are highly recommended, both for you and your kids, since no lifeguards are on duty.
3. Kayak, Paddleboard, Canoe at Lanikai Beach, Kailua
Most days, the ocean waters at Lanikai Beach are almost lake-like, with small, gentle waves, ideal conditions for kayaking, standup paddleboarding and canoeing.
Unfortunately, no rentals are located close to Lanikai Beach, most enthusiasts bring their own (you’ll see a bunch lined up on the beach next to the beachfront homes), or rent from Kailua Beach and stop at Lanikai Beach for a break.
The nearby Mokolua Islands, sea bird sanctuaries, are a very popular adventure destination, and many guided tours take you there, and secure the necessary permits to stop for a bit on the northern island.
We took this popular, 5-star rated Kayaking Tour of Kailua Bay with Lunch, Oahu, and loved the experience.
We chose tandem kayaks so each kid was with a parent, and snorkeled for a bit near the Mokes, some of the best snorkeling we did in all of Oahu! Make sure you add the option to swim in Queen’s Bath, a freshwater lava tube on the island.
>> Check pricing and availability on the 5-star rated Kayaking Tour of Kailua Bay with Lunch, Oahu now!
If you haven’t tried standup paddleboarding before, the waters at Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach are perfect for an introductory lesson.
Our friends took this introductory 1.5 hour lesson Surf, Kayak or Standup Paddle board in Lanikai, Kailua, Oahu, and loved it!
>> Check pricing and availability on Surf, Kayak or Standup Paddle board in Lanikai, Kailua, Oahu, now!
4. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Lanikai Beach
With such gorgeous settings, probably the best thing to do on Lanikai Beach is to sunbathe or curl up with a good book!
Just relaxing on the beach, taking in the stunning views, and listening to the rhythm of the gentle waves is exactly what the doctor ordered on your vacation, stress-free and in harmony with nature.
Apart from working on your golden Hawaiian tan, you can also stroll to the end of the beach, about a 1/2 mile stretch, and admire the beachfront homes.
Many had to build sea walls which unfortunately led to sand erosion.
5. Come Early for Spectacular Sunrises
Lanikai Beach is one of the best sunrise locations on Oahu, and you’ll see photos of the golden sun rising majestically from behind the Mokulua Islands plastered on local souvenirs and Tshirts.
Sunrise is also one of the quietest times on the beach, and the tranquility is just amazing!
Equally epic is moonrise, though not as frequently mentioned. If you’re visiting around full moon time, make sure you stay back and experience a moonrise from Lanikai Beach!
6. Admire Turtles and Monk Seals on Lanikai Beach
If you’re kayaking or standup paddleboarding to the Mokes, you’ll likely see Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles on the sandy beaches there, a fairly common sight.
While Hawaiian green sea turtles do frequent the shores of Lanikai Beach, given the abundant algae in the nearby corals, monk seals are relatively rare.
If you do see either one, please stay at least 10 feet away, as per the guidelines of NOAA for endangered species. Most likely, volunteers would have already put orange cones around them.
7. Wind Surf and Kite Surf at Lanikai Beach
Being on the windward side of Oahu, Lanikai Beach gets trade winds with clockwork-like regularity, making wind-based water sports popular here.
You’ll see windsurfers, kitesurfers, kiteboarders and sail boats in the open ocean waters, and more commonly around the expansive Kailua Bay!
We had a great time watching some professional kitesurfers through binoculars, and it was thrilling to see them lift off, high into the air, with carefree abandon!
Our teenage kids were so taken in by these sports, they enrolled for a private lesson with #1 eFoil, wing foil, windsurf or kiteboard lesson in Kailua, Oahu, and had a fun time learning to kiteboard!
If you’re looking to pick up one of these water sports, we would highly recommend this lesson!
>> Check pricing and availability with #1 eFoil, wing foil, windsurf or kiteboard lesson in Kailua, Oahu, now!
8. Hike the Lanikai Pillbox Trail
The trail takes you along a ridge to two pillboxes, remnants of World War II observation bunkers, with fabulous views of Lanikai Beach, Kailua Bay, and pretty much every important landmark on the east coast of Oahu.
Sunrise views from the Lanikai Pillbox trail and the pillboxes are epic, with the sun rising from behind the Mokulua Islands amidst spectacular colors.
Planning to hike Lanikai Pillbox Trail for the sunrise? Make sure you have the proper hiking gear, including headlamps or torches.
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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