Sunset Beach, Oahu!
Golden white sands. Long, wide beach. Picture postcard sunsets. Stunning, clear blue waters. Towering waves in winter. Calm as a lake in summer.
Sunset Beach is one of the world’s best beaches, and on the bucket list of every Oahu visitor!
Along with two other Oahu’s North Shore beaches, the Banzai Pipeline on Ehukai Beach and Waimea Bay Beach, Sunset Beach hosts thrilling, world-class surfing competitions in the winter season.
Labeling Sunset Beach the surfing capital of the world sounds a bit pompous, but then if you’re anybody in the surf world, you’ll be right here, on Sunset Beach, for these thrilling winter waves.
Not being world-class surfers, we would just lounge on this pretty beach, gawking at the stunts of these graceful surfers.
Professional surfing is all the rage in winter, but spectacular sunsets are available all year round, hence the name!
Visiting Oahu in summer? The towering winter waves give way to a serene, almost lake-like setting, transforming Sunset Beach to a fun family-day beach
We and our kids made sand castles, splashed around in the warm waters, and snorkeled the tide pools and underwater coral reefs. We had a ball at Sunset Beach.
Some links on this page may be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. For more details, refer to our disclosure.
Directions to Sunset Beach Park, Oahu, HI
Sunset Beach is on the North Shore of Oahu, a relatively laid-back part of Oahu, away from the tourist hub of Waikiki and Honolulu.
You can use “sunset beach park pupukea hi 96712” for your GPS or Google maps.
Take H1 West from Waikiki or Honolulu, and then H2 North towards the North Shore. Next take Route 99 past the Dole Plantation to Route 83 and Haleiwa town.
The Kamehameha Highway takes you past Laniakea Beach (great place to view Hawaiian green sea turtles), Waimea Bay Beach, Ehukai Beach (famous Banzai Pipeline), and eventually to Sunset Beach Park.
You can take Bus #88A from the Ala Moana Beach Park in Waikiki all the way to the North Shore, but I would advise against it since you’ll likely spend 2-3 hours to get to Sunset Beach.
Sunset Beach Parking
Ample free public parking for Sunset Beach is available at the Sunset Beach Support Park, across Kamehameha Highway (enlarge the Sunset Beach map below). We had no problem finding a parking spot here.
Beachside parking on the road is available for a stretch along Kamehameha Highway, but these spots usually go fast.
Sunset Beach Map
The Sunset Beach map below shows the location of Sunset Beach, and the main attractions nearby.
Sunset Beach Access
The Kamehameha Highway runs beachside for a stretch, and if you parked either at the Sunset Beach Support Park parking lot or beachside on the road, all you need to do is walk over to the beach (expand the Sunset Beach map above).
Sunset Beach Reservations
No reservations or entrance fees are currently required for Sunset Beach!
Sunset Beach Park Amenities / Facilities
Location: Sunset Beach Park, Pupukea, HI 96712
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grass areas
Food Nearby: Ted’s Bakery, Banzai Bowls, Sunrise Shack, food trucks
Parking: Free public parking lot, roadside parking between mile markers 8 & 9
Directions: Kamehameha Highway past Haleiwa to Sunset Beach
Restrooms and beach showers are actually located across the street from the beach, at the Sunset Beach Support Park parking lot.
Lifeguards are on duty daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm.
Best Things to Do at Sunset Beach Oahu
With fine golden sands and clear blue waters, beautiful Sunset Beach offers something for everyone: an impeccable family beach in summer and a surfer’s mecca in winter
During the summer months, you’ll find a lot of families on the beach, enjoying the sun, the sand and the warm, calm waters.
With the onset of winter, the same Sunset Beach transforms into a hive of surfing activity, with professional surfers, well-wishers, and onlookers flooding the beach to witness stunning grace at world-class surf competitions.
Not a professional surfer? You are strongly advised to stay out of the water (there will be official posted warning signs as well), since the waves are rough and the currents are treacherous, including the notable Sunset Rip current running parallel to the coast.
1. Surf Sunset Beach
The latter is held in the memory of Eddie Aikau, the world’s best surfer at that time, a local surfing legend and reputed lifeguard, who lost his life on a brave rescue mission.
Both tournaments are held towards the end of the year, when 30-foot massive waves are as regular as clockwork in the winter ocean waters of Sunset Beach.
Primarily for professional surfers, non-surfers and the less experienced can enjoy the waves vicariously, watching in awe through binoculars at the grace with which the professionals ride these majestic waves!
The underwater reefs provoke large surf breaks far from shore, so binoculars are a must.
2. Sunset Beach Snorkeling
Though Sunset Beach is widely regarded as the surfing capital of the world during the winter months, summer is an entirely different story, when the ocean waves are reduced to timid ripples.
What was once a surfer’s mecca, turns into a glorious family beach, and snorkeling here in summer is among the best snorkeling on Oahu!
With extensive underwater coral reefs and numerous shallow tidepools to explore, snorkelers of all levels can marvel at the colorful corals and amazing tropical fish.
To identify these beautiful reef fish, check out our detailed Hawaiian Fish Snorkeling Guide.
3. Sunset Beach Swimming
With the advent of summer, Sunset Beach waters transform to a lake-like calmness, with the massive 30-foot winter waves replaced with placid ripples.
Excellent for a refreshing dip to cool off or to swim laps across the length of the beach for a great workout!
Obviously, if the weather is stormy or the water doesn’t look right, be sure to check with the lifeguard before plunging in!
Swimming is not allowed in the winter months, the waters are way too rough! Unless you are a competing professional surfer, you should not enter the waters.
4. Stay Back for Spectacular Sunsets
Is Sunset Beach Hawaii worth visiting? Definitely, just look at these stunning picture postcard sunset photos!
Sunset Beach is the best location on Oahu to view sunsets, and a North Shore Oahu must visit, just to view these gorgeous sunsets!
5. Admire Turtles and Monk Seals on Sunset Beach
According to a couple of locals we spoke to, apparently turtles and monk seals tend not to fraternize, preferring to stay on different parts of the beach.
Hawaiian green sea turtles are endangered, and by the time you come upon them, most likely volunteers would have put orange cones warning people to keep their 10-feet distance.
6. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Sunset Beach
With two-mile long, 200-300 feet wide, finely powdered, golden sands, finding a private, secluded part of Sunset Beach for a spot of sunbathing or relaxing with a book is relatively easy!
While my wife curled up under the shade of a tree with a book, I jogged the length of the sandy beach with the warm waters lapping against my bare feet.
7. Bike or Hike the Oahu North Shore Bike Path to Waimea Bay Beach
A paved pathway runs next to beach all the way to Waimea Bay Beach, a few miles further up.
You can rent bikes or just hike the path, taking in panoramic ocean views along the way.
The trail is popular with locals and tourists, and you’ll find a lot of company!
If you prefer e-bikes, E-Bike Rentals will deliver your e-bikes anywhere on the North Shore and pick them up when you’re done, without a delivery fee!
Or you can stroll along the sandy beach as well, the 2-mile Sunset Beach continues into the adjacent Ehukai Beach and Waimea Bay Beach, a 7-mile fabulous stretch of sand!
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.
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!
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!
Did you find this article informative? Pin it on Pinterest for later!
All information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is subject to our terms and conditions of use. It is not a substitute for information or advice from official agencies or qualified professionals.
SV Travel Media LLC makes no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information provided here, and readers should use their own discretion and judgement, and seek advice from professionals where needed.
Your use of the information described in, and your participation in activities presented on our website may carry the risk of illness, bodily injury, disability, death, or property damage. You freely assume all risks and dangers that may occur as a result of your access, use, purchase, or participation in any information, activity, product, or service listed on our website.