Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, HI: Complete 2024 Visitor Guide

Waimanalo Beach, Oahu! An incredibly stunning, white-sands beach with crystal clear, turquoise waters on the lush, windward side of the island.

And despite its beauty, almost totally deserted when we visited on a weekday afternoon!

We had stopped at Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach earlier on our vacation, loved the amazing white sands and clear blue waters, but both were somewhat crowded when we went.

So imagine our surprise to find a beach as beautiful, and just a few miles away, with hardly anyone.

Apparently, Waimanalo Beach is not on the tourist map, and all the better for that!

Weekends tend to be busier, with locals flocking here to enjoy a family day at the beach with barbecue and boogie boarding!

Beautiful Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, with clear blue waters and soft white sands
Beautiful Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, with clear blue waters and soft white sands

But with roughly 3 miles of pristine beach stretching all the way to Bellows Beach Park at the far northern end of Waimanalo Bay, finding your private slice of this tropical paradise is easy!

Join us to learn more about Waimanalo Beach, a hidden gem on Oahu, and you too can enjoy a Hawaiian tropical beach in relative solitude!

Planning your trip to Oahu? Check out our 2024 guide to the most popular tours and excursions in Oahu!

Stunning blue waters at Waimanalo Bay, and soft white sands at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii
Stunning blue waters at Waimanalo Bay, and soft white sands at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

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Directions to Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

Waimanalo Beach is on the southeast coast of Oahu, a few miles down the coastline from Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach, two other stunning Oahu beaches on the windward side of Oahu.

We took the scenic, coastal H1 highway, Kalaniana’ole Highway, from Waikiki, and loved the beautiful drive.

We stopped at the Halona Blowhole, an oddity of nature, where the waves thrust out geyser-like water through lava holes, not unlike the Old Faithful at Yellowstone.

Iconic Halona Blowhole on the windward side of Oahu
Iconic Halona Blowhole on the windward side of Oahu

We also hiked the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, one of the best easy Oahu hikes on the east side, with spectacular coastal views.

While the drive is typically 45 minutes, we took most of the morning with the stops.

We’ve also taken the Pali Highway (highway 61) which merges into Highway 72 South (you will be approaching Waimanalo Beach from the opposite direction).

On this route, I highly recommend you stop at the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, which offers stunning panoramic views of the island. We were just blow away by the views on a clear day.

With a three-mile stretch of beach, you have multiple options on where to stop, with the simplest being the Waimanalo Beach Park or the Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area opposite the Polo Fields.

I recommend Waimanalo Beach Recreation Area opposite the Polo fields, which tends to be less crowded, with lots of ironwood trees (fondly called Sherwood Forest), public restrooms and more.

Waimanalo Beach on the east coast of Oahu, with Manana Island (Rabbit Island) offshore
Waimanalo Beach on the east coast of Oahu, with Manana Island (Rabbit Island) offshore

Waimanalo Beach Parking

We’ve never had issues finding parking at Waimanalo Beach, even on weekends.

The Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area (sometimes called Waimanalo Bay Beach Park) has two large free public parking lots (expand the Waimanalo Beach map below).

The south end of Waimanalo Beach, Waimanalo Beach Park, has two large free public parking lots as well, with public restrooms conveniently nearby.

You can also park along the streets lining the beach, but we recommend this as a last resort.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Waimanalo Beach Map

The Waimanalo Beach map below shows the location of Waimanalo Beach, and the main attractions nearby. Expand the map for driving directions and finding parking areas.

Waimanalo Beach Access

The parking lots are roughly 50-100 feet from the sandy beach, and you have short trails through ironwood trees.

If you parked on the street, look for a nearby public beach access road between homes that will also take you to the beach.

Beach access path to Waimanalo Beach from the parallel street, between two homes
Beach access path to Waimanalo Beach from the parallel street, between two homes

Waimanalo Beach Reservations

No reservations or entry fees are needed for Waimanalo Beach, one of the best free beaches on Oahu’s east side!

If you plan to camp here, you will need to buy a permit.

Waimanalo Beach Park Amenities / Facilities

Location: Waimanalo, Southeastern Oahu
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grass areas, camping
Food Nearby: McDonalds, Ono Steaks & Shrimp, others
Parking: Multiple free public parking lots
Directions: Off Highway 72 in Waimanalo, Oahu

Restrooms and outdoor showers are located near public parking areas along Waimanalo Beach at Waimanalo Beach Park and Waimanalo Beach Recreation Area.

Lifeguards are on duty along stretches of the beach during the day.

Lifeguard tower at Waimanalo Beach overlooking the beach and bay
Lifeguard tower at Waimanalo Beach overlooking the beach and bay

McDonald’s, Ono Steaks & Shrimp and a bunch of other small restaurants are scattered along Kalaniana’ole Highway, parallel to the Waimanalo Beach.

A coconut stand with some fast food is walking distance from the Waimanalo Beach Park (across from the baseball field).

We rented our beach gear from Waikiki itself, but you can stop by Kailua also to pick up any gear you need.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

Best Things to Do at Waimanalo Beach, HI

Waimanalo Beach is a gorgeous stretch of soft, finely powdered white sands running all along the crescent-shaped Waimanalo Bay, stretching from Bellow’s Beach on the northern end all the way down to Waimanalo Beach Park at the southern end.

Beautiful Bellow's Beach on the northern end of Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful Bellow’s Beach on the northern end of Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Waimanalo Bay ocean waters are a stunning turquoise blue, crystal clear, and usually calm in summer, protected by the bay.

Off the shore, towards the southern end of the bay, is Manana Island, an uninhabited islet, often called Rabbit Island for its shape.

Rabbit Island is a seabird sanctuary for Hawaiian seabirds, off limit to visitors, and shelters wedge-tailed shearwaters, Bulwer’s Peters, red-tailed tropicbirds, sooty terns, and more.

Our favorite beach for a family beach day on the east coast of Oahu, Waimanalo Beach offers a relaxing day for the whole family with the steep, fluted Ko’olau Mountains providing a stunning backdrop against soft white sands and turquoise blue waters.

Family beach day at Waimanalo Beach, with kids and a kayaking group in the waters
Family beach day at Waimanalo Beach, with kids and a kayaking group in the waters

So pretty is Waimanalo Beach, you’ll often find this idyllic setting in Hollywood shows like Baywatch Hawaii and Magnum PI.

I must warn you though to watch out for Portuguese man o’ war, related to jellyfish, that may be floating in the war or on the sands.

Portuguese man o' war, related to jellyfish, have a nasty sting, so stay away from them
Portuguese man o’ war, related to jellyfish, have a nasty sting, so stay away from them

They pack a nasty sting, and if you see many of them on the sands, usually you’ll find them in the water too. Check with lifeguards on whether to avoid the water and how to treat a bite, if you get bitten.

1. Waimanalo Beach Swimming

Waters at Waimanalo Beach are usually calm during the day, with the arms of the crescent-shaped bay protecting the beach waters.

We enjoyed a refreshing dip in the warm waters, but stayed close to the shore.

We saw a few locals swimming laps, and some ventured further out, but they were familiar with the ocean waters and the currents here.

Locals and tourists enjoying the warm ocean waters at Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Locals and tourists enjoying the warm ocean waters at Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

What we loved about this beach was the gently sloping sand, making water entry easy, and there were no lava boulders or rocks that we could see.

Waimanalo Beach faces the windward side of the island, and the breeze can pick up, especially in the evenings with larger waves, often breaking near the shore.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

2. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

With three plus miles of soft, white sands at Waimanalo Beach, finding a quiet spot to sunbathe or relax with a book is easy!

Sunbathing on the soft, white sands at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii
Sunbathing on the soft, white sands at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

All we had to do was walk a bit from the parking areas, and we had the beach to ourselves!

Lounging on the sands, listening to the rhythmic soothing waves crash on the shore, surrounded by turquoise blue waters, ironwood tree forests, and steep mountains was just my idea of a relaxing vacation!

Take a lot of water with you and protect yourself from the sun with reefsafe sunscreen.

3. Come Early to View Amazing Sunrises

Early riser or can’t sleep due to jet lag? Grab some coffee and head to Waimanalo Beach for a spectacular sunrise!

The sun rises from behind Rabbit Island, often to the tune of stunning warm red, yellow and golden colors.

Stunning sunrise from behind Manana Island (Rabbit Island), Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii
Stunning sunrise from behind Manana Island (Rabbit Island), Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

A leisurely stroll along this beautiful Waimanalo Beach in complete solitude at sunrise is so relaxing. We saw absolutely no one, and had the beach to ourselves for a bit!

Leisurely morning stroll at sunrise on a deserted Waimanalo Beach, Oahu
Leisurely morning stroll at sunrise on a deserted Waimanalo Beach, Oahu

We had grabbed a McDonald’s breakfast and coffee on the way, and enjoyed a peaceful breakfast and watched sunrise from Waimanalo Beach Park picnic tables.

4. Admire Turtles, Monk Seals and Other Marine Life

With the miraculous recovery of the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles, that so recently were on the brink of extinction, we saw turtles on almost every beach we visited on Oahu, and often tons of them, like on Laniakea Beach, on the north shore of Oahu!

Waimanalo Beach was no exception, and we saw a few, especially as we walked up further north and towards late evening.

Hawaiian green sea turtle or honu on the beach
Hawaiian green sea turtle or honu on the beach

We didn’t spot monk seals on Waimanalo Beach, but from chatting with locals, apparently they too are quite common here.

Both are protected animals, please keep your distance (at least 10 feet per NOAA).

Our kids spotted a couple of spinner dolphins and were thrilled to see them put on a show – breaching and spinning in the air.

In winter, you can often see migrating humpback whales breaching the ocean waters of Waimanalo Bay.

5. Surf or Boogie Board or Bodyboard at Waimanalo Beach, HI

Facing the windward side of the island, Waimanalo Beach is popular with boogie boarders in the late afternoons and evenings, when the winds pick up to create fun-sized waves.

Surfers at Waimanalo Beach, eyeing the waves
Surfers at Waimanalo Beach, eyeing the waves

Waves here are not scary big, and the Waimanalo Beach is popular with younger kids and those learning to surf and boogie board.

We rented our boogie boards in Waikiki, since we didn’t see any near by. Kailua Beach Park, a few miles to the north, has several rentals.

We saw some local youths with surfboards as well, heading further off the beach to ride the waves.

Experienced surfer heading out into the ocean to ride waves at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii
Experienced surfer heading out into the ocean to ride waves at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

Waves at Waimanalo Beach are also fun for bodyboarding, a popular local activity here.

6. Waimanalo Beach Snorkeling

Snorkeling at Waimanalo Beach is great at specific spots, but the bulk of the ocean waters here with sandy ocean floors offers limited snorkeling opportunities.

We usually head towards the southern tip of Waimanalo Beach, from Kaiona Beach Park to Makai Pier and beyond, where there are beautiful, underwater coral reefs to explore, teeming with amazing tropical fish.

We saw lots of yellow tangs, convict tangs, butterflyfish and triggerfish here. We even saw some Achilles tang, quite rare, and a moray eel hiding in the coral reef.

To recognize and identify these beautiful fish, refer to our detailed Hawaiian Fish Snorkeling guide.

Enjoy snorkeling? Check out Hanauma Bay or Shark’s Cove, two of the best Oahu snorkeling spots, or many of the West Oahu snorkeling locations.

We take our own snorkeling gear, and they are light travel-ready ones.

7. Enjoy a Stroll along Waimanalo Beach

With three miles of white sands beach, taking a leisure walk on the beach, with the waves lapping against our bare feet, was one of our fun things to do on Waimanalo Beach!

3-mile long stretch of soft white Waimanalo Beach bordered by ironwood trees and turquoise blue waters
3-mile long stretch of soft white Waimanalo Beach bordered by ironwood trees and turquoise blue waters

If you’re an avid birdwatcher like me, you’ll love the stroll!

Hawaiian seabirds are quite plentiful here, given the proximity of Manana Island, a nesting ground for many.

We saw yellow-billed tropicbirds and a Great Frigatebird flying above.

In the beach park area and the ironwood forest, we saw a red-vented bulbul, a red-crested cardinal (fairly common on Oahu), and a couple of common mynas fighting noisily.

As we strolled along, apart from the many ironwood trees lining the inner border of the beach, we saw some pretty fruit trees, including a Hawaiian papaya tree.

Hawaiian papaya tree with fruit near Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii
Hawaiian papaya tree with fruit near Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

8. Kayak, Paddle Board or Canoe at Waimanalo Beach

With an expansive bay and calm ocean waters, especially in summer, you’ll see many locals canoeing or kayaking here.

Outrigger canoe on Waimanalo Beach, Oahu Hawaii
Outrigger canoe on Waimanalo Beach, Oahu Hawaii

There aren’t too many local rentals nearby, but there are a few at Kailua Beach Park a few miles up north, with kayaking to the Mokes being a popular fun activity there.

We did see a group of kayakers making their way through, likely a guided kayaking experience that started from Kailua Beach.

Group of kayakers and a water scooter in the ocean waters at Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Group of kayakers and a water scooter in the ocean waters at Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

9. Camping at Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo Beach is one of the few beaches on Oahu where camping is permitted, but you have to reserve campsites online and buy a permit.

If you’re a camper, you’ll love the setting, with camp sites available in the beautiful Sherwood Forest, with towering ironwood trees forming a canopy over your tent, and waking up to a tranquil sunrise from behind the Manana Island.

Waking up to a spectacular Waimanalo Beach sunrise from behind the Rabbit Island
Waking up to a spectacular Waimanalo Beach sunrise from behind the Rabbit Island

Other Activities at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

Waimanalo Beach Park is a popular local haunt, with a baseball field and basketball courts. You’ll see a lot of local kids frequenting the area.

Like fishing? You can try shore fishing from a convenient spot along the Waimanalo Beach or rent a boat to take you further out into the ocean.

With such a beautiful setting, beachside weddings here are quite common. You may also see couples come here after a wedding for a photo shoot.

Wedding arrangements at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii
Wedding arrangements at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii

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?).

Beautiful Waimanalo Beach against a backdrop of Ko'olau Mountains and ironwood trees
Beautiful Waimanalo Beach against a backdrop of Ko’olau Mountains and ironwood trees

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.

>> Check availability and prices on Oahu car rentals now!

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!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Oahu now!

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.

Our faves include Halekulani for a splurge stay, the Lotus Honolulu for views of Diamond Head, and The Laylow for its awesome location.

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.

>> Look for an Oahu vacation rental on VRBO now!

Beautiful Waimanalo Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful Waimanalo Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

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.

If you ar planning a short first visit to the island, we have the perfect day-by-day 3 days in Oahu itinerary for you!

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.

Oahu is home to so many must-visit landmarks! Check out our in-depth article on how to visit Pearl Harbor, and our guides on the beautiful Waimea Valley in Oahu and the spectacular Byodo-In Temple.

Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!

Discover the top places to go snorkeling in west Oahu, where you will find a long coastline with lovely beaches, and tips for snorkeling Kaneohe Sandbar on the island’s east coast as well as the super popular Hanauma Bay.

And if you love marine life, also check out our complete guide to (respectfully!) see and swim with dolphins in Oahu, and the best spots to snorkel with turtles in Oahu.

For hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, we have a round-up of the best Oahu hikes, and if you are looking to exclude the harder Oahu trails, a guide to the best easy Oahu hikes.

Find out how to do the iconic (and VERY popular) Diamond Head Hike near Waikiki for exceptional views. We also have a guide to the very popular Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu.

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!

If you are a garden enthusiast, check out our detailed guide to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, our article on the unique Koko Crater Botanical Garden, and our guide to Foster Botanical Garden!

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Discover the complete guide to beautiful Waimanalo Beach on the east side of Oahu! Things to do at the beach plus how to get there!

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