The annual top ten list of America’s Best Beaches includes two on Oahu. Rather than a secluded secret, one is right in the middle of the action near hotels and activities. The list is compiled by “Dr. Beach,“ a professor at Florida International University.
Hawaii beaches regularly make the top ten and many are retired from ranking because they reached the top spot. Twelve Hawaii beaches have been ranked number one during the 21 years that Dr. Stephen Leatherman has done the list. Leatherman’s PhD is in environmental (coastal) sciences, according to his website. He personally visits each beach, using 50 criteria to rank them. The criteria range from the quality of the sand to the competition for the beach and nearby noise levels.
The top Hawaii beach on this year’s list is Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki at number three. This is Dr. Beach’s description:
“This beach was named in the honor of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku who was a gold medal Olympic swimmer and credited with introducing surfing to the outside world. Kahanamoku Beach is bounded by the Ala Wai small boat harbor and the Hilton Hawaiian Village catamaran pier. A shallow offshore reef protects this beach from the big waves, making it a great swimming area for families with children.”
This beach is at the end of Waikiki opposite Diamond Head, behind the Hilton Hawaiian Village complex. It is very accessible for anyone staying in nearby hotels. In Hawaii, beaches are public property, so you may walk along the shore behind any of the hotels even if you are not staying there. Hotels do reserve spaces for their guests on the part of the beach that is farther from the water and part of their private property.
The next beach is also on Oahu, but on the windward side of the island: Waimanalo Bay State Park comes in at number nine.
“This park has ample parking, restrooms, outdoor showers, and a good beach for swimming. While not as stunning as some other Hawaiian beaches, it is a safe beach because big waves and dangerous currents are rare and lifeguards are present. Hawaiians who live on Oahu frequent this beach.”
While Waimanalo is a popular beach for native Hawaiians, I think Dr. Beach probably means Hawaii residents, or “locals,“ who live on Oahu visit it often. It is along the coast next to two former number one picks that are now ineligible for ranking: Lanikai (1996) and Kailua (1998) beaches.