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It’s only about 45 minutes from Waikiki Beach, but Waimanalo Bay Beach Park has been one of the best-kept secrets on Oahu for years. Now the secret is out! Dr. Beach just named Waimanalo Bay Beach Park his number one pick for Best Beach in the country in his 25th Annual Top Ten List of U.S. Beaches.
The distinction is hardly a small achievement. Dr. Beach bases his annual list on 50 criteria, including water and sand quality in addition to the recently included beach safety, environmental management and bonus points for no-smoking policies.
It’s clear why Waimanalo Bay Beach Park tops the list. The beach that lines Waimanalo Bay boasts the longest uninterrupted white sand beach on Oahu (about three miles long), and the surf is just right for body surfing or just relaxing in the turquoise waters. Along the backside families looking to take shelter from the sun can bathe under the lavish ironwood trees. Add to that, the beaches there aren’t nearly as crowded as those in Waikiki, and not a hotel in sight.
However, because the beach is on the Windward side of Oahu, it faces the prevailing tradewinds, which can make the beach a bit breezy at times. During the winter months, it can even get chilly (by Hawaii standards). You may even want to bring a light jacket with you if you’re there for a picnic or other beach-side activity. The shorebreak can be a bit powerful here from time to time too, so take caution when swimming with small children or the elderly and you may want to stick to areas close to a lifeguard station.
The park actually has two main access points, one along the Southern end of the park and one along the Northern end. The South entry is called Waimanalo Beach Park and it has showers, restrooms, a pavilion, picnic tables and a lifeguard tower. The Northern access leads to the Waimanalo Bay State Recreation Area. It has all the same facilities as the Waimanalo Beach Park but also has an area designated for camping, should you get the itch. However, you need a permit to camp there.
Just around the bend from the beach, you’ll also find a string of quaint, local restaurants and cafes, most of which are locally-owned and operated. After a long day at the beach you can cool off with a shave ice at Keneke’s right down the street. Rustic and homegrown, Keneke’s also offers plenty of plate lunches to fill your belly after your Waimanalo workout.
Other local restaurants line the main street through Waimanalo. Most offer local favorites and are open for lunch and dinner (sometimes breakfast too). In case you need a taste from home, there’s even a McDonald’s at the tail-end of the main street. Other local retailers offer treasures from local artisans and an eclectic array of wares.
As an added bonus you can even tell your friends you spent time on the beach where Magnum P.I. and Baywatch Hawaii were filmed. Not that you needed any extra incentive to visit!
During the week the beach park is more like your own private sanctuary with very few locals and visitors in sight, but the weekends are entirely different. Saturdays and Sundays you will find local families relaxing with tents and grills(even bouncy houses) as they gather for get-togethers.
It’s no surprise Dr. Beach chose Waimanalo Bay Beach Park as his Number 1 pick. One visit here and you’ll be a believer.