There’s a part of Hawaii that very few tourists ever experience: Waianae on the westernmost edge of Oahu. We recently took a ride out to this part of the island and were reminded just how awesome it is on the Leeward side.
The major reason many folks don’t venture out to the Leeward side is the distance from the usual tourist hub of Waikiki. However, that shouldn’t discourage you – the seclusion is what makes this area of the island such a wonderful place to visit.
Where is Waianae?
Oahu’s Waianai coast stretches 20 miles from the town of Nanakuli to Makua Beach. This is Oahu’s Leeward (western side), where things are quiet and scenic. A nonstop drive from Waikiki takes about 1 and 1/2 hours, but you’ll want to make lots of stops along the way, which we’ll highlight ahead.
Farrington Highway runs along the coast – you’ll access it by driving west on the H1 in Honolulu.
Hotels Near Waianae
Though Waianae is far from Waikiki, there are some places to stay near this side of the island. The resort area of Ko Olina is about 20 minutes away from Waianae. Here, you’ll find a Marriott vacation club, the Four Seasons, and Disney’s Aulani resort.
Ko Olina is a very luxurious area to stay in, which is a stark contrast to the quiet beauty of the Waianae coast. It’s nice to experience both during your Oahu vacation.
History & Culture
Wainae translates to “Water of the Mullet,” as this area has always been fruitful fishing grounds. In Hawaiian lore, it was home to the god Maui, and it later became the home of the royal ali’i Niho’oleki.
After colonization, there was a sugar plantation in Waianae and a railroad, but these are no longer in operation.
Today, Waianae is a place where residents live and work. There are schools, community gatherings, and a strong sense of Hawaiian values. It’s important to keep this in mind so that you don’t disrupt daily lives as you explore this beautiful place.
We Blog About Hawaii Because We Love Hawaii
What to See and Do in Waianae
The main attractions in this area are the beaches, but you’ll also find some great local plate lunch spots.
Aloha Poke is a fan favorite, or you can visit the local chain L&L BBQ, a popular spot with locals. The Beach House by 604 is a beachfront sit-down restaurant that’s great if you want to slow down and enjoy the scenery while you’re in the area.
As mentioned, the beaches are a main attraction on the Waianae coast. The ride up the coast is magnificent, and you can sample some of the beautiful beaches along the way.
During the winter months, the surf may be intense, so you may wish to visit during the summer when the surf is calmer. We decided to ride all the way up to the end of the coast to Makua Beach and work our way back.
Makua Beach is a romantic spot tucked away behind the mountains. Unfortunately, it is not a good place for recreational swimming, so we just enjoyed a picnic lunch there.
Our next stop on our Waianae adventure was Makaha Beach. This beach is wide and not too crowded; the water was perfect for swimming. There’s a wonderful beach park there with beautiful views of the mountains.
Maili Beach Park
We then went to Maili Beach Park. We were lucky to go during a festival and got to see wonderful local handmade items for sale. Although we did some sunbathing, shore breaks made it a bit hazardous for swimming. However, Maili Beach is great for boogie boarding.
Pokai Beach Park
Our last stop was Pokai Beach Park. We spent the rest of the day here because it’s perfect for swimming. A protective breakwater makes Pokai Beach Park the safest place on the Waianae coast to swim. This is the ideal place to enjoy a day at the beach if you have children.
Other Activities in Waianae
Many visitors choose to hike the Ka’ena Point Trail, Mauna Lahilahi Trail, or Kamaileunu Ridge Trail, though these remote areas are best for experienced hikers.
The beaches and overlooks in Waianae are great for seeing wildlife, like spinner dolphins, sea turtles, and an array of birds. In the winter, the area is excellent for whale watching.
There’s not a lot of great shopping in the area, but a farmer’s market on Saturday mornings is worth checking out.
A trip to the Leeward side of Oahu is certainly worth your time since there is so much to see and experience. If at all possible, exploring Waianae should be included in your Oahu vacation plans.