Some say that Lanikai Beach is the best beach on Oahu. In fact, this beautiful place constantly pops up on lists of the top beaches in Hawaii – and in the entire world. So what makes Lanikai Beach so special?
Lanikai translates to “Heavenly Ocean” in Hawaiian, and once you’re here you’ll see why.
Local Oahu residents on Oahu enjoy Lanikai Beach alongside tourists. This, to me, is the mark of something special in a tourist destination like Hawaii. When something is so good that locals spend their weekends there, you know it’s more than a tourist trap.
Speaking as someone who lives here, I love spending the day at Lanikai Beach. The sand is powdery, the water is crystal clear, and the Na Mokulua Islands in the distance make for a stunning backdrop. You might even see a sea turtle swimming in the water. Plus, you’ll find some of the best activities on the entire island at or near Lanikai Beach.
But one thing that I’ve learned from beach-hopping all over the island is that Lanikai Beach is very different from other beaches on Oahu or anywhere else.
Today, I thought I would give you the low-down on Lanikai Beach – the good and the bad – so that you can decide for yourself if you should visit during your vacation to Oahu. Here at Hawaii Aloha Travel, we use our local knowledge to make sure your trip meets your needs and expectations.
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Where is Lanikai Beach in Oahu
Lanikai Beach is on the windward coast of Oahu in the town of Kailua. If you’re coming from Honolulu, it’ll be about a 30-45 minute drive along the Pali Highway.
Things to do at Lanikai Beach
I personally love taking people to Lanikai Beach because there is just so much to do there. This makes the extra effort of getting there worth it. Here are some of the best things to do at this beautiful spot:
1. Watch the Sunrise. Lanikai Beach is my absolute favorite place to watch the sunrise on Oahu.
2. Kayak. You can rent kayaks in Kailua and paddle to or around Lanikai Beach. If you’re feeling adventurous, kayak to Moku Nui (the larger Mokulua island on the left).
3. Hike. My favorite hike in Hawaii, The Pillbox Trail, is in Lanikai. There is nothing better than going on a hot trek and then jumping into the water after!
4. Swim. The water is typically calm, so swimming is a lot of fun at Lanikai Beach.
5. Snorkel. Lanikai Beach isn’t the best place to snorkel, so don’t come here just for this activity. But it’s worth bringing your gear just in case you want to check out the coral or fish while you’re here.
What to Bring
Bring beach chairs, an umbrella for shade, sunscreen, a book if you like to read on the beach, towels, and a cooler with plenty of food and water. There isn’t anywhere to get snacks or drinks within walking distance, so come to Lanikai Beach with everything you will need for the day.
Parking is one of the biggest challenges when visiting Lanikai Beach. Many other popular beaches like Kailua Beach, Hanauma Bay, Waimea Bay, and even some beaches in Honolulu have designated parking areas. Not Lanikai.
Lanikai Beach is tucked inside a residential neighborhood. It feels more like a neighborhood beach than a tourist destination, but because of its beauty and mentions in the media, it’s become a place that many visitors want to go to. This means there are a lot of people trying to park along the neighborhood road.
So, where do you park when visiting Lanikai Beach? You’ll have a few options: find a legal spot in the neighborhood, park nearby at Kailua Beach, or use alternative transportation.
Park in Lanikai Neighborhood
Lanikai Loop is the road that runs through Lanikai. Two one-way roads loop around the neighborhood. The street next to the beach is Mokulua Drive, and it has several small side roads as well.
On the right side of that road is a bike lane where parking is strictly prohibited. The left side of Mokulua Drive and some of the side roads have a minimal amount of street parking. Here are our top tips for finding parking on Mokulua Drive:
- Arrive at the beach early in the morning, before 9 AM.
- Visit the beach on weekdays (lots of locals go on the weekends, so it gets really crowded)
- Be respectful of the fact that you are parking in someone’s neighborhood. Don’t park in front of doors or driveways or block residents’ access.
- Follow all parking signs. Cars do get ticketed and towed for parking illegally.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car.
You will see little beach access points that look like this. There are a few of them along the main road, so you shouldn’t have to drive too far.
Park at Kailua Beach
If you can’t find legal street parking by Lanikai Beach, there’s a great alternative. Kailua Beach Park is about a mile from Lanikai and has lots of parking. So park there and walk over to Lanikai.
Take the Bus (or Bike!)
The city bus can take you from Kailua town (or all the way from Honolulu) to Lanikai Neighborhood for a few bucks. You can also rent a bike in town, or, like I mentioned above, rent kayaks to paddle from Kailua Beach Park to Lanikai.
There really are no accommodations at Lanikai Beach. You’ll find minimal parking, no restrooms, and no lifeguards.
There is also no wheelchair access and there are a few steps you have to go down to get to the beach. For wheelchair access and a beach with restrooms, go to Kailua Beach down the road.
Unlike many other beaches on Oahu that have breezy palm trees, there is no shade at all on Lanikai Beach.
My Best Advice for Visiting Lanikai Beach
For an ideal day at Lanikai Beach, here’s the best advice I can give you: go on a weekday.
Get up early and get to Lanikai Beach in time to watch the sunrise. This will kill two birds with one stone. You will have an easy time finding a parking spot, and you will get to watch the most beautiful sunrise on the island. Plus, you can spend a few hours at the beach before it gets too crowded and hot.
Since there are no snack shops here, stop at Kalapawai Market in Kailua on your way. They open at 6:00 am on weekdays and serve breakfast and lunch all day long. So, you can grab a sandwich and save it for later. They also sell snacks and souvenirs.
After you’re done with the beach, you can explore nearby Kailua, a great beach town with lots of small boutiques and delicious cafes.