If you’re headed to Oahu, chances are you’ll be making a stop at our North Shore beaches at some point during your vacation. Home to some of the biggest surf competitions in the world, the North Shore’s beaches are some that you cannot miss out on when visiting Oahu.
But not all of Oahu’s North Shore beaches are the same. Some are great for families, young children, beginner snorkelers and our grandparents, but other North Shore beaches can be rocky, dangerous and just not suitable for those planning on safety first.
Here’s a list of Oahu’s best beaches in the North Shore that are perfect for families that may be traveling with young children, teens or older adults.
Pupukea Beach Park
Pupukea Beach Park is where Sharks Cove is located. If you’re looking for the absolute best snorkeling spot on the North Shore, this is the place to be. This is an advanced snorkeling area so I recommend it for families with older children who are good swimmers. It’s one of the best beaches in Oahu’s North Shore to see colorful and vibrant fish dance and sway so close to shore. The fun begins as soon as you step into the water and sometimes the big fish will catch you by surprise at how close they come to shore. If you’re looking for turtles, they’re often seen straight ahead swimming along the other side of the cave wall. Just hug that wall and keep your eyes open.
It is safest to go during the summer months due to the strong currents during winter months. If you’ve got young children though, visit the huge tidepool area next door. Small rock skippers, fish, hermit crabs and pipipi (snails) will delight your children. Just make sure they have good beach shoes.
Shark’s Cove has an open lot for parking and you can usually find a spot if you arrive before 10 AM. There are bathrooms and showers to rinse off at and right across the street is a snorkel rental shop with everything you need if you don’t have snorkel gear. The staff (it’s usually just 1 person) is always super helpful and will answer your questions and give you many tips about snorkeling in Shark’s Cove.
It may be difficult for some to get down to Shark’s Cove entrance. From the parking lot, there’s a pretty steep trail/rocks to walk down but it won’t take you more than a minute. The beach itself has more rocks than sand.
Waimea Bay Beach Park
Waimea bay is well known for being one of the best beaches in Oahu’s North Shore. He is one of the most lively beaches on the island. A smooth, sandy beach, a rock to jump off of, flat waters during the summer months and who can miss that gorgeous view! If you’re looking to jump off the famous Waimea Bay rock, which is 23 feet tall, we recommend going during the summer months. During summer months, waves are much more mellow, while during winter months, waves reach up to 25-35 feet high, which is a good time to sit back and watch the professionals surf. “The Eddie” surfing competition is held here when waves reach a minimum of 20 feet in the winter. There’s a lifeguard to monitor safety. But don’t expect to swim during the winter months. There is also a 26-foot rock wall that you can rock climb year-round.
The only downside to this beach would have to be the parking. It is very small and can get filled up quickly, therefore it is better coming to this beach earlier in the day from 8:00 am-10:00 am.
Ehukai Beach Park
If you’re visiting during the winter months, get ready for a show. This is the go-to place to watch surfer’s shred the waves. Don’t miss out on seeing one of the craziest events that happen on the North Shore make sure to visit ‘Ehukai Beach Park. Parking and traffic can get intense so make sure to keep that in mind. If you’re visiting during summertime, it’s a solid beach to hang out and swim at.
It’s one of the best beaches in Oahu’s North Shore for walking and lying in the sand. There’s a wide sandy shore and as its name implies, it’s an amazing spot to view the sunset from. With its soft sand and cool waters, it’s a solid beach that you just cannot miss out on.
During the summer the waves are calm and gentle, but in the winter, Sunset beach turns into a surf spot and signs posted along the sand warn visitors of high surf and caution against swimming. During winter months, Sunset Beach is the perfect place to visit to watch professionals surf some of the biggest waves on the island. Sunset Beach is home to the World Cup of Surfing competition and some other big surf competitions. Across the street are bathrooms, showers and extra parking, but be careful crossing the street as a lot of people like to speed up along Kamehameha highway. Most drivers are tourists unfamiliar with impatient people darting across the road when they see a chance
Laniakea Beach is a beautiful beach to relax and bathe in the sun. This is a very well-known place to see turtles and is a phenomenal place to watch the sunset. Many people call Laniakea beach “turtles beach”. Sea turtles love to stay on this beach, and many come so often that they are immediately recognized by volunteers watching the beach and turtles. Laniakea Beach has a small sandy area where most turtles gather. Volunteers, as a rule, enclose the area around the turtles here, so that the audience does not get too close. They will be happy to explain to you each turtle and its unique signs, so stay close and ask questions.
The rest of Laniakea beach is lined with flat rock with a roar of waves. We recommend taking a walk along this part of the rocky beach because you will probably see even more turtles make their way in the surf and even stop at the top of the cliff to sunbathe on their own.
Driving through Haleiva and driving past Laniakea Beach, you will encounter the most traffic on the North Bank. Plan your trip because parking can be difficult.
The Turtle Bay Resort is just outside the North Shore area when you look at the map, but it’s just too good of a beach to not include in this list. The Turtle Bay Resort is one of the more higher-end places on stay on Oahu. It features a beautiful beach that has Kuilima Cove which is a solid alternative to Sharks Cove. Turtle Bay is one of the most protected swimming spots on the North Shore, so if you’re looking for a good place to swim with kids, this is a solid place to go. Turtle Bay Resort’s Kuilima Cove Is Great For New Snorkelers. If you’ve got beginner snorkelers in your crew (including young kids), this is one of the best beaches in Oahu’s North Shore for learning how to snorkel.
Since the rocks block the wind and waves, this is a great place to check out when waters are rough. Snorkeling at Kuilima Cove is an easy, but fun underwater experience. You can snorkel the entire cove, but the best part is the resort-side.
Since Kuilima Cove is right next to Turtle Bay Resort, the crowd is usually on the lighter side as visitors tend to bypass this beach while most hotel guests are out exploring Oahu. To access the beach, drive all the way in and park your car in the parking lot. Kuilima Cove is straight ahead before you get to the Turtle Bay Resort entrance. You can also consider having a meal here, too if you haven’t decided on lunch or dinner yet.