The Best Swimming Spots in Oahu, Hawaii

Words & Photography: Jessica Palmer, travel 3Sixty° travelsmith

Featured image: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

Oahu is a dream destination for those seeking a relaxing holiday on the beach.  The island boasts fantastic weather, a modern city and some of the most sought-after swimming spots in the world.

Here is a list of some of the best swimming spots in Oahu!


Ala Moana Beach Park-3_Jessica Palmer

Ala Moana Beach Park is a free public park not far from tourist-friendly Waikiki.  Due to the clear and calm water here, it’s an ideal swimming spot for families. This beach boasts some beautiful sunset views.


The Hilton Lagoon-3_Jessica Palmer

The Hilton Lagoon is a man-made lagoon located in front of the iconic Hilton Hotel in Waikiki. This free and open to the public swimming spot is also perfect for young kids as the water is flat, clear and has a gradual slope.

Snack shops, equipment hire and facilities are close by, with the water temperature being noticeably cooler than the ocean. Every Friday night, families flock to the lagoon with picnic rugs and snacks to watch the free fireworks display that the Hilton puts on after the sun goes down.


Waikiki Beach_Jessica Palmer

Waikiki Beach is a popular swimming spot in Oahu. You get a good view of the well-known extinct volcano Diamond Head when swimming here and as it’s so close to the hotels, harbour and shops; it’s hard to beat the location.


The Windward Coast (1)_Jessica Palmer

This string of beaches is more likely to be frequented by locals and it’s easy to see why—they are all incredibly beautiful. The sand is white, the water is in shades of aqua and the sky is a brilliant blue.  It’s everything you dreamed Hawaii would be. Hire a car or take the bus and go exploring on your own!

Note: Before going into the water, ask the lifeguard about sightings of the Portuguese man o’ war (tentacled hydrozoan similar to a jellyfish) or look out for them on the shore.


Ko Olina Lagoons-2_Jessica Palmer

The Ko Olina Lagoons are well worth the visit. However, unless you are staying at the nearby resorts, you will need to hire a car or organise transport to get here as they are not close to the main tourist strip.

These lagoons are man-made and open free to the public. If you can’t find parking at the first one, just move on to the next one as there are four lagoons to choose from.


Waimea Bay and Pipeline-2_Jessica Palmer

The North Shore beaches are popular with. In big wave season (November and December), international surf competitions held here. Expect a crowd if visiting around this time.

Even when it’s not officially big wave season, the undercurrent is very strong and therefore unsuitable for young kids. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit though!  There is plenty of sand to play in and watching the surfers whilst relaxing on the beach is a fantastic way to spend a morning or afternoon.


Waimea Falls_Jessica Palmer

Waimea Falls are located in the lovely Waimea Valley on the North Shore.  There is an entrance fee and a 20-minute walk to the falls themselves.  If you don’t feel up to the walk, a shuttle bus can be caught the majority of the way.

The grounds are beautifully maintained; snacks, picnic tables and facilities available.  When you reach the falls, life jackets are available for visitors to use.


Hanauma Bay_Jessica Palmer

The reefs of Hanauma Bay are a must-see when visiting Oahu. There is an entrance fee here and visitor numbers are limited. You will need to arrive early or book a shuttle bus from your hotel to ensure you don’t miss out.  Toilet facilities, snacks, gifts and snorkel hire are all available here.

It’s a steep walk down to the bay itself but if you are not feeling up to it, there is a regular shuttle service. A lot of people walk down but take the shuttle bus back up when leaving.

The water at Hanauma Bay is calm, suitable for families and has great snorkelling when the conditions are right.

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