Lanikai Beach is a destination all unto itself. It is not only described as the "most beautiful" of all Oahu beaches, but Lanikai Beach has consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the world. You will be mesmerized the moment you walk down one of the beach accessways, giving you a peek of the calm, aqua-blue waters awaiting you at the other end.
And once your feet touch the powdery white sand, you will swear you've never felt softer, finer sand in your life. It is what you dreamed paradise would look and feel like!
The word “Lani Kai” literally translates to “Heavenly Ocean”. It is most definitely a fitting name for such a beautiful place. A developer in 1924 renamed it from its original name, Kaʻohao. Inspired by this gorgeous beach, we named our daughter "Kailani", which is actually the true Hawaiian translation of “Heavenly Ocean”...and quite fitting at that!
Worth a thousand pictures, this Lanikai Beach video captures from above, the beauty of this spectacular Oahu beach!
Finding Lanikai Beach can be a bit tricky since there are no posted beach signs. After you pass Kailua Beach, you will know you are on the right path when you see the iconic Lanikai Monument in the photo above. It prominently has "LANIKAI" written on it, and it's very hard to miss. This large stone pillar marks the entrance to Lanikai's residential neighborhood and beach area. It will be on your left as the road veers to the right when you enter the neighborhood.
Parking has become tough in Lanikai because of its recent popularity among tourists. There are designated parking areas on the surrounding residential streets. Please park legally or you will surely get towed.
We've seen cars get tickets for parking facing the wrong way. After you park, it is fairly easy to find the 6 public beach accessways to Lanikai Beach along Mokulua Drive.
The first 4 are the most popular, while the last 2 lead only to water as the sand has eroded away.
As beautiful as Lanikai Beach is today, it is unfortunate that the
construction of seawalls along some of the homes has eroded much of the sandy
beach. For those of you who are in
search of the missing powder sand, look no further than next door at Kailua Beach Park, where the sand has migrated to.
I’ll start off by saying that this is my family’s favorite beach to visit so yes, it is very kid-friendly. Pets are also allowed (and are supposed to be on a leash), so you will see visitors bring there dogs. The calm waters are perfect for children and adults who want a more relaxing swim.
But please make sure you always swim with your children and keep an eye on them even though the waves are almost always calm. There is no lifeguard on duty.
The visitors and locals who frequent this beach are friendly too. I think it’s the peaceful setting that promotes a relaxing setting for everyone to enjoy!
While the calm aqua blue waters are ideal for swimming, it is not great for snorkeling. Your best chance of seeing fish is on the left side of the shore. Look for the dark areas in the water that represent rocks, and that's where fish will most likely be if there are any at all.
There is not much reef to attract the fish, and the water can also become a little cloudy from the fine sand if stirred up from the bottom, so snorkeling is not the best water activity here.
Laying on the beach with a good book while working on your golden Hawaiian tan is a perfect way to enjoy Lanikai Beach. Take a break for a dip in the warm, clear, blue waters or take a stroll along the shore...this beach is perfect for it.
If you'd like a more active experience, a kayaking adventure is a fantastic way to enjoy Lanikai's calm waters. Many kayakers, from beginners to advanced, enjoy paddling to the famous Mokulua islands off-shore. The islands are approximately .75 miles away and kayaking back and forth is a popular water adventure.
Get up extra early and you'll be treated to a gorgeous sunrise! This picture was taken from the Lanikai Pillbox Hike that serves as a backdrop to beautiful Lanikai Beach. The hike will take you approx 30-45 minutes to reach the top pillbox, depending on how fast you want to climb and and how many photo stops you want to make.
Since it is a ridge hike, you have a 360 degree view of spectacular ocean and mountain vistas as far as the eye can see!
Experience the beauty of the Mokulua Islands and the Windward
Coastline on a fun, guided kayak ride! It’s
amazing enough to just step onto this beach, but paddling out gives
you a whole new perspective. Not to mention observing the crystal clear
waters below as you journey out.
This is a special 2 hour adventure that you must plan ahead and sign up for prior to arriving at the beach. It includes transportation, lunch, snorkel gear, lifejacket, dry bag, and caters to beginners all the way to more advanced kayakers. Book a Kayak Ride Now
You'll see a picturesque display of outriggers lining the back of the beach area. Many of them are pulled into the water by their rowing teams in the afternoons or early mornings, and taken for some practice paddles far out into the ocean.
They are fascinating to watch as they race along the shoreline. There are also other types of outriggers that feature sails and only require one or more people to operate.
I would highly recommend renting a car to
travel to this beach location. You can access it by
taking the bus, but it will take about an hour and a half and 3 bus
transfers from Waikiki, versus 30 to 40 minutes with your own vehicle. Beach time is a priority!
When arriving in the Lanikai Beach area, you will want to seek out beach access points located off of Mokumanu Drive.
Need a good rental car option for the day? Whether you would like to visit a beach, a popular Oahu attraction, or explore the island for just a day, consider these great, discounted rent-a-car rates with Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They also have great packages for your entire trip...
Parking Tip: Be very careful of where you park and be aware of posted “No Parking” signs. Parking officers patrol this area frequently to enforce parking rules and issue citations.
Don’t ruin a nice day at the beach with a parking ticket waiting for you. Also please be respectful to the residents who deal with hordes of visitors coming to their neighborhood on a daily basis.
Take the number 20 Oahu bus from Waikiki to the Ala Moana Center. Transfer onto the 67 to downtown Kailua, and finally transfer to the 671 shuttle bus. Ask the bus driver to tell you when to get off and transfer.
Here are 3 additional Oahu beaches that are also stunningly beautiful and definitely worth visiting after this one.
No Bathrooms and
Lanikai Beach does not have any bathroom
facilities or outdoor
showers to rinse off after swimming in the ocean. I would recommend
stopping at Kailua
Park, which is
located less than a mile away, for its picnic
tables, bathrooms, and shower facilities.
Food Tips: I would also recommend bringing along a small cooler with some drinks and comfort snacks. You might want to give yourself some extra time to stop in the lovely Kailua town that you will be passing through to get to the beaches.
The town of
Kailua has some great places and grocery stores to pick up some food,
ice, and drinks. Consider picking up a Hawaiian plate lunch on your way...
Visiting Tips: Visit Lanikai Beach Hawaii earlier in the day, as the sun travels over the Koolau Mountains in the afternoon. This east side of Oahu is a perfect spot to experience a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.
first before trekking out to Lanikai for an early morning sunrise, just
in case heavy clouds are forecasted to linger during the
Also remember to be
courteous to the
local residents, and clean up after yourselves when leaving the beach.
The downtown Kailua
area, which is only 5 minutes away from the beach, is very charming with
local boutique shops, art, and dining options. There are plenty of great Kailua restaurants worth checking out, including Maui Brewing Company, who recently joined the community.
If you are looking for a much larger version of Lanikai Beach with facilities, I recommend checking out its next door neighbor Kailua Beach Park.
And as I mentioned before, there is a stunning 2-mile hike above Lanikai Beach that will lead you to some of the most amazing ridgetop views on the island.
Here's more info on Lanikai Pillbox hike
I highly recommend heading out to this part of the island early in the morning and stopping at Boots
& Kimos for
breakfast. They have "to-die-for" macadamia
w/ a special macadamia nut sauce that is out of this world! Their Pulehu ribs with fried rice will have you smiling for the rest of the day:-)
If your looking for something refreshing and on the healthier side, stop in Lanikai Juice Company located in downtown Kailua. Creative juices, smoothies, and bowls filled with acia, papaya, ginger, turmeric, and other superfoods! They also have salads and a few healthy entrees if you need something more substantial.