OAHU, HAWAII: The Five Best Oahu Beaches for Kids Under 5 (guest Post by Cara Ballard) – Being born and raised on the Island of Oahu in Sunset Beach, I love sharing my island knowledge with visitors. And every day, I get the chance to do just that when parents call to reserve our baby equipment rental services.
As you might expect, one of the main questions I’m asked is, “What are the best Oahu beaches for kids?” So I am very happy to share my local tips with you, too, on what I feel are the five best beaches on my island to visit on your family vacation.
1. Kailua Beach
Located on the East side of the island, Kailua Beach Park has been called one of the best beaches in the United States and it’s also one of its best beaches for kids. The park offers visitors parking, showers, picnic areas and ample shade. The fine white sand beach stretches for over 2 miles and there are lifeguards on duty.
The shore break is generally calm and offers safe swimming conditions year round. If there is a hazard, a sign will be posted at the beach. Jellyfish can blow in when trade winds are strong so always ask a lifeguard if there are any warnings that day.
Typically Kailua Beach is not crowded during the week but can get busy on weekends and during holidays. There are several kayaking rental companies in Kailua town that can set you and the family up for a day of paddling around the pristine waters of the bay. After spending the day at the beach, there are many great family friendly restaurants in Kailua to choose from.
2. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the by far the most popular place to snorkel on Oahu. It’s also an ideal place for snorkeling with kids, right from the beach. The protected cove has been a Marine Life Conservation District since the 1960s. The bay offers calm and safe swimming conditions, making the Preserve the ultimate playground for your young marine scientist to explore the reef and underwater world of Hawaii.
The Bay is a short and beautiful drive just 10 miles East of Waikiki. The curved bay of Hanauma was once an ancient volcanic crater. What kid wouldn’t be thrilled to swim around in a volcanic crater? The Bay teams with marine life, including turtles, rays and over 400 different types of tropical fish.
There is an entrance fee of $5.00 and parking is $1.00. With only 300 parking spaces available, the park can fill up quick during holidays and summer. Hanauma Bay is open from 6:00am-7:00pm and is closed on Tuesday.
Tip: There is Snorkel gear available for rent at the beach as well as a snack shop. Facilities at the Hanauma Bay are fully accessible to the disabled guests and complimentary wheel chairs are available at the information center.
3. Waimea Bay (spring through summer)
Waimea Bay is famous for its gigantic winter surf that can reach a staggering 50+ feet during the months of October through March. Surfers come from all over the world to take on the monster waves of the North Shore, which can be quite exciting to watch.
However, for many of us locals, we look forward to the calm conditions when there are no waves. As the large winter swells diminish, spring thru summertime at the bay is one of the best swimming beaches for a family with younger children. Waimea Bay has some of the most beautiful clear picturesque water on the island, making for great diving and swimming conditions, and all around make this clearly one of the best Oahu beaches for kids.
The small park has restrooms and lifeguards on duty year round. Be sure to bring snacks or stop off in Haleiwa Town for food on your way to Waimea. The closest food is at Foodland, about a mile away. This is a beach that you will always want to check with the lifeguard before swimming.
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4. Makaha Beach (spring through summer)
Like Waimea Bay, Makaha Beach is well known for its great surf (when the waves are up, the beach has a powerful shore break). However, when the waves are small, Makaha Beach is one of the best Oahu beaches for kids.
Located on the West side of the island Makaha is hot and sunny almost everyday of the year. Visitors often spot dolphins, turtles, and whales from the shore here.
You’ll also find restrooms and showers for use, plus plenty of parking. Since the closest restaurants are in Waianae town, it’s best to pack a lunch for your trip to this beach.
Tip: Ko Olina Resort is an excellent kid-friendly resort on Oahu. It’s about 20 minutes away and has some great places for dinner.
5. Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the world, is my number five best Oahu beaches for kids. If you are staying in Waikiki, lucky for you! You’ll have the safest swimming beach is right outside your hotel.
The wonderful white sand beach offers calm swimming conditions and lots of great family-friendly beach activities. For older children that can swim, surf lessons are just about the most fun you can have in Hawaii. The gentle waves of Waikiki make it the ideal place to learn to surf. The beach boys of Waikiki are all amazing surf instructors and world renowned for their safety skills.
Canoe rides are an activity the whole family can enjoy (even the babies and toddlers)–and they are simply a blast. You can book yours right next to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the beach. This is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
Tip: At day’s end, I love walking straight off the beach into Dukes at the Outrigger for the sunset. There is great live Hawaiian music and pupus (appetizers) every night.
You might also like these Hawaii family vacation resources:
Hawaii baby gear rental agencies
Hawaii hotel babysitter and vacation nanny agencies
More Hawaii family vacation ideas:
Kauai’s best Beach for Babies and Toddlers
The best North Shore Beaches for Families with Young Children
Kauai fun with little kids? Leave it to the Looky Board.
Salt Pond Park – Beach haven for little kids and little critters.
The 411 on Kauai with Kids (Family Travel 411)
Review of Napili Kai Beach Resort
How to build a budget-friendly Maui family vacation (Family Travel 411)
Review of Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas (Family Travel 411)
Finding Maui’s north shore baby beach (minutes from the airport!)
Review of Travaasa Hana for Families (Family Travel 411)
Our visit to the Maui Ocean Center: The Hawaiian Aquarium
My Six Picks: Great Maui Vacation Rentals for Multi-Gen Family Vacations (Family Travel 411)
More tips for your family’s travels:
Have your choice of airlines? Use the Airlines Comparison Chart in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide… to compare the family-friendly perks, amenities, and available infant/child discounts between more than 40 airlines.
About our contributor: Cara Ballard is a native of Oahu, a mother, and the owner of Paradise Baby Co. baby gear rentals, which serves all of the island of Oahu, including hotels, condos, private residences and B&Bs.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
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