Best Morning Swim: Makapuu Beach
A great beach surrounded by striking cliffs, a majestic view, and mellow waves, Makapuu is often empty first thing in the morning. It's close to Hawaii Kai so you can grab breakfast after at the awesome Moena Café. The location feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, but it's really only 10 minutes from Hanauma Bay.
Goat Island, seen from Malaekahana Beach. Photo courtesy of Moku'auia.
Most Unique Experience: Malaekahana Beach and Goat Island
On the north shore of Oahu, Goat Island is a bird sanctuary that is a short paddle or walk (with reef shoes) from Malaekahana Beach. There is a gorgeous beach on the island and it's recommended to hike around to check out monk seals and get a different perspective of the North Shore. Malaekahana is a huge bay and it's fun to body board the smaller waves. The beach is closer to Laie and away from Pipeline and Sunset, where most of the big waves and tourists go. An oasis for locals, many Hawaiian families have beach houses here.
Sunset from Queen's Surf Beach. Photo courtesy of Beach Tomato
Best Sunset and Fireworks: Queen’s Surf Beach
On the Diamond Head side of Waikiki (and, thus, away from the craziness), you can see the sunset, enjoy great live music every night, and eat an inexpensive dinner at the Barefoot Beach Café, only a five-minute walk away from the beach. Locals-only tip-- they don’t serve booze there, so sneak in some wine or beers in a cup or beers and enjoy the sunset for super cheap. Great live music almost every night. The Hilton Hawaiian Village is a good Friday night fireworks viewing spot.
Photo courtesy of Hawaii Activities
Best for Laps With Sea Turtles: Kaimana Beach
Convenient to Waikiki and a great swim if you’re looking to exercise, Kaimana Beach has a wind sock about a quarter mile from the shore with a channel perfect for getting in a few laps and a great workout. You'll most likely encounter a lot gentle sea turtles along the way.
Best Local's Beach: Makua Beach
A gorgeous beach with a large expanse of white sand on the West side, Makua feels very local. You can swim in crazy blue water with dolphins in the early morning (they hang out there, though a sighting is not guaranteed). The beach feels like you are on an outer island. It’s a great drive out of Waikiki and you can really slow down and relax at this mellow patch of sand. Remember, don't take valuables out to Waianae, or any beach for that matter.