Not sure which beaches to take your family to on Oahu outside of downtown Waikiki? Did you know that depending on what time of year you visit, this could change? As a former local and recent tourist with my own family, I have the insider scoop on the Top 6 Best Beaches in Oahu for Families. If you are traveling to Oahu with your baby or young children, you want to be sure and spend your time in the safest, most family-friendly spots on the island. There are so many beautiful spots on the island, but these are 6 you will want to include in your Oahu itinerary.
Here’s a map of the island and where my top picks are at a glance.
Going to the beach with a young baby? Worried about keeping them cool at the beach? Read my post on 6 Must Haves for Keeping Baby Cool at the Beach!
1. Ko’Olina Lagoons
If I could recommend any one beach on Oahu to go to with your kids, it would be Ko’Olina Lagoons. These beautiful lagoons are on the Western Side (or Leeward Side as the locals will say) of the island. If you are coming from Waikiki, it is an easy 40 minute drive on the H1 west, practically the entire way. There’s ample, free public parking available within walking distance from the lagoons if you are only coming for the day. If you have a bigger budget for your trip to Oahu, you could look into staying at the Ko’Olina Resort or the Aulani Disney Resort next door. Both are luxurious and extremely family friendly.
I love the Ko’Olina Lagoons for families because the water is so calm. There is a barricade of rocks that breaks the waves before they come into the lagoon, making it safe for curious crawlers and walking toddlers. It’s comparable to the wake of the water on the shore of a lake. This is the case year round, so it is always at the top of my list for the best beach on Oahu for families.
The sand is comfortable, but there is also a large grassy area preceding the beach. There are palm trees providing minimal shade in the grass, so I recommend bringing a cabana shade tent whether you’re planning on being in the sand or on the grass. This was by far our most visited beach when I lived in Hawaii growing up because it is so family-friendly. With 4 lagoons to choose from, you can surely find a spot to enjoy with your kiddos for the day!
Navigate to Ko’Olina Lagoons: https://goo.gl/maps/aYf7KbYorLWuk2cx6
2. Waimea Bay Beach Park
There are many beaches along the North Shore of Oahu, but I wouldn’t say are all family-friendly. I would especially avoid the North Shore from November-February if you have young kids because the waves average 16 feet in size. Oahu’s North Shore is a popular, world-renowned spot for surfers in the winter. You will want to carve some time out in your trip to see the North Shore, even in the winter, with your family, but just know that many of the beaches will have large waves. Unless you are wanting to get some experience surfing, I would check out beaches on the south side of the island until late spring or summer.
In the summer, Waimea Bay is a great spot for families. It is unique because the Waimea River meets the ocean at this beach. Your kids can both enjoy the calm water of the river and splash in the waves on the shore. There is an outdoor shower & bathroom area near the parking lot available for public use. It’s nice to rinse off sandy kids if you have a long drive back to your hotel. One of my best “mom-hacks” is bringing a bottle of baby powder along to the beach because it effortlessly removes dry sand off skin when showers aren’t available. (Or if the kids aren’t cooperating with the cold showers).
Nearby are a couple of other fun family-friendly attractions including the Waimea Falls hike and Waimea Valley State Park. For more suggestions, check out my other post about Oahu here.
Find your way to Waimea Bay by following this link: https://goo.gl/maps/yKa7AtBCtTUmYp2u9
3. Kailua Beach Park
This was my favorite beach to go to on Oahu as a kid because it has the most powdery, soft, white sand. The water is fairly calm here year-round, so it is another great choice for your family no matter the season. This beach is flat and spacious. There is a nice grassy area between the parking lot and sand, and public restrooms with outdoor showers are also available.
I find it is easier to eat meals on the grass rather than in the sand with toddlers, so having that option at the beach is a nice feature. You may even find a shaded spot in the grass! Since you are on the east side of the island (or “windward” as locals call it), you are surrounded by lush forest as you drive to Kailua Beach. I highly suggest making a stop at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden nearby. It is free and open daily from 9am to 4pm. It’s a great outdoor activity for the whole family.
Navigate to Kailua Beach Park: https://goo.gl/maps/8jANdZaVShtJCpMU7
4. Sandy Beach Park
Sandy Beach Park is a 25 minute drive from Waikiki on the H-1 East which turns into the HI-72. This is a large white sand beach contrasted with black lava rock cliffs surrounding it. The parking lot is right off the HI-72 freeway and has a huge grassy area before the sand. With such a large open area, I remember frequently flying kites here. Medium sized waves are normal in the summer months while winter will bring very calm water.
You may see locals set up in the grass with a BBQ and chairs & you can do the same if you want! I suggest bringing a shade cabana and renting beach chairs/umbrella either from your Turo host, or a rental company on the island. This is a nice, flat beach so you don’t have to worry about your toddler or baby falling down a steep hill of sand. Get your family out of Waikiki while still being close enough to get back quickly to your hotel if desired.
Up the coast, and visible from Sandy Beach, is the Halona Blowhole which you can stop to explore. Make a quick pitstop and look out from the railing, or adventure down onto the lava rock and see it up close. Just be careful that you might get soaked by the blowhole if you get too close!
For directions to Sandy Beach, click here: https://goo.gl/maps/GaiMFmfDg2eyKgJ3A
5. Bellows Field Beach Park
Bellows Beach is technically on Bellows Air Force Base. If you don’t have an active military ID, you can visit this beach only after 12pm Friday until midnight Sunday. You can even camp here on the weekends if you are looking for an adventurous spin on your tropical vacation! You most likely won’t be doing that if you are only visiting for a few days, but if you just moved to Oahu and are looking for somewhere to take your family, camping on a beach is a lot of fun.
If you are coming from downtown Waikiki, it is a 35 minute drive depending on traffic. I suggest taking the H-1 over to the HI-61 (otherwise known as the Pali Hwy) because it is a gorgeous drive! The Nu’uanu Pali Coast Lookout, a must-see scenic point on Oahu, is on your way.
Drive to Bellows Beach: https://goo.gl/maps/nMnffNt36MNv487V7
6. White Plains
This beach was the other most frequented beach for my family growing up. It was only about 5 minutes away from our home in Kapolei, making it an easy weekend activity. If you are coming from the Waikiki area, it is a similar drive as to the Ko’Olina Lagoons. This beach is great for getting away from the other tourists and spending time with locals.
Since this is the southwest part of the island, it has the opposite wave patterns as the North Shore. If you are visiting during the summer, White Plains is going to have medium to large waves. These are not going to be anything compared to the huge waves on the North Shore in the winter, but they are great if your kids (or you) want to learn to surf or boogie board. If you are visiting in the winter, the waves will be flat to small sized.
For directions to White Plains beach, follow this link: https://goo.gl/maps/DreQTeU83sRo1Zrx6