Kailua and Lanikai Beach: Things to do on Oahu, Hawaii

Kailua, Hawaii - a Quieter Side of Oahu

We visited the island of Oahu, Hawaii for gymnastics competitions in January 2013. During our 10-day stay, we rented a studio apartment in Kailua on the windward side of the island, and then stayed with relatives in Honolulu for the second part of the trip.

My kids and I preferred staying in Kailua, even though there is not as much nightlife (or maybe because of that fact). The area was beautiful, relaxed and easy to get around. Beautiful beaches thrilled us with surfing and snorkeling opportunities and we even spotted sea turtles in the ocean.

Kailua is said to be slightly more rainy than Honolulu on the leeward side. Yet, during our visit, it was pretty even. The great thing about Oahu is that it takes at most an hour to reach the opposite side of the mountains and a potential change of weather. You could also head toward the North Shore (also about an hour away) and enjoy the Waimea Bay and Waimea Valley, and some other amazing beaches.

Among our favorite places to visit were: (1) Kailua Beach Park; (2) Lanikai Beach; (3) Buzz's Restaurant and (4) Island Snow Hawaii for shave ice!

Beautiful Lanikai Beach near Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful Lanikai Beach near Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii | Source

Kailua in General

Kailua is a town on the windward side of Oahu. It is approximately 12 miles from Honolulu via the Pali Highway (Highway 61) from H-1, over the mountains separating it from the leeward side of the island. Depending on traffic, plan on 30-45 minutes travel time. Note that there are some steep, curvy roads and plenty of state patrol officers to keep you at the 45 MPH speed limit. Take your time and enjoy the views!

Unlike the hustle and bustle of the big city, Kailua better exemplifies the "Hawaii Time" for which the islands are so famous. There are a few decent restaurants, and the usual franchises you'll find in many American cities and towns (Starbucks, Jamba Juice, McDonald's, Subway). A shopping mall featuring Macy's, a theater and bowling ally is also downtown. The "Whole Foods" grocery store is one of the best and healthiest around, according to tourists and locals. You can also find plentiful service stations and other local amenities including small grocers, swimsuit shops and more.

Hugging the eastern shoreline of Oahu, as you drive through Kailua, you'll see many people - both tourists and natives - strolling the streets in flip flops (called slippers in Hawaii), riding bicycles, carrying surfboards and walking dogs.

Its hard not to relax when you are in Kailua!

The view from our studio in Kailua, Oahu
The view from our studio in Kailua, Oahu | Source

Kailua Beach, Oahu

Lanikai Beach, Oahu Hawaii

Lanikai Beach is one of the consistently rated best beaches in the United States. It is a mere 5-10 minutes from Kailua Beach Park and the main part of the town.

The word Lanikai means "heavenly sea," and trust me - that is what you will find when you visit. The ocean waters are a comfortable 70-75 degrees F, which seems just about right for cooling off from the humid warm weather. Even in January, the air temperatures were in the upper 70s to low 80s. You will need sunscreen no matter when you visit.

Lanikai Beach is blessed with fine, white, soft sand. Perfect for a stroll, or for burying your feet while relaxing on a beach towel. The waters are a combination of amazing shades of blue and green and generally calm, which makes for perfect snorkeling conditions. Gentle breezes help keep you cool when the sun is shining.

Tourists and locals alike flock to this beach year round. When we visited, we saw two weddings in a single day. Just be advised that you are parking in a neighborhood. Pay close attention to signs and make sure that you leave plenty of room in the bicycle lane. Although parking is "free," we managed to get parking tickets (cost $30 each) both days we visited Lanikai Beach!

Two important tips: (1) there are no public restrooms at Lanikai; and (2) no lifeguards on duty. Plan accordingly!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Snorkeling at Lanikai Beach, HawaiiTropical rainstorm advancing toward KailuaSnorkeling is a favorite activity at Lanikai - the girls spotted a sea turtleThe beauty of the beach at Kailua State ParkJanuary at Kailua State Park, Oahu Hawaii
Snorkeling at Lanikai Beach, Hawaii
Snorkeling at Lanikai Beach, Hawaii | Source
Tropical rainstorm advancing toward Kailua
Tropical rainstorm advancing toward Kailua | Source
Snorkeling is a favorite activity at Lanikai - the girls spotted a sea turtle
Snorkeling is a favorite activity at Lanikai - the girls spotted a sea turtle | Source
The beauty of the beach at Kailua State Park
The beauty of the beach at Kailua State Park | Source
January at Kailua State Park, Oahu Hawaii
January at Kailua State Park, Oahu Hawaii | Source

Kailua Beach Park, Oahu

If parking is too tight at Lanikai Beach, or if you don't have a car and are out of walking distance, you cannot go wrong with a visit to Kailua Beach Park. Among several amenities not found at Lanikai are: (1) bathrooms; (2) showers to rinse off sand; (3) lifeguards and (4) large, free parking lots.

Kailua Beach Park is located about 1/2 mile from the downtown of the city. There are large grassy fields to enjoy, ample parking in several free lots, and paved pathways for walkers.

The sandy beach is not as wide/deep as that at Lanikai, and there are generally more people present at the beach park. Its accessibility makes it a popular beach on the windward side of Oahu. Within easy walking distance are two of our favorite stops - great for the entire family.

For lunch or dinner - try Buzz's Restaurant. It is right across the street from Kailua Beach Park. Indoor and outdoor seating. Lunches are approximately $8-25 for adults; dinners range from $12-50 per entrée. The cocktails are wonderful! Our favorite was the BFRD (Big F*^# Rum Drink) - made with more mixer than the regular Mai Tai, its tasty and easy to sip! By the way, its one of President Obama's favorite restaurants when he's in Hawaii!

Don't forget to enjoy some famous shave ice in Hawaii. No more than 1/4 mile from the beach park is Island Snow Shave Ice. We're not talking about sno-cones. Nope. These treats are amazing with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the bottom, over 30 flavors of syrups and additional toppings, as well. Word has it that the Obamas frequent this stop, as well.

Visit Lanikai Beach, Oahu

A markerLanikai Beach, Oahu Hawaii -
Mokulua Drive, Kailua, HI 96734, USA
[get directions]

Kailua Beach Park in the evening in January 2013

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Enjoying the evening at Kailua Beach Park, OahuHibiscus flower near Kailua OahuKailua Beach Park in January 2013A beautiful day on the beach near Kailua, OahuWaiting for a table at Buzz's Restaurant in Kailua, OahuIsland Snow Shave Ice in Kailua
Enjoying the evening at Kailua Beach Park, Oahu
Enjoying the evening at Kailua Beach Park, Oahu | Source
Hibiscus flower near Kailua Oahu
Hibiscus flower near Kailua Oahu | Source
Kailua Beach Park in January 2013
Kailua Beach Park in January 2013 | Source
A beautiful day on the beach near Kailua, Oahu
A beautiful day on the beach near Kailua, Oahu | Source
Waiting for a table at Buzz's Restaurant in Kailua, Oahu
Waiting for a table at Buzz's Restaurant in Kailua, Oahu | Source
Island Snow Shave Ice in Kailua
Island Snow Shave Ice in Kailua | Source

Kailua Beach Park and Surrounding Attractions

show route and directions
A markerIsland Snow Shave Ice -
130 Kailua Road, Kailua, HI 96734, USA
[get directions]

B markerBuzz's Restaurant - Lanikai -
413 Kawailoa Road, Kailua, HI 96734, USA
[get directions]

C markerKailua Beach Park -
450 Kawailoa Road, Kailua, HI 96734, USA
[get directions]

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

Lovely, Low-Key Kailua, Hawaii

As much as we enjoyed attractions and entertainment in Honolulu, I have to say that Kailua offers the type of Hawaiian vacation we were seeking. Beautiful, easy-going, and completely relaxing.

The beaches on the windward side of Oahu are simply breathtaking. With fewer people than you'll find on Waikiki, and no direct access to the beaches from populated restaurants and bars, this is a more family-friendly place to visit on the island.

Even if you don't stay in Kailua, make sure you set aside a day to visit its amazing beaches and enjoy its low-key atmosphere.

More by this Author


Comments 17 comments

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 3 years ago from Rome, Italy

It's felt like being on holiday and I watched the videos! How beautiful. It's cold and wintry here but i feel like i spent a whole week on the beach! Thanks.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi GoodLady,

Yes, it is a nice virtual vacation with the photos and videos from Kailua and Lanikai beach. I cannot wait for longer days and warmer weather. Although Tuscany is a pretty nice location - love it there!

Cheers to you, Steph


Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 3 years ago from Hawaii

Kailua is a beautiful place. You're right, the night life pretty much consists of...just about nothing. The Cold Stone is open kinda late, I guess, and the Whole Foods is really nice. I don't like going out, though, so it's perfect for me.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. Really beautiful. Loved the photos and all those places sound great. I love nature and beaches. Fantastic videos. Passing this on.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Natasha - its much more my pace in Kailua. We preferred spending most of our time there, with excursions into Honolulu on occasion. Pretty nice place! :-) Cheers, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Gypsy Rose,

I feel very blessed having had the opportunity to visit all these great places on Oahu. I love nature and beaches too. Great places to enjoy my photography hobby. All the best, Steph


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

I am so jealous! lol! seriously, what a beautiful place to vacation, wish I was there!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

LOL Nell - I kind of feel guilty publishing these Hawaii hubs. Then again, its nice to use the information and photographs while its still fresh.

Best to you, Steph


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Don't feel guilty they are lovely to read and look at, its so much better than looking at the rain out of the window! lol! thanks


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

OK - good! I'll take it. :-)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I love your photos and I can just imagine how much fun it is to walk these sandy beaches and play in the surf. Thanks for sharing your experience of this beautiful island.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 3 years ago from UK

Oh wow, I'd love to go there! We made do with wet and cold Paris in January, but I'd swap with you any time. This a lovely guide to somewhere that looks so beautiful. Maybe one day…


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 3 years ago from Illinois

My husband, younger son and I went to Oahu in Oct 2009 (?) to visit our older son who was due to deploy to Iraq the following month. We were very lucky to be able to spend most of our 10 days on a small AF base with the beach just a 1 minute walk away. I loved it there and would love to go back.

You're right, the Kailua side (where my son lived) is very different from the bustling Honolulu side. Nice hub, voted up


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Melovy,

I'd love to visit Paris, no matter what time of year. Of course, tropical vacations are pretty nice. All the best to you, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Danette,

Your trip to Oahu, Hawaii sounds great. It would be great for you and your family to spend some more relaxing time at Kailua in the future. Cheers to you, Steph


CarNoobz profile image

CarNoobz 3 years ago from USA

Nice.

Lanikai is probably the most beautiful beach I've ever seen, with that powdery white sand (it's annoying to wash off, but beautiful to look at).

I did my first -- and last -- triathlon there a few years back. I'd have to lose like a MILLION pounds to ever attempt that again though.

And my wife and I love going to Kailua too. It actually reminds us of the Mainland. I always feel like I'm in Santa Barbara when we go there lol. (some awesome places to eat in Kailua, though).

Voted up, Steph. ALOHA


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 3 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi CarNoobz,

Yes, that sand got everywhere! A triathlon at Lanikai? Sign me up!

I agree that Kailua is like Santa Barbara! I was just there in November. Great comparison.

Appreciate your comment/votes. Have a great day, Aloha!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working