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 during our trip, even though there is not as much nightlife as in Honolulu (or maybe because of that fact). The area was beautiful, relaxed and easy to get around. Gorgoues beaches thrilled us with surfing and snorkeling opportunities and we even spotted sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean.
Kailua is said to be slightly more rainy than Honolulu on the leeward side. Yet, during our visit, rainfall was pretty even on both sides of the island. 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!
What to Expect in Kailua, Hawaii
Kailua is a town on the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii. 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 of travel time. Note that there are some steep, curvy roads and plenty of state patrol officers to make sure you stay at the 45 MPH speed limit. Take your time and enjoy the views!
Unlike the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, Kailua better exemplifies "Hawaii Time" for which the islands are so famous. There are a few decent restaurants, as well as 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 Kailua. 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!
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!
Visit Lanikai Beach, Oahu
Lanikai Beach, Oahu
Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
When visiting Kailua, you may find parking is tight at Lanikai Beach. But a great alternative to reaching the beaches on this side of Oahu is found in 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 city downtown. There are large grassy fields to enjoy, ample parking in several free lots, and paved pathways for walkers. It is so accessible, you'll find people of all ages enjoying the park.
The sandy beach is not as wide as at Lanikai, and there are generally more people present at Kailua Beach Park. But its accessibility makes it a popular beach on the windward side of Oahu. Within easy walking distance of the park 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 snocones. 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 President Obama and his family frequent this stop, as well.
Kailua Beach Park and Surrounding Attractions
Kailua Beach Park
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. Snorkeling, surfing, swimming and beach walking are all so peaceful with the smaller crowds.
Even if you don't stay in Kailua on your next visit to Hawaii, make sure you set aside a day to visit its amazing beaches and enjoy its low-key atmosphere.
Oahu, Hawaii Guidebook
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Stephanie Marshall