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Guide To West Oahu

Updated on June 1, 2015
Makua Valley, Oahu
Makua Valley, Oahu

Leeward Oahu

"Leeward" is the west coast of Oahu, referring to the weather pattern. Most of the times the weather comes to the island from the east, and is then blocked by the mountain range. The west side’s vegetation therefore differs. You will not encounter any forest or lavish plantations, but wide, green meadows in winter and brown fields during the hot summer months. It seldom rains, so it is usually very dry and hot on that side.

The community has successfully withstood tourist development in this area, and they have the reputation to be tough on visitors to " their " part of the island. Even though a smile will always be returned, this reputation has left them their part for themselves and they like it that way. With most of Oahu suffering under over development and overpopulation , thing go slower on the West coast. While driving through the leeward area, you can notice the rural way of living. Small wooden houses line the streets, and people spend a lot of their time outside fishing and on the beach. The slow economy has hit hard here, with high unemployment, and at time tensions between locals and the ever - present military run high.

The coastal villages Nanakuli, Wainae and Makaha are worth visiting. You will see fishermen, local families picnicking, or some local surfers. The beaches are wide, not very crowded and safe for swimming during the summer months. In the winter, Makaha beach is a popular beach for professional surfing events.

The road reaches its dead end at Yokohama Bay, quite a way from Kaena point. You have to walk from Yokohama Beach to the most northern end of Oahu. The round-trip hike will take you about three hours.


When in 1942 the Army confiscated the entire valley, the residents who had to leave their homes, churches and farms did not expect that they would never be allowed to return. 

After becoming state in 1959, the state government took over Makua, but only to lease most of it back to the US military, without ever paying compensation to the former residents. The lease is valid until the year 2029. 

Makua, a valley rich of history and of high religious valley to the Hawaiians, has been used by the military since then, and even though successful attempts by nearby residents and Hawaiian protest groups have somewhat limited the extent of freedom the Army has, live ammunition is still being used and war games are played out here on a regular basis. 

The land itself is considered "ceded" which means it doesn't belong to the military, and it also doesn't belong to the state, which evicted Hawaiian families from Makua's beaches with bulldozers and about 500 armed policemen in 1996. The fate of this valley is contemplated in many songs, and Hawaiians still come here to gather traditional materials. Most of the traditional and endangered species are gone. 

For the visitor driving by only the watchtowers will be reminders of the Army's presence, and a long rusty fence warning trespassers of live fire and unexploded ordinances.


Uncrowded and white sand beaches await visitors to the Leeward side of Oahu.

Electric Beach

This small beach is exactly opposite the Hawaiian Electric Co. Power Plant. Its calm waters and wide sandy beach makes Electric Beach popular for families. If you come on the weekends, you can observe the locals having great picnics out on the beach. 

Nanakuli Beach 

This beach is the best spot for scuba diving on Oahu. It also features a softball field, children’s playground and a basketball/volleyball court. 

Pokai Bay 

It is the only beach on the leeward side, where swimming is safe all year round. The bay is protected by breakwaters from high surf. The views are excellent, especially when the sun sets. 

Makaha Beach 

Makaha Beach is a surfers paradise during the winter. The surf can reach almost the same heights as on the North Shore, but it is not as crowded. The beach is about one hour drive outside Honolulu.


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