By M. Keala Milles, Jr.
Choosing Hawaii as a potential vacation destination is usually a no-brainer; deciding which Hawaiian island is best for your vacation, though, might prove a little more complicated.
If it is your first time to the Aloha State you will probably stay in a hotel somewhere on O’ahu—it’s a pretty sensible move. This island, named “The Gathering Place,” definitely offers the most diversity if you want to maximize your island experience, especially if you are looking for lots of beach time. While the hotels on Waikiki offer a great, comprehensive experience for a busy traveler, the beaches along the boardwalk are “man-made.” You can get a similar experience at the coves in Ko’olina. These can be great for families who want calm waters and the security of being close to the hotel room, but if you really want a true Hawaiian beach experience, O’ahu has so much more in store for you.
If you ask my folks which Hawaiian island is best for beach-goers they will tell you that Waianae, on the Leeward coast of O’ahu, has the best beaches on the island, maybe even the state. They are partial to the Leeward Coast, though, since they grew up there.
In Waianae alone you will find major surf spots only a few hundred yards from calm waters perfect for casual swimmers. On the Leeward coast, you’ll find the pounding waves of Makaha Surf Beach only a mile or two down from Yokohama Beach and the rhythmic tides of Poka’i Bay. Of course, if its surf you are after then you’ll probably want to hit up just about any stretch of beach along the North Shore, home to Turtle Beach and Shark’s Cove. On the South side of the island you will come across both surfing waves and calm waters at Sandy Beach, near Hanauma Bay ocean wildlife sanctuary. The Wayward coast is also home to beautiful coastline, including Waimanalo Beach, Kailua Beach Park, Punaluu, and Laie.
If you want an unbiased opinion regarding which Hawaiian island is best for beach visits, don’t ask anyone in Waianae. They’ll say exactly what my parents say. Keep in mind this was my second home so I judge all beaches by what I know from Waianae. After having made many coastal tours around O’ahu (and seen what the mainland’s West coast has to offer) I am quite apt to agree.
Of course, spend one day at Poka'i Beach Park and you’ll likely agree too; go on a Saturday in July….trust me….