The best beaches in Oahu for families are not created equal. From seasonal variability to the ages of your kids, it all varies.
For the best beaches for toddlers and small kids skip down. The North Shore in winter can be very dangerous. Then there’s coral and volcano rocks that can be miserable to walk on – you can slice your foot open.
Crowds are also a concern for me. I want to relax and be able to see my kids at the same time. Lifeguards always help in that arena. And then for very small children toilets and facilities can be necessary, and easily accessible without long walks or arduous hikes.
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What to look for in the best beaches in Oahu for families
When ranking the best beaches in Oahu for families, I have several criteria based on my own experiences with four boys:
- Gentle surf
- Soft sand
- Toilets or other facilities like food
- Easily accessible (consider parking, short walk and no hike required!)
- Sea life to explore
These are the best beaches for families and toddlers in O’ahu, Hawaii:
- Waikiki Beach, Waikiki
- Ala Moana Beach, Honolulu
- Hanauma Bay, Honolulu
- Chun’s Reef, North Shore
- Waimanalo Beach, Windward
- Lanikai Beach, Windward
- Yokohama Beach – or Keawaula Beach – Leeward
- Ko Olina Beach/ Aulani Disney Resort – Leeward
Have you thought about family photos while you’re in Hawai’i?
Its photo season year-round here in Hawaii and I want you to take advantage of it!
Take home the bright skies, warm air and blue water to relive it over and over because you’ll never experience this place with the kids these ages ever again.
This is your one shot. Take it!
As the ringleader of my own 4 boy circus, I know how hard getting family photos can be. I’m here to change that.
If I could dress your kids and literally hang your family photos on your walls, I would …but I can’t, so I do just about everything else in between. That’s why I take the time to hold your hand from start to finish.
Because what good are family photos if your kids never see them?
I only accept two families a week, so if you have dates, reach out to Alison Bell, Photographer now.
What you wear matters
I tried to avoid it for years. But the fact is it matters.
It may not make or break the anything, but planning out the details of undergarments, colors and movement will go a long way to a great experience and even better photos!
Get every tip, trick, and clothing idea I have from 12 years experience all in one place.
Basic Geography of O’ahu, Hawaii
Honolulu and the resort area of Waikiki are on the south side of O’ahu. moving east up the coast is the Windward side of the island. This area gets the wind and rain from the ocean which are stopped by the mountains. Going further north you get to famous North Shore, following west down the coast is the Leeward side and the circle completes back to Honolulu.
Waikiki Beach – Waikiki
Popular for a reason – soft sand and gentle breeze! In the middle of the primary resort area, Waikiki Beach has soft sand, gentle surf, toilets and sort of easy accessibility. There’s no hike unless you’re hiking from a parking space!
There also more options for finding food!
- Soft sand
- Calm water
- Snorkeling, outrigger, surfing
- Lifeguard year round
- Food, ABC stores
- Easy access from hotels
Chun’s Reef – North Shore
This reef is wedge in the North shore with a view of Wai’anae Mountains. Being a reef, its a great spot for snorkeling and seeing fish. Its unique because it also features a freshwater pond with starfish and hermit crabs
- Life guards
- Picnic tables
Waimanalao Bay Beach Park – Windward
Waimanalao Bay Beach Park is in the quiet town of Waimanalo. Its glassy green water is some of the clearest in Oahu. You can get some great food from local eateries like Ono Steak and Shrimp Shack. This area is far less crowded which can also mean fewer amenities.
A Moana Beach Park – Honolulu
Still downtown Honolulu, but not Waikiki. Not to be confused with Aulani Disney Resort & its lagoons.
Ala Moana Beach park is a man made peninsula and large seawall that makes Magic Island. This is a great place to have access to toilets, food options and stand up paddle boarding.
This park is huge. Parking is free in designated areas and there’s loads of shaded green space when you get your fill of the beach (is that even possible?!).
BEWARE: There are long stretch of Ala Moana Beach that are super rocky. Before you park, make sure you’re not near all those rocks in the middle!
Ala Moana Beach Park has:
- Food Options
- Calm water
- Free parking
- Grassy park with palm trees
Yokohama Beach – or Keawaula Beach – Leeward
Yokohama Beach has frequent dolphin sightings! But be careful, waters here can be calm or too rough for swimming. This is mostly quiet beach with few people. There’s a lifeguard so check before entering the water. And being on the west side (Leeward) the sunsets are exquisite.
Lanikai beach – Windward
This beach sits behind a residential area of O’ahu and has extremely limiting parking. While it may not require hiking over rocks, you may need to park 5-10 minutes down the road and walk. The water is gentle enough to even kayak to smaller islands off shore. Just be careful bc the smaller island is a bird sanctuary.
- No toilets
- No showers
- Long walk
Hanauma Bay – Honolulu
Hanauma Bay is a strict nature preserve. Reservations are required and access is controlled by the Department of Natural Resources. Hanauma Bay is open to the public Wednesday – Sunday from 6:45 am to 1:30pm. The beach is cleared by 3:15pm. Online Reservations open two days in advance at 7:00am Hawaii Standard Time and fill up in minutes!
- Children 12 and under – Free
- Active duty military with CAC card – Free
- Active duty dependents with ID – Free (13 and older must have their ID card for free admission)
- Parking is an additional $3 fee in cash only – with no in and out privileges.
This is a popular beach so there’s more food options, but its a great place to see marine life and for the older kids and adults to snorkel. Do not touch the marine life!
- Snorkeling rentals
- Food options
- Wheelchair accessible (stroller!)
- Open to the public Wednesday – Sunday, reservation required
- Safe water, no steep drop offs
Best Beaches for Toddlers in Oahu
Ko Olina Beach/ Aulani Disney Resort – Leeward
Ko Olina is not exclusive to the Disney Resort – there’s actually 4 different hotels in Ko Olina with access to all of these lagoons:
- Four Seasons Resort Oahu
- Aulani Disney Resort
- Beach Villa Resort
- Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club
Ko Olina Beach is actually a series of 4 man-made lagoons surrounded by soft sand and walkable sidewalks. Each lagoon is calm water and food stands. Between each lagoon is a wide grassy knoll with tall palm trees. This area is super calm and far less crowded than Honolulu and Waikiki. I would 100% come here for a vacation with kids.
- No Lifeguards
- Beach chairs
- Food stand
- Catamaran cruise – all age snorkeling boat trip
Ala Moana Beach Park – Honolulu
Still downtown Honolulu, but not Waikiki. Not to be confused with Aulani Disney Resort & its lagoons. Ala Moana Beach park is a man made peninsula and large seawall that makes Magic Island. This is a great place to have access to toilets, food options and stand up paddle boarding.
- Food Options
- Calm water
Resources for the best beaches in Oahu for families
I'm a USMC spouse, South Carolina native, recovering homeschool mama of a 4 boy circus. They've taught me the most important facet of family photography: KEEP IT FUN!