The best beaches in Oahu for familiies is Ko Olina Lagoons. Not all beaches are created equal in Oahu. Different times of year some beaches can be calm and then be wildly unpredictable. Mama, if you’re traveling to Oahu with small children, you NEED to make it to Ko Olina Lagoons! And probably even stay there.
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Check out this reel on IG about the Ko Olina Lagoons:
Hi! I’m Alison, your chaos coordinator, toddler briber, and parent commiserator. Oh! And Oahu family photographer!
As the ringleader of my own 4-boy circus, I know how hard getting family photos can be.
I run my photo session like a party. I give you something TO DO so you don’t feel awkward wondering, “Where do I put my HANDS?!”
Dad is playing with the kids, everyone forgets what’s ACTUALLY happening, and you look amazing bc you’re actually enjoying yourself. #whoknewphotoscouldbefun
Fast. Fun. Done.
What are the Ko Olina Lagoons?
Ko Olina is a privately owned area on the leeward (west) side of Oahu in Kapolei. Its home to the well-known Disney Aulani Resort. BUT Disney is the only hotel on the property. There are three other hotels and privately owned condos next door.
The Ko Olina Lagoons are four man-made beaches along the coast of Ko Olina. Per Hawaii law, all beaches are public use and access up to the high water mark or vegetation line. That means you do not have to be a guest at one of the hotels to access the lagoons!
The lagoons are some of the safest waters year round in Oahu. They’re surrounded by giant rock formations that keep the currents calm. But there are no lifeguards on duty – ever.
What makes the Ko Olina Lagoons good for families?
The Ko Olina Lagoons are perfect for families for a number of reasons:
- Calm waters year round
- Natural shade means you don’t need to haul a tent
- Bath houses
- Water refill stations
- Small crowds means mama can actually relax!
Bigger kids can have a blast snorkeling in deeper water while smaller kids can safely toddler in the shallow surf. There’s very few crowds which makes is much more pleasant for mama!
Where are the Ko Olina Lagoons?
The Ko Olina Lagoons are located behind the four high rises of hotels and condos in the Ko Olina resort area of Kapolei, Oahu. That’s the leeward (west) side of the island, about 30 minutes from the Honolulu airport.
Ko Olina Map
This is Ko Olina’s official map posted at each of the lagoons on property.
Ko Olina Parking
Parking at the Ko Olina lagoons is a double edge sword. Its is free, but very limited. BUT, it is that limitation that makes the Lagoons so pleasant! They’re not jam packed with people! Few people means more relaxation for mama bc you can see your kids while you’re sitting!
- Arrive early – like before 8am.
- Note the number of spots left when you enter the Ko Olina property.
- Wait for parking to open at any given lagoon.
When we went to Lagoon 4 for the first time, we arrive about 9am. Parking was full for every lagoon. There was a line for lagoon 4 about 5 cars deep but it was inching smaller and smaller. I sat and waited to see what happened.
Sure enough the line of cars were waiting for other cars to leave the lot. As cars left, the next proceeded to its parking space. In
In all, it took only 20 minutes to get a spot. My boys got out of the car and threw the football while we waited. #worthit
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.
Ko Olina Lagoons Snorkeling
I did not expect much when it came to snorkeling at Ko Olina. But I was WRONG.
The lagoons are much deeper than they appear. There’s lots of rocks at the bottom and many fish to see.
We even saw a 10″ flounder in just 2 feet of water!
My Rules of snorkeling:
- Take a buddy
- Don’t go alone
- Take a buddy
The water gets dark and deep fast and you’ll never know if someone is having trouble. Take a lifejacket or boogie board for ease.
What to take to the Ko Olina Lagoons – PRO TIP!
Once you get parking at Ko Olina, you’re not leaving until you’re done for the day. And pro tip: its hard to find food delivery services that come to Ko Olina! I think they’ve made shady deals.
- Snorkel gear
- Life jacket
- Waterbottles – free refills stations!
- BONUS: Change of clothes because there’s clean shower houses.
More Tips for Traveling to Oahu with Kids
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!