Sunbathing? Check. Snorkeling? Check. Family-friendly, crystal-clear waters? Check. Instagram-worthy photo backdrop? You bet! Lanikai seems to have it all. Nestled along the southern edge of Kailua on windward Oahu, Lanikai is without question one of the most picturesque beaches on the island–and that’s saying something. The only thing Lanikai doesn’t have is easily-accessible parking.
Planning Your Visit
Lanikai’s waters are typically quite calm year-round. The coastline in this area is buffered from large waves by the offshore reefs that make it a worthwhile snorkeling destination. Off the coast, you’ll see the two iconic uninhabited islands known locally as “the Mokes.” Behind you, the Ko’Olau mountain range stretches to the sky. For those who want a little more of an adventure, take the short but steep hike up to the Lanikai Pillbox, a WWII-era pillbox overlooking Lanikai Beach, before walking back down and down a couple of blocks to hop into the water.
Swimming and Snorkeling
Although the beach is fairly calm year-round, always keep an eye on any warning signs and flags before hopping in the water. On a normal day, this beach is reliably safe for kids and less-confident swimmers. The waters also stay remarkably clear; hop in with a snorkel and a mask and you’re guaranteed to see an array of colorful fish without venturing too far from the beach.
Shade on Lanikai is limited to nonexistent, depending on the time of day and the part of the beach you visit. Don’t expect lifeguards, showers, or restrooms; this isn’t a beach park, but a stretch of beach access to the public that runs behind residential neighborhoods. You’ll want to pack your shade, water bottles, and snacks along with you.
There are a few beach access walkways between homes in this area; keep an eye out for signs and the telltale caravan of beachgoers heading coastward, and you won’t have any trouble finding beach access walk once you’ve landed in the Lanikai neighborhood.
How To Get There:
You can find Lanikai Beach by simply putting it into your GPS: here. Finding parking at Lanikai can feel a bit like a game of roulette if you visit during peak times. Street parking in much of the area is legal, but only if you can get completely off the road. Be considerate, though. Every year, tourists get towed from Lanikai’s streets after they block driveways, fire hydrants, and residents’ vehicles. During peak holidays during the summertime, it might be worth it to take an Uber to Lanikai to avoid parking difficulties.
-Lanikai offers absolutely incomparable sunrise views. Head to Lanikai just before sunrise and you’ll be more likely to snag a coveted parking place–as well as a front-row seat to one of the world’s best sunrises.
-When you’re through beaching Lanikai, take some time to explore the town of Kailua before heading back to your hotel. This little community offers countless boutique shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that appeal to practically any taste. The Kalapawai Market and Beet Box Cafe are a couple of local favorites.