Set foot here and you’ll see why Kailua Beach consistently lands on many a ‘Best Beaches’ lists. Three miles of crescent-shaped shoreline covered in powdery fine sand meet the clear turquoise waters, which blend seamlessly into the skyline. Plus, the water temperature averages 75 degrees year-round. The warm water temperature, steady offshore trade winds, and a protective reef make Kailua Beach the ideal spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Kayaking and stand up paddleboarding are also popular. Enjoy the view of the nearby offshore islands of Moku Nui, Moku Iki, and Flat Island. If you get too much sun, there are shade trees lining the sand, as well as picnic tables, a bike path, bathrooms and showers, and easy parking.
“Lanikai” translates to “heavenly sea”; one glimpse and you’ll understand the moniker. Please note that we are putting this in second place only because Kailua is more well-known, and Lanikai lacks facilities. Lanikai Beach itself is just as amazing as Kailua Beach. Visitors have claimed that this beach ‘exemplifies what a day at the beach should be’, and we couldn’t agree more. Like Kailua, you have the silky soft sand, picturesque blue waters, and the Mokulua Islands nearby (known locally as ‘The Mokes’). The calm waters make this a great spot for a beach day with the kids; but, as we mentioned, you might want to use the facilities at Kailua Beach.
Also known as the Lanikai Pillbox Hike and the Ka’iwa Ridge Trail, this is one of the best hikes on the island, and is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Generally regarded as an intermediate-level hike, it rises above the magnificent Lanikai Beach. Note that the first part of the trail is the steepest (hence, the ‘intermediate’ rating), but after that first stretch, the incline becomes more gradual. Your efforts are continuously rewarded, however, as the views get more spectacular along the way. The top of the ridge features two pillboxes (concrete bunkers) which were built between WWI and WWII as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system. Historically used to track targets at sea and to relay firing coordinates, today they serve as a lookout point for the Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach, Lanikai Beach, and the surrounding neighborhood. You’ll also be able to see the Koolau Mountains, Waimanalo Bay, Kaneohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, and the Makapuu Lighthouse from here. The hike can be done in an hour or less if you need to, but do yourself a favor and allow plenty of time to take in the gorgeous views.
Let’s make one thing clear first: during times of rain, this trail may very well be the muddiest trail you have hiked/ever will hike in your entire life. Seriously. That said, this is a great 2.5 mile (round-trip) trail that leads you to the Maunawili Falls and its deep pool that’s fed by the Koolau mountain range. The lush greenery along this trail is simply gorgeous. The incline of the hike isn’t overly strenuous, but be prepared to cross through up to a foot of thick mud, which can be very treacherous. Wear appropriate footwear; you may want to consider carrying a second pair for the ride back to your hotel. Also, be respectful of local residents and their property, take your trash with you, and be mindful that there are no facilities along the trail.
And although it didn’t officially make our list, we would be remiss if we omitted watching the sunrise. Yes, lovely Kailua has been rated one of the best places in Hawaii to watch a sunrise.