On my father’s first visit to Lanikai Beach in Oahu, Hawaii, he remarked while walking down the pathway leading to the shoreline: “Wow, this is what I imagine heaven looks like.”
With its crystal blue, calm waters and powdery sand, Lanikai Beach lives up to its name, meaning “heavenly sea.” Known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii (and even the world), this sleepy beach on Oahu’s Windward side is a must-see.
However, because this beach is so popular (and at times crowded), you should plan ahead.
This article was written by two Oahu residents who visited Lanikai Beach hundreds of times. Follow the 10 must-know tips below from our locals to get the best experience possible.
1. Is Lanikai Beach Worth Visiting?
The Windward side of Oahu has some of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches, and Lanikai Beach is undoubtedly one of them. It’s personally our favorite beach on the island.
Although Lanikai Beach can be a hassle to get to, its local, laid-back environment is worth the experience. The water is unbelievably clear, the views are magnificent, and there is plenty to do. Removed from any infrastructure, it truly feels like a sliver of paradise.
But if the location and parking situation is too inconvenient for you and your family, Kailua Beach Park is equally as beautiful (and a bit more accessible.)
2. Is Lanikai Beach Free?
Lanikai is a public beach and it’s free. There is no entrance fee or daily fee. Street parking is also free. However, parking on the streets is not allowed on weekends. You risk getting a ticket and paying a fine of $40 on Saturdays and Sundays.
3. Parking Tips
As well-known as Lanikai Beach is, it’s a local one – and it feels like it. It’s not a private beach!
There’s no parking lot at Lanikai Beach, so it’s street parking only. We recommend checking out Kaelepulu Drive first for open spots. Also, because the beach is in a residential neighborhood, street parking is prohibited on the weekends. You will get a ticket if you try it.
On weekends it’s best to park at Kailua Beach Park, where there’s a free parking lot, and walk from there. Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach are about a mile apart, so it’s not too far of a venture. However, you have to walk from the street because the beaches are not actually connected.
- Walking from Kailua Beach Park to Lanikai Beach – Google Maps
To access the beach, there are six pathways. They are located between residential homes off Mokumanu Drive.
Regardless of where you park, please remember that you’re in a residential area. Be sure to follow Hawaii parking laws and be respectful to the locals living there, as well as their properties.
4. Getting to Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach is located in Kailua, on the Windward side of Oahu. If you’re coming from Honolulu, it will take you anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes to get there, depending on traffic, by car.
From Honolulu, the best way to get to Lanikai Beach is by hopping onto the Pali (Also known as Highway 61.) The Pali will lead you right to Kailua.
Getting to Lanikai Beach by bus is a more tedious process (you’ll need to transfer buses twice), but it’s definitely doable. The most common way is to take Route 19 or 20 to downtown Honolulu. Then, take Route 66 or 67 to Kailua. Once in Kailua, hop on Route 671 to Lanikai.
The trip will typically cost $5.50 each way, or you can buy a day pass. You can see all the bus schedules and fares by downloading TheBus app- Hawaii’s cleverly named bus system.
The easiest and most wonderful way to enjoy Lanikai Beach is to stay in a place for two or three nights right at the beach. The Airy Top-Floor Suite (via booking.com) is just one block from the beach. You can walk within 3-4 minutes (Google Maps Route: Suite > Lanikai Beach).
Alternatively, you can stay at one of the great guest houses or cottages at Kailua Beach (via booking.com). Most of the locations are just perfect for reaching Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach. You save a lot of time and it’s hassle-free.
5. Best Time to Visit Lanikai Beach
The best time to visit Lanikai Beach is early on a weekday morning. It’s fantastic to walk along the beach and take a dip in the ocean before the sun gets too strong. It’s also less busy on a morning, mid-week.
However, with its year-round tropical temperatures, there’s never a bad time to visit.
Speaking of sun, Lanikai Beach is a great location to catch a sunrise. (Just check the weather forecast beforehand!). Visit Kailua Sunrise and Sunset for the exact times.
💡 Lanikai Beach is often busy, especially on weekends and during the summer season. You can avoid these crowds by visiting in the should months and during the week. Be there early, as it starts filling up between 10 and 11 AM.
The beach is a top tourist attraction, and there’s also a Marine Corps base nearby. So if you’re venturing there on the weekend, be prepared to find a spot for your towel and beach chair among other visitors, young military families, and locals.
Seasons and Rain
Lastly, it’s important to note that Oahu has a rainy season from November to April. The Windward side gets the most rain, where Lanikai Beach is located. If visiting during these months, make sure to check the forecast for rain before making the trek out to the beach.
6. Facilities at the Beach
There are no restrooms or showers at Lanikai Beach. There are some nearby at Kailua Beach Park, which you can use if you park there.
If you end up parking at or near Kailua Beach Park, you need to travel by street (either by foot or car) to get to and from the two beaches. However, it’s only a short twenty-minute walk (Google Maps Route).
Once you are at the beach, there is no concession stand to buy snacks or supplies. We recommend packing and bringing any snacks or supplies you need for the day. But don’t worry: there are plenty of shops (including Target) and restaurants to pick up essentials in Kailua town on the way.
The calm waters and laid-back atmosphere make Lanikai a family-friendly beach. However, be aware that there is no lifeguard on duty.
7. Is Lanikai Beach Safe?
Lanikai Beach and Kailua are generally very safe. The beach is often frequented by young families and dog owners. We never had a bad experience there in years.
However, car break-ins are not uncommon in Oahu. We don’t recommend leaving any valuables in your car when exploring the island.
8. Are there Sharks at Lanikai Beach?
There haven’t been any recent reports of a shark sighting near Lanikai Beach. If you’re concerned, however, you can always track any of the island’s shark incidents and sightings on the State of Hawaii’s website.
9. Getting to the Mokes / Kayaking
The Mokulua Islands, also known as “the Mokes,” are the two islands you can see while standing on the shore of Lanikai Beach. The two islands are considered iconic, and you can actually see them up close!
Most people travel to the Mokes by kayaking. If you need to rent a kayak, your best bet is to head to Kailua Beach. You can rent one and kayak to the Mokes from there.
If you own a kayak, you can take off right from Lanikai’s shore. It’s important to note, though, that both islands are endangered bird sanctuaries. Be sure to adventure with awareness and show respect for the beautiful nature that surrounds you!
The Mokes are mostly prohibited from venturing onto. However, the Northern island has a small path where you can secure your kayak and walk around.
In general, kayaking is a great way to see Lanikai Beach. The gentle water makes it a friendly place for beginner and advanced kayakers alike.
Best Things to Do in Oahu | Special Tips
Before we get to the more excellent Lanikai Beach activities (see below), we highly suggest that you check out the top 3 Oahu experiences (see the banner above). The Glass Bottom Boat Tour is just amazing!!
10. The Best Things to Do at Lanikai Beach
Swimming, Snorkeling, and Surfing
The water at Lanikai Beach is almost always calm, which makes it great for swimming. On the other hand, it’s not the perfect place for snorkeling or surfing.
If you want to give snorkeling a try, opt for darker spots in the water. (That’s where the fish are!) As for surfing, we recommend Castles Beach. It’s close by and more apt for catching waves. For snorkeling, a better option in Oahu would be Hanauma Bay (Snorkeling Tips).
Lanikai is also great for paddling. In fact, after work hours, you can see local paddling clubs practicing. If you need to rent a canoe, your best option is to again head to Kailua Beach. You can rent one from there and paddle back to Lanikai Beach.
See the Sunrise
Lanikai Beach is a fantastic place to see the sunrise, as the sun doesn’t fall behind the mountains until the afternoon. Before you go, check the weather to avoid going on an overcast day.
Or Climb to Get a Better View
To get an incredible view of Lanikai Beach (and a workout), consider doing the Lanikai Pillbox hike.
This hike is in the neighborhood, and you can get a breathtaking view of the beach and coast from the top. Many people hike the pillbox during sunrise. This steep one-mile hike will take the average hiker about 30 minutes to get to the top, so plan accordingly!
The Lanikai Pillbox hike gets hot soon after the sun comes out. So definitely make this an early morning activity unless you’re looking for a good sweat.
With a little extra research and planning, you’ll be prepared for a wonderful and stress-free day at the gorgeous Lanikai Beach.