I Grew Up In Hawaii. You Won’t Find These 6 Secret Beaches & Coastal Wonders on Oahu in Guidebooks.

Oahu, Hawaii Beach
Oahu, Hawaii Beach

Oahu is the most well-known among Hawaii’s archipelago of seven habitable islands. The focal point of the land mass some 600 square miles large is Honolulu–the state’ s only metropolis. Waikiki, the main tourist section of Honolulu, is studded with high rises and shallow, man-made beachfronts that don’t exactly represent the state’s awe-inspiring rugged beauty. But you don’t have to travel far from Honolulu to find Oahu’s secret beaches and experience some incredible authentic coastal experiences. Within a 20-to-45-minute drive, you’ll depart from the buzz of the city to discover serene stretches of sand, stunning vistas and unique geological formations.      
This post may contain affiliate links that allow us to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Kailua Beach

Located 20 minutes from Honolulu, this spacious, peaceful beach features classic ivory sand, calm shores and breathtaking Instagrammable views of the Eastern side of the island. The long, narrow layout of the shoreline cupped on both sides by land provides a relatively calm swimming area. This beach is protected from the rough tides and powerful trade winds that can slam Hawaii during the winter months.

For that reason, Kailua Beach is an excellent choice for families with young children who can wade safely. But it’s also a great spot for windsurfing due to its overall large size and shallow depth. The town of Kailua is decidedly residential, so its beach tends to attract locals and tourists who have chosen vacation rentals in a quiet area away from the crowds.


To get there, you can take Highway 1 (H1) from Honolulu—the road that circles the island–for a circuitous drive with coastal views of the Pacific Ocean. Or, take a more direct route along Pali Highway, otherwise known as Highway 61. The views on Pali Highway are an epic experience within itself and highly recommended, where you will relish at the jaw-dropping sights of the dramatic, lush Ko’olau mountain range.  

Sharks Cove

This sheltered bay is hidden in plain sight as you drive along H1 along the Northshore of Oahu. Located about 45 minutes from Honolulu a few minutes past its larger cousin Waimea Beach, Sharks Cove is not exactly a beach. The play area is exactly what its name suggests—a small cove protected from the powerful waves on the Northshore by a sharp, rugged reef.  The “cove” consists of lava-studded sea floor with patches of sand and lapping ocean water that spills over the reef. The result is a miniature ecosystem rife with starfish, sea urchins, crabs and sea cucumbers that exist in peace far removed from predators of the ocean.

Locals visit regularly with young children, who can walk along the rocks safely. Water shoes are highly recommended since you could easily step on a sea urchin and get pricked with one of its poisonous spikes.    

Kaneohe Sand Bar

Kaneohe Sand Bar is another secret beach protected by a coral reef that’s a wonder to explore. However, the sand bar only appears during low tide, which occurs at approximately 10:00 AM and 10:00 PM. All other times, the patch of beige sand is submerged in waist-high water. Kaneohe Sand Bar is located a few miles further past Kailua Beach on the East side of the island.  

Turtle Beach/Turtle Canyon

To experience this memorial connection with wildlife, you’ll need to book a tour. Turtle Beach, otherwise known as Turtle Canyon, is a snorkel area along the coast of Waikiki only accessible by boat. Turtles are sighted swimming most frequently between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM during the summer months when the ocean is calmest. A reef provides ideal conditions for these green sea and hawksbill turtles to swim freely.  You’ll be given snorkels on the tour and allowed ample time to observe the elegant sea creatures. If you’re wondering where to snorkel on Oahu, Turtle Beach is a prime location.  

Click here to book a Turtle Canyon Tour.

Click here to book a snorkeling or sightseeing tour on Oahu.

China Walls

Hawaii Coastline
Hawaii Coastline

To experience stunning sunset views and the epitome of rugged Hawaiian beauty, squeeze in a visit to China Walls during your visit to Hawaii. While this coastal attraction isn’t a beach, it features stunning natural coastal formations evocative of the Great Wall of China.  It’s a favorite local attraction for thrill seekers, who jump off the 10-to-15-foot cliff into the ocean. But the spot is just as wonderful for its precipitous, otherworldly cliffs and breathtaking views.   


Located on the most Southeastern tip of Oahu, China Walls is located a short drive from Honolulu. Driving east along H1, turn off the main road after passing the Kona Brewing Company and follow Hanapepe Loop through a residential area. Turn onto Hanapepe Place and follow it to a dead end, where you’ll reach the hidden spot.   

Mermaid Caves

This spectacular natural wonder is a hidden gem located within Nanakuli Beach Park. Mermaid Caves is a swimming hole located five minutes from the parking lot of the beach park.  To get there, walk toward the rocky end of beach and across a patch of lava rocks. Looks for an open hole, where you can walk or jump down into underwater cave. Be sure to wear water shoes and go during low tide in the morning. To get there, drive 20 minutes west from Honolulu, following directions to Nanakuli Beach Park.

Where to Stay on Oahu

There is no shortage of places to stay in Honolulu and on Oahu, from busy hotels to condominiums to vacation home rentals. In Waikiki, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Vacation Club is an excellent choice for its central location, convenient shopping mall within the resort, charming grotto pool, and affordable condominium style rooms with full kitchens and the option of additional bedrooms.

On the Northshore, there is no better place to stay than Turtle Bay Resort. The massive complex has been a mainstay of this less populated side of the island, with a beautiful lobby, small private beach and numerous condominium properties on site.   

Click here to book a place to stay in Honolulu

Click here to book a place to stay on the Northshore

Like this article? Please share on social media! Follow @herhealthypassport on Instagram, Subscribe here for email updates & Follow her healthy passport on Facebook here!

A Personal Note about Oahu’s Secret Beaches

If you’ve read this far, you appreciate authenticity and are willing to go out of your way to find it. Now is the right time to share a piece of my personal history and why it’s relevant to this article. I grew up on the Northshore of Oahu–the “country” side of the island that’s known as one of the surf capitals of the world. My hippy parents moved there in the 70s when I was three months old.

Author as a baby with mother at Sharks Cove, Northshore, Oahu (1970s)

I spent countless hours exploring the prickly spikes of rock at Sharks Cove; I spent spirited afternoons attending kids’ discos at Turtle Bay Resort; I swam for years on end in calm waters, rough tides, and everything in between. I have a lot to share about my childhood in Hawaii but will start my reflections with the simple fact I have personal insight about these coastal experiences and vouch for them based on 15 years of childhood memories. Please drop comments, subscribe and come back for more information, tales and insights about inspiring experiences!

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. Love the added personal touch at the end❣️Many beautiful, healthy life experiences to you and always safe travels❣️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *