Oahu Articles

Escape to Kailua

By Jeanette Foster

After a couple of days frolicking on Waikiki Beach, you may get curious about the rest of the island of Oahu, largely unknown to most visitors. Be sure to plan to see Oahu’s best kept secret – the Windward side and the quaint town of Kailua. This is the place for incredible white sand beaches (and every kind of beach activity you can think of), gourmet restaurants and quaint boutiques for shopping.

Take the slow, scenic route from Waikiki, drive the Kalanianaole Highway, through the suburban bedroom communities of Honolulu, marked by malls on the left and beach parks on the  right. About a half hour outside of Waikiki, you’ll see the turnoff to Hanauma Bay on the right. This marine preserve is a great place to stop for a swim; you’ll find the friendliest fish on the island here. A reminder: The beach park is closed on Tuesdays.

Around mile marker 11, the jagged lava coast itself spouts sea foam at the Halona Blowhole. Look out to sea from Halona over Sandy Beach and across the 26-mile gulf to neighboring Molokai and the faint triangular shadow of Lanai on the far horizon. Sandy Beach can experience dangerous surf which breaks near shore (experienced bodyborders love it!), so be sure to heed warning signs and know your ability in the water before venturing in. As there are no shops or restaurants nearby, so bring sufficient water and sunscreen with you.  There are, however, public restrooms and cold water showers available. The coast looks raw and empty along this stretch, but the road weaves past old Hawaiian fishponds and the famous formation known as Pele’s Chair, just off Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) above Queen’s Beach. From a distance, the lava rock outcropping looks like a mighty throne; it’s believed to be the fire goddess’s last resting place on Oahu before she flew off to continue her work on other islands.

Ahead lies 647-foot-high Makapuu Point, with a lighthouse that once signaled safe passage for steamship passengers arriving from San Francisco. Turn the corner at Makapuu, and you’re on Oahu’s windward side, where cooling trade winds propel windsurfers across turquoise bays; the waves at Makapuu Beach Park are perfect for bodysurfing.

Plan to spend the day in Kailua. You won’t find a better beach than the one here, a two-mile long golden sand beach with views, palm trees, facilities (restroom, parking, drinking fountains, picnic tables, barbecue and lifeguards). It’s also one of the best swimming beaches on the island and Oahu’s premier windsurfing beach. You’ll see sail boats, kayaks, body surfers and lots of kids running all over.

There are a range of excellent eateries here, from the inexpensive to moderate.  For those  discriminating shoppers, this is heaven. A series of small boutiques carrying unique selections line the streets of downtown Kailua.

As the sun dips behind the Koolau Mountains, wander back to Kailua or Lanikai Beach and toast the sunset and evening stars and your day in Kailua.