Kailua, a Quintessential Beach Town

By Hawaii.com Team

Mokulua islands off of Lanikai from the Pillbox hike. Photo courtesy of CLA.

Kailua, a quintessential beach town, is blessed with two gorgeous beaches and steady onshore trade winds that make it great for windsurfing, kayaking and other water sports. Once a sleepy town of barely 3,000, it’s now a bedroom community of more than 36,000 residents. Best known for its long, sandy beaches, which are considered among the most beautiful in the world, life revolves around the beach.

Welcome to Kailua


Hanging out on Hekili Street in Kailua town. Photo: Napua N. Heen / Hawaii.com.

Kailua is only 12 miles northeast of Honolulu, but the lifestyle is anything but urban. Once you cross over the Nuʻuanu Pali and come out of the tunnels, be prepared for sunny skies, gorgeous greenery, deep sand beaches and an endless expanse of blue-green ocean.

Before you head to the beach, stop in town. You’ll find dive shops and ocean activity stores where you can purchase or rent snorkel equipment, kayaks, and other essential gear for fun in the surf and sun. A friendly, laid-back town, Kailua claims a healthy scattering of locally owned shops and eateries plus there’s an evening open market on Thursdays.

Lanikai and Kailua Beaches

lanikai kailua

Na Mokulua from Kaiwa Ridge aka Pillbox Hike. Photo: Napua N. Heen / Hawaii.com.

Kailua’s two beaches—Lanikai and Kailua—have long earned rave reviews from beach critics who roam the nation in search of top beaches.

Lanikai Beach

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Lanikai Beach. Photo: Hawaii.com member Yabo W.

Lanikai is known for its clear turquoise water and long expanse of powdery sand beach. A particularly good swimming beach, it is located in a picturesque setting, with palm trees lining the backshore and the nearby twin islands of Mokumanu and Mokulua offshore.

In Hawaiian, Lanikai means “heavenly sea,” and its white sand beach and balmy breezes create a peaceful ambience fitting of the name. Mokumanu and Mokulua islands are bird sanctuaries, but popular destinations for kayakers and boaters.

To find Lanikai, drive past the Kailua Beach boat ramp, along Mokulua Drive to a large one-way loop that encompasses the village. This is prime beachfront property with a beach to match. Public access to the beach isn’t hard to find, but there are no lifeguards or bathroom facilities, and parking is scarce. NOTE: THERE IS NO PUBLIC PARKING IN THE LANIKAI LOOP DURING THREE DAY HOLIDAY WEEKENDS.

Kailua Beach


Kailua Beach. Photo: Napua N. Heen / Hawaii.com.

Kailua Beach is outfitted with services that make it possible to rent a kayak, rent a guide, or rent equipment for windsurfing, kitesurfing, boogie boarding or snorkeling. The Kalapawai Market, a vintage beachfront grocery, stocks everything anyone needs for a picnic. This is a beach made for a day trip—and then another one.


Kailua Beach. Photo: Napua N. Heen / Hawaii.com.

Courtesy of 101 Things To Do.

See also: The Real Place Names of Kailua.

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