Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beaches: Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach

Kailua Beach has been rated as one of the top beaches in the US due to it's soft sand, gentle waves, and clear waters but Kailua Beach is actually two beaches: Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach.  The beach is divided by this ridge (from where the above pictured was taken) and splits Kailua Beach Park to the west and Lanikai to the east.  With a rental shop nearby you can fish, swim, kayak, sail, windsurf, kite boarding, snorkel, and if the conditions are right, surf.  While most people know about Kailua Beach Park, not many people know about Lanikai Beach making this a "hidden gem" in Hawaii.     

Kailua Beach is located on the northeast shore of Oahu and, depending on traffic, is about a 30-45 minute drive over the Pali Highway.  The Pali Highway (Highway 61) goes through a tunnel, briefly becomes the Kalanianaole Highway and turns into Kailua Road past Castle Hospital.  Basically, you just follow Kailua Road to Kailua Beach, just be aware at the triangle intersection of Kailua Road and Kuulei Road take a right and at the second traffic light take a left.  Or you could take the long way around the eastern part of the island.  It's a scenic drive that takes you past the Halona Blowhole, Sandy Beach, Makapuu Lighthouse, and Waimanalo Beach but that will take hour to an hour and a half.

This is the intersection of Kalaheo Avenue and Kailua Road.  Stay on Kailua Road and you are almost there.  

And finally Kailua Beach Park.  The park has restrooms, showers, free parking, picnic tables, lifeguards, phones, and a concession stand.

There's also a rental store across the road where you can get windsurfing gear, paddle-boards, snorkels, or kayaks.  

Just a word of warning, the north-east shores of the island will occasionally get jellyfish in the water and wash up on shore.  That jellyfish is a Portuguese Man o' War and someone graciously lent their hand to add perspective (that's not my hand in the picture). The Portuguese Man o' War floats on the surface with it's air bladder and is pushed along by wind and ocean currents.  The beaches will usually post warning signs if there's schools of jellyfish in the water, but that usually happens at Waimanalo and Bellows Beach.  Here, you might get an occasional Man o' War in the water or on the beach.  Just check with the lifeguards if you have any questions.  

Looking west towards Kailua Beach Park from the rocky ridge that splits the beach.  Notice the low surf.  Occasionally in the winter Kailua Beach gets big waves, but for the most part this isn't a good surf spot.  Most of the time there's high winds, which make it a great place to wind surf.  

Offshore is Popoia Island, means "Flat Island" in Hawaiian.  For those adventurous kayakers that want to journey out there, Flat Island is a bird sanctuary.  Several seabirds make their home on the island.    

If you continue on Mokulua Drive past the boat ramp  you'll enter the town of Lanikai.  The road circles around back to Kailua Beach and along the way are several beach access points where you can walk to the ocean.  Just remember not to walk through someone's yard and to use the public beach access points. 

And here's what a vacation is all about.  Soft, white sands and warm sun without the crowds.  Because Lanikai Beach is secluded and only a mile long, it feels like a private beach.

Those canoes aren't for show, they belong to the Lanikai Canoe Club.  

Lanikai Beach looking southeast towards the Mokulua Twin Islands.  There's coral reefs below the surface, so this is a good spot to go snorkeling.

There's a small beach on the Twins that you can paddle to check out.  It is a little far, so just prepared to paddle for awhile.  

For the hiking enthusiasts check out Ka'iwa Ridge Trail, also known as Pillbox Hiking Trail.  It's a trail that runs along the hills in back of the beach.  There are a few World War II pillboxes that dot the ridge line.  

This entrance is about 100 meters past the Mid-Pacific Country Club on Kaelepulu Drive, but before the gated community of Bluestone.  Before the gates of Bluestone take the road leading to the left up the hill and you'll find this dirt trail leading up the hill.  

The trail runs for about a mile and goes up to about 600 feet in elevation.  The trail is underdeveloped, so the beginning is steep, slippery, and hard to navigate.    

Traversing the ridge, you come across a World War II bunker (not pictured) and a great view of Kailua Bay. 

Looking back towards the Mid-Pac Country Club and the Ko-olau Mountains.   On a clear day you might be able to see the Pali Lookout.  

Looking out towards the Mokulua Twin Islands.  You can see the coral reefs in the water from up here.  Whether you came out here for the sun, the surf, or the hiking Kailua Beach is definitely worth the trip.  

Special thanks to Eric, Cliff, and Wendi, part time photographer and avid beach goer, for contributing her pictures.

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