Visit to the west side Oahu
The west side or leeward side of Oahu is often overlooked for a travel destination on the island. Although the resort development at Ko’olina is quite a nice destination on its own and the public is allowed to visit the lagoons and shopping venues here without being a guest so that’s nice. But if you are looking for more nature, beaches and fun things to do here on the western side of the island keep reading below for all the highlights of cool places to visit on the leeward side.
You’ll find that the Karolina leeward (west) side is by far the least visited of areas on Oahu. Passing through the scenic Waianae Mountains on the Mauka (upwards area) you’ll find little development after the main resort areas of Ko’olina. But there’s plenty of outdoor adventure, beaches and fun that you can easily enjoy here on the west side of Oahu.
Explore the west side of Oahu for beaches, adventure and old Hawaii
Explore the fun beaches on the west side of Oahu
There’s plenty of beautiful beaches without the crowds of Honolulu to enjoy here on the leeward side of the island and just an easy drive from Honolulu / Waikiki area.
Located just north of the Ko’olina resorts area close to Nanakuli is Electric beach. Locally called Kahe Point Beach Park, the beach is named for the nearby electric power plant. The power plant creates warmer waters and attracts a lot of sea life in the area and attracting plentiful sea life and making this a perfect spot to go for snorkeling a diving fun and it is free to do here. You’ll find a lot of fantastic tropical fish in the area in a colorful array of shapes and sizes.
This quiet beach park is located along the Farrington Highway and family friendly spot to enjoy on the west side. You’ll find plenty of parking and good amenities to include restroom, showers, parking and outdoor exercise equipment for cardio fun.
A very popular and family friendly beach on the west side, Makaha Beach is truly a hidden gem. This beach is famous with local surfers for the fantastic surf breaks that draw them in. Locate in the Waianae area and fronting the Waianae mountains, you’ll get gorgeous mountain to ocean views here and even more spectacular sunsets if you hang out later in the afternoon to evening time frame.
There are four large lagoons and beach areas the front these crescent shaped lagoons in the resort area. These are free and open for the public to enjoy, but know that they are busy especially lagoon one and two which have resorts on them, making them a very popular spot to park and enjoy some beach time. The parking lots are always busy and fill up quickly, but lagoon three and four are probably the easier lagoons to find parking. You can also enjoy a nice walk on the shoreline trails to reach all the lagoons and even hang out for a bite or drink in any of the resorts.
The Mermaid Cave is located in Nanakuli Beach Park and there’s really no map of where to find them here which is a mystery. But if you are resourceful, you can search and find it online and make this a unique adventure. Just make sure you do visit during low tides because it can be tricky or dangerous to try doing at different times when the tide is very high
Hiking trails on the west side of Oahu
At the southern tip of Oahu is Ka’ena Point State Park located on the very end of Mokuleia. The trail here is considered easy to moderate to do and goes over 5.5 miles from this side with fantastic landscape and ocean views. Great times to visit is early morning to avoid the sun and heat or later in the afternoon to enjoy sunset times along the coastline.
Stay for the gorgeous sunset around Ka’ena Point area for a quiet and magnificent time in this desolate landscape
This is locally known as the Pink Pillbox hike with a trail that leads to the bright pink bunkers that are located on the top. The trail is about two miles rounding and is relatively easy to do with uphill climb on dirt and gravel pathway. The pink boxes are painted to represent breast cancer awareness in Hawaii.
Mount Ka’ala Trail
For those loving more adventure experiences, you’ll find it on the Mount Ka’ala Trail which Is the highest peak of Oahu. With more than 5,000 feet of elevation and 7 miles to cover, this is definitely a challenge and one of the more difficult trails to do on the island. A steady incline to the slope and summit, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding area.
There are also rope and rock-climbing areas around Mount Ka’ala to enjoy if you’re into more into this type of adventure sport.
Lifestyle and Entertainment fun
Ka Makana Ali’I Mall
This large-scale mall on the west side is over 1.4 million square feet of shops and fun. With over 150 shops, restaurants, hang out spots and a nice movie theater, it’s the spot to go for shopping and dining in the area. Family friendly you’ll find a farmers’ market, yoga experience, live music venues, story time and many more activities. Check out their calendar at www.kamakanaalii.com.
Wet and Wild Hawaii
This family friendly water park is one of the most popular attractions in Oahu located on a dead-end road behind the Waianae Mountains. You’ll find more than 25 water activities and attractions to enjoy at this park and it is fun for both kids and adults to enjoy on the grounds.
Oahu’s Kapolei Commons is another great addition to the West Side with this shopping mall. You’ll find a nice movie theater, plenty of retail stores and boutique mom and pop shops, and high-quality restaurants making this a local shopping and eating venue in the area.
Check out these other posts on visiting Oahu
A visit to the Ko’olina resort area
Fantastic adventure tours in Oahu
Popular snorkeling spots around Oahu
Explore the top beaches of Oahu
Conclusion to visiting the West side of Oahu
Although the areas around the west side of Oahu tend to be more local and not as touristy, outside of the resort area of Ko’olina, the country side is truly like old Hawaii all the way to Haena point with gorgeous landscape, beaches and outdoor areas to explore.
Hope that this gives you a look at what to do and see on the west side of Oahu and you’ll enjoy visiting the leeward side of the island soon.
I haven’t been to Oahu yet, but it’s on my wish list. I hope to visit this island with its west side, which also seems quite exciting. I love your tips on what to see and do. I would love to see Mermaid Cave and Ko’olina Lagoons. Also, hiking trails, like the Maili Pillbox hike and Ka’ena Point, seem great fun and adventure.
The west side of Oahu is not so developed outside of Ko’olina area and is definitely more natural with less tourists visiting, you would enjoy this more beautiful and untouched area.
Hi Noel. We will be in Waikiki from Aug. 6-13. There are about 10 in our group (family). Should we stick to the East Side then? North Shore? What are the must-sees??? Thanks for any tips.
Lots of must sees even though Ko’olina is a great place for larger groups to visit, but you can see a lot on my website for more inspiration to visiting Oahu.
I haven’t been to Oahu yet because I don’t love crowds. So it is nice to know that the westward side of the island is a good spot for me to visit. I know that my family would like to get to Oahu to see Pearl Harbor.
There is a lot for families to enjoy visiting Oahu with the western side more natural towards the tip of the west side.