Go to this beach early to watch some of the wildest surfing on O’ahu and stay late for some of the island’s most beautiful sunsets.
O’ahu’s North Shore has the biggest winter waves, ideal for international surf competition. If you’re an expert surfer, you must try the challenging waves of Sunset Beach. If you’re a beginner, watch the pros here and then practice your technique at a gentler beach without Sunset’s treacherous shallow reef breakers.
In milder summer conditions enjoy the waveless waters of Sunset Beach for wading, snorkeling and skimboarding, always with caution, in case hazardous conditions arise. Lifeguards man Sunset Beach, posting red or black flags when swimming is considered dangerous, a very frequent occurrence during winter. Don’t ignore the warnings.
When the cautionary flags are visible, take pleasure in non-swimming activities. The long sandy beach is great for jogging, building sandcastles or enjoying a lazy read in the sun. Walk along the shore watching for ocean animals: whales, dolphins, tortoises or monk seals.
Pick up takeout breakfast, lunch or dinner to enjoy at the beach. Then, sit mesmerized watching the waves, often reaching a 30-foot (9-meter) height. Even without surfers, the powerful waves are a spectacular sight. When strong competitors ride the giant rollers, you’ll be amazed at their balance and bravery. Sunset Beach hosted the Duke Kahanamoku Classic surfing competition from 1965 to 1984, bringing the spectacle of competitive surfing to the eye of the public via regular television coverage. Walk a short distance southwest to see surfers on Banzai Pipeline where giant waves create tunnels of water.
Sunset Beach is aptly named. Stake out a spot in the area before dusk on at least one day during your trip. Watch the giant red ball of the sun sinking into the horizon behind the crashing surf. The sunset is especially beautiful with light clouds reflecting dwindling rays onto the water.
Parking at Sunset Beach is limited; arrive early to secure a spot. Reach the area in under an hour from Honolulu on the direct inland route or take a slightly longer scenic drive along O’ahu’s eastern shore with plenty of opportunities to stop for great photos and memories.