Makapu'u Beach vs Kailua Beach

The East side, or windward side, of O’ahu is home to some stunning beaches. We visited two windward side beaches and compared them, Makapu’u beach vs Kailua beach. Both offer beautiful sand, mountains, and views of smaller islands off the coast.

Makapu’u Beach vs Kailua Beach


One of my favorite beaches,Makapu’u beach is on the easternmost point of O’ahu. The beach sits among a rugged coastline and backs up to towering cliffs. Ocean conditions can be rough, lending to an afternoon of body surfing as opposed to a leisurely swim.

With no hotels or vacation rentals nearby, getting to Makapu’u requires a car. There is large open parking lot and restroom facilities located at the beach. Don’t let this discourage you because the drive between Makapu’u and Waikiki is well worth it. The last few miles along Kalanianaole highway is one of the most picturesque drives in the state.

Being on the eastern tip of O’ahu, Makapu’u is a great location to watch the sunrise. Set an alarm, pack a flashlight, water, beach gear and head out in the dark to the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail. Park on the side of the road since the parking lot is not open before sunrise. Using a flashlight make your way up the 1-mile, paved trail. Once you reach the summit, relax and wait for the sun to peak above the horizon. After an invigorating hike, head down the hill, relax and enjoy the sun and surf at Makapu’u beach.


Kailua beach is on the windward side of O’ahu in the town of Kailua. While this charming beach town doesn’t offer hotels, there are plenty of vacation rentals to choose from. Kailua beach is home to powder like, white sand and gorgeous turquoise water. The 3-mile stretch of beach is an ideal place for walking, swimming, kayaking or stand up paddling.

The town of Kailua has a lot to offer. The perfect day would begin with breakfast at Boot’s & Kimo’s, a favorite among locals and tourists. A must try are the pancakes with their famous macadamia nut sauce! After a filling breakfast head to Kailua beach. Be sure to stop by Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks to rent kayaks and paddle boards to play in the ocean. After a day of fun in the sand and sea, return the rentals, and head to Buzz’s Steak House. A relaxed restaurant located across the from Kailua beach. A locals only tip for getting the fine white sand off of you is to sprinkle baby powder on the sand. The sand will adhere to the baby powder and come off when you wipe off the powder.

The windward side of O’ahu has a distinctive beauty all its own. Once you have been there you will learn to recognize these beaches in commercials and movies. Between Makapu’u and Kailua, my favor goes to Makapu’u. Starting my day watching the sunrise, followed by an adventurous afternoon of playing in the large waves are the reasons Makapu’u is my pick.