Oahu's East Shore, also known as Windward Oahu, is located 30 minutes from Waikiki and Honolulu and is well worth touring by car as the coastal drive is scenic and varied. The region is largely made up of quiet, coastal neighborhoods and towns nestled between stunning 3000ft mountain ranges and the sea.
Bordered by the Ko’olau Range, the East Shore extends from Makapu'u Point and Lighthouse on the southeastern point of the island, all the way to Kahana Bay which adjoins the area known as the North Shore. Windward East region is perfect for outdoor adventures such as swimming, hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling, with many beautiful beaches such as stunning Lanikai Beach, Waimanalo Bay and Kalama Beach.
East Oahu Top Attractions
Things to Do in East Oahu
East Oahu Travel Tips
Information for Visitors to East Oahu
Additional East Oahu Recommendations
Getting around Windward Oahu
From Waikiki, there are two main routes to explore Oahu's East Shore. Take highway 72 directly east and there are many sights to see en route to the Windward Oahu, such as Diamond Head Crater, Koko Head, and Hanauma Bay. Makapu'u Point is the dramatic beginning of the east shore and is worth stopping at, with panoramic views of the coastline and nearby islands as well as a moderate hike to the Makapu'u Lighthouse.
The road surmounts the volcanic 600-foot ridge that is Makapu'u, before turning sharply and steeply downhill and passing Makapu'u Beach (a local surfing beach) toward the town of Waimanalo. This small rural town has a largely Hawaiian population, many of whom continue their ancestral traditions. Farms here produce much of the fruit and vegetables that are sold at local markets. Waimanalo also has an excellent swimming beach, which is the longest stretch of continuous white sand beach on Oahu. Heading north is the well-known Lanikai Beach, nestled in the neighborhood of trendy Kailua, is ranked among the best beaches in the world with its powdery white sand and dreamy tranquil azure blue waters. Kailua Beach is just around the corner from Lanikai and is known for its excellent windsurfing and boating conditions, with kayaks and sailboards for rent. The nearby town of Kane'ohe has a very scenic bay, lush tropical botanical gardens and the stunning backdrop of the looming Ko'olau Mountains.
The other route connecting the East Shore with Waikiki is along the mountainous Pali Highway, which is a more direct way to Kailua and Kane'ohe and offers spectacular views of the region from the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout along the way. It is quite an experience to drive right through the Pali along the road that tunnels through the mountains - leaving the chaotic and populated Honolulu region and entering another world beyond the mountains, where sparkling seas beckon and quaint towns nestled between the stark green hills and the expansive ocean invite exploration. The Pali Highway was very controversial when proposed and it was strongly opposed by many local residents.
Things to do in Windward Oahu
The coastal road north of Kane'ohe takes on another level of spectacular, as it hugs the ocean via small towns and rural areas that exude the energy of old Hawaii. Traveling through this area is like stepping back in time while simultaneously experiencing a mix of cultures. The Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, situated north of Kane'ohe in Ahuimanu, is a large replica of a traditional Japanese Buddhist temple that celebrates the coming together of many cultures in a place where people of all faiths can enjoy peace and tranquility.
Back on the coastal road, you can head north through the sleepy communities of Waiahole and Waikane – largely agricultural towns that were built on the sustenance foods of old Hawaii: coconut, papaya, and especially the taro. Some of the best poi on the island can be found here, and a visit to the Waiahole Poi Factory is definitely worthwhile. Along the beaches, you will see many fishponds, some of which were created for the Hawaiian royalty. This area was originally the favorite and sacred place of the High Chiefs of Hawaiian Royalty, and the cliffs of the Ko'olau Range hold many ancient burial sites and places that are sacred to the Hawaiian people.
At Kualoa Point, you can't miss the famed Chinaman's Hat (Mokolii), which is accessible at low tide via Kualoa Regional Park. Kualoa Ranch is nestled in the hills just across the highway, and the family-owned ranch has been the backdrop for countless movies and television shows such as ‘Lost’ and ‘Hawaii Five-0’. From here, the highway meanders past Kaaawa Beach Park and beautiful Kahana Bay where it adjoins the North Shore region, which boasts the Polynesian Cultural Center at Laie, North Shore Zipline at Kaena Farms and Waimea Valley as well as the famed north shore surfing beaches of Sunset and Ehukai (Pipeline).
A visit to Oahu's Windward East Shore requires at least a day or two to explore the many sights, beaches and quaint towns that make up this unique area.