The Waianae – often termed Leeward - Coast of Oahu is largely undiscovered by the majority of visitors to the island and is home to rural towns and one luxury resort area (Ko’olina). The area north of Ko'olina is not well known and some parts of it are quite remote.
This region is located on the coastal side of the Waianae mountain range and extends from Ko’olina in the south-west corner of Oahu, to the town of Waianae in the central coastal area and all the way north to Kaena Point on the north-west tip of the island. Even though on a map the ‘Leeward Coast’ is not actually limited only to the stretch of the west shore and the ocean and in fact continues all the way to Koko Head, the Waianae Coast has become commonly referred to as ‘Leeward Oahu', so for all intents and purposes we will refer to it as that also.
Ko'olina boasts a marina, championship golf course and variety of accommodations; Waianae is the least crowded accommodation area on Oahu but it far less attractive than other places for a variety of reasons; and the coastal stretch to the north of the town up to Kaena Point is wild and remote with some beautiful beaches. At the end of the road, you can hike to this point, which is Oahu’s westernmost location. Some of the oldest lava on Oahu can be found along this shoreline. The Waianae mountains, formed about three million years ago, feature the highest point on the island – Mt Kaala – at 4,017 feet.
Leeward Oahu Top Attractions
Things to Do in Waianae
The Waianae region is everything that Waikiki is not – untamed and largely unknown. Koolina is quite a popular and safe area for tourists, with a wide range of water sports and activities and only a 30-minute drive from Waikiki. However, the expanse of coastline north of there has a less than friendly vibe. Unfortunately, there is a high crime rate in the Waianae town area, with reports of vehicle break-ins being commonplace. A number of the beach parks are home to people who cannot afford housing. Also, Highway 93 - the road that hugs the coastline - is narrow, winding and is notorious for accidents. On the positive side, the climate along this coast is generally dry and sunny as the mountain range prevents wet weather from frequenting the area. Makaha Beach, north of Waianae, hosts an annual longboard contest. There are many pristine, white sand beaches that are top locations for fishing, snorkeling, and swimming, and provide great spots to watch the sunset over the ocean. Be aware as you venture further north, the coastline does become quite rough with the surf unpredictable, and in some places, unsafe for swimming. If you are visiting Oahu on a budget, the Waianae Coast is certainly more affordable to stay at than places like Waikiki or Honolulu and there is a broad range of activities and sights to see. However, for the reasons we have stated above, caution must be taken when exploring this area.