View of China Mans Hat from Me viewing the Kualoa Mountain from the Kualoa Regional Park on the windward side

Windward Side of Oahu: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever been to Oahu? If so, have you visited the windward side of Oahu?

The Windward side of Oahu is an excellent place for those who love nature and want to experience the beauty of Hawaii. This is also where you can find some of the best beaches in Oahu.

It’s also a great place if you are looking for something different from the Waikiki/Honolulu area. There are many things to do on this side of the island that will make your vacation special.

You can visit some of the most serene, beautiful beaches like Kailua Beach, Kalama Beach, or Lanikai Beach, go hiking at the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, take a tour of Kualoa Ranch, explore Waimanalo Bay, and so much more! 

City views on the Lanikai Pillbox hike on the windward side of Oahu
Lanikai Pillbox hike views

This part of Oahu has some amazing attractions that visitors should not miss out on when visiting Hawaii.

If you’re looking for an escape from your busy life, this might just be exactly what you need. If you love nature, this is definitely a place worth visiting!

What are you waiting for? Keep reading below to learn more about this amazing side of Oahu!

Mountain and city views from the Lanikai Pillbox
Lanikai Pillbox Views
Plan your trip to Oahu Cheat Sheet with a Map of the Island
    Me viewing the Kualoa Mountain from the Kualoa Regional Park on the windward side
    Kualoa Regional Park

    Overview of the Windward Side of Oahu

    The windward side of Oahu is located 30 minutes from Waikiki and Honolulu. The Ko’olau Range borders it on the east, south, and west (Makapu’u Point Lighthouse to Kahana Bay) and Kualoa Ranch (White Plains Beach to Waimanalo Bay) to the north.

    One of the more scenic and varied areas on Oahu, this is where you will find some of the most beautiful beaches and scenery in Hawaii.

    The landscape here is quite different from that of Waikiki Beach. There are also many things to do that will make your trip memorable.

    You can spend a relaxing day strolling along the serene beaches of Kailua Beach Park or Lanikai Beach, go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, fly a kite at Kalama Beach, kayak to the Mokulua Islands, and so much more!

    SEE ALSO: 25 Best Beaches in Hawaii For A Spectacular Trip

    Overall, the Windward side is a great place to visit if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s a beautiful place for people who love nature and enjoy a quiet holiday surrounded by beautiful scenery.

    Me on a random swing we found on our way to the Pali Lookout in Oahu
    Random swing we found on the way to the Pali Lookout in Oahu

    Windward Side of Oahu: Weather

    The windward side of Oahu is more green and lush than the other parts of the island. You will find cooler temperatures here as well.

    Lush and green means that the windward side receives more rain than Oahu’s leeward side. This happens because the tradewinds blow in from the northeast.

    Me on top of the Lanikai Pillbox hike on the windward side of Oahu right after the second pillbox
    This picture was taken at the Lanikai Pillbox hike right after the second pillbox

    On average, the windward side of Oahu receives about 200 inches of rain, while the leeward side gets about 15 inches of rain per year.

    Although the windward side of Oahu has fewer sunny days than other parts of the island, it does not necessarily mean that you won’t see any sunny days.

    There are many times when you will be able to enjoy a day at the beach or a hiking trail without getting wet! 

    However, an umbrella or raincoat would come in handy just in case you do get caught in the rain. Don’t forget to add these to your Hawaii vacation packing list.

    Hiking the Lanikai Pillbox on the windward side of Oahu with mountain views
    Lanikai Pillbox Trail

    Things to Do On the Windward Side of Oahu

    Here are some of the most amazing things to do on the east side of Oahu. We will mainly break it down to beaches and outdoor activities such as hiking and nature.

    Let’s start with the beaches on this side of the island.

    Windward Side of Oahu: Beaches

    Hanauma Bay

    Hanauma Bay is a world-famous snorkeling destination and one of the most popular attractions on Oahu. Here you will find some of the best snorkeling on the island of Oahu.

    If you are in Oahu, don’t miss out on this experience! It’s definitely something you will never forget.

    Lanikai Beach

    Lanikai is one of the most popular beaches in Oahu, and for a good reason.

    Cody at Lanikai Beach on the windward side of Oahu. You can see a view of the Mokolua Island and the clear blue water
    Me at Lanikai Beach with a view of the gorgeous blue water and the Mokes

    Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, here you can snorkel, swim or just relax and enjoy Lanikai Beach’s views. It will take your breath away with its beauty!

    Kailua Beach 

    Kailua Beach Park is another well-known beach on the windward side. It’s great for swimming and is one of the best places to kayak in Oahu. It’s also a very popular spot for kite surfing and windsurfing.

    View of Kailua Beach on the windward side of Oahu with gorgeous blue water

    Kalama Beach

    Kalama Beach is another beach to visit on the windward side. It’s one of the best spots for stand up paddleboarding and is also a popular location for kite surfing and windsurfing.

    Kaneohe Bay/Coconut Island (Moku-o-lo’e)

    Coconut Island is a small island near Kaneohe. This place is perfect for snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing.

    Waimanalo Beach Park

    Drone shot of Waimanalo Beach on the windward side of Oahu

    Waimanalo Beach Park is another popular beach situated on Oahu’s windward side. It’s an excellent place for swimming; there are also lifeguards at this beach, so it’s perfect for families. Be aware of jellyfish while swimming here or walking on the beach.

    Kahana Bay Beach Park

    Kahana Bay Beach Park is another windward side beach perfect for swimming or sunbathing. Here you will get excellent views of the Ko’olau Mountain Range as a backdrop.

    The waters here are mostly calm, but not as clear as other beaches mentioned in this article due to the runoff coming from the Kahana Stream.

    Regardless, I would still add Kahana Bay to your list of beaches due to the fantastic views.

    Bellows Beach

    A family enjoying the beach at Bellow Beach on the Windward side

    Bellows Beach Park is much quieter than the popular ones on Oahu. This beach has restrooms, showers, and a camping site if you are interested in that type of thing. Please note that Bellows is open to the public on weekends only.

    Kualoa Beach Park

    Kualoa Beach Park is a great place to swim and enjoy the fantastic scenery.

    Me walking at the Kualoa Beach Park on the windward side of Oahu. You can see the view of the Koolau Mountains

    Our favorite part about this beach is the fantastic views of Chinaman’s Hat and the gorgeous views behind the Ko’olau Mountains.

    Be aware of jellyfish while swimming here or walking on the beach.

    Chinaman’s Hat (Mokili’i Island)

    Me viewing Chinamans Hat on the windward side from Kualoa Beach Park

    Chinaman’s Hat is a rock formation shaped like a, well, Chinese hat. This place is one of the most picturesque spots on Oahu. Next time you are in Windward Oahu, make sure to check out this beauty!

    View of Chinaman's Hat on the windward side of Oahu at Kualoa Beach Park

    Ka’a’awa Beach Park

    Ka’a’awa Beach Park is an excellent place to go fishing, have a picnic, or go camping. Compared to some of the beaches mentioned in this article, Ka’a’awa Beach is very quiet.

    Makapu’u Beach Park

    Gorgeous view of Makapu'u Beach

    The Makapu’u Beach Park is a great place to relax with amazing views. One of the best things about this beach is getting excellent views of the Makapu’u Lighthouse. This is also one of the best places on Oahu to watch the sunrise.

    Kalae’o’io Beach Park

    The Kalae’o’io Beach Park is another excellent place to fish, swim or have a picnic on the beach. It’s a local favorite, but you will also see tourists hanging out here as well.

    Hiking/Outdoor Activities on the Windward Side of Oahu

    Lanikai Pillbox Trail

    The Lanikai Pillbox Trail is one of the best hikes in Oahu and one of the easiest hikes on the island of Oahu. While the first part of the hike is pretty strenuous, it gets easier once you ascend the first steep section.

    View of Lanikai Beach on the Lanikai Pillbox hike on the windward side of Oahu

    Here you will enjoy gorgeous views of Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach, and the Mokulua Islands.

    Man hanging onto the edge of the bunker at the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu. You can see the beautiful views of Lanikai Beach.

    Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail 

    The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a great place to go hiking with the entire family. The hike is paved all the way and is one of the easier hikes in Oahu.

    Cody hiking up Makapuu Lighthouse trail on Oahu's Windward side

    Ko’olau Summit Trail (Pali Puka Trail)

    Pali Puka Trail is another great hike in Oahu with amazing views of the windward side of Oahu.

    The Pali Puka Trail is a little overgrown, so take extra precautions and do not hike after heavy rainfall as it can get slippery. I wouldn’t recommend this hike to beginners, as it could prove difficult.

    Judd Trail to Jackass Ginger Pool

    The Judd Trail to Jackass Ginger Pool is an easy trail that will lead you to views of a 10-foot waterfall with a pool that’s about 8 feet deep.

    Likeke Falls Trail

    The Likeke Falls Trail is one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu. The hike to get to the falls can take 20 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes, depending on the route you choose.

    Click the above waterfall article to learn more about these falls and the Jackass Ginger Pool.

    See Also:

    Hiking the Olomana Trail to Three Peaks

    Kuliouou Ridge Trail

    Additional Things to Do On the Windward Side of Oahu

    Visit Kailua Town

    You cannot go to the windward side of Oahu and not visit Kailua town. Here you can get some good food, shop for souvenirs, go to the farmers market, get some of the best shave ice in Oahu, or just enjoy the beautiful scenery.

    Pali Lookout

    The Pali Lookout will take your breath away with its gorgeous scenery. The views here are spectacular and one of the best views we have ever seen!

    View of the Koolau Mountain range from the Pali lookout on the windward side of Oahu

    Be prepared for some heavy wind; this may be the most intense we have ever felt! My hat was blown off at least a couple of times.

    Me enjoying the view of the Koolau mountains on the Pali Lookout in Oahu

    Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

    Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is one of the best botanical gardens in Oahu. The park is vast and full of many different kinds of gorgeous plants, trees, and flowers.

    This is a must-see in Oahu and one of our favorite places. If you are looking for one of the best places to get those Instagram shots, this is the answer to your prayers—lots of opportunities to get that perfect shot for the gram!

    Me viewing the Kualoa Mountains from the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu

    This is a great place to take your loved one as it’s definitely one of the top romantic things to do in Hawaii. What better way to enjoy your partner’s company than a nice nature walk with spectacular views?

    The Byodo-In Temple

    The Byodo-In Temple is a replica of a Japanese Buddhist temple. The temple was built to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Japanese immigration to the Hawaiian Islands.

    Me walking towards the Byodo-In Temple in Oahu. You can see gorgeous views of the Koolau Mountains

    You will see many beautiful things along the way, including a koi pond, small waterfalls, and a Japanese garden. We also saw some black swans swimming in the pond, which was a nice treat!

    Valley of the Temples

    Right next to the Byodo-In Temple is the Valley of the Temples memorial park. This memorial park is well known amongst tourists and locals alike.

    The valley contains many burial chambers for Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, and Shinto.

    Kualoa Regional Park

    If you are a fan of Hollywood movies, you need to visit the Kualoa Ranch where many Hollywood movies have been filmed, such as Jurassic Park, Lost, 50 First Dates, Godzilla, and many more.

    Me and Cody enjoying the view of the  Kualoa Mountain from the Kualoa Regional Park on the windward side

    You can see all of these movie sites on tours that are offered here.

    Polynesian Cultural Center

    The Polynesian Cultural Center is a must-see while on the windward side of Oahu. The center covers 12 acres and offers six different villages with free performances that showcase the folklore, arts, crafts, music, and cuisine of Samoa, Fiji, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Tonga.

    Halona Blowhole

    The Halona Blowhole is one of the most scenic attractions on Oahu. Here you will get to see waves crashing into the rocks, then bursting a fountain of water up through a hole along the rocky coast. Watch out for the violent waters and take extra precautions when visiting here. Do not get too close, as the blowhole is very dangerous.

    Windward Side of Oahu: Frequently Asked Questions

    Let’s answer some additional FAQs that you might have:

    What cities are on the windward side of Oahu?

    The windward side of Oahu includes the towns of Kaneohe, Kailua, Waimanalo, Kahalu’u, Kualoa, Ka’a’awa, Waiahole, and Waikane.

    What does the windward side mean in Hawaii?

    The Windward side of Oahu is the eastern side of the island. This side of the island faces the prevailing winds known as the trade winds. Here you will find lush green scenery and incredible views all around.

    How long does it take to drive from Waikiki to the windward side of Oahu?

    It takes about 35 minutes to drive from Waikiki to the windward side of Oahu.

    What is the difference between leeward and windward Oahu?

    The leeward side of Oahu receives less rain than the windward side. Leeward means sheltered from the wind, whereas windward means facing the direction of the prevailing winds.

    Which side of Oahu is best?

    It depends on what you like. The island of Oahu is so diverse, and each part of the island has something to offer.

    For instance, the North Shore of Oahu is known for its spectacular waves in the wintertime and for having some of the best food trucks on Oahu, whereas the east side is known for its beautiful valleys, waterfalls, and greenery.

    Waikiki and Honolulu areas offer more accommodation, shopping, and fine dining.

    Regardless, you can’t go wrong no matter where you decide to spend most of your time.

    We can tell you that we found the windward side of Oahu to be very scenic, fun, and diverse. We liked this side because it had many activities such as kayaking, waterfalls, hiking trails, and beautiful beaches.

    See Also: The Best Snorkeling Shoes Guide

    The Wrap Up

    The windward side of Oahu is home to some of the best scenery in Hawaii. If you are looking for outdoor activities, this side of the island will not disappoint.

    The beaches are gorgeous, it has some of the best hiking trails, and there’s no shortage of things to do while you’re here. It will be hard to leave, but it’ll be worth it for all that you’ll seen!

    Mahalo for reading our post!

    Until next time, Aloha and happy-exploring the windward side of Oahu!