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Exploring the natural beauty of Kailua: Beaches, trails, and parks

Hiking Trail in Oahu, Hawaii

Located on Oahu’s Windward Coast lies Kailua, a serene community surrounded by lush mountains and stunning beaches, friendly locals, and an appealing dining and retail scene that brings residents and visitors close to modern conveniences. It’s a tropical paradise unlike any other with a homey small-town feel despite being only a few minutes away from the bustling city of Honolulu.

Living in this picturesque coastal enclave means being able to enjoy the finest treasures that Oahu can offer every day. From going barefoot on the soft, white sand of its beaches to exploring its diverse ecosystem, these are some of the best things to do in Kailua, Hawaii.

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Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

When it comes to beaches, only a few can compare to the world-class shores of Kailua, Hawaii. Below is a glimpse into their defining features, the crowd they attract, and the best things to do in each one.

Kailua Beach

This undisputed king among the beaches in this Oahu locale has two and a half miles of pristine, white sand framed by the majestic Koolau Mountains. This beach consistently ranks among Hawaii’s best, and for good reason. The turquoise waters are perfect for swimming and the consistent trade winds make it a favorite among windsurfers and kiteboarders.

Lanikai Beach

Often referred to as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Lanikai Beach is a tranquil haven with its powdery sand and gentle waves. Nestled between luxury homes and swaying palm trees, Lanikai offers a sense of seclusion and serenity. The view of the adjacent Mokulua Islands from the shore or while kayaking is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Kalama Beach Park

If your idea of paradise involves tranquility and postcard-worthy scenery, Kalama Beach Park is your sanctuary. Located south of Kailua Beach, it’s a local favorite that’s not as crowded with tourists. That said, expect a laid-back atmosphere in a quiet coastal retreat where one can connect with nature in all its majesty.

Castles Beach

For underwater adventures, head to Castles Beach – aptly named in reference to the eroded lava rock formations jutting out from the shore like towering spires on a castle. These rock formations form a vibrant reef that teems with marine life, making it the perfect snorkeling and diving hotspot. However, the same reef is also responsible for the larger, more powerful waves that crash onto the shore here; so, it pays to be mindful of approaching waves.


While the beaches in Kailua, Oahu have their distinct charm, this locale still has other treasures in and around its boundaries that give way to unlimited thrills and adventures outdoors. Put your game face on for outdoor activities in Kailua that promise a lifetime of memories and precious experiences.

Kayak to the Mokulua Islands

Kailua has twin volcanic islets found off its coast – the Mokulua Islands, often referred to as “The Mokes.” While uninhabited, these islets can be visited via kayak. That said, kayaking to the Mokes has become a popular outdoor activity in Kailua. Not only does this activity build upper body strength from all that paddling but it also allows kayakers to marvel at the crystal-clear water and the abundant marine life swimming in it. Once on the islets, hiking along the shoreline and taking in the views becomes the order of the day. Some tour operators even offer guided eco-tours, providing insights into the rich ecosystem that thrives on the Mokes.

Paddle across Kailua Bay and Kawainui Marsh

Kailua Bay is a paddler’s paradise with its lovely beach, turquoise waters, and stunning scenery. Whether you decide to paddleboard or kayak, you can glide effortlessly through the open waters of the Pacific and observe sea turtles, schools of fish, and even playful dolphins that might show up right by your watercraft.

Kawainui Marsh, on the other hand, offers a more subdued experience than your Kailua Bay excursion. Located east of Kailua, this 740-acre wetland complex lets you paddle over still waters while you take in the rugged beauty of the surroundings. In this wildlife sanctuary, the only sounds you’re likely to hear are birds singing and the gentle splash of your paddle.

Explore Kailua’s famous dive spots

Snorkeling and diving are some of the best things to do in Kailua, Hawaii, especially if you want front-row viewing of its diverse marine life. It’s home to several world-renowned dive sites, each offering a unique experience. From shallow reefs teeming with life to underwater WWII-era plane wrecks, there’s something to explore for every skill level.

Turtle Cove is a great place to start your underwater exploration, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned diver. Located just off the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, Turtle Cove is a shallow reef that serves as the protected habitat of a resident population of green sea turtles. Sightings of these creatures are almost guaranteed here.

Hike through the Lanikai Pillbox Trail

No adventure in Kailua is complete without conquering the legendary Lanikai Pillbox Trail. This moderate 1.5-mile trail winds through lush rainforest and may require grappling with ropes to navigate the initial part of the trail. Once you manage that section, hiking becomes easier, rewarding you with panoramic views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. For the best experience, time your hikes right before sunrise or at sunset to avoid the crowds and the harsh rays of the sun. Also, remember to wear sturdy shoes and plenty of water for this roughly one-hour hike.

Tee off on luxurious golf courses

Aficionados of the sport will be pleased to know that Kailua has golf courses in and around it. Mid-Pacific Country Club sits near the Lanikai Pillbox Trail while Olomana Golf Club is on the southeast tip of Kailua in neighboring Waimanalo. Both have 18-hole golf courses with relatively challenging fairways. Players can hone their swing here with the breathtaking Ko’olau Mountain Range as their backdrop.


Turtle on the tropical beach

Nature takes center stage in Kailua, especially with the rich diversity of its ecosystem which is painstakingly being protected by residents and town officials in the parks, trails, beaches, and other outdoor settings of this beach town. Check out some of the astounding flora and fauna that share the same lush tropical setting of Kailua with its human residents.

Local flora

  • OHIA LEHUA. This iconic Hawaiian tree is a symbol of resilience and strength. Known for its vibrant red blossoms, Ohia Lehua is often found in the upland forests surrounding Kailua. Keep an eye out for this species, especially in the Ko’olau Mountains.

  • MA’O HAU HELE. Hawaii’s state flower, the yellow Ma’o Hau Hele is a member of the hibiscus family. It is endemic to the islands and can be spotted in dry forests and coastal areas. The plant’s delicate flowers are a reminder of the island’s unique biodiversity.

  • NAUPAKA KAHAKAI. Strolling along Kailua’s picturesque beaches, you may encounter Naupaka Kahakai, a salt-resistant shrub with distinctive white flowers. According to local folklore, the plant’s split flowers are said to represent two lovers separated by fate, with one half found in the mountains and the other by the sea.

  • KOA. Found in the upland forests and recognizable by its distinctive sickle-shaped leaves, the Koa tree is a vital part of Hawaii’s ecosystem. The wood of this tree has been historically used by Hawaiians for crafting canoes, weapons, and tools.

Local fauna

  • HAWAIIAN GREEN SEA TURTLE (HONU). Kailua’s beaches are home to the gentle Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. These endangered chelonians often bask in the sun on sandy shores, offering many opportunities to see them up close. You can easily spot them underwater thanks to their vibrant olive-green shells.

  • MOORISH IDOL (KIHIKIHI). Snorkeling in Kailua’s clear waters provides a chance to spot the vibrant Moorish Idol, locally known as Kihikihi. With its striking black, yellow, and white patterns, this fish adds a burst of color to the underwater landscape.

  • HAWAIIAN MONK SEAL (ILIO-HOLO-I-KA-USUAL). Considered one of the rarest seals in the world, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is occasionally spotted on Kailua’s beaches. These critically endangered marine mammals are protected and beachgoers are urged to keep a safe distance from them when they come to the beach.

  • HAWAIIAN MOORHEN (ALAE ‘ULA). Wetlands and marshes around Kailua provide the perfect habitat for the Hawaiian Moorhen which can be identified by its red, shield-like forehead, dark plumage, and red eyes. Birdwatchers may catch a glimpse of these elusive and endangered waterfowl when they forage for food in the lush vegetation.


Contributing to conservation efforts in Kailua or elsewhere in the islands is probably the best way to make your Hawaiian experience worthwhile. Not only will your contribution to the conservation campaign have a lasting impact on the beautiful ecosystem of Kailua but it will also open up opportunities to meet and mingle with others who are also one with the cause. The best part is that there are several ways to make your mark in this endeavor.

Respect the land and sea.

This means staying on designated trails and not littering during your hiking sessions in Kailua. When exploring the coral reefs, it is best to marvel at their beauty with your eyes, not by touching or standing on the coral formations as these actions may cause irreversible damage. Moreover, use reef-safe sunscreen that’s good for both your skin and marine life.

Support sustainable businesses.

Many of the thriving businesses in Kailua are committed to protecting the environment. Choose to stay at eco-friendly hotels, eat at restaurants that use local ingredients, and shop at stores that sell sustainable products.

Learn more about the ecosystem.

The more you know about the plants, animals, and natural resources of Kailua, the more you’re likely to develop an awareness of their role in the environment and take steps to protect them. There are many great resources available out there to feed your mind, such as books, websites, and guided tours.

Cultivate endemic plants in your garden.

If you have a garden in Kailua, Hawaii, planting native shrubbery is one of the best things to do to support local biodiversity. These plants have adapted to the region’s climate and are most likely to thrive. This simple act is sure to boost the local ecosystem and add to the aesthetics of your property’s direct environment.

Support local groups in the conservation campaign.

Get involved with or contribute to local conservation groups working to protect Kailua’s natural environment. Whether through volunteering your time or making donations, supporting organizations dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of the area can have a positive and lasting impact.

Here are some organizations to consider:


The Byodo-In Temple in Kaneohe, Hawaii

For a change of scenery from the more familiar natural setting, several cultural gems in and around Kailua offer an alternative. The region is home to an array of important heritage sites, including

Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site

Located in nearby Kawainui Marsh and dating back to the 17th century, this ancient Hawaiian temple offers a glimpse into the spiritual practices of the Hawaiian ancestors. This religious structure is dedicated to Kane, a god of creation and life-giving force.

The structure’s imposing presence is hard to miss. Constructed from colossal lava rocks, some of which were hauled from miles away, its terraced platform stretches 140 by 180 feet, with walls reaching up to 30 feet high. It’s surrounded by beautiful greenery and provides an opportunity to learn about traditional Hawaiian rituals and beliefs.

Mokolua Islands

Apart from providing various water and land-based activities, these twin islets that guard the entrance to Kailua Bay hold immense cultural significance. They were home to early Polynesian voyagers and served as burial grounds for Hawaiian royalty.

Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple is the most popular feature in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, found approximately 9 miles northwest of Kailua. Unveiled in 1968, it was built to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants in the archipelago. A replica of its namesake in Uji, it represents the strong ties between Hawaii and Japan.

The temple is a popular attraction because of its architecture and design which is quite uncharacteristic of standard structures you encounter in Oahu. With its gorgeous Jodo-shu Buddhist-style architecture, lush gardens, expansive ponds, and serene atmosphere, the temple strongly exudes a Kyoto-like vibe.


This is just a glimpse of some of the best things to do and see in Kailua, Hawaii. Discover everything else it has in store by making it your new home. Local expert Eric Taniguchi and his team at Taniguchi & Associates of Keller Williams Honolulu are on hand to give you access to an exclusive selection of premium properties in the area.

With a reputation built on client-focused services and bespoke strategies, Taniguchi & Associates has consistently exceeded expectations. The client’s real estate success is the priority in every transaction, no matter how big or small, and each member of the team is committed to helping to make it happen.

Elevate your home-buying journey in Kailua, Hawaii by working with Realtors you can trust. Call Taniguchi & Associates at 808.596.2888 or send a message here.

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