Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach

Bookmark your favorite posts to start a collection. View your bookmarks here »

Mākaha Beach Park is a stunning 21-acre park that lies just up the coast from Waiʻanae on the shore of Mākaha Valley – one of the largest valleys on the west (or leeward) coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Depending on the time of year, visitors can find good swimming, bodyboarding, and surfing conditions here. Many beloved Hawaiian figures have ties to Makaha and its shores, creating a rich history that makes this specific Hawaiian beach so special.

Makaha Beach Mountain
Not a bad spot for a selfie!
Makaha Beach Highlights

In my opinion, no trip to Oahu is complete without visiting the leeward side of the island. Makaha is the crown jewel of western Oahu, offering scenic shore views and rideable surf year-round. This beach has everything you can hope for – small surf, big surf, fishing, diving, and a timelessly beautiful place to gather with family and friends.

Sometimes referred to as Oahu’s last frontier, the west side is where Hawaiian history and culture is best preserved. There are many local Hawaiian communities on this side of the island, so you will find fewer tourists and more families gathered on nearby beaches.

Blue water at Makaha Beach

In ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language), Makaha means “fierce,” which is appropriate since Makaha Beach Park is home to some of the most challenging big waves during the winter season.


Makaha became known to the world as the birthplace of big wave surfing when, in the 1930s, a few brave California-born surfers went searching for something more challenging than the safe rollers of Waikiki. They found exactly what they were looking for after venturing westward when a perfect pointbreak came into view.

As Makaha’s popularity grew, it became a prime location for competitions. In 1952, the Waikiki Surf Club established the Makaha International Surfing Championship, one of the first international surfing contests ever held in Hawaii. Once dubbed “the unofficial world championship of surfing,” the Makaha International came to an end when Oahu’s North Shore drew brave surfers towards even bigger heart-pumping waves on beaches like Pipeline and Sunset. 


One of the most popular events still held at Makaha is Buffalo’s Big Board Contest, an annual contest named in honor of Makaha lifeguard and surfing legend Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana. For nearly 40 years, this contest has attracted hundreds of participants, including surfers, canoe surfers, and bodyboarders, in addition to thousands of spectators who camp along the beach during the event. 

Photo of book (Fierce Heart) held up in front of mountain at Makaha Beach

I highly recommend getting up a copy of the book Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing by Stuart Coleman (Available on Amazon or which contains fascinating information about Hawaiian culture and Makaha’s history woven into stories about the life of Buffalo Keaulana. 

Many other prominent Hawaiian figures have also called Makaha home, including Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole, a Hawaiian musician best known for his enchanting medley of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” and Rell Sunn, American world surfing champion and the Queen of Makaha.

Cascading waterfalls in the green mountains of Makaha Valley
Cascading waterfalls in Makaha Valley during spells of heavy rain
Swimming, Snorkeling + Diving

Ocean Safety Disclaimer: Beach and ocean conditions can be extremely dangerous and certain activities may require a certain level of ability and skill. Always take proper safety precautions when near bodies of water and pay special attention to weather forecasts, tides, currents, and safety signage. Visit to view current wind & surf reports and additional safety information. As the trusty old saying goes: When in doubt, don’t go out! 

The ocean at Makaha Beach is much calmer during the summer, making it an excellent spot for diving, swimming, and snorkeling.


Both ends of this beach are rocky and have a sharp reef. It is safest to enter the water in the middle of the beach, where it is primarily sandy for a good distance.

Blue water at Makaha Beach

The large open bay offers decent snorkeling with a good possibility of seeing wild sea turtles! Many consider Makaha to be an advanced snorkeling spot because of the potential for waves, currents, a steep beach (15 to 35+ feet deep), and a fairly long swim to the prime snorkeling area. The visibility usually gets much better the further away from shore you get.

Turtle swimming in blue ocean on Oahu west coast beach

Makaha is also home to one of Oahu’s most popular dive spots. Scuba dive boat tours frequent Makaha Caverns, a series of arches, caverns, and overhanging ledges outside of the surfing area. 


During winter, surf can get pretty large (up to 25ft!) There is also typically a strong shorebreak and rip currents. These conditions are really only suitable for experienced surfers. Check the surf report here »

Surfer riding a wave at Makaha Beach

The wave at Makaha contains four distinct breaks: the Point, the Bowl, the Blowhole, and the Inside Reef. Ridable at any size, it truly becomes a challenge over 10 feet. Surfers tend to prefer entering near the northern end of the beach (near the hotel) because this is where the waves break on the reef.

Bright red and orange sunset over the ocean at Makaha Beach

The west side of Oahu is arguably home to some of the best spots to watch the sunset on the island. Since the sun sets in the west, you have the chance to watch the sky transform into an explosion of warm reds and oranges as the glowing sun sinks into the ocean. It is especially beautiful to watch the vibrant colors reflect off of the shimmering ripples in the water.

More Beach Details

During low tide, the reef is closest to the water’s surface and it is sharp. Be careful when you are in the water. Coral injuries have a higher risk of getting infected so avoid getting cut or scratched when in the water! Rip currents are also always possible.


Makaha Beach Park is located on the driest side of the island, so it can get very hot and dry here, especially during the summer. Make sure to bring water, sunscreen, and any additional sun protection since there is little to no shade on this beach.


Do not leave any valuables in your car. Unfortunately, break-ins are very common on Oahu, so make sure to carry anything of value with you or leave it behind in your hotel/home/rental.

You may read that locals here typically don’t like tourists, often called “haoles” a term for individuals who are non-local or not Hawaiin. I hate to think visitors looking for a true connection to Oahu may avoid the west side because of a predisposed fear they likely will not experience. I’ve seen other guides warn visitors about locals that resent tourists. While I have only had pleasant encounters on the Leeward Coast, I suppose it’s worth noting that you may experience some rude attitude.


My advice is to be respectful no matter where you are on the island, but especially in neighborhoods where generations of local Hawaiian people live. They are very protective of the island and their communities. I suggest you read more about Hawaii’s history to understand why! Always be polite and leave the areas you visit better than you found them.


There are restrooms, showers, and water near the north end of the beach. 


There is a lifeguard station on the beach.

Makaha Beach Park is located about an hour car ride away from Waikiki.

There are places to park on the road alongside the beach.

84-369 Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI 96792

See map below!

Pin this post for later:

More to do and see nearby:

About Laur

Aloha, I’m Lauren! One of my favorite things to do is explore the Hawaiian island of Oahu and nothing makes me happier than sharing what I’ve learned over the past 7 years with those planning their own adventures. I started Lauraloha Travel to help you enjoy every minute of your experience from planning all the way to paradise. Mahalo for exploring with me!

Keep Exploring!


Affiliate Disclosure

Some posts may contain affiliate links that when used, generate a small commission for LaurAloha Travel at no additional cost to you. In fact, some links may actually provide a discount! Our top priority is to make your planning and travel experiences as seamless as possible, so any product or service promoted through this platform (sponsored or not) is carefully chosen to do just that. Affiliate links and sponsored content allow us to continue helping people like you plan amazing experiences. We are endlessly grateful for your support and hope you find value in all of our recommendations! Learn more here »

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Sign up to receive updates about new posts, travel tips, and product recommendations!

Save this post:

Share this post:

Keep Exploring

Recent Posts