15 Best Things to Do in Kailua

Kailua, Oahu’s eastern windward side, is a luxurious destination with stunning natural scenery and beaches that are of extraordinary beauty.

Lanikai Beach is one of them. It has the tropical paradise vibes, with its glistening turquoise waters, and powdery white sandy sands.

Kailua can be separated from Honolulu by the sheer rim an ancient caldera that rises 500m above the ground.

You can find remnants of this volcano around the area, making for challenging hikes with breathtaking views. Or, you can kayak and paddleboard among sea turtles or monk seals in crystal clear waters.

Kailua was home to the Winter White House for many years during President Barack Obama’s first term.

1. Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach

Imagine a perfect Hawaiian beach with soft white sand and aquamarine waters.

Lanikai Beach is frequently ranked among the best in Hawaii. It’s easy to see why, when you look at the stunning views out to the Mokulua Islands and the lush vegetation behind.

You can take a kayak ride from the beach to reach these islets, which are located at the eastern horizon.

Lanikai Beach, which is not part of any state or municipal parks, is open to the public. The high-end residential neighborhood that borders the shoreline is called Lanikai Beach. You can access the beach through alleyways located near the parking areas.

You will need to prepare if you plan on spending a day at the beach.

2. Kailua Beach Park

Kailua Beach Park

This beach park is located at the southern end of Kailua Bay. It is just a few steps away from Lanikai Beach. However, it has all the amenities you would expect from an open-air beach.

Kailua Beach Park comes in second place to Lanikai Beach, but it would be a tough competitor for any other beach.

Silky white sands will be found here, as well as lagoon-like waters. The green barrier of tall ironwood trees or coconut palms will keep you from getting in the way.

The Oahu beaches are windward, so the ocean breezes are consistent and attract windsurfers as well as kite-surfers.

The ideal spot for families is at the southern end, right in front of the ironwoods trees. This is also where you will find the lifeguard station.

3. Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

You can start just behind Lanikai Beach and follow the Kaiwa Ridge for 1.8 miles.

The round trip takes approximately two hours. There is a steep climb up to the summit, which can take some time.

Two historic pillboxes, built during World War II, will be found along the route. This is often the place where walkers turn around.

It’s important to take caution when walking on unpaved roads around Kailua. Also, make sure to wear appropriate footwear.

The beauty of the Lanikai Pillbox hike is its scenery. It encompasses a vast area of windward Oahu including Kailua Beaches and Lanikai Beaches. There is also the dominant wall of the Koolau Range, and the distinctive Mokulua Islands.

4. Kalama Beach Park

Kalama Beach Park

Another beautiful stretch of white sandy beach is located just a short distance from Kailua Beach Park. It’s a bit less popular than its neighbor to the south-east.

One of the most striking things about Kalama Beach Park will be its quietness. There are only a few upscale homes hidden behind a wall made of palms, koas, and beach cabbage. The rest of the residents are scattered around the shore.

You’ll see many kitesurfers, windsurfers, and paragliders at the bay.

The ocean can be seen from the vantage point of the Ulupau crater to the north-east, and the twin Mokulua Islands in the south. To see the sun rise early, it is a good idea to arrive earlier in the morning.

5. Paddlesports

Canoeing in Lanikai Beach

Kailua Bay was a place of power for centuries because of its safe landing area for canoes.

It’s a great idea to hire a kayak or canoe and paddle around the bay on calm days. You can also take a tour or self-navigation to learn more about the wildlife and history of the area.

You can see monk seals, sea turtles and other species in clear waters.

Stand-up paddleboarding was also born in Hawaii, so it’s a great place to experience this rapidly-growing sport.

We Go! is just one of many watersports companies that are based in Kailua. Kailua Ocean Adventures, Kailua Island Canoe and Twogood Kayaks Hawaii are just a few of the watersports companies based in Kailua. Many offer guided trips to Mokulua islands, which are always present off the southern side of the bay.

6. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden

This branch of Honolulu Botanical Gardens can be found less than ten minutes from Kailua. It was established by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1980 for flood protection.

The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, which is located in the shadows of the Koolau Range makes it even more stunning. It houses species from tropical regions all over the globe, including Sub-Saharan Africa and Sri Lanka, India, Sri Lanka, Malayasia, Melanesia and the Philippines.

They are placed geographically to create stunning views against the Pali Cliffs. You should also visit the nearby visitor center and the galleries.

Before you go on your walk, download a checklist of birds. The garden also offers many activities throughout the year, including camping, fishing, and painting.

7. Mokulua Islands

Mokulua Islands

You could consider a paddleboard or kayak trip to these two basalt islands less than one mile from Lanikai Beach if you have a calm day.

A number of local companies are available, including Kailua Beach Adventures and We Go! Twogood Kayaks and Island Canoe are available to guide you on a guided tour.

Moku Nui, located to the north, is a seabird sanctuary. However, only the Moku Iki can be accessed.

You can relax on the sandy beach on the West Side, look back at the Koolau Range and jump off the cliffs. Or you can snorkel among the coral formations of the lava and sea turtles.

It is also an excellent vantage point to spot the humpbacks swimming past, usually between December and April.

8. Olomana Three Peaks Trail

Olomana Three Peaks Trail

This chain of three jagged peaks rises 500m above the coast and is an integral part the landscape on Oahu’s windward side.

Olomana is a remnant from the Koolau caldera. The western section dominates the horizon towards Honolulu (see Nu’uanu Pali).

Olomana is an incredible hike that requires a lot of climbing and a willingness to take risks.

Although ropes can be used to assist you with steeper ascents you will still need to climb a few walls by yourself.

Three Peaks Trail has been a popular route for many people. Most of these are between the second- and third peaks.

Although the trail is only 4.4 miles in length, it will feel longer. You’ll be rewarded by a 360 degree panorama at the summit.

Many hikers travel this far to avoid the more difficult climbs.

9. Nu’uanu Pali

Nu'uanu Pali

You can drive the Pali Highway from Kailua to the jaw-dropping viewpoint high above the Koolau Range in just a few minutes.

At a height of 365m, Nuuanu Pali offers a spectacular view of Oahu’s windward side, including Kailua, Kailua, large swathes greenery, and the Olomana Peaks.

This wind is so strong that it can support your weight on most days.

This area also has a violent history. In 1795, Kamehameha I, founder of the Kingdom Hawaii, and his troops, forced Oahu’s men from these cliffs to their death in his campaign for conquering and unifying the islands.

10. Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site

Ulupō Heiau State Historic Site

This imposing temple site is just a few minutes away from downtown Kailua. It’s an interesting piece of historical history.

The Kailua area has been a power base for the island since the 15th Century. It was home to irrigated fields that produced bananas and taro, a large supply of pond fish such as mullet, and safe canoe landings.

Kamehameha I, for example, lived in Kailua following the 1795 island’s conquering. This importance is evident in the Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site, which boasts a platform measuring approximately 42 metres by 55 meters and a height of over 9 metres.

This structure’s stone was brought 10 miles up the windward coast from Kualoa.

11. Manoa Chocolate Hawaii

Manoa Chocolate Hawaii

This Kailua-based chocolate maker is part of the “bean to bar” movement. It sources cacao beans directly from growers all over the world as well as local farms when possible.

Many bars have names that reflect the origin of the beans. Most of them contain at least 70% cacao.

Manoa has created many location-specific products, including whiskey, rum and lavender, ghost peppers, goat milk, passion fruits, coconut, and banana.

For a similar tour to a boutique winery, craft brewery, you can stop by the Kailua factory store.

When raw cacao fruit is in season, you’ll be able to taste Manoa’s selection in the company of a “Chocolate Sommelier”.

12. Lanikai Brewing Company

The Lanikai Brewing Company makes craft beer that is inspired by Hawaii and Oahu.

The brewery uses local yeasts and bacteria and works closely with local farmers. For example, they buy up pineapple, passion fruit and strawberries that are too ugly to sell in shops and markets.

Three year-round flagships of the company are Route 70 Saison, which is made with some Hawaiian honey, Pillbox porter, which is made from rare Hawaiian vanilla and Tahitian Vanilla, and Moku Imperial. These beers have pikake flowers that contribute to their citrus, tropical, and floral flavors.

Lanikai Brewing Company operates a brewery and tasting area on Hamakua Drive. It is open seven days per week, and has a draft list that changes with the seasons.

13. Maunawili Falls

Maunawili Falls

This family-friendly trail, which runs between Mount Olomana and the Pali Cliffs, will take you to a beautiful waterfall hidden in the jungle.

You can find the trailhead in a residential area near the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club. You’ll be able to hike for 2.8 miles, climbing over rocks and tree roots. There are ferns at your waist and occasional views of Windward Oahu.

You’ll find lobelia, ti and mountain apple among other tree and plant species.

The waterfalls are located just below a scenic plateau where the river plunges into an idyllic swimming hole. If you feel brave, you can also jump into the water from the rocks.

14. Bellows Field Beach Park

Bellows Field Beach Park

The Bellows Air Field Station is located on Kailua’s south-east, near Waimanalo. This military reserve was a vital airfield in World War II.

In the 1950s, the last runways were shut down. The station is used now for training and recreation.

If you want to enjoy a relaxing day on a long, soft and sandy beach with low waves, the park is open to the public weekends.

This is the perfect spot for body surfing or bodyboarding, with a small sandbar that can be used as a landing zone. The prevailing trade winds also make it a great place to see a variety of wildlife.

Portuguese man o’ wars can be found here 9 to 12 days after a full Moon. They provide food for tiny sand bubblers crabs that burrow at the water’s edge.

Camping permits can be obtained by the City and County in Honolulu if you plan to stay over night.

15. Kailua Farmers’ Market

Kailua Farmers' Market

In fact, there are three farmers’ markets located in Kailua. On Thursday mornings, one trades in the Kailua District Park parking lot at 21 South Kainalu Drive.

On Saturday mornings, there’s the Lokahi Kailua Market located at 340 Uluniu Street.

The main event will take place on Thursdays from 16:00 to 19.00 at the Kailua Town Center Parking Garage (609 Kailua Road).

This is where you can find seasonal fruits and vegetables from up to 30 producers.

You can find Oahu-related delicacies like ghost pepper salsa or honey from the local hives, or traditional Hawaiian treats such as kulolo and haupia.

There’s plenty of street food to choose from, including poke, taro dumplings and Samoan specialties as well as Vietnamese bites, Vietnamese chili, Hawaiian-style barbecue or empanadas.