Waimea Bay Beach Park

Top choice beach in Sunset Beach to Haleʻiwa

Image by Charmian Vistaunet Getty Images

It may be a beauty, but it’s certainly a moody one. Waimea Bay changes dramatically with the seasons: it can be tranquil and flat as a lake in summer, then savage in winter, with the island’s meanest rip currents. Typically, the only time it’s calm enough for swimming and snorkeling is from June to September, maybe October. Winter water activities at this beach are not for novices – the waves at Waimea can get epically huge.

The beach plays host to the annual Quiksilver Eddie Aikau memorial surf competition between December and February. Eddie Aikau was a legendary waterman and Waimea lifeguard who died trying to save compatriots from a double-hull outrigger-canoe accident en route from Hawaii to Tahiti.

This is the North Shore’s most popular beach, so parking is often tight. On weekends, Waimea Valley across the street offers paid parking for $5. Don’t park along the highway; police are notorious for towing away dozens of cars at once. Note, too, that jumping off the big rock formation at the southern end of the cove is technically forbidden. Facilities include showers, restrooms and picnic tables, and a lifeguard on duty daily.