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Oahu's other beaches.

Oahu's other beaches

Hawaii means the beach, and for many visitors, "the beach' isstill the 1 3/4-mile crescent of gleaming sand called Waikiki. With good reason: Waikiki has great places to swim, it's safe, and it's within a Frisbee toss of Oahu's biggest hotels.

But within an hour's drive of Waikiki are more than 130 otherbeaches, each with its own attractions. How do you decide which one to head for?

There are wave-battered volcanic headlands, sweeps of whitesand that stretch around distant points, intimate coves secluded behind lacy ironwood trees. You can find reefs for tidepooling, lagoons for snorkeling, or sheltered bays for safe ocean swimming. There are beaches where you can learn to ride a surfboard, maneuver a sailboard, or take a wave on a body board or on your own belly. Other beaches are just right for shoreline walking or quiet shorefront picnicking.

That's not really too surprising when you consider the numbers.Of Oahu's 60 designated beach parks, 19 have lifeguards, and all but one of the guarded parks are fully developed with picnic areas, rest rooms, showers, and drinking water.

But even in this beach abundance, there are problems. RalphGoto shakes his head. "Many of our facilities are aging, and we have vandalism in some picnic areas. At a few parks, there are thefts--mostly from cars while people are on the beach.'

In spite of the problems, Goto is quick to point out that Oahustill has the best-developed and most varied system of beach parks and water safety programs in the state. And on Oahu, you can enjoy the water just about any time: when conditions on one side of the island are marginal, it's likely that they're fine on another.

How do you find the best beaches, the safest places for newadventures? We polled the experts--lifeguards and ocean recreation specialists--for recommendations on the safest places for swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing, tidepooling, and the various forms of board and body surfing. Their comments are summarized and keyed to the map of our favorite beaches above.

But before you can make a choice, you need to understand howOahu's weather works and what beach conditions result.

Weather and a four-sided island: are the trades blowing?

While the island of Oahu may not be square, it does have fourdistinct beach exposures. The northeast trade winds are a major influence. But combinations of weather, topography, ocean swells, winds, and tides determine beach conditions in specific areas. And a lot depends on the season.

In winter (October into April), storm systems to the northwestgenerate big swells that roll into the north and west shores. They crest as breakers, some up to 30 feet high, colliding against the coast with a fury at once glorious and frightening. While these months are no time for a dip up north, southern shores can be at their best.

In other months, the trade winds are steadier, resulting in alarger break on south shore beaches. Although this surf isn't nearly as imposing as winter's, it has its own dangers.

After ocean swells, trade winds are the single most importantfactor shaping water conditions. They blow most of the time, from east-northeast, usually at 10 to 20 miles per hour. Kona conditions--when the trades aren't blowing--range from calm to southerly storms, creating unpredictable seas everywhere.

Ocean conditions are broadcast daily by most radio stations.Along with playing Hawaiian music, KCCN (1420 AM) reports wind direction and speed, times of high and low tides, and surf conditions around the island about 20 minutes before the hour from 5 to 10 A.M. and from 2 to 7 P.M. Or call the National Weather Service's recorded forecast: (808) 836-0121.

When you go to the beach, leave valuables at your hotel. Neverleave purses or wallets in your car or unattended on the sand. Try to park where your car can be seen from the beach. Remember that alcoholic beverages are not permitted in public parks. And don't feel guilty about sleeping in: rush-hour traffic in Honolulu is a bumper-to-bumper crawl, all too familiar to big-city commuters. Set out after 9 in the morning, and avoid returning between 4 and 6.

North Shore: lion in winter, lamb in summer

Stretching from Kaena Point northeastward to Kahuku Point,the North Shore is Oahu's most changeable coast. In winter, it can be a maelstrom of pounding surf and ripping currents; beaches wash away, highways can be closed by the storms.

Mid-May into September, however, this coast can offer some ofthe island's best family beachgoing.

From Honolulu, the most direct route is via Interstate H2 andState Highway 99 to the old sugar town of Haleiwa. Haleiwa is the spiritual home of "shave ice'--paper cones mounded with shaved, not crushed, ice that's drenched with a flavored syrup-- a treat that has revived more than one sun-crisped surfer.

The North Shore is Oahu's surfing haven, and two beachparks--Haleiwa Alii (see map) and Haleiwa--are good places for beginning surfers and body-boarders. Surf 'N Sea (637-9887) rents boards ($18 per day) and can arrange 2-hour lessons for $35, including board. Hawaii Surf and Sail (637-5373) rents furfboards ($10 per day). Both shops also rent body boards ($13 and $8 per day) and sailboards ($40 and $25 per day). Snorkeling gear is $9.50 per day at Surf 'N Sea only.

Another good North Shore spot for surfing lessons is the smallcove in front of the Turtle Bay Hilton near Kahuku Point. Group lessons (293-8811; call ahead) cost $22 per hour, including use of a board. Aquaventures, the hotel dive shop, can arrange guided skin-diving excursions.

Windward Shore: cloudy (even rainy), spectacular

Round the shoulder of Kahuku Point and the shoreline begins tochange dramatically. The rugged eastern face of the Koolau Range pushes right to the shore in places, climbing abruptly 1/2 mile above the road. These steep, serrated cliffs hold the low clouds, blown ashore by trade winds, that condense as rainfall over the lush tropical forests below.

Windward Oahu can be divided into two parts. The northernportion, from Kahuku Point to Kualoa Point, gets our vote for Oahu's most spectacular coast. Rain forest pushes right down to the beach along this thinly populated strand, creating cool, shady parks ideal for leisurely picnicking--although mosquitoes can be annoying at times. Gather picnic basics in Honolulu, but stop at a roadside stand for home-grown papaya, fat "apple' bananas, juicy pineapples, and crisp mountain apples.

Farther from the mountains, the stretch of coast from KailuaBay to Makapuu Point is more dependably sunny. Kailua, roughly a half-hour's drive from Honolulu over the Pali Highway (State 61), draws windsurfers from around the world because of its large sheltered bay, reliable onshore winds, and sandy bottom and shore. It's one of the best places anywhere to learn the sport.

Three outfits in Kailua offer lessons and rentals. WindsurfingHawaii (261-3539) will get you started with a 2-hour introductory lesson, including board, for $25; rentals are $15 for a half-day, $20 from 9 to 5. Wave-skis cost $15 per day. Others are Naish Hawaii (261-6067; also rents body boards) and Kailua Sailboard Company (262-2555).

Rent surfboards ($15 per day; lessons can be arranged), bodyboards ($12), and adult-size snorkeling gear ($5) at Straight Up surf shop (261-7873).

Onshore winds may blow in more than just rain along this shore.Most worrisome are occasional invasions of the Portuguese man-of-war, whose sting can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. The worst times are December through February, mid-April, and the end of August. If you see purple jellyfishlike bodies washed up on the sand, find another beach.

Waianae Coast: undiscovered, sunny

Sheltered from all but the strongest trades by the WaianaeMountains, the western edge of the island from Kaena Point south to Barbers Point is Oahu's desert coast. When the rest of the island is socked in with heavy clouds, this is the one place you're likely to find sun. Local advice: bring your own shade. While winter surf here approaches North Shore conditions and storms occasionally shut down the beaches, summer swells can also come in from the south, creating treacherous rip currents that make the surf break close to or on the shore.

Unlike the other three coasts, which can be sampled in a varietyof day-loop drives, the Waianae Coast is a dead-end trip: the dirt track around Kaena Point is impassable. From Waikiki, it's about 45 minutes to Makaha; rent snorkeling gear and body boards in Honolulu. Most weekends, picnickers will find a huli huli chicken stand on the south edge of Nanakuli, but the slowbarbecued, marinated birds sell out early.

Until a recent police crackdown, cars parked at these uncrowdedbeach parks were being broken into on a daily basis. Last summer, the number of reported thefts was down to about one a month. Still, out here it's best to park at populated or lifeguarded beaches and to leave--when the guards do--by 5 P.M.

South Shore: urban, usually good, always crowded

With long white crescents of reef-protected beaches and dramaticheadlands of tortured lava, South Shore beaches have only one problem: a chronic lack of parking. One reason is that these beaches are so near the sprawling neighborhoods of Honolulu. They also happen to be some of the best on the island.

Under almost any weather conditions, the central Honolulubeaches--Ala Moana and Waikiki--are going to be among the island's safest bets. The rest of the coast can be trickier. In summer, swells can generate rip currents along the southern shore, a condition even experienced beachgoers might misjudge.

The most potentially treacherous stretch is the 6 1/2 miles fromKoko Head to Makapuu Point. Here, summer swells crash right into the lava headlands. This stretch can offer great walking on calm days at low tide, but when swells are big, waves often break right over the trail. Nearby Sandy Beach is favored by experienced local bodysurfers who know when (and how) to turn into a wave. But in summer it gets a wicked shore break that has pounded many a beginner head-first into the sand. Sandy has the island's highest rate of serious beach injuries.

Before you go: useful and entertaining reading

Two particularly useful books can expand your beach savvy.The Beaches of Oahu, by John C. Clark (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1977; $5.95), is the authoritative guide to every beach on the island. Tips on water safety, with a light look at beach etiquette, are wrapped up with maps of the island's most popular beaches in A Guide to Beach Survival, by Ken Suiso and Rell Sunn (send $3.95 to Honolulu Water Safety Consultants, Box 1211, Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712).

Free copies of the recently revised Oahu Ocean RecreationGuide, an informative map, are available from the Department of Parks and Recreation, 650 S. King St., Honolulu 96813. For a free 1987 schedule of occean sports events, write to Box 661, Kailua 96734.

Photo: Waimea Bay Lined up on lava rock, jumpers contemplate 30-foot plunge into crystal waters. Swimming and snorkeling are great in summer; winter surf's too big

Photo: Kahana Bay Grassy border of beach-front park makesfine year-round lunch stop. Pick up picnic supplies, local fruit, straw beach mats at shops on road from Honolulu

Photo: Sunset Beach Monster winter surf (inset) dies down bysummer, lapping gently against a graceful arc of sand that leads strollers toward the palm-fringed tip of Sunset Point

Photo: Paddle, catch wave, stand: learn to surf at Waikiki and North Shore beaches "Oahu's beach parks may be one of the best-kept secrets in the Islands,' claims Ralph Goto, director of water safety for the City and County of Honolulu. "Sure, some places are well known--Sunset Beach for surfing, Sandy Beach for bodysurfing --but they're really only for experts. Many of the beaches where inexperienced ocean swimmers can most safely learn water sports are places visitors don't hear about.'

Photo: Windsurfing: novices hoist masts,grab arching booms, and quarter into the wind across Kailua Bay

Photo: Reef-watching: a mask with snorkeland a pair of fins are all you need. At Hanauma Bay, fish rush toward snorkelers for a handout of frozen peas

Photo: Wave-skiing: the latest import from Australia, wave-skis can be paddled in the surf or, as here at Kailua, along quiet shorelines

Photo: Surfing: in free clinic at Haleiwa Alii,beginners learn basic stance on moderate-size plastic or foam boards
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Hawaii
Date:Mar 1, 1987
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