O‘ahu: Kailua

‘Ono grindz, bird watching, and beach life are among the charms of O‘ahu’s Kailua

Kailua, the once-sleepy beach town on O'ahu's windward coast, boasts two of the world's most beautiful beaches, 'ono grindz, a laid-back vibe, and hikes for everyone from the casual ambler to the adventurer. Locals call it the "Pali effect"-that first glimpse of small-town heaven when you pop through the Pali tunnel.


Kailua Beach stretches nearly 3 glorious miles, with fine sand, relatively few people, calm waters, and parking at the beach's south-end park. honolulu.gov/parks/default.html. 

Rent a kayak from Twogood Kayaks and venture out to the twin Mokulua Islands. 134-B Hamakua Drive. 808-262-5656; twogoodkayaks.com. 

Hike up to the Lanikai pillboxes, World War II lookout posts, for stunning views and perfect photos. Trailhead on Ka'elepulu Drive; no parking. lanikaipillbox.com. 

Stroll the Kawainui Marsh for bird-watching and solitude in 830 acres of protected wetlands. Parking at Kawainui Park on Kaha Street.


Wander into Kailua Living for a spell, where handmade bags, pillows, jewelry, home wares, and clothing reflect this beach town's spirit. 22 Oneawa Street. 808-261-2200; kailualivingshop.com. 

Pop into Lanikai Bath and Body for all-natural, locally made soaps, potions, and gifts that smell of pikake, ginger, Kamuela rose, and other local favorites. 600 Kailua Road. 808-262-3260; lanikaibathandbody.com. 

BookEnds, one of Hawai'i's few independent bookstores, stocks best sellers, local titles, and an impressive (and dusty) used-book collection. 600 Kailua Road. 808-261-1996; tinyurl.com/kailuabks.


At Kalapawai Café try the Breakfast Slidah (biscuit with your favorites), Da Skinny (pulled pork on a taro roll, pictured) for lunch, or auction fish on lemongrass risotto for dinner. 750 Kailua Road. 808-262-3354; tinyurl.com/kalacafe. 

Grab a bite, jam to local music, and talk story with local chefs at the Thursday Farmers Market in the Kailua Town Center parking structure. Open 5-7:30 p.m., weekly. 609 Kailua Road. hfbf.org/farmers-market. 

Slip into a lanai table at Buzz's, where a calamari steak and view of canoes on the beach work their collective magic every time. 413 Kawailoa Road. 808-261-4661; tinyurl.com/buzzosh.