Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

When visitors come to Hawaii, they often picture sitting on a relaxed, quiet beach and being taken away by tropical vibes and clear turquoise waters. Areas like Honolulu and Waikiki can actually feel more touristy and crowded than relaxing and are more congested than many people realize.  HOWEVER!  There is a place where you can get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy a quieter side of the island without sacrificing some basic comforts. Kailua is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, has delicious food, and has an up-to-date downtown with a fun assortment of shopping. It is only 30 minutes away from Honolulu, yet feels like a world away. It’s so beautiful and peaceful even Barack Obama, who grew up on Oahu, chose this area to vacation while president.

Kailua has a wonderful range of activities to experience with your special someone and your family. Here are 5 things you won’t want to miss that I most love!

1. The Food!

Kalapawai Market and Kalapawai Cafe

Right next to the beach is Kailua’s familiar green-painted market called Kalapawai Market. You can stop in during the morning for a breakfast sandwich, muffins or their large selection of coffees, or have them make up a tasty lunch in their deli. In the afternoons the delicious smell of their grilled hamburgers fills the air. If you decide to adventure into the town area, a second location is conveniently located right on Kailua Road, called Kalapawai Cafe.  This Cafe has a coffee area and great for lunch, then converts to a fancier dinner spot with wine flights and delicious dinner meals.  I keep getting the Chicken Pot Pie entree when I go.

Uahi Grill

Another restaurant you shouldn’t miss is Uahi Island Grill. This restaurant further into town has a range of delicious local foods and drinks. Try some Kalua Pork, poke, or delicious cooked fish. One of my favorite meals is the Seared Ahi Salad. Their tiki-style indoor/outdoor bar is a fun place to enjoy a drink while experiencing the tropical breeze or watching a surf competition on TV alongside a statue of a meditating frog. You can further put yourself in the Hawaiian spirit by ordering a Mai Tai, but don’t forget to try their delicious Bloody Mary.


While there are a few of these across the islands, it’s one of my favorite spots in Kailua.  It’s got great vibes (and we all love vibes), a lot of seating availability and I LOVE their katsu chicken sandwich. It’s centrally located in the middle of Kailua for ample parking as well!

2. Walk Around And Shop In Town

Kailua’s unique trait of being a fully functioning town while being quiet and peaceful is a joy to experience. You’ll have the option of stocking up on necessities at one of the few Whole Foods Market and Target stores on the island, but the calm and relaxed feel of the town make it an ideal place to take time and stroll through and shop their smaller, quaint and attractive stores. What trip to Hawaii would be complete without some Hawaii shopping? Kailua offers many trendy and fun stores.

Turquoise Beach Clothing and Mahina are two of the best, providing some of Hawaii’s newest styles that will have you feeling breezy and beach ready from head to toe.

3. Head To The Beaches

Breathtaking Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach is near the top of most lists of the best beaches in Oahu, and in fact the world. It is long, not crowded, and some of the best-looking ocean water on the island. The water has the colors you dream about. The vibrant greens and blues are mesmerizing. It’s long strip of sand will make it easy to find a quiet spot to relax. The water is warm year-round and the sand is soft and comfortable under your feet. There is even a high chance you will see a sea turtle bobbing nearby. Steady trade winds blow across the ocean, keeping you cool and giving you a view of some of the talented local kitesurfers. It is a place where you truly relax and feel you are on vacation.

Lanikai Beach is also in Kailua and is famous for the iconic Mokes.  However as a local I like to stay on Kailua Beach since Lanikai can get so crowded and is much smaller and harder to park to get to.  It might be worth it to snap a photo there however since it’s so recognizable.

4. Grab Dessert

Taste Some Island Snow

Island Snow is a popular snow cone location that’s hard to miss. Located next to Kailua Beach Adventures, you will typically see a line of tourists here smiling while enjoying Kailua’s popular snow cones. It is one of the best snow cone locations on Oahu, offering snow as well as a blend of snow and ice cream. Each looks more delicious than the next, so be sure to have your family or loved one with you and try a few selections. It is a perfect place to take time and cool off on a hot day.

5. Physical Activity! – Hiking And Boat Ride

Hiking: Lanikai Pillbox Hike 

This hike, also commonly referred to as Kaiwa Ridge Trail, provides one of the most beautiful views off Hawaii, making it a frequent mention on Top 10 hiking lists on Oahu. It is popular with tourists and locals alike. The hike is listed as an intermediate hike with a steady steep grade. The entire hike can take up to an hour, but you can see amazing views in the first 30 minutes. Overall this hike offers camera-worthy views of Kailua Beach, the neighboring Lanikai Beach, and the picturesque Hawaiian mountains you’ve seen in magazines and calendars.

This is probably my personal favorite hike on the island because of it’s amazing views, lack of danger and relative ease to get up.  It’s still a hard workout mind you and I need constant breaks, but compared to the absolutely insane other hikes on the island it’s considered “easy”.

Kailua Beach Adventures – rent kayaks and head to the Mokes!

top things to do in kailua, hawaii by rae marshall photography

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Kailua Beach and its surrounding islands is to rent a kayak. Kailua Beach Adventures can help. Located walking distance from the beach, the company provides you with a wheeled cart and a kayak, and after carting it to the beach, you and your special someone can enjoy a beautiful paddle across the ocean. The Mokulua Islands, also called “The Mokes”, are two twin islands visible from the beach. If you are more experienced, you can paddle out to the larger of the two islands called Moku Nui. If wanting something less challenging, opt for a flatter island just off the beach called Flat Island.

  • Be sure to check with Kailua Beach Adventures on how to experience these islands, since there are restrictions! If you would like to do something even more relaxing, go for a peaceful paddle along the canal and see the beautiful tropical plants of the surrounding neighborhoods.

6. Spend The Night

Did you know that there are no hotels in the Kailua area?  They are concentrated in the Waikiki and Ko’olina area so that tourists don’t overrun the local towns.  That being said, it’s a more uniquely local experience to stay in Kailua, with less of the hustle and bustle of the city.  You can find the perfect airbnb, with options along Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach to make your stay even easier and more memorable.

Here Is My Favorite Place To Stay In Kailua:

Amazing location?  Check.  Island vibes?  Check.  Wonderful owners?  Check.  Right next to the beach?  Check.  Walk to Kailua town?  Check.  Secluded gardens and clean stay?  Check.  This is literally the perfect spot, I’m not joshing ya.

Looking for a unique aloha experience and to be covered in Hawaii flowers?  That’s what I thought!  Visit the Hibisskiss Love Tub in Kailua for a special photoshoot and celebrate yourself the local way.  You can learn more here about how you can book!

Kailua is one of the few places in Oahu to blend so much of what we look for in a visit to Hawaii. You have all that you need to provide you with a peaceful beach experience, without the big city. I hope you enjoyed this list and can experience some of what Kailua has to offer!

Rae Marshall is an Oahu Wedding, Portrait and Family Photographer based in Kailua.  She is available for wedding, engagement, family, maternity, senior portrait, fashion photoshoots and more.

source: https://www.raemarshall.com/

By Lala