Guide to Swimming at Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii (2022)

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Sunset Beach Oahu, Hawaii is one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii. It is no secret that Hawaii is a premier holiday destination and full of pristine beaches and unique volcanic landscapes. But if you have to choose a must-visit beach in Hawaii, it has to be Sunset Beach, Oahu. This beach is famous for big waves, great surfing and spectacular views. The original Hawaiian name for Sunset Beach is Paumalū.

Where is Sunset Beach Oahu, Hawaii?

Sunset Beach is located on the North Shore of Oahu. The Sunset Beach State Park is located approximately 40 miles (60km) from Waikiki, making it a perfect day trip for tourists visiting Oahu island. The beach is approximately 2 miles of sand (3.3km) and right next to the town of Pupukea. You can drive right along the sand as you travel down the Kamehameha Highway.

Surfing history

Sunset beach is world famous for surfing! It is an immensely popular surf beach among professional and highly experienced surfers. Like many beaches on the North Shore of Oahu, Sunset Beach is considered hard to surf, and not great for inexperienced surfers due to unforgiving coral formations and strong winds. The surf swell can bring in 15 to 30 foot waves, enticing big-wave surfers and scaring everyone else. Until 1985, Sunset Beach was home to the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational surfing competition until it was replaced by the Billabong Pro. It also served as the venue for the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational, which was held in honour of Eddie Aikau, in 1984. More recently, Sunset Beach has hosted the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, one of the competitions held as part of the World Cup of Surfing. Other surfing contests that are being held regularly at Sunset Beach include the Pipe Masters and the WSL Championship Tour. If you are going to go to Sunset Beach to watch the surfers, remember to bring the binoculars as the big waves break out to sea and are not always easy to see. Surfing is best at Sunset Beach during the winter months, when the winds are stronger and waves bigger. Watch out if there is a storm, as the waves can get massive.

Swimming at Sunset Beach

Whilst the beach is famous for surfing, you can also have a great time swimming at Sunset Beach given the right conditions. In summer the water is calm and perfect for swimming. Lifeguards are typically on duty, so remember to look out for them and swim between the flags. If you do visit during the winter months when the waves are bigger, be careful and assess conditions before swimming. If it looks too dangerous, you might be best watching the surfers make the most of the amazing waves rather than risking your safety!

Snorkelling at Sunset Beach

Apart from swimming, snorkelling is also a popular activity during the non-surfing months, especially with the beach’s clear blue waters. In winter the giant waves give way to the calm waters and some amazing snorkelling opportunities. If you want to give this activity a shot, the northern end of the beach is the best place to do it.

Tip: time your visit

As the name suggests, Sunset Beach is a great place to watch the sun go down. We recommend timing your visit to arrange in the afternoon, enjoy a swim or surf depending on the conditions, and then sit back and watch the sunset. There are some great picnic areas along the beach to relax. Be sure to pack your favorite mens swim trunks!

How do you get to Sunset Beach, Oahu.

To get to Sunset Beach, you can fly into Honolulu International Airport in Oahu. Many international airlines are offering flights into the island every day. From Waikiki, make your way by car to Haleiwa Town and continue on to Kamehameha Highway or Highway 99. Merge onto Highway 83 and drive until you see the Sunset Beach State Park sign on the left side of the road. You can also take the bus from Waikiki to Sunset Beach – you just need to change buses at Wahiawa Amory. First take the 98A bus from Kuhio Ave to the Wahiawa Armory and then transfer to the 88A bus to Haleiwa Town and the North Shore Beaches. Ask locals or the driver for assistance! – Bondi Joe

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