If you’re planning a trip to Oahu, you’re likely hoping to experience some beautiful Hawaiian sunsets on your vacation. However, you may not realize that, without proper planning, your view of the Oahu sunset could be totally obstructed! With this in mind, we’ve endeavored to list the top sunset spots on the island. We also review essential tips to keep in mind. Spoiler alert: the higher you can get and the more western-facing, the better view you’ll have! Ideally, after reading this travel guide, you’ll know exactly where to go to find the best sunsets on Oahu.
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Tips for finding the best Oahu sunsets
Remember that the sun sets in the West. So, the best sunsets in Oahu will be in the western-facing areas of the island. Meanwhile, if you’re hoping to catch the sunrise in Oahu, areas on the East shore will be best. For example, Lanikai Beach, the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, and Makapu’u Beach Park are great sunrise spots. To find out whether or not your view will be blocked from a specific location, we recommend checking SunCalc.
Keep in mind that sunset times will vary depending on the time of year. Generally, sunset in Honolulu will be sometime between 5:48-7:17 p.m. It’s important to note that Hawaii does not observe daylight savings time. So, you can expect longer days in the summer vs. shorter days in the winter. However, the difference between the June and December solstice isn’t quite as drastic as it is on the mainland.
Since watching the sunset is one of the most popular free things to do on Oahu, we highly suggest checking the exact sunset time for the location you’re hoping to visit and planning to be there in advance. For less-busy sunset locations, you should arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time to find a viewing spot. On the other hand, we suggest arriving up to two hours prior to sunset for locations like Waikiki Beach. Bring a comfy chair or pack a picnic for the best experience!
The best places to watch the sunset on Oahu
Most people visiting Oahu stay in the Waikiki area (South shore). Therefore, the absolute best sunset views may require you to leave the hotel property, depending on the time of year. Nonetheless, you can still find beautiful sunset spots in Honolulu–you just have to look towards the West.
The West will be to your right-hand side if you’re facing the ocean on Waikiki Beach. If you’re an avid sunset fan, you can also request that your hotel room face west. This way, you never miss a sunset! Moreover, the higher the floor for your room, the better.
Let’s start with one of the best places to watch the sunset in Honolulu: Waikiki Beach. During the day, this world-famous beach is perfect for surfing, sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and other outdoor activities. Then, in the evening, tourists flock to this spot to attempt to catch “the green flash” on camera. This optical phenomenon occurs as the sun disappears on the horizon, creating about two seconds of green light.
It’s important to note that Waikiki Beach faces southwest. Therefore, depending on the time of year, you may not be able to see the Oahu sunset from your hotel. Especially in the summertime, you’ll likely want to move closer to Diamond Head and the Honolulu Zoo so that buildings like the Sheraton Waikiki don’t block your view. Another option to see the best sunset in Oahu is to book one of the sunset cruise tours that leave from Waikiki Beach.
Pro tip: we think the most fun place to watch the Waikiki Beach sunset is from North America’s longest oceanfront infinity pool at the Sheraton Waikiki (must be a guest)!
Ala Moana Beach Park
If you’re looking for a less-crowded place to watch the sunset near Waikiki, we recommend Ala Moana Beach Park. In fact, this Hawaii beach sunset spot is within walking distance from many of the high-rise hotels on Waikiki Beach. With plenty of benches and gorgeous palm trees, it’s easy to see why Ala Moana is a favorite sunset spot among tourists and locals alike. We’d even consider it to be the best place to watch sunset on Oahu for families. Especially if you walk out to the Magic Island Lagoon, your view of the sunset should be clear–even in the summertime.
Sunset Beach Park
This North Shore beach is famous for hosting the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing each year in the winter. However, with a name like “Sunset Beach,” you can correctly assume that it’s also well-known for sunsets! Plus, Sunset Beach in Oahu is conveniently located near Haleiwa Town.
So, you can grab dinner or shave ice here and then head to the beach to watch the sunset colors. However, my favorite thing to do is pick up fresh poke and local craft beer for a picnic! Foodland Pupukea is an easy stop to make along your drive to stock up on snacks. Note that the sunset viewing at this location is excellent no matter the time of year.
Read More Travel Tips: The 10 Best Beaches on North Shore Oahu
You’ll want to head to Ka‘ena Point State Park for two of the best sunset hikes on Oahu. This park offers two different routes (from West Oahu or the North Shore) to reach the island’s westernmost point: Kaena Point. Although both trails are on the longer side–approximately 5 miles, taking 2-3 hours to complete–the hike is 100% worth the panoramic view of Oahu’s western and northern shores from the point.
Plus, this location isn’t crowded, and you’ll have a clear view of the sunset no matter the season. Depending on when you visit, you may see albatrosses or even whales along the way. For the ultimate Hawaiian sunset experience, you’ll want to time your hike to reach Ka‘ena Point at sunset and bring some snacks or a picnic to enjoy!
We also recommend bringing plenty of water and a jacket for when the temperature drops. Moreover, if you’re going to hike back down after sunset, you’ll need to pack either a flashlight or headlamp. We also read recently that Ka‘ena Point State Park has started locking the parking lot at 7 p.m. So, please keep in mind that if you park here, you will need to be back in time not to get locked in!
During the day, Shark’s Cove is one of the top snorkeling spots on the North Shore–especially in the summertime. You can see a range of marine life here, including butterflyfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, tang, sea turtles, eels, and more! Of course, you won’t actually see any sharks. In fact, the name for this collection of tide pools has to do with the shape of the reef here, resembling a shark from above.
Shark’s Cove tends to empty in the evenings as the snorkelers make their way back to Honolulu. Therefore, it becomes a relatively quiet place to watch the sunset! Plus, let’s not forget that Shark’s Cove faces west. So, you should be in a good position for beautiful sunset views no matter the time of year.
Waimea Bay Beach
Waimea Bay Beach, located along Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore, is one of the best Oahu beaches. It’s incredibly family-friendly and a popular location for snorkeling, swimming, surfing, and other water sports. Moreover, Waimea Bay Beach is the perfect place to stop to watch sunset if you’ve spent the day exploring the North Shore. You’ll actually pass it on your way back to downtown Honolulu! Apart from the incredible sunset view, you can also watch thrill-seekers jump off a giant rock on the left side of the beach.
Koko Head Crater
The Koko Crater Trail, which leads to Kokohead Lookout, is a challenging hike with one of the island’s best sunrise or sunset views. It’s important to note that this trail doesn’t offer much shade. So, visitors tend to start their trek either early in the morning or about two hours before sunset. We recommend arriving prepared with lots of water, shoes with good traction, and a headlamp if you plan to make your way back down in the dark.
Although the Koko Crater Trail is only 1.6 miles roundtrip, it involves climbing 1,048 stairs on a steep incline. So, make sure to take your time, especially on the way down. For those who make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a view of Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, East Honolulu, and Koko Crater. Just a reminder: we suggest starting your descent before sunset unless you have a good headlamp. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when hiking in low light!
Tantalus Lookout (Puu Ualakaa State Park)
Tantalus Lookout, also called Puʻu ʻUalakaʻa State Wayside, is perfect if you’re looking for a beautiful place to watch the sunset in Honolulu. It’s a short, 15-minute drive from Waikiki and offers an incredible view of the sun setting over the ocean, the Waikiki skyline, and Diamond Head. Just be aware that you’ll have to drive up a winding road through Manoa to get there.
Since Diamond Head closes before sunset, Tantalus Lookout is the best option in Honolulu for a scenic overlook with sunset views. We suggest arriving about an hour before sunset since parking gets crowded. Luckily, Tantalus Lookout has a grassy area ideal for picnics, so bring a blanket and snacks!
Additionally, you’ll want to check the park hours before your visit. At the time of writing this post, the lookout is open until 6:45 p.m. during the winter and 7:45 p.m. during the summer months.
Oahu Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Your Visit
The China Walls are a section of lava-rock ledges and cliffs located about 20 minutes from Waikiki. Since this hidden gem faces west, it’s also one of the best sunset spots on Oahu. Please note that the China Walls are situated within the Hawaii Kai neighborhood. Therefore, if you choose to visit, we ask that you be respectful of the residents in the area. For example, keep noise levels down and take safety precautions.
Although you’ll likely see surfers or cliff jumpers here, we DO NOT recommend entering the water. The rocks can be slippery, and the waves can be rough at this spot, so we urge you to be cautious. With this in mind, we suggest wearing water shoes with good traction along the short walk from Koko Kai Mini Beach Park to the China Walls.
Ko Olina Lagoons
If you’re staying in the Ko Olina Resort area on the west coast, you’re already ideally situated to see some incredible sunsets in Oahu. In fact, one of the top places to watch the sunset on the leeward side is the Ko Olina Lagoons. These four man-made lagoons are located directly in front of resorts like the Four Seasons, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina Beach Villas, and Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club.
During the day, the Ko Olina Lagoons are popular for family-friendly activities like swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking. However, they become a secret spot to watch the sunset in the evening. So, if you’re a big fan of sunsets, you may like the convenience of staying in the Ko Olina Resort area. Nonetheless, you don’t have to be a guest to access these west-facing lagoons! Just be aware that public parking here is limited, and the lot closes promptly after sunset.
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Are you looking for other top Oahu sunset spots?
These sunset locations on Oahu didn’t quite make the cut for our top 10 favorites. However, if you’re looking for even more places to watch the sunset on the island, we highly recommend checking these out:
- Kualoa Beach Park: This beachfront park in Kāneʻohe Bay is located on Oahu’s Windward Side. So, yes, I’m breaking my own rule of only west-facing sunset spots! Although sunrise is even better from this location, paddling out to Mokoli’i Island (“Chinaman’s Hat”) and watching the sunset is a truly unforgettable experience.
- Kakaako Waterfront Park: Although there’s no beach here, this public park next to Ala Moana Beach Park is an excellent place for a sunset picnic.
- Ehukai Pillbox Hike: This 2.3-mile loop trail takes you by various WWII “pillbox” bunkers, ending with an incredible view of Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline). Note that this trail is also called Sunset Pillbox Hike, so you can expect to see a beautiful sunset from here.
- Makua Beach: This beach is also called “Tunnels Beach” and is part of Ka’ena Point State Park on Oahu’s northwest coast. So, if you don’t feel like hiking to Ka’ena Point, you can still experience a perfect sunset from this west-facing spot.
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