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5 ways to enjoy Hawaii's Kawela Bay

Aerial photo of Kawela Bay, HawaiiPhoto credit: Sean Davey

Its idyllic setting on Oahu’s North Shore makes the coastline surrounding Turtle Bay Resort a choice location for wildlife, beach-goers, and even film crews: sharp eyes might recognize it as the backdrop for Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the TV series Lost. Despite all the exposure, Kawela Bay remains something of a locals' beach, a secluded spot well off the beaten path.

The Trust for Public Land recently protected 630 acres of this gorgeous coastal land to ensure that it stays undeveloped and open to the public. You don’t have to stay at the adjacent five-star resort to enjoy the best of this magnificent bay, but you can park your car there—so grab your camera and your sunscreen and hit the beach in whatever way you like best!

A girl walks on the beach at Kawela BayPhoto credit: North Shore Community Land Trust

1. Go kayaking: You can explore every nook and cranny of the bay (and beyond) in a kayak, and get a great workout, too. Bring your own boat or rent one at the resort—request the glass-bottom kayak tour for the best chance of seeing turtles and other underwater wildlife as you paddle.

2. Catch a wave: The North Shore is known for epic surfing. While you won’t catch any big waves in Kawela Bay, the tamer ones are a good fit for surfers on foam-top long-boards, kids on boogie boards, or body boarders. The comparatively calm waters are also perfect for stand-up paddleboarding—and there's no experience required to get your SUP on.

3. Just ... chill: Sometimes all you want to do is bury your toes (or flippers) in the sand and do absolutely nothing. Thanks to its relative seclusion, Kawela Bay is a good spot to escape the crowd and revel in the beauty of Oahu. The sand is soft, the sun is warm, and the views are endless. When it’s time to cool off, enjoy the calmest waters in the middle and western sections of the bay.

A monk seal sleeping on the beachPhoto credit: Flickr user Kanaka Menehune

4. Watch for wildlife: There’s always a good chance you’ll see a green sea turtle or two while snorkeling in Kawela Bay. (Sea turtles are threatened here, though, so don’t touch: just observe from a respectful distance.) You may also see endangered monk seals, ornery crabs, and all manner of colorful fish. A shallow reef in the eastern end of the bay makes that spot a true snorkeler’s paradise. 

5. Take a long walk on the beach: If you've had your fill of sunbathing, explore the sandy hiking trails along the beach. As you stroll, keep an eye out for the famous banyan tree—a single tree that branches out into seemingly hundreds of trunks and vines.

Banyan treesPhoto credit: North Shore Community Land Trust

Getting there: Head east from Haleiwa towards Turtle Bay Resort. You can park at the resort (there are a limited number of parking stalls set aside for the public) or on the side of the road about a mile before the resort, near the fruit and vegetable stand. Look for an opening in the fence on the ocean side of the road: from here, it's a short walk to the bay. If the old “No Trespassing” sign is still there, you can ignore it: thanks to your support, the beach now belongs to everyone.

Comments

Paula Loomis
The beach has always been public. What you mean is that access was cut off. Apparently, it still is, if you have to find a hole in the fence and dodge a no trespassing sign to get there. There is a driveway into the properties at Kawela Bay and it must still be there. I stayed in old beach house there when I was a kid, Belonged to Dr. Bowles. We would go there every summer. Where, exactly, is the public access to the bay? When the Japanese bought the beachfront there, they were supposed to put in a well-marked access with public parking. Now that TPL has acquired it, we should be able to get there without all the obstacles. Would appreciate more information. thanks.

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