We almost didn’t include Kaunala (or Kaunala Gulch) on our list of most recommended Oahu attractions. If this hidden gem ever got crowded it would ruin a large part of the appeal. But since it’s not accessible to tour buses and too much work for those behind the wheels of rental SUVs we feel it’s safe to let the cat out of the bag and brag about our favorite North Shore beach. You’ll thank us.
For one, it’s one of the few places to safely swim during the winter amidst giant seasonal swells. That said, it does get deep fast and there is a slight current, but there is so much reef that you’re protected from being swept out into the deep sea. For the most part it offers a great experience for semi-confident swimmers and especially snorkelers who are looking for quality of species over quantity. On any given day you’ll spot spotted rays, sea turtles, trigger fish, and pufferfish through your goggles. On shore you’ll enjoy picking bits of broken coral, sea glass, and if you look closely as each small wave subsides you may be able to pluck cowrie shells from the momentarily exposed sand. And when it comes to sunbathing in peace, it doesn’t get better than Kaunala. The only people around are the ones staying in the homes (some of which are vacation rentals) behind and a few surfers walking over to the famous surf spot Velzyland (aka V-land) which is a short sandy stroll to the east of the beach.
By bike, the walking path to Kaunala is located less than 3 minutes from Sunset Beach, or 30-seconds from Ted’s Bakery. Simply ride (or walk) on to Hoalua Street (parallel to Kamehameha Hwy) until you hit a dead end at OOpuola Street and make your way down the residential road until you see a path. Head under the canopy of trees until you see the sea and veer right where you’ll find uncrowded perfection.
A typical afternoon at Kaunala (sshhhh…don’t tell anyone)
The lush gateway to Kaunala