The North Shore is the place for surfing on Oahu, and almost all the beaches there are full of surfers during the winter months, when prime conditions for riding monster waves are ripe. Sunset Beach in Oahu is world-famous and an easy place to find along the Kamehameha Highway. The beach itself is the widest one on the island, and spans more than two miles in length. The width of Sunset Beach Oahu is ever-changing as the winter waves pound into it and the sandy stretch recedes.
Though many beginners want a go at the swells at Sunset Beach Park, it is definitely not a spot for first-time surfers. It is, however, a prime spot for watching pros hit the ocean with force, dancing on mountainous waves with their boards. Sunset Rip is another reason for beginner surfers not to ride here. The powerful current rips through each massive swell, sucking back the water with immense power and potentially hurling inexperienced surfers deep into the ocean.
From October through May, the surf season is in full swing. In the summer, the ocean calms down and Sunset Beach Oahu becomes a haven for swimming once again. Snorkeling is great in the offshore tide pools around the protected area of the beach, and the water is warm and clear. Always check the local reports for the odd chance that a crank surf will be coming through; these are dangerous riptides that can happen occasionally in the summer.
The history of Haleiwa, which eventually grew to incorporate Sunset Beach Oahu, spans a century back in time. Before any Waikiki hotels were built, B.J. Dillingham, a visionary proprietor, planned and opened Hawaii's first and grandest hotel on a slice of lush land between the Pacific Ocean and the Anahulu River. Designed in a graceful Victorian style, the hotel was named Haleiwa, which translates into House of Iwa. The Iwa, a native Hawaiian bird, exemplified the grace and grandeur Dillingham wanted exuding from the hotel.
At this time Sunset Beach in Oahu was nonexistent. Dillingham's plan to expand the area was ambitious and included a railroad to service his sugar plantations between Waialua and Honolulu. The train was equipped with passenger seating, and visitors rode it to the seaside resort, relishing in the elegant resort's posh amenities and services, which were found nowhere else on Oahu at the time. Haleiwa still emanates a special charm and character unlike any other town in Oahu.
These days Sunset Beach Park offers many services and amenities for those on Oahu vacations, including picnic areas, showers, restrooms, parking for rental cars, and lifeguards. There are plenty of vendors selling cold drinks and snacks, hearty lunches available, and even shaved ice for extremely hot days.
Sunset Beach Park is officially located in the historic town of Haleiwa, which is like a sleepy version of Waikiki. Although it can get busy, it exudes a relaxed pace and presents many great eateries, art galleries, and surf shops as well as the North Shore Surf & Cultural Museum and the North Shore Marketplace. There several other great attractions surrounding Sunset Beach in Oahu, including an assortment of other North Shore beaches, beautiful Waimea Valley, Waimea Falls Park, and the ancient temple of Pu'u 'o Mahuka Heiau.
Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) - Tor Johnson