Sand Island Beach ParkSouth Shore (Honolulu)
Located just a short drive from Honolulu, Sand Island is a surprisingly picturesque stretch of beach nestled in at the end of one of the city’s more industrial areas. To get to Sand Island, you’ll pass plenty of shipping containers, tow yards, auto body shops, junk yards, and wholesale construction and manufacturing businesses. But once you get there, you’ll be treated to some pretty special views of the city skyline, sparkling blue waters, and a largely empty beach. We’ll cover where Sand Island is, how to get there, and ways to enjoy the area.
About Sand Island Beach Park and Sand Island State Recreation Area
Sand Island Beach is a part of the Sand Island State Recreation Area. This area includes the beachfront proper as well as the surrounding park. You can swim, sunbathe, walk the trails, and even camp on the weekends at this beach.
Sand Island is a bit of a diamond in the rough, with an emphasis on rough. It’s surrounded by industrial manufacturing, shipping, autobody shops, and waste management facilities, so it’s a bit of an odd spot for a beach. In fact, I first stumbled across this beach when my car was towed to the island. The park is not quite as well maintained as some other beaches that are less off the beaten path. But for all that, it’s still a stunning place to spend a beach day, as are pretty much all beaches in Hawaii.
One of the main perks of Sand Island is the beautiful view of Waikiki beach, the city skyline, and Diamond Head—it’s a great spot to snap a few photos of a view most people only get by booking a boat trip or when flying in or out of Oahu. Speaking of flying, Sand Island is also a good place to watch the planes descend into and take off from the Daniel K Inouye International Airport, which is on the other side of the harbor.
Getting to Sand Island Beach Park
Sand Island is near downtown Honolulu, but feels quite far away. To get there, you’ll need to cross over a small bridge to the island and drive through a mile or two of industrial area. If you’re coming from Waikiki, it takes about twenty minutes to reach the beach.
Like all beaches in Hawaii, Sand Island Beach Park is free to visit. There are several expansive, rarely-crowded parking lots, so it’s usually easy to find a place to park. The shoreline is quite long, so you can opt to park close to the entrance of the park and walk along a path to reach the beach, or drive a few minutes past the entrance for parking closer to the shoreline itself.
Sand Island Beach Park hours
Sand Island is generally open from around sunrise to sunset. In summer, the park is open from 7:00am to 7:45pm. In winter, the park is open from 7:00am to 6:45pm. Summer hours begin on April 1st, and winter hours begin the day after labor day.
Sand Island Beach Park camping
Want to fall asleep to the sound of the surf (and maybe also of planes taking off?) Sand Island offers camping on the weekends, but a reservation is required. Camping is closed to the public in 2023, but may reopen in the future. Residents pay $20 per night per campsite, and non-residents pay $30 per night per campsite.
What to do at Sand Island Beach Park
There are plenty of options when it comes to enjoying a day at the beach at Sand Island. From swimming to picnicking to taking a long, picturesque walk with great city views, Sand Island has a wealth of options to choose from.
Go for a swim
Sand Island may not be your first thought when you’re thinking of great swimming beaches in the Honolulu area, but it’s actually a great place to go for a dip. Waves are usually moderate—several notches above the typical Waikiki surf, but still comfortable to swim in as long as you have some experience with choppy water. Unlike many beaches on Oahu, on Sand Island you’re not on a peninsula or a bay—instead, there’s a relatively long, straight beach, giving you the sense that you’re looking straight out to see.
Have a picnic
Near town, usually quiet, and with great views, Sand Island is a wonderful location for a picnic. There are picnic tables and benches scattered around the expansive park grounds, but I’d recommend packing a couple of beach chairs and setting up shop on the beach itself to take in the ocean and city views.
Go for a long walk
If you’re looking to stretch your legs but are wary of the steep, mountainous climbs so common on Oahu, then Sand Island might be a good fit. There’s still some nice scenery to take in, and plenty of space to ramble, whether you stick to the shoreline or opt to walk through the grassy park area. Throughout much of the park, there are also paved or dirt paths to mark your way.
Take in the city skyline
Sand Island offers some pretty majestic views of Honolulu’s skyline—views that are often only otherwise accessible by boat! Best viewed from the end of the park furthest away from the entrance, you can spot Diamond Head and much of Waikiki.
Watch the sunset
Facing southwest, the beach has lovely sunset views, especially in winter, when the sun sets further to the south. As an added bonus, Sand Island is usually a lot less crowded than other popular sunset-watching beaches, like the aptly-named Sunset Beach. If you’re staying in town, it’s also a much shorter drive than legging it all the way to the North Shore—especially when facing rush hour traffic.