Sunset Beach (Oahu)North Shore
Located in Pupukea on Oahu’s North Shore, Sunset Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island—and for good reason! During the summer, Sunset boasts moderate waves, long, expansive white sandy beaches, and plenty of room to swim, soak up the sun, or take long walks along the beach. During the winter, Sunset Beach is one of the best places on the North Shore to watch the massive swells come in and view skilled surfers ride the waves. We’ll cover the best ways to enjoy Sunset Beach, how to get there, and other nearby attractions in the area.
One of the best places to watch the sunset on Oahu
Sunset Beach is aptly named—it’s one of the best places to watch the sun set on the island. While it’s on the north shore, the beach itself is angled to the northwest, which means that for most of the year you can watch the sun slip into the sea from where you sit on the beach.
It’s a great place to bring a picnic dinner (or some poke from Foodland) and enjoy the view. Hawaii is further south than the rest of the continental U.S. and doesn’t observe daylight savings time, so the sun generally sets sometime between 6pm and 7pm throughout the year.
Surfing at Sunset Beach
During the winter months, Sunset Beach is home to monster waves with swells up to 30 feet. It’s a place for experienced surfers to go and test their skills; it’s also home to surfing competitions like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the Big Wave Invitational. During these surfing competitions, the beach is absolutely packed, with plenty of fans, sponsors, and sightseers looking to get in on the action.
If you plan on visiting the North Shore during one of the winter surf competitions, it’s best to get there as early as possible in order to make sure you get a parking spot (and stake out a spot on the beach). Hawaii is typically warm and temperate even during winter, but it’s a little rainier in winter, so it’s good to stick a sweater in the trunk just in case. Bring plenty of water and snacks, binoculars to check out the surfers, and enjoy the view!
Swimming at Sunset Beach
Like many beaches along the north shore, swimming conditions at Sunset Beach vary dramatically depending on the time of year. In winter, the waves are huge, and it’s dangerous for swimmers to enter the water. There are some inlets and tide pools that form from the big surf where you can lounge in, but swimming in the ocean itself isn’t recommended.
During the summer, waves are typically much smaller, although there can still be a large surf break. It’s a great place to go for a dip, as long as you’re a confident swimmer and keep an eye on the ocean. If you’re not sure whether it’s safe to go in, you can always check with a lifeguard, or look up the Safe Beach Day surf map to check current conditions.
Lounging at Sunset Beach
Even if you don’t plan on getting in the water, Sunset Beach is a great stop for the views alone. Whether you’re taking a golden hour photoshoot for the ‘gram or just want to soak up the sun and take in the sights of Hawaii, Sunset Beach is the place to be. The beach is expansive, so there’s plenty of space to set up towels, chairs, and an umbrella or two. The beach also stretches for miles in either direction, so if you’re up for a long watch on the beach Sunset is a great place to set up shop.
Sunset Beach parking and amenities
One of the downsides of this beach is that there’s only a limited amount of parking, and it can fill up quickly, especially near (you guessed it) sunset. One of the best ways we’ve found to enjoy this spot is to get there early and make a day of it (just make sure to bring plenty of water and an umbrella or tent for shade). Another alternative is to park at nearby Ehukai Beach, home of the famed Banzai pipeline, and walk the mile or so down to Sunset.
Sunset Beach features lifeguards, restrooms, and showers to rinse off in after a dip in the ocean. There’s also plenty of space to spread out in the sand, and nearby restaurants to get coffee, pastries, and acai bowls from, among other tasty treats. Sunset Beach is usually busy with locals and tourists alike, but since the beach is so big there’s room for everyone without it feeling overly crowded (except during surf competitions, when it’s absolutely packed!)
Things to do near Sunset Beach
Once you’ve made it to the North Shore, there are plenty of other beaches, restaurants, and adventures to be had within a stone’s throw of Sunset Beach. You can drive (or even walk, if you’re looking to get some exercise in!) to nearby beaches like Ehukai/Banzai Pipeline, Velzyland, and more. Waimea Bay, another big winter surf spot, is also close by.
Adjacent to Sunset Beach are Banzai Bowls and the Sunset Shack, where you can enjoy acai bowls, coffee, fresh papayas, and more. And a little further down the road is Ted’s Bakery, serving up cakes, breads, pastries, sandwiches, and Hawaii’s popular plate lunches.
If you live in or are staying in town, you may want to consider taking the “scenic route” to or from Sunset Beach, depending on when you go. By continuing along the North Shore to the east, and then traveling down the windward side of the island before crossing back over the mountains to get to Honolulu, you’ll be able to take in some of the most stunning mountain and ocean views on the island. Plus, there are plenty of great beaches, food trucks, and other attractions on the way (be sure to stop at the Shrimp Shack for steak and spicy garlic shrimp!)