Kawela Bay

Kawela Bay, Oahu

Kawela Bay (view panorama) is one of the most secluded beaches on Oahu. Located near the Turtle Bay Resort on the island's North Shore, it is a perfect spot to unwind. Bathe in the calm water or enjoy a peaceful stroll along the beach. The sandy beach is narrow and backed by coconut palms and ironwood trees. Watch out for falling coconuts!

This curved bay is one the most protected on Oahu's North Shore because of the reef that diffuses high waves during the winter months when other North Shore beaches get pounded by high surf. Kawela Bay's nearshore waters are calm year-round.

Swimming at Kawela Bay is ok, but not the best because the water is often times murky and some areas of the bay have rocks on the ocean bottom. So it is tricky to avoid the rocky patches and to watch out for your toes. For the same reason, the snorkeling isn't that good because you can't see much. A couple of surf sites are located on the outer reefs of the bay, but here the currents can be strong.

Located in the small forest behind Kawela Bay is a beautiful large banyan tree. It is marked by a plaque that says: "This single tree, an amazing expanse of multiple trunks and vines, is routinely used as a filming location for major motion pictures and television shows, including LOST and Pirates of the Caribbean. Older banyan trees have "prop roots" that eventually grow into trunks as large as the original, and many banyans live to be several hundred years old."

In the past, houses stood along Kawela Bay's entire length. But in 1986, all residents from the bay's east point to the center were evicted to make way for a resort that was never built. So up until today, the property along this part of the bay remains undeveloped. There are only a few beach homes along the bay's west end.

There have been talks in the recent past that more vacation rentals were being planned at the east end of Kawela Bay. However, in May 2014, Turtle Bay Resort along with the State of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu and The North Shore Community Land Trust, established a conservation easement on 665.8 acres of land. This agreement protects Kawela Bay from future development.

Even though no development will take place for now, Kawela Bay has seen some major changes in 2014. Kawela Bay's backshore used to be heavily forested, but many trees and shrubs have recently been removed. There are a few signs that explain the deforestation. The signs say: "Turtle Bay Resort is working with the State of Hawaii and shoreline experts to prune overgrown non-native vegetation to clear the shoreline and improve beach access."

Because Kawela Bay is much easier accessible now, the bay is seeing more commercial activities take place. Surf schools are driving right up to the beach to take students for surf lessons in the bay. To reach the bay, walk along the shore from the Turtle Bay Resort. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get there. Alternatively, Kawela Bay is also accessible via a footpath from Kamehameha Highway.

Kawela Bay Overview

  • Secluded sandy beach on the North Shore of Oahu (view panorama)
  • Nice spot for a quiet picnic and for watching sea turtles
  • Watch out for falling coconuts on the beach - the palms are not "maintained" here
  • Shore is lined by ironwood trees that provide plenty of shade
  • Middle and right (east) end of the bay is best for swimming (fewer rocks on the ocean bottom)

Vacation Rentals near Kawela Bay

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Reviews and Comments:
n 1969 I lived in the appropriately called "tip house" with a rock band,The Cauldren, no less. There was an old WWII bomb shelter where I woud sit watching the day wind down.
Evamaria Smentek, Tue Jul 16, 2019
I lived in an old wooden house on the end next to the pond in 1971-1972 with my mom.We would go watch the sunset on the beach look at the shells.We both loved that place,Ive been all over the world and this bay is the most beautiful place of all.
steven hanisch, Sat Jun 27, 2015
A few days ago I read in the newspaper that the area around Kawela Bay will soon see more development - the nearby Turtle Bay Resort will expand and more homes and vacation rentals will be built at the east end of Kawela Bay. This is sad news I think. I always enjoyed visiting the bay as it is one of the last somewhat remote beaches on Oahu. The ironwood forest that backs the bay will have to be removed if buildings will be constructed there. It is really sad that Oahu is being overbuilt and that now they touch areas that shouldn't be touched.
Anna, Fri Dec 07, 2012
Very rocky. Too dangerous in the water to surf or paddle board due to protruding coral rock. My friend hit her head on one when she fell off her board and cut her head open. Shallow water and murky at times. Locals only on left side of bay. Not worth the walk thru the muddy forest to the bay.
Kayla Hagedorn, Mon Jun 11, 2012
Watch out for falling coconuts! Since Kawela Beach is so remote, no one seems to pick ripe coconuts from the palm trees here. I once went here with a friend of mine and we had wanted to make us comfortable under a palm tree when suddenly a huge coconut fell to the ground. Luckily it missed us. This is really a great beach, quiet and secluded, just watch out where you put your towel.
Anna, Jul 09, 2010
Kawela Beach is amazing. It is away from noise and cars, and it is just perfect. I live in town, so i dont go often there but i recommend it to everyone who wants to escape for a day from the city noise.
Lily, Jul 05, 2010