Makaha Beach

About 35 miles west of Waikiki, Makaha Beach offers a vibrant slice of local life. You’ll see locals catching waves in outrigger canoes, families setting up hibachis (grills) and fishing poles, and kids playing in the golden sand. Makaha, which means “fierce” in Hawaiian, is the name of one of the island’s largest valleys; the park, itself, runs across 21 narrow acres on the shore of the valley. It’s one of the most famous surfing beaches in Hawaii, with winter surf reaching 25 feet. These powerful waves attracted the Waikiki Surf Club, which organized the Makaha International Surfing Championships in 1952 — the first international surf meet to be held in Hawaii. One of the most popular events here is Buffalo’s Big Board Surfing Classic, an annual contest named in honor of surfing legend and Makaha lifeguard Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana. For nearly 40 years, this contest has attracted hundreds of surfers, canoe surfers, and bodyboarders to participate in a variety of events, with thousands of spectators camping along the beach that weekend. During the summer, though, the ocean here is much calmer and great for diving and swimming.