Laniakea is a long but rather small beach where turtles can frequently be seen. It’s just an hour drive from Honolulu to the north shore of Oahu depending on the traffic.
Laniakea Beach is famous for the Hawaiian Honu, the green sea turtle. It’s not guaranteed to spot basking turtles, but if they come ashore, it’s one of the most memorable experiences. There isn’t any specific time for the honu to haul up onto the beach to sunbathe and rest. Some come year-round while others prefer the spring and summer. Several already appear in the morning, some prefer the afternoon sun like “Kekoa”; a 20-year-old male.
A couple of them like to stay on the beach past sunset like “Kuhili” a 40 years old male. Also, Olivia Dawn; the 4th most frequently basking honu stays past sunset. Overall you get a higher chance to spot turtles sunbathing during summer (May-September). Usually, they prefer a calmer sea and perfect conditions to come ashore.
We came to the beach three times; on the first day we didn’t spot any and watched the sunset. On the second day we spotted a few in the sea only, and on the third day two turtles hauled up to the beach while others were feeding on seaweed on the limestone shelf. Walk along the huge limestone and look for “Keoki”. This turtle basks here exclusively. “Hiwahiwa”; the 5th most frequently spotted honu left the beach past sunset on our visit.
Snorkel with Green Sea Turtles
It’s fairly easy to spot the honu while snorkeling during summer due to a gentle surf. But be aware, strong currents and a hazardous surf occur here especially from October to April. Do not enter the water in rough conditions. Just look don't touch the honu. Leave enough space that the honu doesn't get scared.
Crowds and Traffic Jam
Tour buses circle the island and make a stop here so do the rental cars. It’s almost impossible to avoid the masses of tourists except when it’s raining.
You may get stuck in a traffic jam a couple of miles before the beach on the Kamehameha Hwy especially during midday and weekends. The flow of the traffic is impacted by many cars searching for a parking lot. It’s a nightmare for the residents. Only the morning and evening are less busy.
Limited parking on a gravel area on the opposite of the beach. It’s pretty busy and fills up around midday and during weekends. Don’t leave any valuables in the car. The road is heavy trafficked crossing it can be challenging especially with children.
- Stay here in the north of Oahu minimum two nights to higher the chance of a sighting. It was just a ten minutes drive for us, and we always had a quick look to check if turtles are present. The other advantage; there is too much traffic roughly from 11 am onwards coming from Honolulu. Often the parking lot is full. Weekends are super crazy. We recommend the private Pipe Beach House just 10 minutes drive north of Laniakea Beach. Another excellent choice on the north shore is the Turtle Bay Resort in a spectacular location. Nearby is the famous snorkel spot Sharks Cove with lots of colorful fish.
- Bring enough water and a picnic. There isn’t any good shop nearby and finding a new parking lot is sometimes impossible.
The Haiku Stairs were on our bucket list for years. We just figured out it's illegal when we were in Oahu.
First of all, hiking on the Haiku Stairs is illegal, and the stairs are officially closed! A $1000 fine and an appearance in court was something we wanted to circumvent. This fine really exists! Therefore, we had chosen the more difficult and challenging trail through the Moanalua Valley. However, even trespassing the Haiku Stairs will be prosecuted, but usually, there isn't any police at the top. And obviously, when you reach the popular stairs, you want to access them and take the best snap of your whole vacation. We only recommend to hike up and down the legal way. Otherwise, you may get into serious trouble. We even saw a police helicopter while walking a part of the stairs.
Update March 2020: Hiking up and down the Haiku Stairs is still illegal. There is more security now and a regular police presence. Occasionally police helicopters check if people are on the stairs. The only way not running into police and to avoid this $1.000 fine is the legal way on the Moanalua Track. A guide is not necessary, but good preparation for the Moanalua Track is relevant! Check out our Packing List below.
Most important for the hike is the weather. Pick out the day with the most stable weather and if it was dry the day before even better. Although Honolulu is dry rain may occur in the valley and on the ridge. The weather is more changeable, the higher you get. You can’t avoid getting muddy brown-red on this adventurous path. Don’t underestimate the trail difficulties. Much needed for the steep ascent and descent back through muddy and slippery soil are “mini” crampons. If you want to use the provided ropes gloves may be necessary, too. Do you like to do the hike and see these excellent views down the stairs? Then read all our insights on how to be prepared and experience one of the most thrilling hikes in your life.
Hiking Conditions and Crowds on Oahu - Hawaii
The Moanalua Valley, especially the ridge to the Keahiakahoe summit and also the Haiku Stairs, experience a lot of rain even during the drier season in summer. The exhausting hike can be done all year, but it’s easier to cope with all difficulties in the drier season. There is often a strong wind and fog, which makes hiking along the ridge more challenging. Read on for detailed tips by season.
Spring (Low Season; March-mid-June)
It starts to get drier, but the trail is still extremely muddy and slippery. The Moanalua stream may have low flow and fording or hopping from stone to stone is necessary a couple of times. This improves in June, and the stream may be dried out. This is what we experienced. The temp along the trail is above 70°F, but it gets chilly on the ridge and the top due to the strong wind. The islands are not much crowded in spring. It starts to get busier in June, but still acceptable. June is one of the best months for this hike. Nevertheless, always check the weather forecast before; flooding can happen.
Summer (Peak Season; late June-August)
It’s drier, but the humidity is higher. It gets hot while hiking and climbing and you may sweat a lot. If possible don’t travel to Oahu in July and August. Prices are at the highest and hotels are booked to capacity.
Autumn (Low Season; September-November)
Usually, September is also one of the best months for this adventure. The stream may be dried out, and it’s easy to walk the first 2.8 miles / 4.5 km. It’s less busy on the island, and the temps are pleasant. October is fine as well. November gets wetter, and trail conditions are getting worse. Monitor the clouds on the mountain ridge. It may be possible to hike, but it’s even more difficult and dangerous in rain and clouds. We don't recommend hiking in the rain.
Winter (Shoulder and Peak Season; December-February)
Expect more rain during the winter. It’s more likely that the Moanalua stream gets flooded. The north and east experience more rainfall. It’s the coldest time of the year but still up to 80°F in Honolulu in the daytime. It's possible to hike the trail but expect the worst conditions when climbing up. The way back is even more slippery than usual. Again: don't hike in rain and clouds!! The first part of December is still not too busy, but it gets crowded from the second half of December and in January. Although it’s not the best time for Hawaii hotels are fully booked, and the sky is the limit for hotel rates. In February crowds improve but still busy.