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Best Oahu Family Beach | A Bit of Paradise in Koolina

mom and daughter float at the best oahu family beach

Looking for the Best Oahu Family Beach?

Okay, I hear you. You want to know where to find the best beach in Oahu. Cut out all the nonsense and direct you straight to paradise. I like your style. But what would the “best family beach” even look like?

I’ll share some details of my top pick and you decide if it matches your vision of the perfect family beach. Okay, here it goes –

  • A small cove protected from big waves
  • Shallow, easy entry with a sandy-bottom
  • Palm trees swaying overhead with views of the leeward coast in the distance
  • Tide pools for tiny adventures to explore
  • Easy (although not super diverse) snorkeling (great for beginners!)
  • Easy access – a short walk from the parking lot
  • A little bit of shade if you’re early
  • Frequent visits by sea turtles!

And where is the magnificent beach, you ask? It’s Paradise Cove Beach in Koolina along the leeward coast of Oahu. It’s basically the only oasis of nature in a man-made resort town. There is limited parking (a mere 12 spaces) and no bathroom, but it’s still worth it.

A Hidden Treasure

I first learned of this beach a decade ago during a child’s birthday party at adjacent Lanikuhonua. I wandered away from the bubbles and balloons for a bit of quiet and noticed a pristine strip of beach tucked on the other side of the hedges. We returned the very next weekend and fell in love.

Despite our love of this little beach, we don’t go there often as a family. You have to get up early (not a morning person), wait in line for parking (no patience for that), or park at Aulani Resort and pay the hefty $39 parking fee. That one hurts.

A Great Beach for Family Photos

More often, I visit Paradise Cove to photograph other families having fun. It’s become my second office and a beautiful one at that. It’s easy and safe for small kids. There’s a diverse background and a little something for all personality types, but mostly I love the water. It’s my favorite spot to jump in the warm turquoise water and photograph families at play.

Need More Oahu Family Beaches?

If you have young children, babies, or non-swimmers you can find a roundup of all my favorite Oahu family beaches here. For more tips and inspiration on island family fun, sign up for the Little Bird Post below!

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    Oahu Baby Photography | A Perfect Winter Morning in Hawaii

    oahu baby photography at waimanalo beach

    And So We Meet Again

    A rainbow shone brightly above their home the first time I met JoAnne and her family of three. Baby Asa was brand new at that time. He was a chubby-cheeked bundle with a shock of stylish black hair. You can see his newborn session here for an extra dose of cuteness.

    They were the first family I photographed in 2020 so their sweet family would be the first images I saw every time I opened my photo catalog. I thought about them over the long months and wondered how they were doing. Finally, when baby Asa was about to turn one, we were able to meet again. They had survived the epic journey of the first year (and during a pandemic to boot) and it was time to celebrate.

    About the Session

    Watching families grow over the years is one of the best parts of being a family photographer. I get to celebrate the milestones, the joys, the big personalities, and all the love as it evolves over the years so it was a delight to see them again.

    Instead of meeting at home, they chose the big openness of Sherwoods Beach in Waimanalo for their session. Mornings without wind on the windward side make for some of the most stunning sunrises. Salt hangs in the air, reflecting gold in the morning light while waves shimmer turquoise before crashing on the shore.

    I could tell it was one of those special mornings when I emerged from the car in a soft breeze rather than the gale-force winds that try to shove me back inside.

    We made our way to the beach, giddy with all that beauty and cuteness combined. Time passed quickly as they played along the shore with waves tickling baby toes. As with all babies, the timer was ticking and small yawns signalled a nap was near. We ended the session by exploring the forest floor and making music with sticks and logs. It was a beautiful morning.

    How Does Your Family Connect?

    Let’s head to your favorite place so you can laugh, love, and make memories together. Find out more about my fun family photography sessions here.

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      A Quiet Hawaii Farm Wedding at Keiki & Plow | A Wedding Story

      A Unique Hawaii Farm Wedding Venue

      Tucked beneath the shadow of Koko Head stretches the small but mighty Keiki + Plow Farms. This family farm is an oasis. During the dry season, it’s a splash of color and life on the otherwise parched slopes. Similarly, the farm was an oasis of hope and joy during the trials of the pandemic.

      Here, families could feel flashes of pre-pandemic normality. They could pick up up farm-fresh vegetables or rent out the keiki play area where kids could expand their imaginations and play freely. They would dig their tiny fingers in the earth, chase chickens, feed goats, and whip up curious meals in the outdoor kitchen. Online, we could follow along with updates on which crops were in season, receive tips for growing your own veggies, get ideas for tasty recipes, and see photos of beloved farm animals. It was a welcome change of pace from the heavy news of the day.

      And then they planted sunflowers. Does a happier flower exist?

      girl with a baby chick at a childrens farm in oahu
      child holding a baby chick at an oahu childrens farm
      A sunflower field planted for hawaii farm weddings at keiki and plow

      As restrictions began to lift, the farm was able to expand their reach to include intimate weddings. Hay bales strewed with flowers and sturdy wooden tables decorated with candles and linen made for a beautifully rustic Hawaii farm wedding venue. In the future, they have plans to work with local chefs to make it a truly sublime farm-to-table experience.

      A Much Needed Family Reunion

      Candy anxiously awaited the arrival of her son and her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. The pandemic had caused them to cancel their wedding twice so far and now nothing felt quite certain until it was happening. She had reached out asking me to create a film of the day. Even though it wasn’t the big celebration they originally planned, it was perhaps more meaningful. Their wedding was an opportunity for a family reunion – a small, but long overdue one. Candy wanted to document not only the ceremony but the entire family coming together.

      It was a beautiful day with tiny cousins playing together, good food shared by candlelight, smore’s at sunset next to the warmth of a crackling fire, dancing in the rain, and good conversation late into the evening.

      Watch their sweet wedding reunion film here –

      Do You Have an Upcoming Celebration Planned?

      Whether it’s a Hawaii farm wedding, a special birthday celebration, or even a memorable vacation, I’ll capture your memories – the shared laughter, love, and silliness – and weave them into a beautiful film that you will treasure for years to come. Find out about my easy photography and film sessions here.

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        Hawaii Twin Photography | Memories of Lanikai Beach

        family hug at kailua beach at sunrise for a photo session

        The Trauma of Twins

        When I was pregnant with my first child we were on a tight budget and turned to Craigslist for baby essentials. I had been scouring the listings for a particular brand of co-sleeper when I found a listing for a nearly new set of beds. Score! We jumped in the car eager to secure this golden find.

        As we waited at the door eagerly, we heard footprints slow and shuffling approach the door. The man who greeted us was in rough shape – scruffy beard, tousled hair, puffy bags sat under his eyes and his head hung low as if in defeat. It looked like he had been awake for weeks, months even. He looked at us and said plaintively, “We have twins. We haven’t slept in a year.” Just beyond him lay a large mattress on the ground. “That’s where we try to sleep,” he said. “The cosleeper are new. The babies never use them”.

        Since that day that my idea of twins has transformed from “Aww, how great that would be!” to wide-eyed horror at the prospect of having multiples myself.

        A Mellow Morning in Lanikai

        That vision of the harried, sleep-deprived dad sticks with me when I meet a new parent of twins. It simply amazes me when they seem to be … well, functioning. Emily and her family were doing significantly better than functioning, however. They strolled along the beach playing at the edge of the water. Without missing a beat, they would comfort a crying baby and take a questionable stick from the other baby while playing a game of chase with the oldest. They were easy-going, relaxed, and fun-natured and it was a delight to witness.

        They live on the west coast, but their hearts lie in Hawaii. Normally, they make regular visits to their family’s Lanikai home, but this year the pandemic kept them grounded for much of the twin’s first year. The pandemic also meant they weren’t able to capture baby photos so their trip was the perfect opportunity.

        family portrait with twin babies at sunrise with the mokulua islands behind
        mischievous toddler boy approaching the camera during a portrait session at the beach
        dad and son walk on the beach at sunrise
        dad and son play at the beach in oahu
        mom and toddler son snuggle during a family photo session
        boy running to hug his family during a family photoshoot in oahu hawaii
        baby toes in the sand at lanikai beach
        family with twin babies laughing at the beach
        portrait of a toddler boy with the mokulua islands in the background
        mom holding baby's hands on the beach in kailua
        family portrait at the beach in hawaii
        portrait of a playful boy wearing sunglasses during a hawaii photoshoot
        toddler boy exploring lanikai beach on a calm morning
        dad and baby daughter at lanikai beach

        Capturing the Babies at Home

        After playing at the beach for awhile, we loaded the babies back into their wagon and finished the session in the back yard. Here, the babies were content to be in familiar territory and out of the wind and harsh sun. They were more eat ease and we were able to get some happy grins.

        family portrait at home in oahu hawaii
        closeup of sweet baby with lip out in oahu
        mom and twin baby portrait in kailua oahu
        family of five portrait at their lanikai home
        hawaii twin photography session at a lanikai home

        What Do Your Important Moments Look Like?

        Find out more about my fun family photography sessions here.

        A Quiet Oahu Beach | Solitude at Sherwoods Beach in Waimanalo

        Avoid the Crowds – Even on a Weekday

        I’m a little spoiled when it comes to beaches. My family photo sessions are scheduled around crowds – early morning with its warm golden light or off-the-beaten-path beaches in the evening. Either way, we normally have a good amount of space to ourselves. So when it comes to family beach days, I struggle to adjust to the crowds in my favorite spaces.

        If I’m feeling particularly ambitious and want to visit a popular or small beach like Paradise Cove, I try to drag everyone out to the beach early, but I often fail. It’s not them, it’s me. Despite regularly encouraging my clients to meet me at the crack of dawn for photos, I’m not a morning person. So on those, sunny afternoons, when the entire island seems to be at the beach already, we head to Sherwood Beach in Waimanalo.

        Is this the longest stretch of beach on Oahu? If not, it sure feels like it. There’s enough beach to go around. And because people tend to congregate near parking spaces, you can walk 5 minutes or so and find your own bit of peace and quiet.

        We love the spot at the junction of Waimanalo and Bellows beaches. There, you can find a little stream and a jumble of boulders that are fun to play on. More importantly, there is ample shade and perfect hammock trees with a sweeping view of the beach.

        A Bit of Fishing

        I’m not sure if the pandemic is wearing on them or if it’s just a phase, but the kids rarely want to go to the beach these days. When we go, they often avoid the water and look for opportunities to steal our hammocks instead.

        However, if we bring a fishing pole (and some cheese?! or bread) they’ll happily spend the day catching hungry tilapia in the stream. And we can enjoy our hammocks with a view.

        boy in a hammock at waimanalo beach in oahu
        lounging in hammocks at a quiet oahu beach in waimanalo
        siblings playing in hammocks at a beach in hawaii
        an easy saturday fishing at sherwoods beach in oahu
        portrait of a boy taking a break from fishing in hawaii
        bare feet on the shore
        boy catches a tilapia at sherwoods
        boy climbing the rocks at sherwood beach in waimanalo
        boy fishing at a quiet oahu beach in waimanalo

        Look for More Beach Options in Windward Oahu?

        The surf and shore break at Sherwoods can be rough. If you have babies or toddlers and prefer something mellow try nearby Kaiona Beach it’s like a protected, sandy-bottomed swimming pool!

        For more inspiration on Oahu family fun sign up for the Little Bird Post! You’ll receive monthly ideas on off-the-beaten-path family fun.

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