Tunnels Beach (aka Makua Beach) is one of the most secluded beaches located on Oahu’s leeward (west) coast.
This golden sand beach is considered the ultimate snorkeling and surfing destination. It’s backed by the Waianae Mountain Range and Makua Valley.
The sunset from Makua is truly spectacular. There is also a large limestone rock called Pohaku Kula’ila’i located at the east end of the beach. In the late 1960s, this beach was used as the backdrop for the movie Hawaii, starring Julie Andrews and Max von Sydow. These days, Tunnels beach is a surfer’s paradise, ideal for surfing, windsurfing, and kite surfing.
Most visitors to Oaho never actually visit this North Shore beach because no tour buses go there. Visitors who do visit the leeward coast of Oahu only drive up to Makaha Beach, a popular surfing beach during winter.
The sand on Makua stretches for about half a mile. You can explore this beach by taking a walk. Along the beach, you’ll find tide pools, beach breaks to surf or bodyboard, and you may also encounter some wildlife along the way.
In the morning, be sure to be on the lookout for the dolphins that swin a few hundred yards off the shore. Besides dolphins, you may also see whales breaching in the distance during the winter season. So be sure to carry your binoculars.
Surfing on the Tunnels Beach
Tunnels Beach is the ultimate beach for expert surfers. The ideal surfing months on this beach are from November to April, when there is some excellent surf on this side of the island.
Unlike other beaches on Oaho, the Makua beach is not protected by an offshore reef. As such, the waves can get really high and it can witness strong currents on rough days. Venturing out far is not always a good idea. The ocean bottom drops off quickly here, so swim close to the shore. On calmer days, you can do fishing and bodyboarding on this beach.
The water is crystal clear; you may even be able to see 30+ feet down. Therefore, it’s a great beach for snorkeling.
Makua Beach is a part of the Ka’ena Point State Park. Ka’ena Point is one of the “leina-a-ka-ʻuhane” on Oahu. Native Hawaiians called their departed souls “leina-a-ka-ʻuhane” which translates to “leap of the soul”.
If you’re up for a hike, there is a trail that leads to the northwestern tip of the island.
How to Get to Tunnels Beach
The Tunnels Beach is located an hour from Honolulu.
- From Honolulu, head west on the H1 and follow signs for Waianae. Continue as the H1 turns into Farrington highway and drive along the coast.
- On your way to Tunnels, you will pass through Waianae and a couple of small towns; depending on your schedule you may stop at a couple beaches along the way (Makaha, Electric Beach, etc.).
- Take the opportunity to stock up on food and drinks while traveling through these towns as there are no stores after a certain point.
- Once you pass through these towns you will continue driving for about 5 miles, then you will see signs for Makua beach. You will notice a gate on the left hand side of the road: drive through the gate and onto the dirt road that parallels the beach. There are many pull offs along the road so choose a parking spot wisely and head out onto the Makua beach.