When my family and I first moved to Hawaii on military orders, I was more than excited. I couldn’t wait to hit the beaches with all the beautiful scenery and daily temps in the low to mid 80’s. I quickly found out, though, that not all beaches in Hawaii are best suited for my family of “so-so” swimmers. The dangerous shore breaks and currents made everyone a little uneasy and never allowed them to truly enjoy the beach.
Even I, a pretty strong swimmer, could never really relax when they were in the water. I was always on edge and watching them. And we’re not talking about young kids, either. My wife is 44 and my daughters are 19 and 20. Still, I felt like I needed to constantly make sure they were safe in the water.
Then we found our paradise.
The Beauty of Ko Olina Lagoons
Ko Olina Lagoons at the Ko Olina Beach Park
The Ko’Olina lagoons are man-made, beach coves which accompany a series of beach front properties to include the Disney Aulani Resort & Spa as well as the JW Marriot Ihilani Ko’Olina Resort & Spa. The Marriot and Disney Resorts sit adjacent to the area where this year’s Pro Bowl draft took place and where many of the NFL players stay during Pro Bowl Week.
The entire area and Ko’Olina Beach Park is fairly new, only being built up in the last 10 or 15 years.
Each lagoon has a sea-wall and net/gate system which does two things; one, it keeps the large surf and hard ocean breaks on the outside of the lagoon making the water relatively calm for casual swimming and playing and, two, it prevents any larger sea life from entering the lagoons. These are two important safety and relaxation points. Kids and adults can play and swim in safe, calm seas.
Lagoon #4 by has the largest parking area. It is easy to park ($10 for an entire day of beach parking), gather your belongings and be seated at the lagoon within a minute or two. If you wanted to see or sit at the other lagoons, though, no big deal. The other three lagoons are just a short stroll away and within easy walking distance for most families with the typical “beach luggage”.
The Disney resort is really nice to visit. You can stroll through the grounds and look at the beautiful outside landscaping and watch happy people take a trip down the property’s “lazy river” and playing in the mini water park. However, while you can walk and look you cannot use the water park without a controlled band around your wrist. Still, it’s worth the visit.
The Marriot and Disney both offer beach front vendors. You can get food, water, soft drinks and even a cocktail with your honey as you stroll and sight-see the different lagoons.
Ko'Olina Lagoons Bonuses
The calm lagoon area makes it a perfect spot to practice some snorkeling. While the conditions are not “perfect” for snorkeling because the water is a little cloudy with the fine sand being it is great for first timers. I tried this and saw a few small but vibrant fish.
The other bonus feature of the Ko’Olina Lagoons is a bit of a secret. If you walk all the way to lagoon number one and past it, you’ll come to a sign that says “enter at your own risk”. This is just to inform you that you are leaving the controlled property of the lagoons and entering the actual seaside.
Walk down a short path (it’s a decline) and you come to an area that is rocky and a very small lagoon. As the tide goes it forms small tidal pools where small fish stay and as you walk towards these small pools of water the fish actually jump out of them and into one further away. It’s pretty cool.
Last, but not least, on certain days you will see sea turtles and monk seals enjoying this area. It’s worth the trip down but I wouldn’t let children go unaccompanied.
Note: I’ve also read that while snorkeling in the lagoons people have had the joy to see small sea turtles actually in the lagoons but I didn’t see any that day.
Ko Olina Lagoons Map
You can see the lagoons in the center.
Olani Street, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA