It would not be hard to argue that Lanikai Beach is not just the best beach in the U.S. but possibly the world. Conde Nast thought so in the late 1990s when it bestowed the "World's Best" honor on the small white sand beach on eastern O'ahu. Offshore from the silky white sand and across the glassy turquoise water sit the Mokulua Islands, a view that will leave you speechless under a palm tree.
The iconic twin islands are what really sets Lanikai apart from other beautiful beaches. The beach is not very big, especially when compared to Kailua and Waimanalo beaches, which straddle Lanikai. It is more exclusive, and the islets make it more beautiful, but it can get crowded as well. As you head farther south, the beach has actually eroded away to seawalls and sandbags; the northern section is really the main sandy stretch. Nevertheless, what it lacks in size it makes up for in visual impact.
Lanikai is chock-full of nearby adventure opportunities, but they will likely all involve crowds unless you go on weekdays or very early. The very popular and beautiful Pillbox Hike is located not far from the beach, and if you rent or procure a watercraft, the Mokulua Islands are one of the great adventures of O'ahu. There is no surf at Lanikai, nor shore break to bodysurf in either; if you need some swell, there are almost always small waves at Flat Island just over the hill on your way back to Kailua.
Beautiful luxury homes line each side of the streets, and that is maybe the only drawback to the location. It's more of a neighborhood than a public beach, and it's so beautiful that everyone wants to go. For years the beach stayed under the radar for most people outside of Kailua, and the parking and crowds weren't too bad, but this place could not be kept a secret for long.
The Loop is what the locals call the one-way street that makes a trip around the neighborhood. When you come in you are on the right and the street is called A'alapapa. When it loops back around, the road is the same, but it is called Mokulua Drive while heading northwest on your way back out to Kailua. If you do not follow the rules of parking, you will get a ticket. Follow the posted signs for instructions and park on the correct roads only. You can stock up on all your needed provisions at Kalapawai Market and rent a kayak nearby, both located west of Kailua Beach Park.