The original settlers of Hawaii arrived on the islands after a harrowing journey. A long time ago somewhere in the South Pacific, an island in the Polynesian Empire became overpopulated, and a brave group of people was chosen to leave for new lands. These settlers loaded giant outriggers with coconut trees for water, taro for carbohydrates and pigs for protein. And they ventured off into the wild blue ocean with only the stars to navigate.
A few of these outriggers were lucky to find Hawaii. The islands were nothing like they are today. With only a few endemic species of low-lying trees, bats and seals, the settlers carved a life for themselves using few found resources. But they managed to cover the islands in coconut trees with just a few trees brought with them.
It was their incredible sailing abilities that brought them safely to the islands, and their sailing vocabulary still lives on today. The word Kona translates to the English sailing word of leeward. It means the side of an island least likely to experience a storm, and that's why Kona on the Big Island is dry and hot with placid waters nearly year-round. It's exactly where you'd want to land a vessel on an undiscovered island.
Perhaps the original Oahu settlers landed where you'll now find Ko Olina Beach Park. It sits on the western side of Oahu where you'll find near-constant pleasantly dry and hot weather with sparkling blue waters. This Kona or leeward side of the island is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in a tropical paradise.
The Ko Olina Beach Park is a series of lagoons protected from the sometimes-violent Pacific Ocean by a ridge of volcanic rocks. The swimming here is usually very pleasant and snorkeling can be good near the volcanic rock ridge where you'll find an abundance of underwater life, but there are no lifeguards on duty here. Swim at your own risk, and always check the surf reports before heading to any beach in Hawaii. And remember: the ocean is much more likely to be unsafe during the winter months when the swell is up.
The four lagoons that makeup Ko Olina Beach Park are connected by a paved mile-and-a-half pathway, and inland from the pathway you'll find a series of very expensive resorts including Disney Aulani Resort, the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club and the Ko Olina Beach Villas Resort.
While most famous Oahu hotels tower over Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, these resorts have decided to reside on the island's Kona side where you're more likely to experience nice weather and less likely to see stormy seas. This is the perfect resort area if you are looking for a more laid back experience than Honolulu.
Most of the real estate inland from the lagoons of Ko Olina Beach Park is owned by high-end resorts, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the beauty of the beach. No Hawaiian resort owns the beach or the ocean, and each resort is required to allow public access to the lagoons.
You'll find ample public parking at the Ko Olina Beach Villas Resort with a paved path down to the lagoons. You can park here for the entire day, stroll up and down the lagoons, take a refreshing dip in the usually-calm ocean and then enjoy some of the resort's amenities. There is a casual beachside bar at the Marriott, and you can even climb the stairs up into the resort grounds to get a higher view over the beach park.
Ko Olina Beach Park sits on the western Kona side of Oahu just 24 miles from Honolulu. Simply take H1 West out of Honolulu and continue on the highway as it turns into Route 93 near the coast. Route 93 will slow down near the park as it turns into Ali 'inui Drive. Then you simply turn right onto Waipahe Place where you'll find the row of beachside resorts. Simply pick a resort, park and stroll down to the beach.