A short summary: the beach is so picturesque it’s no wonder models and photographers frequently show up there.
We decided to go to Lanikai beach because it has a reputation for attracting models and photographers, and is regularly ranked amongst the best beaches in the world. We figured we couldn’t go wrong and might even get a glimpse of a celebrity or two. Alas, we did not see any celebrities, but we were treated to a beautiful beach.
Lanikai beach was a 45 minute drive for us from the western part of the island; it will take you around the same time if you are leaving from Honolulu.
The beach is public, but surrounded by private homes (very wealthy homes) so access is not obvious. There are a few public access paths tucked in between private homes. There is also no public parking lot nearby. This all means that once you get there, it’s difficult to park your car and get to the beach. (Apparently they’ve recently increased street parking violation fines in the area as well.) We drove around a few streets and managed to find street parking after about 10 minutes.
When we went to Lanikai, the beach was not very crowded. Perhaps this was because of the lack of parking, but I’m only guessing. Regardless, there was lots of white sand without too many people crowding the beach. The beach seemed very clean as well. The water was was a bit on the chilly side that day because the sky was overcast, but the water had several hues of blue and we could see beautiful tiny islands in the background. There’s a pair of islands close by that many people kayak to called the Na Mokulua; one of them is a bird sanctuary so you’re not allowed to land on it.
If you go swimming or kayaking, you should keep in mind that there are no restrooms, shower, or lifeguards at the beach.
If you’re looking for a beautiful and clean beach with a nice view, then Lanikai is a safe bet. It’s also not very crowded. So, as long as you plan out where to park, you can get a nice “private beach” type of experience on a gorgeous white sand beach.