Visiting the lagoons at Ko Olina was one of our favorite things about our vacation in Oahu. If you’re considering whether or not to spend time there, I’m here to give you the run down on why I think you absolutely should!
Although we absolutely loved the lagoons at Ko Olina, there’s a specific reason why. Read on and I’ll explain why while answering all your questions.
Then you can decide if visiting the most popular lagoons in Oahu is what you want to do, too.
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Ko Olina Lagoons
The Ko Olina lagoons are made up of four, beautifully man-made coves that are the best place for swimming in Oahu with kids.
Because the lagoons are protected by rock levies, the waves crash on the rocks outside the lagoon instead of on the shore.
This makes for calm, kid-friendly waters the little ones find much more enjoyable to play in.
The lagoons are pretty shallow, too, so you can easily walk out a ways before it gets over your head.
Our kids played for hours in the water near the shore since it’s basically like a big swimming pool.
Although you always need to keep a close eye on kids in the water, I didn’t feel like we needed to hover over them like we do at places like Waikiki beach.
This 642-acre masterplanned resort area is located on the west side of Oahu in the city of Kapolei and there are four Ko Olina beach lagoons to choose from.
Ko Olina Lagoon 1
Ko Olina lagoon 1, also called Kahola lagoon, is often the busiest of the four lagoons. That’s because both the Four Seasons Resort Oahu and the Aulani Disney Resort & Spa are located here.
It’s also the largest of the four lagoons and has a good amount of beach area, as well as some grassy area for picnicking.
Since most people are coming from the resorts, the parking lot is quite small. With less than 20 stalls, you’re better off parking at another lagoon and using the connected walkway to visit Ko Olina lagoon 1 if you really want to.
We did score a parking spot and enjoyed our time at this lagoon quite a bit, so it’s definitely worth trying. We got there earlier in the day in the middle of the week during the summer and it really wasn’t very crowded.
Ko Olina Lagoon 2
The Beach Villas are located at Ko Olina lagoon #2, also known as Honu lagoon. Although the beach at this lagoon does have some permanent umbrellas (called palapas), they are few and far between and hard to get. I wouldn’t even try for one when planning out your Oahu agenda since chances are you won’t score one.
The parking here is also quite limited so the earlier in the day you can go, the better. Overall, it’s also a great place to snorkel and one of the best places to take kids on Oahu.
Ko Olina Lagoon 3
Ko Olina lagoon #3 is also known as Nai’a lagoon. There’s only one Ko Olina resort here and that’s the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club.
It offers all the same amenities as the other lagoons such a showers, restrooms, etc.
Because it is also protected by the breakwaters, the is also one of the best lagoons Oahu has to offer.
You’ll find plenty of colorful fish for snorkeling and some people have even seen sea turtles. We didn’t, but I was sure on the lookout for them!
Ko Olina Lagoon 4
Ko Olina lagoon 4, also known as Ulua lagoon, is located at the end of the line of lagoons. It’s the farthest away from the resorts so it’s often the least crowded.
Because of this, it was our favorite of the four Koolina lagoons. I recommend starting there, at least for your first time. You can always take a walk to explore the other lagoons and see if you’d like to try another lagoon next time.
Of all the lagoons at Ko Olina, #4 has the most parking (around 100 spots) and is the easiest to get into.
It also has restrooms and showers, plenty of sandy beach and some grassy areas nearby.
Overall, if you’re searching for the best lagoons Oahu has, don’t overlook The lagoons at Ko Olina, especially if you’re there with your kids.
Ko Olina Beaches
In addition to having the best lagoons, Ko Olina also has the best beaches on Oahu for kids. Since they are man-made, the Ko Olina beaches have fine, clean sand that isn’t covered in rocks or seashells.
Not that we don’t love finding those, too, but if you’re looking for the best beaches in Oahu for families, you don’t want to worry about what your kids are going to step on.
If you’re staying all day, you can use the showers to get cleaned up and then head to one of the resorts for dinner.
Afterward, head back out to watch a spectacular sunset. Since the lagoons beach area faces west, you’ll have a front row seat to one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world!
Ko Olina Lagoons Hours
These Oahu lagoons are open from 8:00 am until sunset. During peak season, the parking lots fill up by mid-morning, so plan to come early or wait a bit for a spot.
Ko Olina lagoon 1 has plenty of beach chairs available, but if you’re picky about which one you want, plan to come early to claim it.
The Ko Olina lagoons beach is on the west side of Oahu, Hawaii so you’ll be treated to some amazing sunsets if you’re there in the evening.
Since the lagoons are protected by the rock levies, the water doesn’t get rough in the afternoon as other parts of the island do.
Snorkeling at Ko Olina lagoons
If you’re vacationing with kids, the lagoons at Ko Olina are the best place to snorkel on Oahu. Since the coves are protected from the breaking waves, the waters are calmer than they are even at beaches near Ko Olina.
While at first you may think a shallow, man-made lagoon won’t make for good snorkeling, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many fish you’ll see there!
I will admit when we first got there I was pretty disappointed because I assumed the snorkeling would stink. I am happy to report we found plenty of fish to make it worthwhile!
Not only is it one of the most beautiful lagoons to look at, snorkeling at Ko Olina is like being inside an aquarium looking down at so many colorful fish.
It’s definitely worth it, particularly for beginners.
Head toward the rocks and swim along that area to see the most fish. Although you won’t find colorful coral like you can in other areas, you’ll still find quite a few fish.
If you’re trying to plan what to do in Oahu with kids, put Ko Olina on your agenda because it really is the best place for them to snorkel in Oahu.
Tips for Ko Olina lagoons parking
Public parking can be a challenge at the Koolina beach. Here’s what you can do to improve your odds of getting a spot. First, come early.
If you spend your morning sleeping in and don’t get there until noon, you may have to wait a while.
Second, when you get to the Koolina lagoons, head straight for lagoon 4 as that one has the largest parking lot. The others only have about 20 spots each and fill up pretty quickly.
You can always walk to the next lagoon if you want to see what it’s like there.
Parking is free and there are sometimes attendees to tell you which parking lot is full and which one isn’t.
If it’s really busy and you can’t find a spot, you can wait it out until one becomes available, but getting there early is your best bet.
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FYI, if you are a tour guide or travel club organizer, consider designing custom metal pins for your group to commemorate their excursion to the Ko Olina Lagoons. Not only are they a fun collectible, but they make a unique travel souvenir they’ll want to keep for years to come!
Frequently Asked Questions about Ko Olina Lagoons
Are the Ko Olina beaches worth visiting?
As I mentioned earlier, we thought the Koolina lagoons were one of the best things we did in Oahu.
However, that’s specifically because we had our seven year old daughter with us. She had never been in the ocean like this and needed to take it slow.
Because of how calm the water is in the lagoons, she could easily stand several yards out in the water and not get knocked over by waves.
She was also comfortable with laying on a boogie board looking down in the water while we snorkeled next to her. (Always holding on to the board, of course.)
We tried snorkeling at Turtle Beach and while we had a fabulous time (is there anything better than swimming with the turtles??), she was not at all comfortable.
If we weren’t there with our youngest, I’m quite certain we would have spent most of our time exploring as many other beaches in Oahu as we could have.
With that said, if you’re coming to the Hawaiian islands with kids, the Ko Olina lagoons beach needs to be tops on your list!
Otherwise, it’s a fantastic way to spend a quiet day lounging on the sandy beach and playing in the water, but you can find better places to snorkel in Oahu if that’s important to you.
Are Ko Olina lagoons free?
Yes! All beaches in Oahu are free and the Ko Olina beaches are no exception. Parking is also free. (Yea for that!) It doesn’t cost anything to visit the beach or play in the lagoon all day long.
If you choose to visit the resorts, buy food at their restaurants or rent beach toys, you’ll have to pay for those, of course.
What is the best Ko Olina lagoon
Unless you’re staying at one of the resorts in Ko Olina, the best one for the public to use is lagoon 4.
As I mentioned earlier, there is quite a bit more parking and it’s away from the resorts so it’s less crowded.
Can you bring umbrellas to Ko Olina?
No, you are not allowed to bring your own beach umbrella to the Ko Olina beach lagoons as it’s against the Ko Olina Association rules.
It can be pretty windy there and the last thing you want is for an umbrella to go flying through the air and hurt anyone.
The resort attendants keep an eye on the lagoons and will ask you to remove your umbrella if you bring one.
However, if you really want an umbrella, you could always rent a cabana from one of the resorts for the day. If you’re only spending a few hours and spend most of your time in the water, you won’t need it.
How deep are the Ko Olina lagoons?
All of the lagoons start out very shallow and even young kids can walk out a few yards without it being too deep.
Although I read online that it averages four to five feet in most areas, I believe they’re only referring to the edges near the rocks. There’s no way I could have stood up once I got away from the shore a bit.
It’s more accurate to say the center of the lagoons increase to around ten to fifteen feet deep.
This makes it an ideal location to see the fish in the lagoons since it’s never too deep to spot them.
It also feels like it’s deep enough you’re not just in a big swimming pool, but it’s not as unnerving as it can be in an unprotected area.
Is Ko Olina crowded?
Sometimes, but even during the busiest season there’s enough room for everyone. Since Ko Olina has the best lagoons in Oahu, it’s a hot spot for families wanting calmer waters for their kids to play in.
Since lagoon four doesn’t have a hotel by it, it’s the least used and less crowded.
Also, all the lagoons are connected by a nice, wide walk-way, so you can always venture over to another cove if you’d like. It’s only about a mile and a half to walk from one end of the lagoons at Ko Olina to the other.
By comparison, Waikiki beach can be super busy, so for those wanting to get away from the hustle of the city, the Ko Olina lagoons are the perfect alternative.
Is Ko Olina safe?
Yes, in fact the lagoons are the safest place to swim with kids in all of Oahu. Although the ocean is so fun to play in, the waves, rip tide and undertow must be taken seriously.
Because the coves are protected, the waters are much calmer here, making it safe for even beginning swimmers and snorkelers to feel comfortable.
One word of caution, though. The roped off area is to keep swimmers out of the current going back out to the open ocean.
Be aware of where you’re snorkeling and make sure you don’t end up on the wrong side of the rope.
Are there bathrooms at Ko Olina lagoons?
Yes, each of the four lagoons at Ko Olina has a bathroom with showers. For the most part, they are clean and well-lit, although I’m sure the cleanliness can change quickly. (That’s my disclaimer in case they’re a mess when you get there.)
What resorts are near Ko Olina lagoons?
There are four resorts located at Ko Olina lagoons. Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club is located at lagoon 3.
The Beach Villas are located at lagoon 2 and you’ll find both the Four Seasons Resort Oahu and the Aulani Disney Resort & Spa at lagoon 1.
The Atlantis Resort & Residences Ko Olina has also purchased property there and will eventually build a resort that will include a total of 1,324 hotel rooms and luxury residences, an aquarium, a wedding chapel and a water park.
(No word on when they will be, though.)
Where to stay near the Ko Olina lagoons?
The best area to stay on Oahu to be near the lagoons at Ko Olina are any of the four resorts located on the premise.
If you’re traveling with kids and want to spend most of your time either pool-side or in the calm waters of the lagoons, the resorts will be your best choice.
If you are renting a car and don’t mind the drive, Waikiki beach has many more hotel options to choose from.
If you’re using credit card points, the Waikiki Hyatt offers a great redemption rate and is also in one of the best area to stay in Oahu.
Planning on island hopping? Here are 9 Best Things to do in Maui you’ll want to read.
Whichever lagoon you spend your time in, you’re going to have a great time at the lagoons at Ko Olina!
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