Still relatively new to Oahu, I love getting out to explore new things. Recently I went to Ala Moana Park for the first time.

Located along the south shore just west of the Waikiki beach area, Ala Moana Park offers shaded picnic facilities, BBQ grills, grassy areas and access to a beach noted for excellent swimming, surfing and body boarding.

Initially I thought I would have to walk over from the mall but was pleasantly surprised by the amount of free parking available. There was a lot of activity going on; I saw at least three weddings and a birthday party with a bounce house. The annual Scottish Festival was also happening, but I did not notice that fact till I was driving home and saw people in suits of armor.

My trip, however, was for the beach aspect of the park. The location is great because you are in town so food is readily available and you can pick up sunscreen or a towel at the mall if you forget to bring one. The public accommodations are also nice with convenient changing stalls in the bathrooms.

The weather was absolutely perfect for the beach, hot in the sun and warm in the water. So far this is the rockiest beach I’ve been to in Hawaii, but once you go out about 3ft into the water the sand is soft again. There isn’t much in the way of shade by the water; most people bring umbrellas or tents.

I am not much of a swimmer, but enjoyed my time floating on an inner tube and even got to see a sea turtle! It was as large as the ones at Sea Life Park, maybe 2ft across, and gave my friend quite the surprise when it brushed against her leg.

Overall, I had a great day at Ala Moana Park. It is shallow enough to be enjoyable for inexperienced swimmers and there is a drop off if you want to snorkel. Fish can be seen from walking along the shore and there isn’t much in the way of coral so you don’t have to worry about getting cut or damaging the ecosystem like you have to at Hanauma Bay.

I would highly recommend Ala Moana to someone looking for a locals-friendly beach that is convenient to the city.

Ala Moana Beach Park is a free public park on the island of Oahu, located between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. This 100-acre park has a wide gold-sand beach that is over a half-mile long. 1201 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, Oahu, HI 96814; (808) 768-3003; Hours open: 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.

Featured photo by flickr user Ryan Ozawa