If you are visiting Waikiki and looking for a good place for an ocean swim, look no further than Gray’s Beach. This small section of Waikiki Beach is located between the Halekulani Hotel and Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.
Among locals, Gray’s beach is known for its healing waters. In the 1920’s a boardinghouse named Gray’s-by-the-Sea stood at the spot, hence the name Gray’s Beach. As described by Aloha-Hawaii.com:
“In ancient Hawaii, Gray’s Beach was a place of healing and sick people sought relief by bathing in the water here. The channel in the reef was known as Kawehewehe (“The removal”), and was a place where Hawaiians who were sick came to be healed. A patient may wear of lei (wreath) made from the seaweed called limu kala, then walk with it into the water, leaving it there as an offering in hopes of receiving forgiveness for past transgressions.”
Besides being a spot for healing, this beach is great for ocean swimming.
Ocean swimming can be intimidating with coral reefs, surfers, high surf, and all that wonderful marine life swimming about. Finding the right spot and the right time to swim are two considerations.
If you are not used to swimming in the ocean, Gray’s Beach is a good place to begin. The water in this area has a large sand channel that goes pretty much straight out, slightly to the right. You can follow the edge of the reef to the end of the sand channel and turn back. About a quarter mile out from the sand, there is a stick (sometimes with a flag marker) that you can also use as a guide. Many people will swim to the stick and back or do this trek a couple of times. The stick is about half way to the end of the sand channel.
I find that the water in this area is often less rough on high surf or windy days so it’s my choice for swimming on rough water days. I also like to swim at Gray’s Beach because there are fewer surfers in the area and only 2 catamarans that come in and out of the beach. Less congestion allows for a more relaxing swim.
The sandy area at Gray’s Beach is not ideal for sunbathing. The constant erosion from the ocean has caused the sandy part of the beach to recede. During the fall and winter months, you’ll find a large group of seniors hanging out under the big beautiful tree, and on busy days there might not be much room to even lay down a towel. With 2 catamarans landing in the area, it can be busy with people lining up to get onto the sails.
So, travel light! Pack a small bag with your swim essentials (no valuables) and tuck this stuff close to one of the seniors or just drop on the beach. Be sure to leave it on dry sand. On high surf days, or high tide times, the ocean waves can come right up to the top of the beach and sweep things off the sand.
Amenities in the area are limited; however, you’ll find a shower at the Sheraton and bathrooms near the Sheraton Infinity Pool.
Ocean Swimming Tips
Don’t be afraid; be aware. You are sharing the space with surfers, other swimmers, boats, and marine life. Look up and around occasionally. Respect the ocean and its inhabitants. If you see a turtle, enjoy the view and keep your distance. They will respect your space too.
Swimming in the ocean feels different than swimming in a pool. The constant movement of the water from the waves can make you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. Just concentrate on your stroke and move with the water. Take advantage of those waves to move you in the direction you’re going.
When the currents are strong, you might feel like you’re being pulled back when trying to swim forward. In this case, relax and continue to swim. Use the next wave to pull you forward. It might take you longer to finish your swim but you’ll get back.
Be cautious with your first few swims. Turn around before your targeted goal time/mile. Sometimes heading out may feel easy but coming back might be more challenging. Get to know the water and the conditions before you commit to swimming further out.
Ready, Set, Swim
On your next visit to Waikiki, give Gray’s Beach a try for your ocean swim.
Please let us know if you like this area and/or if you found our tips helpful.