Ocean Swim & Healing at Gray’s Beach in Waikiki


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

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.


Path to my favorite entry point to swim

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.

Beach Area

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.

Grays Beach Seniors Tree

Beach area. Seniors staking their claim under the tree!

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


Quick break for a photo before my swim.

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.


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Run Honolulu

FacebookShared2017Are you looking for a challenge that involves sweating, beautiful scenery, and warm weather? Then you’ve just found the perfect venue with the Honolulu Marathon. Come to Honolulu and run or walk the marathon on December 10, 2017!


The first Honolulu Marathon was held in 1973 with 162 entrants, and peaked with over 34,000 entrants in 1995.  The number of entrants since 1995 has bounced up and down roughly between 22,600 and 33,600.  A large part of participants are from Japan (roughly just under 50%).

Did you know that the Honolulu Marathon is ranked as one of the Top 10 Marathons in the World based on its prestige, popularity, and purse size?

Course and Details

The marathon course is somewhat flat, except for a couple of hilly parts around Diamond Head crater.  The start line is close to Honolulu’s mega mall, Ala Moana Shopping Center, and the course weaves through downtown, back into Waikiki and out to the east side to Hawaii Kai before looping back to Waikiki.  For more details on the course and entrance costs, visit the Honolulu Marathon official site.

One important note is that the Honolulu Marathon welcomes walkers.  So, if you don’t think you can run the 26.2 miles, you can certainly train to walk it.

What I like about it

Running a marathon is a lone sport so it’s much better when you run it with lots of people around you.  Somehow all those people running faster or slower than me feel like my best friends, who can empathize with my experience.

At the Honolulu marathon, runners and walkers at great for cheer each other along the course, and spectators get right into the event by hold up signs of encouragement, offer food and drink, cheering, and playing music.  The volunteer race staff are also fabulous! In particular, I fondly think of all the young kids who line up Diamond Head Road holding yellow tape to keep participants on one side of the road.  On this stretch, high-fives are a must for these kids.  Not only are they standing for a long time, they’ve also had to get up before the crack of dawn to be ready for us.  Most of the time my teenaged son is still in bed when I get back from the race!

The City of Honolulu is proud of its Marathon and makes it a great experience for locals and visitors for the week leading up to the marathon and right after.  Flags line Kalakaua Avenue (main street in Waikiki), restaurants offer special pre-race meals, the expo encourages participants and visitors to partake in the celebrations.  You’ll see runners and walkers wearing their finisher shirts and medals for a week after the marathon, proudly showing off their accomplishments.

The early December race date is great since all the hard work is done before the Christmas parties begin. You can bask in the glory of finishing the race, and fit into your slinky party dress too!

The Challenges

What’s difficult about this marathon? I’d say that it’s the heat, and sometimes the tradewinds.  Although we start the race at 5 am, by the time 9 am rolls around you are running in the sun and heat.  When the tradewinds are blowing, there is relief from the heat but then you’re battling wind.  No matter what direction you are running, it seems like the trades are swirling and blowing in your face.  Heat and wind will affect your finish time!

I have run a couple of Honolulu’s in the rain, and found them to be better conditions for me.  The last one was in 2014, in torrential rain, when my dear friend, Joylin, came from Canada to run the race with me.  My feet sloshing in my shoes caused some major blood blisters, but my finish time was better than other years! We could not enjoy the festivities at the end of the race because the rain just wouldn’t quit.  I guess you can’t have it all.

For the most part, the races have been on good weather days with just a pop-up shower to cool us off!

Train, Train, Train

This year’s marathon is about 23 weeks away.  If you are not a runner, please start now to train.  Do not attempt to run or walk a marathon without proper training.  You will destroy your desire to do it ever again. This advice is also for those who want to walk the marathon.  If you don’t do much walking now, get started!

For recreational runners, I would suggest you consider an 18-to 20-week plan.  For regular runners who have a good base of weekly running, you might consider a 12-to 16-week plan.

Marathon plans typically include long runs, speed and tempo runs, and hill runs – weekly or bi-weekly.  Having a plan that suits your particular goals, and fitness/running level is critical for success.

Coaching Options

Consider hiring a coach to create a personalized plan.  Michael Garrison, PhD at Hawaii Running Lab is a local coach who can provide coaching and programs.  Michael has a growing following here on Oahu, which is well-deserved.  He comes with lots of experience and a solid research/educational background in fitness and running.

Another online option is Mbition, a subscription-based running website that can adapt programs to your fitness level and goals based on your answering a few questions.  Throughout the program you record your training sessions so you can see your progress, and coaches are available for suggestions via messaging in the system.

I used Mbition for training for the last three races and it was great.  It pushed me to do some workouts that I thought I couldn’t possibly do; for example, doing a tempo run, after a heavy running week, the day after my long run.  It was amazing how well my body handled those workouts. Following the programs helped me achieve a better time in last year’s Honolulu Marathon and a PR in this year’s Hapalua Half Marathon.

The Mbition team has been super with me over the last year.  They were readily available to answer questions and to offer suggestions for training…and now are offering our followers a special deal  – 25% off the purchase of their subscription.  To obtain the discount, the voucher code is “Awesomerun”.  Their prices are very reasonable at only $36 US for a yearly plan.  Check them out and take advantage of this great deal.

Just to make it clear, we do not have any special compensation arrangements with either Hawaii Running Lab or Mbition.  They are very good resources we want to share with our followers.

Travel Arrangements

Now, for the sponsored part of our post!  If you are looking for a place to stay while in Honolulu, please consider staying at our studio suites.  You can check us out on Airbnb:

Our 5-Star Suite and Our Stylish Suite



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Let’s Touch Base

If you plan to run the Honolulu Marathon and want to talk further about the experience or if you’d like to do some runs together while in town, please contact me.  It would be fun to meet and run, or chat about the race.  You can contact me (Lia) here.

Aloha and happy training!


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