Travel Leisure

Everything You Need To Know About Oahu’s Popular Sunset Spot, China Walls

Hawaii, known for its dormant volcanoes and perfect waves for surfing, is also home to some of the most unique and beautiful areas in the world. These areas often offer a different sort of experience to vacationers in paradise. One such area can be found on the beautiful island of Oahu at Koko Kai Mini Beach Park. Known as China Walls, this stretch of volcanic ledges near the shoreline is famous on social media. China Walls features a beautiful ledge of cooled lava walls that climb as high as 60 to 70 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It’s a gorgeous location to watch a sunset, enjoy the cool breeze of Hawaii and experience paradise in a different way.

Travel Noire has gathered all the information you need on China Walls in Hawaii. Take a look to learn about the origin of its name and more importantly, if it’s actually safe to swim and surf in the area. After all, social media would have us think so as it shows people diving swan-like off of its beautiful volcanic ledge.

The Origin of Its Name

China Walls is unique and slightly dangerous site in Hawaii. Learn more about its origins. 
pictured: A cliff jumper enjoying the Hawaiian sunset and getting into the water

The name China Walls derives from Richard Okita, a surfer from Kuli’ou’ou, who was among the first to surf the intimidating waves off of the lava cliffs. Along with his friends back in 1948, Okita caught waves on a paipo board. After learning about the Great Wall of China in school, he coined the area the China Walls since the waves were nearly a half mile tall and the cliffs were equally intimidating. 

How To Get to China Walls

China Walls is easy to get to for travelers not dependent on public transportation. 
pictured: winding roads on a hilly Hawaiian street

Since the naming of the area, China Walls has become more developed and therefore attractive to tourists. However, tourists need to be careful and temper expectations when they arrive. The height of the volcanic ledges makes for a beautiful yet still dangerous area. Though one may see people cliff diving and surfing in the area, it should also be known that this area also experiences a number of water rescues every single year.

The cliffs are a 25-minute drive from Waikiki. Within the Koko Kai Mini Beach Park, China Walls can be found on the southeast side of the island. Travelers will find that they can not take public transportation directly to the site, so renting a car or using rideshare apps from accommodations is ideal. 

Safety and Precautions 

Check out the best ways to stay safe at China Walls, Hawaii. 
pictured: a lifeguard watching over a Hawaiian beach

Although China Walls is a beautiful site and rightfully intrigues travelers, safety should be a top priority for those who visit this stretch of ledges. The novelty of the location has enticed adrenaline chasers and in more recent years, younger crowds have been attracted to China Walls due to social media challenges that are quite dangerous. Safety officials and locals try to discourage any visitors who do not want to follow safety precautions. 

Ocean Safety

Every year, people come to the China Walls to jump off of its volcanic ledges. Doing so is a delicate balance of experience and diligence. Even for professional or strong swimmers, there is still a risk of danger at China Walls. So, to take the plunge safely requires a bit of finesse and patience. Watching the ocean current is extremely important. The rocky ledges of the area can make high surf dangerous or even fatal for swimmers and surfers, regardless of whether they are swept off the ledges into the ocean water or are overtaken by the current and crash into the rocks. 

Cliff jumping is a popular activity for some people, so danger may not be completely avoidable. It is recommended that travelers who want to enjoy the rush of jumping the rocky coastline avoid the times when the surf picks up (during summer). Although jumping into the ocean is a large part of the danger with China Walls, there is also the struggle of making it back on land. The steep cliffs are the issue when exiting the water, since the jagged edges of the lava rocks are not the most inviting. Many swimmers have to be paddled back to shore by experienced surfers due to the lack of safety towers in the area (since China Walls was never intended to be a place for swimming).  

How To Safely Enjoy the Cliffs

For many, it is best not to take a chance with the temperamental waters of China Walls. Since it is safer for inexperienced swimmers and travelers to relax on the rocks, many travelers opt to simply watch the sunset while at China Walls. Travelers who prefer to stay on the safe side and stay out of the water can bring blankets or towels and still have a great time relaxing at the site. Soak up the sun or bring a picnic or cooler and some friends. It is common for locals to mainly use the cliffs as a hang out spot or to surf (if they are more experienced), so it is no surprise that tourists have followed suit.

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