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An Insider’s Guide to Sunset Beach

Posted on Thu, 2015/03/12 - 8:46pm by Jeff Mull

Situated just a short bike ride or walk from the breathtaking vistas of Turtle Bay Resort stands Sunset Beach. Regarded in the surf world as one of the most holy lineups in Hawaii, the wave has been attracting surfers to its reef for more than 50 years. But there’s much more to this iconic beach than just surf lore. Below, we’ve outline four things that any visitor—surfer or beach lover alike—should know before they plant their toes in the golden sands of Sunset.

The History: Originally known by Hawaiians as Paumalu, Sunset Beach took on its current moniker in the 1920s when it was divided up into individual lots and sold as the greatest place on the North Shore to take in the sunset. Archeologists have found that native Hawaiians frequented the beach and surfed the wave as early as 1200 AD. In the 1940s, surfers from Waikiki began venturing north past Haleiwa to test their mettle at what would become one of the most famous waves in the world. In the 1960s, Sunset became the lineup that all other waves were measured against. Today, the right-hand point continues to attract surfers from all over the world and is one of the three gems in the famous Triple Crown surf series.

The Surf: Depending on whether you plan on surfing or not, the seasons can have a dramatic impact on Sunset Beach. In the winter months (Mid-to-late October through March) the reefs along the point come to life as northerly swells march upon the North Shore, consistently creating huge surf. Because of its situation, the lineup picks up more swell than other breaks on the North Shore. In addition to the deadly surf, violent currents will sweep the ocean during a large swell. When the conditions look treacherous, do not swim here.

The Reef: In the late spring and summer months, as the swells subside, Sunset Beach takes on a much more pleasant and accommodating nature. With an expansive shoreline, there’s plenty of room to set up a tent for the day and take in the sun and sea. On the eastern side of the beach, towards the point, a reef takes shape and offers great snorkeling. The depths in this area can range from 2 feet to 20 very quickly, meaning you won’t need to swim out very far to find interesting coral formations and sea life.

The Takeaway: With a lifeguard station, restrooms, showers, and plenty of parking, Sunset Beach can be an ideal place to either spend the day surfing, or simply hanging with your family or going for a dip. Simply put, it’s a blank canvas. If you’re able we recommend testing Sunset’s namesake and watching the sun slip beyond the horizon on a warm Hawaiian evening.