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A Guide to China Walls on Oahu

Updated: Mar 15

Just off the point of Portlock, adjacent to Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve, is China Walls. Given its name by Richard Okita during a day of surfing, who named the break influenced by his knowledge of the Great Wall of China from history class.

The formation of the rocky cliffside occurred naturally over the course of hundreds of thousands of years through continuous lava flows.

China Walls Surf Guide

Waves in China Walls

China Walls has two main breaks: one breaks directly off the wall and is a fast, steep left that rolls into the bay. It can get hollow sometimes, but beware, the reef is shallow further into the bay.

The second break is closer to the middle of the bay. It is a left as well but makes for a carvable face that can pitch on the inside reef.

Typically, it breaks best during the summer months but can get swell year-round, on south-to-southeast swells and wind coming from the north or northwest.

Gear Needed to Surf In China Walls

China Walls is a fast, vertical wave; when waves get over the shoulder to head high, it is recommended to use a shortboard or high-performance board as it allows for higher maneuverability.

This is necessary because when it does get big, China Walls can get sketchy, and you don’t want to be caught in the wrong place with a longboard.

It can be a fun longboarding wave when smaller, especially at the second break closer to the middle of the bay.

Where to Park to Surf China Walls

Park near Koko Kai Mini Beach Park.

There isn’t much street parking, but you can park on the street and walk over to the beach park.

You can even find parking near Hanapepe Place, but parking directly in the cul-de-sac might get you a ticket.

How to Surf China Walls

You can jump off the rocks into the water, but beware of the backwash or waves that can bring you straight back into the rocks.

When getting out, look for the low point of the rocks on the makai side, which is the left side of the wall, or you can get out near the step on the right side of the wall facing the ocean.

Be sure to wait for no waves when taking this access point, as if there are waves, you will be thrown into the cliffs.

China Walls has some of the most water rescues on the south side of Oahu, so be cautious and take your time.

What To Do at China Walls When the Waves Are Flat

Even when there is no swell and waves are flat in the spring and fall months, there are plenty of activities to do at and near China Walls.

If you are looking for a thrill, you can cliff jump; there is always the opportunity to sunbathe and bring your favorite lunch.

If you are an experienced waterman, you can even go spearfishing in the area, as there are plenty of caves and channels.

If you are jumping off the cliff or spearfishing, the best time to do so is when there is nearly no swell in the water and the waves are flat, as high surf can lead to strong currents and potential risk for injury.

The Bottom Line: Surfing in the China Walls

Not only is China Walls a fun and consistent surf spot when the right swell hits, but it can also be an amazing sunset and picnic spot.

If you plan to spend the day there, bring a towel, sunscreen, and water. If you choose to bring food or drinks, be sure to clean up after yourself; we don’t want to pollute these beautiful places.


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