Powerful Pacific waves and young lava rock meet at one of Oahu’s most stunning—and dangerous—cliff jumping spots.
While “China Walls” actually refers to a surf break, the name has become associated with the nearby stacked volcanic rocks, which make a popular spot for swimming and cliff jumping.
In this article I cautiously share about this beautiful cliff jumping and surfing spot. While I highly recommend adding China Walls to your Oahu itinerary, I acknowledge that only confident and experienced swimmers should get in the water here.
Thankfully, China Walls is a gorgeous place to stop for the sunset or lunch even if you don’t go in the water. In this China Walls Oahu guide I also discuss how to stay safe when visiting even if you’re out of the water.
Honolulu Tours to China Walls
Mahina Hawaii Full Day Adventure: This customizable private tour can include a visit to the China Walls with a local guide, plus tons of other Oahu hidden gems!
China Walls Sunset Photo Trip: Visit China Walls at sunset with a local guide, and stop at several other gorgeous photo spots along the way.
6 Hour Romantic Jeep Tour: Perfect for couples! See the China Walls and other breathtaking sites as you journey around the island with a private guide and a Jeep!
Private Island Tour with Professional Photoshoot: Visit the China Walls and other picturesque Oahu locations with a professional photographer as your guide. And yes, you will get a gallery of photos of all those special memories!
Note: This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases through these links, at no cost to you. But don’t worry, I only share products I’d truly recommend to a friend.
Visiting China Walls, Oahu
Oahu’s China Walls might still be considered a hidden gem as it isn’t on the radar of most tourists. However, the gorgeous surf break and sea cliffs are becoming increasingly popular amongst both locals and visitors.
Because of its popularity, many visitors overlook how dangerous it can be to get in the water here. Cliff jumpers are bashed against the rocks daily, and ocean rescues are becoming more common.
During my recent visit to the China Walls I witnessed a girl being pulled directly from the cliffs into the water and thrashed against the rocks by a large swell.
The same girl struggled to get out of the water (it is difficult), but thankfully a local woman calmly coached her on how to get out safely. She walked away with some nasty gashes, but I’m sure it could have been worse.
I share all this because I want to be honest about how dangerous this place can be. But I know that many people (myself included) will still want to check it out.
The truth is, while that one girl got scratched up, my husband and I, as well as a handful of other swimmers (including local children) swam in the same waves and walked away completely unharmed.
How to get to China Walls, Hawaii
China Walls is located in the Hawaii Kai neighborhood of Honolulu in Oahu, Hawaii. The entrance to China Walls is called ‘Koko Kai Beach Mini Park’ on Google Maps. The sea cliffs are directly off of the park and very easy to find.
Koko Kai Beach Mini Park is about a 25-minute drive from Waikiki, and only eight minutes from Hamauma Bay Nature Preserve and nine minutes from Koko Head.
If you prefer to visit China Walls on a tour, check out my recommended China Walls tours at the beginning of this article.
China Walls Cliff Jumping
China Walls is an exhilarating spot for cliff jumping on Oahu.
The height of the cliff jump can be anywhere between a few feet to 15 feet, depending on the waves, tides, and season.
The waves roll by the sea cliffs at about a 20-30 degree angle, crashing on the rocks as they pass by. Bigger swells come every so often, pushing water up onto the rocks and quickly draining it back into the ocean, along with anything or anyone left in the way.
This means that you’re always at risk of being swept in if you’re standing on the edge of the cliffs. Likewise, you’re at risk of being bashed into the rocks if you’re floating in the water directly by the rocks.
Although you should avoid swimming directly beside the rocks when big swells come, you’ll have to rely on the smaller waves to get out of the water and back onto the rocks. Your exit has to be perfectly timed—as the water rises on a smaller swell, it’ll lift you up so you can climb out. There are some ropes tied to the rocks if you need help.
The actual surf break is usually just past the edge of the sea cliffs. This means that waves don’t break where most people cliff jump, however, conditions can always change, so read the waves, listen to others, and be careful.
Whatever you do, don’t panic, and ask others for help if you need it.
Interested in other thrilling Oahu adventures? Check out my full guide to freediving with sharks on the North Shore!
Surfing at China Walls
China Walls is also a popular spot for surfing, though only experienced surfers should ride these beautiful waves. The area got its name in the 1948 when a local surfer, Richard Okita, named the break after learning about the Wall of China in school.
An article on Civil Beat Honolulu explains: “People today mistakenly think the cliffs over the ocean are the China Walls but Okita says it is something more rare, more special: huge, long waves breaking over the reef, that he says come only about 10 times a year, usually in July and August. To experienced surfers, the phenomenon is unforgettable.”
The article also explains that China Walls’ wave surge months happen between April and October.
Watching the Sunset at China Walls
Watching the sunset is undoubtedly the most peaceful thing to do at China Walls. If you don’t want to get in the water, but want to see this unique and beautiful place, stopping by for sunset is a great option.
Essential Safety Tips for China Walls
As mentioned above, only experienced, confident swimmers should jump in the water at China Walls. If you do decide to swim and cliff jump China Walls, please consider these safety precautions:
★ If no one else is in the water, don’t go in. Never swim alone, especially on your first visit to China Walls.
★ Observe the waves and other cliff jumpers for at least 5-10 minutes before going in. Watch how others jump in and climb out safely. Watch as bigger sets roll in to understand how the waves can change before you get in the water.
★ Avoid jumping in when there is a big swell. Wait until the ocean calms down.
★ Only jump in if you’re confident you’ll be able to get out.
★ Once in the water, swim 10+ feet away from the rocks when big swells come. This will protect you from being pushed into the rocks.
★ Stay calm and avoid panicking. If you need help, let other swimmers or surfers know and float in the water until they can help.
And whether you swim or not, follow these general safety precautions at China Walls:
★ Be careful when walking/standing on wet parts of the rocks. If it is wet, that means that waves reach that part of the rock. If you’re not paying attention, they could sweep you in.
★ Make sure you always keep your eyes on the waves when taking photos or walking along the rocks.
★ Make sure to leave your belongings as far away from the water as possible.
China Walls, Oahu FAQs
Is there parking at China Walls?
You can find free street parking in the neighborhood right next to China Walls.
What else is there to do nearby Oahu’s China Walls?
China Walls is conveniently located near some other incredible destinations on Oahu. Within ten minutes, you can reach
★ Hamauma Bay Nature Preserve: Stunning protected bay popular for snorkeling. Keep in mind that visitation is highly regulated and reservations must be made ahead of time.
★ Koko Head: A challenging but unique hike straight up a crater along historical steps.
Alternatively, you could take a full day to explore Oahu’s windward side, starting at the China Walls. Then, drive north along the coast, stopping in Kailua at Lanikai Beach, and visiting the Byodo-In Temple and Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe.
Is it safe to cliff jump at China Walls?
If I have to answer yes or no, I’d say no. While it is an incredible cliff jumping and surfing destination for people with experience, it is not safe for anyone who is less than 100% confident in their abilities.
What should you bring to the China Walls?
★ Secure bathing suit (if you plan to swim): Wear something that won’t fly off in powerful waves! A one-piece like this one is a good option for females.
★ Travel towel: Bring a quick drying beach towel like this Nomadix beach towel.
★ Reef safe sunscreen: Conventional sunscreen is banned in the state of Hawaii. Make sure you have some reef safe sunblock!
Also read my Hawaii Packing List!
Final Thoughts: China Walls Oahu
China Wall is one of the coolest places to visit on Oahu, particularly for those who like swimming in the ocean. If you do choose to swim at China Walls, do so carefully.
Have a wonderful time in Hawaii and be sure to check out my other Hawaii travel guides for more amazing things to do on Oahu and beyond!
★ 21 Oahu Hidden Gems and Secret Spots
★ Hawaii Packing List for Women
★ How to Visit the Mermaid Caves in Oahu
★ 21 Best Things to do in Kailua, Oahu
★ How to Hike the Lanikai Pillbox Trail at Sunrise
★ How to Visit Halona Beach Cove in Oahu
★ How to Visit Oahu’s Byodo-In Temple
★ One Day Oahu North Shore Itinerary
★ 5 Best Oahu Shark Dive Tours: Cage Dives + Freediving
★ What to Know BEFORE Swimming with Sharks in Oahu
Essential Hawaii Resources
Traveleing to Hawaii soon? There are a lot of travel companies out there, but some are better than others. After five unforgettable trips to Hawaii, here are some of my favorite websites and resources for planning once-in-a-lifetime vacations.
🛬 Airport Lounge Pass: One membership with Priority Pass grants you access to over 1300 lounges in nearly every country (trust me, it’s a game changer!) And the lounges in Hawaii airports are pretty sweet!
📱 Easy phone plans abroad: If you’re not American, you’ll want to get phone coverage in Hawaii. I use this company to get an eSIM for phone coverage while traveling—without getting a SIM card or canceling your existing plan (unless you want to!)