The 18 Best Beaches in Hawaii

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One of the many reasons we love Hawaii — aside from incredible mai tais, fresh seafood, and laid-back surf culture — is that it can easily lay claim to having the most beautiful beaches in the world. Why is that? For starters, they come in every size, shape, and color: wide, calm expanses that are perfect for families and little ones who just want to dip their toes in the Pacific; tiny, secluded coves where honeymooning couples can get away from the crowds; and red, white, black, and green sandy stretches that provide the ultimate photo-op for Instagram. Best of all, you can access every single one of them, since all of Hawaii’s beaches are public.

Better still, you’re not limited to experiencing these beaches on just one island. Like many travelers, you can visit Hawaii on a multi-island itinerary and spend each day of your sun-filled vacation hitting up a different shoreline.

Oahu, home to world-famous Waikiki Beach, is known for having some of the widest golden stretches — and the best surfing — in all of the Hawaiian Islands. Kauai is nicknamed the Garden Island, and with good reason: the tropical forests here are lovely and lush, and have served as a backdrop for films such as “Jurassic Park.” The coastline is also blessed with many reefs, which in turn create ideal beaches for snorkeling.

Maui, famous for its impressive resorts and Haleakalā National Park, offers some of the best beaches in Hawaii—keep an eye out for whales jumping and playing in the waves just off the coast, too, if you’re visiting between November and May. Hawaii Island, also called the Big Island, may be best known known for its lunar-like volcanic rock landscapes, and also lays claim to having some crowd-pleasing white-sand beaches, as well as the photographic Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.

A secluded island off-the-beaten tourist path, Molokai has some of the most pristine stretches, where you’re likely to run into mainly local residents. Tiny Lanai, home of two luxurious Four Seasons resorts, has one of the best beaches in the world for spotting spinner dolphins.

So, how to pick from all these spectacular stretches of sand? Here’s a look at some of the best beaches in Hawaii where you can get a slice of that true Hawaiian paradise.

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

Travelers have been flocking to this calm, golden, crescent-shaped stretch of sand on the island of Oahu since the early 1900s, when Hawaii first popped up on the tourist radar and visitors would arrive only by steamship. Today, it’s a bit more crowded, but the scene is still fun. Grab a mai tai at the iconic Royal Hawaiian hotel, built in 1927. Kick back and watch the locals mingle with visitors to the island, all with dormant Diamond Head as an impressive backdrop.

Ko Olina Beach, Oahu

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) / Linda Ching

If you have kids, get to this placid beach on the western side of Oahu right away. The clear blue water is shallow enough for little ones to splash around in, and sitting just above the lagoon is Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. Another nearby property not to be missed is the five-star Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. It’s no wonder this is one of the best beaches in Hawaii for families.

Waimea Bay Beach Park, Oahu

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Set along the dramatic, less-developed North Shore of Oahu, Waimea Bay is one of the island’s most famous big-wave surfing beaches. During the winter months, from November through February, the swells become awe-inspiring giants that draw the pro riders. Waimea, Sunset Beach, and Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) play host to some of Hawaii’s top surfing competitions, like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Stay at the nearby Turtle Bay Resort to be near the center of all the surfing action.

Polihale State Park, Kauai

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While it takes some effort to get to this remote 17-mile stretch on Kauai’s windswept western shore — and you’ll need a four-wheel-drive to navigate a bumpy road and sand dunes — the effort is well worth it. On this quiet, almost ethereal stretch, you can see landmarks like the Na Pali cliffs, which technically begin on Polihale’s northern end, and Ni’ihau, Hawaii’s forbidden island. It’s also a good idea to pack plenty of sunscreen and water, since there is limited shade.

Hanalei Bay, Kauai

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A heart-stopping bay backed by 4,000-foot emerald mountains, Hanalei is technically made up of several beach parks, all rolled into one magnificent two-mile swath along Kauai’s northern shore. During the winter season, the waves come out to play and attract the surf crowd, while in the summer months, the waters are more tranquil and suitable for swimming.

Po’ipu Beach Park, Kauai

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

This is the epicenter of Kauai’s perpetually sunny south shore, a beach area that’s actually composed of three beautiful crescents, all making up one of the best beaches in Hawaii. Po’ipu draws a lot of families because the waters tend to be suitable for beginner swimmers, and there’s a lifeguard on duty seven days a week. You can do pretty much any beach activity here, from surfing and snorkeling to swimming or just splashing around. Nearby, you’ll find top properties such as Ko’a Kea Resort on Po’ipu Beach and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa.

Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

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A lovely harbor along Kauai’s eastern coast, Kalapaki Bay offers fun for all ages and all types of visitors. Kids can go boogie boarding and surfing, adults can try their hand at sailing or canoeing, and locals like to come by to play beach volleyball — you’ll usually see a court set up in the sand. Also facing the bay, you’ll find Marriott’s Kauai Beach Club as well as several other seaside restaurants, all offering great options for lunch.

Kalihiwai Beach, Kauai

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Kalihiwai — an insider, mainly locals-only beach — sits just past Kapa’a on the way to Princeville. The waves at this tiny cove, which is set off by two beautiful cliffs, are spectacular for body surfing. There’s also a shallow, freshwater lagoon that kids will appreciate. Pack a picnic and bring a cooler, as there are no concession stands (but there are benches where you can sit).

Hulopoe Beach, Lanai

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

Guests of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai have prime access to this stunning golden crescent, easily one of the best beaches in Hawaii, which is great for both swimming and snorkeling. You’ll often spy friendly spinner dolphins jumping and playing in the water, as well as humpback whales during the cooler winter months. On the eastern side of the beach, there are several large tide pools.

Polihua Beach, Lanai

Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ)

At this two-mile stretch along Lanai’s northeastern shore, just across the channel from Molokai, swimming is not advised due to strong currents. That said, it’s the perfect place to go for a little privacy and a long walk, and visitors often spot humpback whales come winter, and honu (green sea turtles) year-round.

Makena Beach, Maui

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Nearly two-thirds of a mile long and 100 feet wide, Makena, also called “Big Beach,” in Maui, is beloved by both locals and tourists alike. Tote along towels and sunscreen, park it on the sand, and enjoy impressive views of the tiny island of Molokini. And don’t worry, we’ve got lunch picked out for you: Jawz Fish Tacos, one of Maui’s most popular food trucks, parks on the side of the road near Makena and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Chow down on fresh mahi-mahi, shrimp, or chicken tacos as you watch the waves.

Wailea Beach, Maui

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Some of Maui’s most impressive resorts — the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, and the Grand Wailea — face Wailea, one of the best beaches in Hawaii, which has cobalt waters gentle enough for kids to play in. Given the fancy digs in the area, you can usually expect to spot a celebrity or two; everyone from Kate Bosworth to Jennifer Aniston has been to Wailea.

Hamoa Beach, Maui

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You’ll need to steel yourself for the drive to this beautiful cove since it’s close to Hana — a time-stands-still town set on Maui’s far eastern shore. Taking the twisty, curvy, Road to Hana along the Hana Highway, which runs past cliffs and waterfalls, is one of the state’s most popular attractions. Fuel up in Paia before setting out, and don’t forget to pack your swimsuits — and a sense of adventure.

Kapalua Bay, Maui

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Close to both the Montage Kapalua Bay and The Ritz-Carlton, Maui, resorts, Kapalua Bay is one of the best beaches in Hawaii for kayaking, boogie boarding, stand-up paddle boarding, and swimming. There are coral reefs, too, so bring your snorkel and mask and be prepared to spot turtles and parrotfish. You can also go for a jog along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, which begins at Kapalua Bay and runs all the way to D.T. Fleming Beach Park.

Hapuna Beach State Park, Hawaii Island

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Hawaii Island (the Big Island) is home to several impressive white-sand beaches — Hapuna Beach State Park, a half-mile stretch located on the Kona-Kohala Coast, is one of them. Even locals come to this beautiful spot to picnic and hang out with friends. There’s also a lifeguard posted year-round, making it one of the best beaches in Hawaii for families to visit.

Kauna’oa (Mauna Kea) Beach, Hawaii Island

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When eco-tourism pioneer Laurance Rockefeller first saw this sugar-soft beach back in 1960 while touring the island with Hawaii’s governor, he immediately knew it was something special. Rockefeller was there to scout locations for a potential hotel — and he found the perfect one, choosing Kauna’oa as the setting for his legendary resort, now the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which still draws couples and families to Hawaii Island today. The beach is a pristine beauty with turquoise waters, gentle waves, and plenty of marine life, including turtles and the occasional manta ray.

Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii Island

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Hawaii Island is home to eight climate zones, four active volcanoes, and countless impressive beaches, including Punalu’u, a heart-stopping black-sand beach close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park — if you’re staying along the Kona-Kohala Coast, you should make this a stopover on your way to the park. The shore can be a bit rocky, so proceed into the water with caution. Nevertheless, you’re really there for the novelty of seeing the black sand, and sea turtles sunning themselves.

Pāpōhaku Beach Park, Molokai

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Molokai receives far fewer visitors than Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island, which means you’ll have a greater chance of having some of the best beaches in Hawaii all to yourself. Located on Molokai’s western end, Pāpōhaku Beach Park — also known as three-mile beach — is one of the largest white-sand stretches in the state. On a clear day, you can even see Oahu across the channel.

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Publish date : 2023-03-05 03:00:00

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Publish date : 2024-06-04 04:29:25

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