Step onto almost any beach in Hawaii, and you might think you’ve stepped into paradise. The Hawaiian islands are home to some of the finest beaches in the world, with dazzling scenery tucked around every corner.
One of the greatest things about the beaches of Hawaii is the diversity. From tiny hidden coves with spectacular sunsets, to sprawling commercial beaches teeming with marine wildlife, you can never grow tired of Hawaiian beaches.
To help you discover some of the best Hawaii has to offer, we’ve put together this guide to our favorite beaches from across the islands!
The Most Spectacular Beaches In Hawaii
Best Beaches On Oahu
Oahu is one of the most popular Hawaiian islands, known for family-friendly activities and a surfing paradise on the North Shore. Here are our favorite beaches.
1. Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Hawaii, and probably one of the best known beaches in the world. For as long as Hawaii has been a tourist destination, visitors have been flocking to Waikiki Beach.
Waikiki Beach is a breathtaking combination of beauty and convenience. The golden sands slope gently into turquoise waters, watched over by the craggy peak of Diamond Head crater.
Ringed by high-rise hotels and luxury eating establishments, a trip to Waikiki allows you to indulge in all the best that Hawaii has to offer.
Enjoy an early morning swim, or grab yourself a snorkel and have a look at what’s hiding beneath the weaves.
Waikiki Beach is also an excellent spot for water sports, and beginners can have a go at getting to grips with the surfboard.
Prefer things a little quieter? Take a stroll along the 2-mile beach, and watch the interplay between locals and tourists.
Make sure you stick around until the evening! Waikiki Beach gets some spectacular sunsets, which are best enjoyed with a freshly mixed Mai Tai.
2. Waimea Bay
The North Shore of Oahu is famous for the epic breaks that have made Hawaii such a popular surf destination.
In winter, you can expect to see the waves at Waimea Bay hitting up to 30-feet, and talented surfers attempting to master the swells.
Visit Waimea Bay during winter to see the best of the best surfers at work. It’s absolutely not a safe destination for anyone not at the professional level, but you can still get an adrenaline rush from watching others ride the waves.
In summer, Waimea Bay transforms. The waves are calmer, and you can even enjoy swimming and snorkeling.
Waimea Bay is part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, so there’s an exciting underwater habitat. You can even try cliff jumping, but be careful to survey the water before you take a leap.
Sitting just behind Waimea Bay is Waimea Valley. This 1.5 mile round trip leads to a 45-foot waterfall, nestled among the lush tropical growth.
It’s one of the most attractive — and easy to access — waterfalls in Hawaii, and you can often swim in the plunge pool.
3. Lanikai Beach
For many people, Lanikai Beach is a little touch of paradise. And when you step out onto the golden sands, you’ll quickly see why it’s earned a reputation as one of the best beaches in the world.
Lanikai Beach used to be something of a hidden gem, but it’s becoming increasingly popular.
Parking is limited, so arrive early to get a spot! And we mean early — sunrise at Lanikai is spectacular, and well worth waking up for.
The waters are typically calm, so this is a good spot for swimming, and soaking up a peaceful atmosphere.
After a morning at the beach, try the Lanikai Pillbox Hike. It’s an easygoing hike, and from the summit you get spectacular views over the beach.
Some of the defining features of Lanikai Beach are the Na Mokulua islets — known as the Mokes to locals — that sit just off the coast.
Sticking sharply out of the sea, they provide a rugged contrast to the picturesque beauty of Lanikai Beach. If you don’t mind a bit of work, you can kayak to the Mokes, and enjoy the sight of Lanikai laid out in front of you.
4. Waimanalo Bay Beach Park
Hidden away in southeast Oahu, many visitors overlook Waimanalo Bay. But it’s worth making the 35-minute drive from Honolulu.
Waimanalo Bay is known for its wild and lush scenery, which sets it apart from the calmer, cultivated beaches often found on Oahu.
The scenery at Waimanalo Bay is defined by the striking evergreen Ironwood trees that ring the back of the beach. These provide shade when the sun is at its peak, and shelter Waimanalo Bay from the hustle and bustle.
To the right, the Makapu’u cliffs are a distant presence, while Wailea Point towers to the left.
Dark mountain ranges add to the wild scenery of Waimanalo, and create the impression that you’re cut off from the rest of the world. You’d never imagine it’s such a short drive to Honolulu.
During the week, Waimanalo Bay is typically quiet, but expect more crowds on the weekends. This is a popular local beach, and you’ll often find families making the most of the miles of sand with beach games and barbecues.
Best Beaches On Big Island
Big Island, otherwise known as the island of Hawaii, (see also: Are There Snakes On The Island Of Hawaii? Poisonous Snakes In Hawaii And More)is perhaps best known for its spectacular black sand beaches. We’ve rounded up our favorite Big Island (see also: What Can You Do on Big Island? 15 Fantastic Ideas)beaches.
1. Hapuna Beach
Hapuna Beach is one of the most popular family beaches in all of Hawaii. At just half a mile long, this isn’t the largest beach on Big Island, but the calm summer seas are still a major draw for tourists.
For snorkeling, head to the south end of the beach. The rocky point attracts fish and coral, while those interested in diving can head along the coast to Waialea Bay.
When the waters are a little rougher, Hapuna Beach attracts bodyboarders, and even beginners can have a go at the waves. But watch out in winter, when the swells become powerful and dangerous.
There’s very little shade at Hapuna Beach, so get there early if you want to grab a coveted spot beneath the trees. Otherwise, there’s a picnic area to the back of the beach, where you can shelter from the powerful Hawaiian sun.
2. Punalu’u Beach
All the Hawaiian islands were formed by ancient volcanic activity, and this explosive history gives Hawaii its diverse and beautiful scenery.
At Punalu’u Beach, visitors can see one of the unusual features caused by volcanic explosions: black sand beaches.
The black sand at Punalu’u Beach is the result of hot lava flows reaching the cold and ferocious ocean. A violent start, perhaps, but now Punalu’u is a tranquil and serene place for visitors interested in unusual, yet stunning, scenery.
Punalu’u Beach doesn’t just attract tourists. It’s also home to local green sea turtles and Hawksbill turtles, who can often be spotted basking on the sand. Make sure to keep your distance if you do see a turtle!
When the conditions are right, there can be good swimming at Punalu’u Beach, but watch out for the currents. Otherwise, this is a good place to sit and relax, and marvel at the scenery.
3. Papakolea Beach
Papakolea beach is uniquely special, even for Hawaii! It’s one of just four green sand beaches in the world (and the only one on Hawaii).
The green hue of the sand is the result of volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. Papakolea sits in a bay formed by a volcanic cone, where the semi-precious olivine stone is found.
Thousands of years of erosion deposited the olivine stone on the beach, leading to the green tinge we see today!
Reaching the beach requires some effort, so be prepared for a bit of a hike! You have to travel through an almost alien lava field landscape, before carefully making your way down the sides of the volcanic cone.
The waves are rough, so we don’t recommend swimming — but you’ll probably be happy for a sit down after the hike.
Close to the southernmost point of Big Island (which is also the southernmost point of the USA), Papakolea Beach is a spectacular sight that can be found almost nowhere else in the world.
4. Kauna’oa Beach (Mauna Kea)
For family-friendly snorkeling, head to Kauna’oa Beach, also known as Mauna Kea Beach after the hotel nearby.
Bordered on either side by protected reefs, Kauna’oa offers exciting snorkeling at a popular family destination.
One of the attractions of Kauna’oa Beach is the convenience. As the hotel is right next door, there are facilities, lifeguards, and restaurants in walking distance.
If you realize you’ve forgotten your snorkeling equipment, you can even rent some gear from the hotel! But try and turn up early. If you miss out on parking spots near the hotel, the closest public parking is a walk from the beach.
A gently curving crescent bordered by natural reefs, Kauna’oa Beach is well protected from the natural currents.
The water is generally calm, and a good place to swim in the morning, and bodyboard in the afternoon. Stick around until the evening to see golden sunsets.
Best Beaches On Maui
Maui attracts visitors after luxury resorts in a quieter setting, and it’s home to several spectacular beaches.
1. Wailea Beach
Fronting two of the most popular resorts on Maui, the Four Seasons Maui and the Grand Wailea, Wailea (see also: Top Restaurants In Wailea And Kihei (Maui))Beach is a place to see and be seen.
People watching is a popular activity for visitors to Wailea Beach, particularly as you might spot a celebrity or two.
That’s if you can draw your eyes away from the natural scenery of Wailea! With exceptionally soft sands and crystal clear waters ringed by palm trees, Wailea Beach is effortlessly stunning.
On South Maui, Wailea Beach typically gets quieter seas, particularly in the morning. Swimming and snorkeling is good at Wailea Beach. For the best snorkeling, head to the rocky outcrops that border either end of the sands.
Wailea Beach can get crowded, especially as it’s the closest beach to two massive resorts. When you need a break from it all, take a stroll along the Wailea Beach boardwalk. It offers views across to Molokini, and easy access to the other beaches along the Wailea strip.
2. Big Beach (Makena Beach)
In the natural wildlife preserve of Makena State Park, Big Beach has a wild nature quite different from that of nearby Wailea. Bordering the edge of the lava fields, Makena Big Beach has a vibrant atmosphere, and unforgettable golden sands.
Like the scenery, the currents at Big Beach can be a little wild. If you plan on bodyboarding, be careful to check the conditions before going in. Swimmers should stick to paddling!
The real draw of Big Beach, however, is the atmosphere. There’s an entrance fee to the park, which makes Makena quieter than the nearby beaches of Wailea. With Haleakala volcano looming in the background, Big Beach feels closer to nature.
From Big Beach, you can visit some of Makena’s other spectacular coastal strips. Head to the left side of Big Beach to find Little Beach, best known as Maui’s only nude beach. Or take a short walk to visit the Secret Cove, a tiny crescent of coastline with big views.
3. Hamoa Beach
Brace yourself for a bit of a drive if you want to visit Hamoa Beach. It’s located on East Maui, along the famous Road to Hana.
This drive takes you along the lush and verdant slopes of Haleakala volcano, and past some of Maui’s most beautiful (and untouched) beaches.
For many, Hamoa Beach is the perfect turning place on the Hana Highway. You’ve traveled past Hana town, and can take a break on this picture-perfect beach, before heading back to your resort on the other side of the island.
Hamoa Beach is small, but perfectly formed. A tiny slice on the furthest reaches of the island, delicate sand tumbles into crystal waters, overlooked by sweeping cliffs and rugged growth.
The facilities are limited, parking is hard, and access is difficult. But once you’re on the sand, you’ll feel like your own stretch of paradise.
Bring a book and a drink, and take the opportunity to refresh after a long journey.
4. Ka’anapali Beach
Ka’anapali Beach is a Maui favorite thanks to an exceptional blend of convenience and natural beauty.
Once a destination for Hawaiian royalty, the shores of Ka’anapali are home to some of the best hotels on Maui, including several family-friendly resorts.
Ka’anapali Beach itself is a long and sandy stretch, with views across to Lanai and Molokai enhancing an already magnificent ocean panorama. Grab a space in the limited shady spots, and enjoy the golden sunshine.
Ka’anapali is a good place to snorkel, particularly at Black Rock to the north of the beach. But watch out for cliff jumpers! This is one of the most popular jumping spots on the island (and in the evening, the Sheraton Maui has a cliff jumping ceremony).
In winter, keep an eye out for humpback whales. They can often be spotted breaching off the coast of Ka’anapali.
Best Beaches On Kauai
Known as the “Garden Island”, Kauai is also home to some fabulous beaches. Here are our top picks.
1. Poipu Beach
The south shore of Kauai is known for catching the sun year round, and Poipu Beach is perfectly located for making the most of the good weather.
Poipu Beach is actually a series of coves, and the curving crescent shape provides the beach with excellent shelter.
Families can visit for the calm swimming, easy snorkeling, and a chance to get to grips with water activities. During the summer, the currents can pick up, and Poipu Beach becomes a surf destination.
Keep an eye out for the local wildlife. Hawaiian sea turtles like to bask on the beach, and soak up the sunshine. You might even be lucky enough to spot a monk seal! They’re known to visit Poipu from time to time. If you do see turtles or seals, make sure to keep your distance.
There are plenty of restaurants nearby to grab a bite to eat as you wait for a spectacular sunset to arrive. This is also a good time to spot turtles, so it’s worth hanging around until the evening.
2. Hanalei Bay
Sprawling across two miles of the Kauai North Shore, Hanalei Bay is an idyllic destination for travelers to Hawaii. It’s one of the largest bays on Kauai, tucked into a deep crescent that ensures epic views from every angle.
The bay is overlooked by a sweeping mountain landscape that adds a brooding beauty to your day at the beach.
In the summer, the waves at Hanalei Bay are calm and quiet. Swimmers can enjoy the peaceful waters, while daredevils can take a leap from the iconic Hanalei Pier.
Even if you don’t want to jump, make sure to get a look at the pier. It was first constructed in the late 1800s, and visitors can walk along it for a view back to Hanalei.
In winter, Hanalei transforms into a surfing destination. The waves can get pretty big. So stay out of the water unless you’re confident with a surfboard!
3. Polihale Beach
A remote beach on the west coast of Kauai, it takes some effort to get to the isolated shores of Polihale Beach. But if you’re looking for a sense of solitude, then it’s worth the extra effort. The 13-mile stretch is the perfect place to sit back and connect with nature.
Polihale Beach is bordered by the towering Napali Cliffs, which cut the coast off from the rest of the island. This gives the beach the calm and serene vibe that makes it such a desirable destination.
From Polihale, you can also get a rare glimpse at Niihau, Hawaii’s forbidden island.
You’ll need four-wheel-drive if you plan on visiting Polihale beach(see also: The Top 11 Pensacola And Navarre Beach Restaurants You Need To Visit!). The large sand dunes make it difficult to access. But they’re fun to explore, particularly if you enjoy beach combing. Just be sure to pack water and a lot of reef-safe sunscreen, as there’s almost no shade.
Best Beaches On Lanai
Technically part of Maui (see also: Wailea Or Ka’anapali: Which Is The Best Place To Stay On Maui)County, Lanai is a small island off the coast of West Maui.
1. Hulopoe Bay
There are limited resorts on Lanai, which means this small island can often go overlooked by visitors. But even if you aren’t staying on Lanai, you shouldn’t miss a chance to visit Hulopoe Bay. Tours leave frequently from Maui!
Hulopoe Bay is best known for its exceptional snorkeling. The crescent bay is mostly protected from strong currents, and the water visibility is crystal clear.
As part of a protected area, marine life is abundant. Head beneath the waves to discover a spectacular underwater landscape.
Don’t fancy snorkeling? There are large tide pools at the eastern end of the beach, ready for exploring. But keep an eye on the waves, as you might spot a spinner dolphin going past!
If you’re looking for isolation, Lanai is also home to Polihua Beach. You’ll need four-wheel-drive to get there, but this secluded destination offers peace and quiet.
Best Beaches On Molokai
Molokai doesn’t offer the same tourist experience as other Hawaiian islands, but visitors are still welcome to explore the fantastic natural landscape.
1. Papohaku Beach
Visitors head to Molokai to see something a little different from the traditional tourist experience, and that includes beaches without the usual build up of amenities. Papohaku Beach, on West Molokai, is an excellent example of this.
Long and wide, this white sand beach is infused with a sense of tranquility. You can stroll along the sand, and enjoy views across to the Pacific Ocean. It isn’t a swimming beach, so keep your feet on dry land, and enjoy a moment of exquisite calm.
If you’re one of the lucky visitors getting to stay on Molokai, then spend an evening on Papohaku beach, for an incredible sunset.
This might seem like a fairly extensive list, but we’re really only touching the surface! The coastlines of the Hawaiian islands are home to some of the most incredible beaches in the world, each with their own personality.
These are our top choices, but have fun discovering your own favorite Hawaiian beaches!
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