The islands that make up Hawaii’s archipelago are known for their unique culture, their stunning tropical foliage and their laid-back vibe. Hawaiian beaches are also some of the most beautiful in the world thanks to the tall, swaying palm trees and the dramatic mountain scenery that surrounds them.
Which beaches in Hawaii are worth a visit? Practically all of them, but some feature better scenery or waters for surfing or snorkeling than others. As you start planning your next trip to the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands, consider adding a stop to these Hawaiian beaches for a few hours… or a few days. (Note: Some of the destinations mentioned may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)
Poipu Beach, Kauai
The island of Kauai is popular due to its mountainous terrain, its verdant and lush landscapes, and its accessible waterfalls. However, the golden sand beaches are also a sight to behold. Once named “America’s Best Beach” by the Travel Channel, Poipu Beach is located on the south shore of the island and features a natural ocean wading pool perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
Big Beach, Maui
Maui‘s Big Beach (also called Makena Beach) is long, beautiful and wide with rough waters and stunning mountain views. Visitors can spread out and enjoy plenty of space thanks to the sheer size of the beach, and it’s shorebreak brings huge swells perfect for surfing, extreme boogie boarding and other water sports.
Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Located within the city of Honolulu, Hanauma Bay is home to an array of tropical fish and other marine life, making it an ideal place for learning about the area’s delicate underwater ecosystem via a snorkeling excursion. This nature preserve is so important to locals that tour buses are no longer permitted inside. However, individual travelers can still make the journey to admire this gorgeous stretch of coastline.
Hulopoe Beach, Lanai
Hulopoe Beach is located in front of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, one of the premier luxury resorts in all of Hawaii. In addition to its incredible scenery, this beach offers some of the best snorkeling and swimming waters off the coast of Lanai. Large tidal pools on the eastern side of the bay also create ideal swimming and exploring opportunities for children.
Polihale Beach, Kauai
Polihale Beach is located within Kauai’s Polihale State Park, and it’s known for its amazing sunsets and jaw-dropping views of the famous Napali Coast. This stretch of coastline is perfect for families who want to enjoy a picnic or relax in a remarkably natural setting. Plus, swimming is possible when ocean conditions are calm.
Kahalu’u Beach, Big Island
Located on the Kona coast near the town center of Kailua-Kona, Kahalu’u Beach boasts an array of marine animals that range from sea turtles to tropical fish. This makes the beach ideal for snorkeling and learning about the ocean, although rocks near the shore necessitate water shoes. Rougher waters not far from the shore also make this beach a popular spot for surfers.
Ko Olina Beach, Oahu
Ko Olina Beach is home to several resorts, including the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina and Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, and is made up of four different lagoons that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. While the beaches here are privately owned, travelers can visit and daily parking is available. Many activities like scuba diving and surfing are prohibited, but the beach is worth a visit thanks to its ample ocean wildlife and clear waters.
Pa’iloa Beach, Maui
Maui’s Pa’iloa Beach is located along the Road to Hana within Waianapanapa State Park, and is only accessible with park reservations. However, the trip will be worth it thanks to the beach’s startling black sand and clear turquoise waters. This stretch of sand even boasts a natural lava arch in the water, which creates the perfect backdrop for your Instagram-worthy photos.
Polihua Beach, Lanai
Located on the northern shore of Lanai, secluded Polihua Beach is harder to reach than some of the other top beaches in Hawaii (accessing it requires a four-wheel drive vehicle or a professional guide). However, this beach is 2 miles long and blissfully empty, making it perfect for sunbathing or enjoying the views without any crowds. Strong ocean currents make the waters along Polihua Beach too dangerous for swimming, but it’s still a great place to get away from it all.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Big Island
If you’re eager to see a unique black sand beach, the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach on the island of Hawaii should be on your radar. This beach is located between the towns of Pahala and Naalehu in Kau, so it’s easily accessible. While not ideal for swimming, the stark contrast of the black sand and clear waters makes this beach unforgettable. You may even see protected sea turtles relaxing on the shores or swimming directly off the coast.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Kauai’s Hanalei Bay is known for its incredible surf and proximity to the gorgeous Napali Coast, as well as the many luxury resorts located in nearby Princeville, including The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. There are actually three different beaches within Hanalei — Waioli Beach Park, Hanalei Beach Park and Black Pot Beach. Each one is dotted with lifeguards, and swimming is possible when the waters are calm.
Wailea Beach, Maui
Wailea Beach features soft white sand and calm waters that beg visitors to jump right in. Known for drawing in lots of tourists, this stretch of coastline boasts many upscale eateries featuring gourmet cuisine and fresh seafood. This beach is also home to an array of popular resorts, from the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort to the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.
Waimanalo Beach, Oahu
Waimanalo Beach is not very popular with tourists, but it’s not due to a lack of beauty. This beach on the island’s southeastern shore is a sight to behold thanks to its powder white sand, mountainous backdrop and azure ocean waters. There aren’t any amenities here, but what the beach lacks in facilities it more than makes up for in its peaceful atmosphere.
Makalawena Beach, Big Island
The Big Island’s Makalawena Beach is popular with hikers, and it’s easy to see why. As part of Kekaha Kai State Park, this beach is not accessible by car, meaning it’s less frequented by tourists. If you do decide to make the 4.5-mile trek to the beach along the Ala Kahakai Trail, you’ll be rewarded with a palm-lined shoreline, plenty of shade trees and astonishing natural beauty in every direction.
Lanikai Beach, Oahu
Oahu’s Lanikai Beach is located 15 miles northeast of downtown Honolulu, so it’s not that difficult to reach. Travelers who make the journey will find a tranquil beach that’s a mile long with lighter crowds than nearby Waikiki Beach. While parking can be limited, the calm waters found here make this beach a family-friendly gem.
Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Kalapaki Beach sits behind a protected break wall directly next to Marriott’s Kaua’i Beach Club, making it convenient for hotel guests who don’t want to drive. This beach is ideal for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding and learning to surf, yet you’ll also find visitors sunbathing and playing beach volleyball.
Sunset Beach, Oahu
Oahu’s Sunset Beach is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it’s perfect for active vacationers who want to take part in water sports like surfing and boogie boarding. This North Shore beach is also easy to visit by car thanks to its location near the town of Haleiwa south of Waimea Bay. Parking is available across the street from the beach, as well as basic facilities like restrooms and showers.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island
Hapuna Beach is located within Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island, and it’s one of the area’s largest white sand treasures. This postcard-perfect beach tends to offer excellent conditions for swimming, as well as calm water activities like stand-up paddleboarding and snorkeling. You can even see whales migrating along the coast during part of the year (most often from January to March), and amenities like food vendors, restrooms and showers will make your visit more comfortable.
Papohaku Beach, Molokai
Papohaku Beach is located on the island of Molokai, and it’s one of the longest and widest white sand beaches in all of Hawaii. Families love to camp along the broad expanse of this beach year-round, and picnic and restroom facilities are found on-site. While swimming is safe for part of the year, visitors should avoid getting in the water here from October through March.
Papakolea Beach, Big Island
After you’ve visited a few of Hawaii’s black sand beaches Papakolea Beach, also known as Green Sand Beach, should be next on your list. While this unique shore on Hawaii’s Big Island offers no amenities and often experiences a strong surf that makes for dangerous swimming conditions, it’s worth a visit just to view the stark contrast of the green sand, which is made that way by a common mineral called olivine. Note that reaching the shoreline requires a hike from the parking lot and that there is little to no shade along the way.
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Waikiki Beach is located along the south shore of Honolulu, which boasts many of Oahu’s most fabulous hotels and resorts, including Halekulani and The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Waikiki. This means you’ll share the sand with thousands of tourists in the area, but that you’ll also be able to find dining and entertainment with ease. Not only does Waikiki Beach stand in the shadows of the beautiful Diamond Head landmark, but it’s also an ideal spot for swimming, snorkeling and surfing lessons for beginners.
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