A tropical oasis in every sense, Hawaii has something for everyone. The 30-foot high waves bring loads of adventure for the surfers, while the serene turquoise waters down the coast entice families with kids. And if you are visiting Hawaii for your honeymoon, there is no shortage of small, secluded covers for couples looking to get away from the crowded areas. Moreover, all the beaches in Hawaii are public and can be accessed by everyone.
Better still, one can experience these brilliant beaches on many different islands. Hawaii is divided between islands and many of the travelers take their visit to Hawaii as a multi-island tour to spend at least a day at all the different shorelines. So, sit back, loosen up and start imagining yourself enjoying the calm waters and tropical breezes as we together take a tour of best beaches in Hawaii in this post.
As Hawaii is spread across several islands, we’ve listed some of the best islands in Hawaii along with a list of best beaches on those islands to make sure that you don’t miss any of the fun.
Top Rated Beaches in Hawaii
Best Beaches in Oahu
Oahu is a beach island in Hawaii and is home to Honolulu, the state capital of Hawaii. It has a coastline of 112 miles, and there are more than 100 beaches in Oahu alone. Pearl Harbor, the famous WWII’s bombing attack site is to the west of Honolulu. Apart from the beaches, the Punchbowl, which is crater turned into a cemetery and the historic Chinatown are also popular tourist spots in Oahu.
No matter if you are looking for water sports, family-protected spots for swimming or romantic sunsets, best beaches in Oahu have it all. Moreover, the beach is also popular for its nightlife and dining. But with so many different options to choose from, how will you pick the best Oahu beaches for your visit? Allow us to help you out!
We have listed 3 of the best beaches on Oahu to make things easier for you-
- Waikiki Beach
Waikiki is not just a famous beach in Oahu but is one of the best beaches in Hawaii. It has a coastline of about 2 miles which is divided into multiple sections by hotels and resorts and connected to each other with boardwalks. The harmonious waters of Waikiki allow smooth surfing and swimming throughout the year. The beach is divided into eight smaller beaches, and each of these beaches has their unique characteristics.
Apart from this, there is no shortage of water sports and activities, like canoe racing, surfing, volleyball, stand-up paddling and a lot more. When visiting, make sure that you visit Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo which are just minutes away from the central beach area. Premium resorts, restaurants, and shopping destinations are spread throughout the area.
- Lanikai Beach
Located in Kailua beach town on the windward side of Oahu, Lanikai beach is one of the best Oahu beaches and is famous for its beauty. The water in Lanikai remains calm throughout the year due to the offshore reef, making it a beach with perfect conditions for swimming throughout the year. Travel around a mile from the offshore area to reach two tiny islands that are home to several bird sanctuaries.
People looking for adventure can reach these islands by kayaking. As the waters in Lanikai Beach are clear and there is an abundance of sea turtles and sea fish, snorkeling, windsurfing and sailing are some of the most common activities here. And if sunbathing is what you are looking for, more than half a mile of white sand and the calm sun rays can provide you the needful. However, as Lanikai Beach is located in residential areas, parking is pretty limited.
- Kailua Beach Park
Around a mile away from Lanikai Beach is the Kailua Beach Park. In the year 1998, Dr. Stephen Leatherman (Dr. Beach), a coastal expert named Kailua Beach as the “Best Beach in America." Right from the crystal-blue water to the light-colored sand spread across three miles, Kailua Beach Park is a perfect place to spend a day or two is you are looking for the best island in Hawaii to visit.
The 35-acre park is popular among visitors looking to learn windsurfing or simply relax in gentle waves. Apart from the beach itself, the beach park is also home to volleyball courts and an abundance of picnic areas for the families. Island Snow is a popular eatery in Kailua Beach Park, which is a spot favored by President Obama himself. If you are looking to buy some souvenirs for people back home, Kalapawai Market is sure to provide you with loads of options. The beach park is also home to several vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts too if you are looking to spend more time here.
Best Beaches in Maui
Maui is another attractive part of Hawaiian archipelago and apart from its gorgeous beaches is known for the Haleakala National Park located on the volcanic mountain Haleakala and Ohe’o Gulch which has several waterfalls and pools. As compared to any other best island in Hawaii, Maui has the most number of swimmable beaches. And not just swimming, the beaches in Maui are also very popular for the variety of water sports that they offer, including snorkeling, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and kiteboarding.
Right from the Ka’anapali Beach with its sugary sands to Wai’anapanapa with black sands, there are several best beaches in Maui that should surely be a part of your Hawaii itinerary. And just like the above mentioned best beaches in Oahu, we’ve listed 3 of the best Maui beaches to make it easier for you to select from the available options.
- Ka’anapali Beach
Just like the above mentioned Waikiki Beach, Ka’anapali is also an activity hotbed because of the Ka’anapali Resort and several other hotels that are located on its shore. While best beach of Maui is 1.5 miles long, it is not as crowded as most of the best beaches on Oahu unless during the busy season, like during Christmas vacations.
Ka’anapali Beach is located in the west of Maui and was once known as a beach which mostly catered to the Hawaiian royalty. Over time, it has turned into one of the best places to vacation in Hawaii due to the availability of an abundance of activities, like surfing, sailing, volleyball, and parasailing. However, many of these activities are only available during the busy season. So, it is better first to enquire about the available activities before visiting. Black Rock, located to the north of this best Maui beach, is a popular destination for snorkeling and cliff diving which takes place every day during sunset.
- Kapalua Beach
With protected bay lined with lava rock and palm trees and beautiful sand, Kapalua Beach is one of the top beaches in Maui. It is located in the northwestern part of Maui, just a few minutes away from Lahaina, which is one of the most popular whaling ports in the US. Kapalua Beach consistently ranks among the best vacation spots in Hawaii by several travel websites and publications.
The waters in Kapalua Beach are calm, and the pools with natural tide allow people with the opportunity to see the sea creatures carefully. As a matter of fact, between the month of December and February one can even spot whales migrating in deep waters through Kapalua Beach. Needless to say, the beach is very popular among families that visit Hawaii with young children. There is also a Shopping Village close to the beach and several hotels line up the coastline to offer an abundance of shopping, entertainment, and dining options.
- Keawakapu Beach
Located somewhere in between Kihei and Wailea, is another best beaches in Maui, Keawakapu. Located in the south of Maui, this beach is popular among vacationers looking for a getaway far from the more-populated, larger beaches. But don't let the small size of this beach fool you; the beach has excellent swimming conditions from January to December.
The beach has an abundance of white, soft sand which is highly preferred by sunbathers as well as kids looking to build their sand castle. So, be it families with children or a honeymoon couple, Keawakapu is an ideal destination for a variety of vacationers. And if you are looking for a snorkeling opportunity, there is also a reef at the right side of this best beach on Maui. The Five Palms Restaurant which is located below Mana Kai offers an excellent view of Keawakapu Beach and its scenic sunset.
Best Beaches on the Big Island
Popularly known as the Island of Hawaii, the Big Island is Hawaii’s largest island and is located in the Central Pacific region. It is spread across 4,028 miles and is also the 3rd largest island in the entire Polynesia. The island is famous for its diverse terrain which consists of black sand beaches at Punalu’u and green sand beaches at Papakolea. Moreover, there is no shortage of lush rainforests on this island. The island is also known for its Volcanoes National Park which has two active volcanoes- Mauna Loa and Kilauea.
As Big Island is pretty young, many of the new beaches regularly appear and disappear. But the three best beaches on the Big Island mentioned below are well-established and sure to provide you with loads of adventure and relaxation.
- Punalu’s Black Sand Beach
If you are looking to visit Big Island for its black sand beaches, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is where you should be. It is the most famous black sand beach in Hawaii and is also the most sprawling. Moreover, while many of the black sand beaches in Hawaii are difficult to access, Punalu’u Beach is easily accessible and is well-connected by roads.
The black sand of this beach is nothing but tiny lava fragments. Black sand beaches are created instantaneously when hot lava meets a cold water body to shatter and solidify into black sand. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is popular for swimming, coastal hikes, snorkeling and also has an abundance of picnic spots. Moreover, the endangered Green and Hawksbill turtles can also be seen at this beach.
However, the currents can sometimes be too strong at the beach and it is highly recommended that one should stay away from the water during high tides. Ninole Cave which is in walking distance from Punalu’u has sand channels with sheltered bay and offers a comfortable entry for people looking to snorkel.
- Makalawena Beach
People who love to hike should visit Makalawena Beach located in the northern part of the Big Island. A walk of about 20-minutes across unpaved path made mostly from lava is the only way to reach Makalawena Beach. If you are someone who likes to stay away from the beaten path, this 20-minute pays off big time as Makalawena is one of the best beaches on the Big Island and is uncrowded.
The beach has crystal clear water which sparkles throughout the day and soft white sand, making it a perfect destination for sunbathing and swimming. Moreover, it also has coral reefs located just around the offshore which are perfect for exploring beautiful underwater caves, sea, and coral arches. However, unlike most of the best beaches in Big Island, restaurants and shopping spots around Makalawena are not in abundance.
- Papakolea Green Sand Beach
If you've never seen a green sand beach, you should visit Papakolea Green Sand Beach on the Big Island. After all, it is one of the only two green sand beaches in the US. Green sand beaches are named after the olivine crystals which make up most of the sand on these beaches. These crystals are washed out from a large cinder cone around 49,000 years ago which ejected lava that contained large amounts of olivine. While the general volcanic ash sweeps in the sea, olivine crystals are tougher and denser and accumulate on the beach.
While Papakolea Beach is not very easy to access, the payoffs are pretty amazing. As the beach is located in a remote area and requires almost an entire day for covering it well, you'd have most the beach for yourself as it is hardly crowded. The water at this beach is pretty calm and is an excellent swimming and snorkeling spot. You are required to hike for a total of 5 miles to reach and get back from this beach, so make sure that you carry an adequate picnic basket with lots of water. But Papakolea is one beach on the Big Island that you'll remember throughout your life.
Best Beaches in Kona
Kona is a district in the Big Island area of Hawaii. It is divided in north and south and just like all the other places here have some of the best Hawaii beaches. Kona region spreads across a total of 60 miles on the western side of Big Island. Apart from it being a place of historical importance, it is very popular for its coffee and water sports.
While the Big Island is widely famous for a variety of activities, like mountain climbing and whale watching, Kona is known for its serene beaches. Sand as soft as powder and crystal clear waters are what the best beaches in Kona are all about. If you decide to visit Kona on the Big Island, make sure that you visit the below-mentioned beaches.
- Maniniowali Beach
Popularly known as the "Caribbean of Hawaii," Maniniowali Beach is situated on Kua Bay. The beach has pear white sand which slopes towards the clear blue waters, making it one of the most picturesque beaches in Hawaii. The water at this beach is calm in the mornings and is perfect for swimming. The beach has a beautiful crescent shape and is crowded throughout the year.
Inexperienced surfers and swimmers are advised to stay away from the waters of Maniniowali Beach after the morning hours as the water can be very rough at times. The beach is also very popular among snorkelers and bodyboarders. There is an abundance of tropical fishes and turtles in the underwater coral and boulders of Maniniowali Beach, making it one of the best places for snorkeling.
- White Sands Beach
Also known as Disappearing Sands Beach or Magic Sands Beach, White Sands Beach is one of the best beaches in Kauai region. The beach has got its nickname from the fact that its sand magically disappears during high surf hours and then reappears when it gets calm. The high surf times sweep away most of the sand from this beach to only leave rocks. However, as soon as the surf gets calmer, the sand returns in full to cover all the rocks to provide vacationers with a clean white sand beach.
It is during the winter months that the surf is pretty high and one can only find rocks here. But as soon as the summer begins, the sand starts getting back to the beach, making it a perfect time to visit this beach. So, make sure that you consider the time when you are visiting Hawaii before planning to visit this beach.
During the summer months, the water at this beach is very calm and perfect for swimming. However, when the surf gets high, the waves start breaking on the beach and can be dangerous. While this beach is not very large, it is still a pretty amazing white sand beach which is worth a visit. Moreover, as this beach is easily accessible, especially when many of the best beaches on Big Island are difficult to reach, it is very crowded. It is also very popular among bodyboarders.
- Kahaluu Beach Park
Kahaluu Beach Park is also one of the best beaches in Kona region. It is crowded with people looking for ocean activities. While it is not your standard white sand beach, it is an excellent spot to enjoy a picnic or learn snorkeling and surfing. As the bay of this beach park is protected by a breakwater, the snorkeling area is pretty calm even during high surf hours.
Snorkeling is carried on the south part of this beach, whereas, the north part is exposed to waves and is filled with surfers. Sea live at this beach is pretty diverse and beautiful, and the Kahaluu Beach Park is one of the snorkeling spots in Kona where you can get up close with a sea turtle. Apart from the snorkeling and surfing, the sand at the beach is an excellent spot for the kids to play. Also, when you are at Kahaluu beach, make sure that you stay until the evening as the sunset here is known to be very beautiful.
Best Beaches in Kauai
Also known as the "Garden Isle," Kauai is a popular part of the Hawaiian archipelago. Most of its surface is covered with tropical rainforest, and some Hollywood movies have been shot at its Na Pali Coast which has picturesque pinnacles and cliffs. Waimea Canyon spread across 10 miles, and Nounou Trails which pass through Sleeping Giant mountain ridge are very popular for hiking.
But apart from the canyons, rainforest, and cliffs, Kauai is also blessed with some of the best Hawaii beaches. As a matter of fact, the entire coastline of Kauai is dotted with beautiful beaches with soft sand for sunbathing and calm water for swimming. But apart from the sand and water, every beach offers a variety of other activities too. So, be it surfing, snorkeling, scenic sunset, or a family picnic spot, Kauai has something for every visitor.
Let us have a look at 3 of the best beaches in Kauai-
Polihale State Beach Park
Located to in the west of Kauai, Polihale is spread across 13 miles. However, a major part of Polihale is occupied by the military and not accessible to the public. The 3 miles part which is public is known as the Polihale Beach Park and is one of the most beautiful places on this island. The popular cliffs of Na Pali Coast begin at the north of Polihale and work as a divider between west and north Polihale.
Hawaiian people believe that it is these cliffs in Polihale where the souls of dead people depart to the underworld of deep underwater. The area close to the cliffs is known as Echo Beach, and Surfers have a perfect surfing spot just off its shore. The area is also very popular for snorkeling, especially for people who want to learn snorkeling. Moreover, the white, soft sand of this beach park also work as an excellent picnic spot for families with young children. Showers, restrooms, and eateries are spread throughout the area.
- Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay is located in the northern part of Kauai. The beach has a 2-miles lone coastline which is filled with white sand and the majestic mountains at the backdrop. Be it surfers, snorkelers, sunbathers, or families looking for a picnic spot, Hanalei Bay is sure to impress one and all.
If you are an experienced surfer, the large waves away from the reef are sure to provide you with the adventure you are looking for and if you are new to surfing, smaller waves near the reef will keep you entertained and make you a better surfer. The water at Hanalei Bay is very calm in the summer months and is perfect for stand-up paddlers and swimmers. And unlike the beaches at other popular islands of Hawaiian, beaches in Kauai are generally not very crowded, making the perfect for families with children.
- Poipu Beach
Poipu is in the southern part of Kauai and is worth a visit. The Travel Channel has crowned Poipu as the “Best Beach of the USA”. A sand bar naturally divides the beach into two bays and also works as a spot where the famous Hawaiian monk seal relax. The part to the west of this sand bar is Baby Beach, which is a secured cove perfect for young children. This part is mostly crowded with families and is an amazing picnic spot.
Eastern part of the sand bar is a complete paradise for beachgoers and offers some activities to keep every vacationer busy. Surfing, snorkeling, swimming and boogie boarding are some of the most popular activities here. Poipu Beach is also very popular for its eateries and the local Hawaiian delicacies offered here. Apart from the local cuisine, delicacies from all over the world are easily available on Poipu Beach.
This brings us to the end of this Best Beaches in Hawaii post. If you are planning to visit Hawaii for your next vacation, make sure that you visit as many beaches from this list as possible to make sure that you experience a vacation which you can remember throughout your lifetime. And while packing for the vacation, make sure that you pack all the beach essentials to ensure that you enjoy the beaches at their best.