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Best beaches in Hawaii
A trip to the Hawaiian islands can mean lots of things, adventure activities, relaxation, palm trees, water sports, epic scenery, and of course, beach time! Today we are going to talk about the best beaches in Hawaii.
If you haven’t planned your Hawaii vacation yet, this list of the best beaches in Hawaii may help. If you have, don’t worry, I have the beaches listed by island, so you can find the best beaches in Hawaii no matter which island you’re visiting.
I’m a Hawaii Travel Agent and beach lover, so I’ll share some pro tips to help you navigate Hawaii’s 800 miles of coastline (okay, we won’t talk about all of it today!)
Hawaii Beach Tips
Before we get to the list of the best beaches in Hawaii, let’s go over some general safety guidelines for beaches in Hawaii.
- Never turn your back on the ocean.
- The sun in Hawaii is intense! Even if you don’t tend to burn at home, make sure to wear reef-safe sunscreen if you need it.
- Beaches may be closed due to hazardous conditions. Always pay attention to warning signs or beach closings.
- It is absolutely not safe to leave valuables in your vehicle. Although Hawaii is quite safe for the most part, vehicle theft can be a problem. Make sure to leave anything valuable at your resort.
- Always clean up after yourself. In fact, pick up some trash while you’re at the beach! Leave it better than you found it.
- Do not take lava rocks or sand. Lava rocks might seem like a great souvenir, but legend says that Madame Pele will curse anyone who takes these items from Hawaii. The elements returning to Hawaii are the only thing that will lift the curse. You might roll your eyes, but the post office sees hundreds of lava rocks, sand, and other materials returned to Hawaii every year! Better safe than cursed, right?!
Do I need a rental car in Hawaii?
We discuss 30 of the best beaches in Hawaii today, spread out over all of the islands, so you’ll definitely need a rental car. I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices, and you can reserve now and pay upon arrival.
The 30 best beaches in Hawaii
Here are some of the best beaches in Hawaii, listed by island. We’ll start with Maui, as Maui is known for having some of the best beaches in Hawaii (and some of the best beaches in the world!)
I did decide to limit this list of the best beaches in Hawaii to only thirty, so there are plenty of beaches on the island chain that I don’t mention. Don’t get mad if I don’t share your favorite; share it with us in the comments!
The best beaches in Maui
Some of the best beaches in Hawaii are located in Maui. There are two main areas for tourists in Maui, the west side and the south side. Both have incredible beaches! The west side may be a bit further, but it’s one of the best places to see whales during the winter months.
Some of my favorite hotels, like the Hyatt Regency Maui, are located here, on Kaanapali Beach on Maui’s west coast.
South Maui is central, and it’s where some of the best resorts in Maui are located, such as the Four Seasons, Andaz Maui, Hotel Wailea, Fairmont Kea Lani, and several others.
1. Wailea Beach
If you’re staying in one of the beautiful resorts in Wailea. Due to being right in front of the Grand Wailea and the Four Seasons, it is a popular place.
You will find beautiful views of the crystal-clear waters, and it’s one of the best spots for snorkeling when the water is calm.
2. Kaanapali Beach
Ka’anapali Beach is one of the best beaches on Maui and home to many beautiful resorts such as the Hyatt Regency Maui, Westin Maui Resort, and Sheraton Maui Resort. The beach is lined with luxury resorts, condos, and coconut palms.
You can snorkel on the north side of the beach at Black Rock, one of the 10 best places to snorkel in Maui. Kaanapali Beach is also one of the best places to see humpback whales during the winter months.
You can check out some of my favorites on my Amazon storefront or in the links below.
3. Hookipa Beach
Hookipa Beach is located near the beginning of the Road to Hana near the famous Mama’s Fish House. This is a popular place for wind surfing but isn’t always safe for swimming.
Still, you can enjoy the sofa sand and watch the watersports!
4. Napili Bay
Napili Bay is one of the best beaches in Hawaii for families, thanks to calm waters and protection by outer reefs. It’s the perfect place to spend a few hours relaxing, swimming, or snorkeling in the turquoise waters.
5. Makena Beach Park
Makena State Park is comprised of 165 acres just south of Wailea. “Big Beach,” which is actually Oneloa Beach and also called Makena Beach, is the most popular beach in the park. This is a popular beach for both locals and tourists thanks to gentle waves, shallow waters, and beautiful long stretches of sand.
The parking area is plentiful, so you have no reason not to check out one of Maui’s best golden sand beaches.
Little Beach is harder to access and is an unofficial “clothing-optional” beach. If you do want to go there, check out how to find Little Beach in Maui. If you don’t want to go there, don’t worry, you likely won’t just stumble upon it!
6. Waianapanapa State Park
Maui has several black sand beaches, but the most popular – by far – is in Waianapanapa State Park.
Located at Mile Marker 32, Wai’anapanapa State Park is my #1 Road to Hana must-see. If you’re looking for the best stops on the Road to Hana, this is one of them! In fact, it’s so popular that you now need a reservation.
Wai’anapanapa State Park is home to Maui’s most famous black sand beach as well as two freshwater caves. The 150-acre park is also home to many ancient sites, including burial sites, a pictograph, and more.
This is a must-see if you’re interested in Hawaiian history. There are also several hiking trails within the park. Sadly, it’s not a great beach for swimming.
Check out the ultimate guide to the Road to Hana for more tips.
Is there a red sand beach in Maui?
Yes, there is a red sand beach in Maui. I am not going to share about it today because it is debatable, at best, whether or not you have to trespass to get there. Here are Luxe Aloha Destinations; I strongly recommend against trespassing and recommend visiting one of the other beautiful beaches in Maui instead.
The best beaches in Oahu
Maui may get all the credit, but Oahu also has some of the best beaches in Hawaii. If you get away from the crowds at Waikiki Beach, you’ll find long stretches of golden-sand beaches and an ideal place to spend a quiet afternoon.
You may notice that I did not add the famous Waikiki Beach to this list because, to me, it isn’t one of the best beaches in Hawaii, although it may be the most iconic!
7. Lanikai Beach
Lanikai Beach, not to be confused with Laniakea Beach, is one of the best beaches in Oahu. They have picnic tables, so bring lunch!
8. Waimea Bay beach park
Waimea Bay is located on the north shore of Oahu. Like the other north shore beaches, it may not always be safe for swimming. However, during the summer months, you may find the right conditions for snorkeling or even scuba diving.
You can also do a short 1.5-mile hike to Waimea Falls Park, a beautiful 45-foot waterfall where you can actually swim.
9. Hanauma Bay
Hanauma Bay State Park has one of the best beaches in Hawaii and is one of the best places for snorkeling on Oahu. Check out Pure Aloha Adventures for standup paddleboarding, snorkeling tours, and more.
10. Waimanalo Bay
Waimanalo is about a 45-minute drive from Waikiki Beach (the most famous beach in Hawaii), but it will feel like a different world. This is the ideal spot to get away from the crowds on a long stretch of beach.
This sandy beach also has gorgeous views of the Koolau Mountains.
11. Haleiwa Beach Park
With some of the calmest waters on the North Shore, it’s easy to see why Haleiwa Beach Park is so popular. Haleiwa Beach Park is the best beach on the North Shore for families and beginner surfers.
Located just outside of Haleiwa, you can easily walk to the beach (about 10 minutes) if you’re exploring the town on foot.
12. Ko’olina Beach Park
The Ko’olina Lagoons are man-made lagoons in front of some of Oahu’s best resorts, including Disney’s Aulani and the Four Seasons.
Since Hawaii’s beaches are public, Ko Olina Beach is accessible to the public, but parking opportunities can be limited.
13. Sunset Beach
One of the best things to do in Haleiwa is to watch the sunset at Sunset Beach. Due to the geography of Oahu, the North Shore actually faces west, which makes it the perfect spot for watching the sunset.
14. Laniakea Beach (Turtle Beach)
The actual name of this beach is Laniakea Beach, but it’s commonly known as Turtle Beach. As the name implies, this is one of the best places to see turtles in Oahu.
Remember that it’s a federal crime to touch or bother the turtles in any way, so keep a good distance between you and the turtles.
In fact, it’s illegal to touch most of the animals in Hawaii, including dolphins, monk seals, and more. Remember that this is their home, and you are a guest. Always be respectful to both the human and non-human locals of Hawaii.
The best beaches on the Big Island
Here are some of the best beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.
15. Mauna Kea Beach
Kaunaoa Beach is more commonly known as Mauna Kea Beach as it sits in front of the beautiful Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Mauna Kea Beach is arguably the prettiest beach on the Big Island.
This beach is just a short distance from Mauna Kea Hotel, but like all Hawaii beaches, it is a public beach if you can find a spot in the parking lot. The parking is limited, and it is not free so keep that in mind.
16. Kekaha Kai State Park (Mahaiula Beach)
Kekaha Kai State Park may not make all the lists for the best beaches in Hawaii, but it makes mine! It’s a bit of a bumpy road through a lava field to access the main beach, but that means it’s less busy than some of the others.
My husband and I call this “our” beach because we spend so much time here, but don’t worry, it can be your beach too!
This is one of the most beautiful beaches with easy access (as long as you have a car) and white sand.
This blog post did so well; it ultimately is what made me decide to turn this blog into a travel blog (it used to cover many different topics.) Eventually, that turned into being a Hawaii Travel Agent and having a popular Hawaii travel blog. Now you know why it’s my favorite!
17. Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay)
Kua Bay (Maniniowali Beach) is the furthest north of the three beaches in Kekaha Kai State Park. It’s easier to access than the other two, so Kua Bay tends to be a lot busier than either Makalawena Beach or Mahaiula Beach. Rather than having to drive across a treacherous lava field, you can access Kua Bay Beach via a paved road.
18. Hapuna Beach
Hapuna Beach is the largest and easily one of the best white sand beaches on the Big Island. It is open daily from 7 AM-8 PM, and parking is $5 per car.
This beach regularly makes “best beaches in Hawaii” lists as well as some international lists for best beaches! Hapuna Beach is excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and bodyboarding. Amenities include restrooms, showers, vendors, and picnic areas.
19. Punaluu Black Sand Beach
There are several black sand beaches on the Big Island, but Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is by far the most popular, as well as being one of the most accessible.
I talk about Punalu’u Black sand beach in my post about where to find sea turtles on the Big Island. It’s one of the best places to spot honu sunning themselves.
Located between the towns of Pahala and Naalehu in Kau, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is a great stop on the way to Volcanoes National Park. Although it’s not a great beach for swimming, it’s a must-see thanks to the beautiful black sand and green sea turtles.
20. Papakolea Beach
While Papakolea Beach may not be one of the best beaches in Hawaii for some things, it is certainly one of most interesting Big Island beaches. This is the only green sand beach in Hawaii and one of four in the entire world! It’s about a 2-mile hike. Do not drive it, no matter what anyone says!
Why is the beach green? Papakolea Green Sand Beach is green thanks to the olivine crystals in lava rock.
Where are the other green sand beaches located? As I mentioned earlier, there are only four green sand beaches in the entire world! They are Talofofo Beach on Guam, Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands., Hornindalsvatnet in Norway, and of course, Papakōlea beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The best beaches in Kauai
Here are some of the best beaches in Kauai. Keep in mind that you should take current weather into consideration when choosing a beach on Kauai.
21. Poipu Beach Park
Poipu Beach is often considered one of the best beaches in Kauai. This beach is located on Kauai’s south shore near some of the most popular resorts in Kauai, such as Sheraton Kauai Resort, Ko’a Kea Resort, and Hotel and Marriott’s Kauai Beach Club.
This beach is protected by a reef making it the perfect location for boogie boarding or beginner surfing. A lot of my clients take surf lessons on this beach! Poipu Beach has plenty of amenities, including showers, a playground, restrooms, and a picnic area.
Baby Beach (the western side of Poipu Beach) sits on the other side of Nukumoi Point. This sand bar is a popular spot to see endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Please remember never to touch or go too close to the monk seals.
22. Lydgate Beach
There are two rock-enclosed ponds which are great sheltered areas for kids to swim and see tropical fish. Lydgate State Park also has a playground and a 2.5-mile paved coastal walking path which makes it one of the best beaches in Kauai for families on this list.
Lydgate State Park also has lifeguards, restrooms, and picnic areas, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
23. Hanalei Bay
Moving up to the North Shore, Hanalei Bay is a crescent cove with reefs on both sides.
This two-mile beach offers something for everyone, from surfing to snorkeling and diving to kayaking. Hanalei Bay is also a great spot to take surf lessons.
24. Ke’e Beach
Ke’e Beach, which is pronounced like Ke-ay, not key, is located in Ha’ena State Park. Located on the North Shore, Ke’e is the furthest beach on the north side that you can access by driving. Ke’e Beach is near the beginning of the Napali Coast and the Kalalau trail that leads to Hanakapiai and Kalalau Beach.
For Hanakapiai Beach and Kalalau Beach, you’ll need to hike in, and for that, you’ll need a permit. You can obtain your permit through the Hawaii Division of State Parks.
Ke’e Beach is generally not the best beach for swimming in the winter due to strong currents, but it can be calm in the summer months. Ke’e Beach also has lifeguards. The parking situation is very limited, so make sure to arrive early to ensure parking availability.
25. Tunnels Beach
Whenever I’m asked about the best places to snorkel in Kauai, I always think of Tunnels Beach. Tunnels Beach, or Makua Beach, is easily the best spot for snorkeling and diving on the garden island.
Lava tubes from volcano rock have formed underwater caverns perfect for exploring if weather conditions permit, thus the nickname Tunnels Beach. Tunnels Beach is also great for surfing and kite surfing.
Plus, the beautiful mountains give it an epic backdrop. Check out The best things to do in Hanalei for more things to do in the area.
Although so many of the best beaches in Hawaii have gorgeous views, Tunnels Beach is certainly one of my favorites.
26. ANAHOLA BEACH
Anahola Beach is a beautiful white sand beach – the kind of beach you think of when you think of Hawaii. This spectacular beach is excellent for swimming and snorkeling for the majority of the year, thanks to a protective reef.
This beach is secluded enough not to be busy but easy enough to access to not be inconvenient. Anahola Beach is one of the best beaches on Kauai for families and has lifeguards. You can also see the beautiful Kalalea mountains.
Anahola Beach is another favorite for locals, and it can get busy on the weekends. If you have small children, this is a great beach to visit.
The best beaches in Molokai
There’s a good chance you won’t be heading to Molokai during your Hawaii vacation, but if you do, you’ll see some of the best beaches in Hawaii – and some of the least crowded!
27. Kalaupapa Beach
Kalaupapa Beach is a unique beach with dark brown sand and green sea cliffs.
28. Papohaku beach Park (Three Mile Beach)
Molokai has many other beaches, but Papohaku is one of the most popular. Since Molokai isn’t as populated or popular for tourism, you might have an entire beach to yourself.
The best beaches in Lanai
As a Hawaii Travel Agent, I’m often asked if there are ferries in Hawaii. The answer is generally “no.” However, there is one ferry between Lanai and Maui. So, a day trip to Lanai from Maui to see some of the best beaches in Hawaii is definitely a possibility.
So although you may not visit them, we’ll also share some of the best beaches on the small islands of Lanai and Molokai.
29. Polihua Beach
Polihua Beach is about 30 minutes away from Garden of the Gods, one of the best things to do in Lanai. So, if you’re going there, you might as well check out this incredible beach. This is not a safe beach for swimming, so make sure to enjoy it from the beautiful soft sand only.
30. Hulopoe Bay
Hulopoe Bay is often named one of the best beaches in Hawaii and even the best beaches in the United States. This beautiful beach sits just outside of the Four Seasons Lanai and offers crystal clear waters and a great spot for snorkeling.
The best beaches in Hawaii
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best beaches in Hawaii. Did your favorite beach in Hawaii make the list? I know there are even more great beaches that I didn’t mention. If you have a favorite to add to this list of the best Hawaiian beaches, let me know in the comments.
More Hawaii travel ideas
For more Hawaii travel tips, check out some of my most popular blog posts:
- What not to do in Hawaii (30 things you should never do in Hawaii)
- 100 things to do in Hawaii (Hawaii Bucket List)
- The questions that I’m asked the most as a Hawaii Travel Agent
- The best Hawaiian fruit to try
- The fascinating Hawaiian animals
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