the best beaches Hawaii

15 Best Beaches In Hawaii

Hawaii is famous the world over for being one of the best places to vacation. And it really, truly is. From the hustle and bustle of Oahu to the romance of Maui, these islands are pure paradise. But with so many beautiful spots to explore, how to find the best beaches in Hawaii?

Whether you’re here to enjoy world-class surfing, lounge on golden sand or hike through dense jungle to reach a hidden bay, there’s a beach for everyone.

Best Beaches in HawaiiHow do these rankings work?

1. Kalalau Beach – Kauai

The trail leading to this secluded beach is one of the most difficult in the Hawaiian Islands, making it an unspoilt piece of paradise for those adventurous and skillful enough to make it. The breathtaking views of rugged coastline and lush greenery from the shore make it worthwhile.

2. Ka’anapali Beach – Maui

This three-mile stretch of beach has been named as one of the best beaches on Maui, and even one of the best beaches in the world.

One of Kaanapali Beach’s most famous attractions is the daily cliff diving ceremony off Puu Kekaa, or Black Rock. Held every evening at sunset, a cliff diver lights the torches along the cliff, and soars into the water.

3. Tunnels Beach – Kauai

Tunnels Beach (Makua) is an ultimate snorkelling spot, with the picturesque backdrop of Mount Makana and lush jungles.  Lava tubes form the many underwater caverns here, which gives the beach its name.

The water can get rough during winter, so keep an eye on the tides.

4. Sunset Beach – Oahu

Sunset Beach is known as one of the longest stretches of rideable surf in the world, with a wide, sandy stretch to relax on. In the winter months, you can watch big-wave surfing with swells up to 30 feet tall, along with the world’s premier surfing competitions.

5. Hanauma Bay – Oahu

Hanauma Bay was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967, and is still an exceptional place for snorkeling and swimming today. As well as a natural sheltered curve for sunbathing on the pristine sand, the water itself is home to 400 species of Hawaiian fishes.

the best beaches Hawaii

6. Duke Kahanamoku Beach – Oahu

Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii, with the Duke Kahanamoku Beach section the best. There’s a man-made swimming lagoon that offers a calm setting for floating in the stunning waters. Palm trees and silky sand are an extra bonus.

the best beaches Hawaii

7. Manini’owali Beach – Kailua-Kona

Just one of Hawaii’s many breathtaking beaches, this beach (tucked into Kua Bay) is located on the Big Island and it is part of the Kai State Park. The water in the bay is crystal clear, and it’s more difficult to reach than other nearby beaches, making it nice and secluded.

the best beaches Hawaii


8. Waikiki Beach– Oahu 

While it might be one of the world’s most famous beaches, no round-up of Hawaii’s best beaches would be complete without Waikiki. It’s been a holiday hotspot since the early 20th century but really came into its own in the ’50s when the first skyrise hotels began to appear. The crescent-shaped stretch of sand is actually home to six different beach districts, each just a few steps from the town’s many luxury hotels connected by boardwalks. Beyond the beach, the bustling boulevard is a popular meeting point for visitors thanks to its world-class dining, boutiques and entertainment.

Waikiki Beach is also renowned as the place where the legendary Duke  Kahanamoku honed his surfing skills.

Waikiki Beach Honolulu

9. Hanalei Bay Beach– Kauai 

Framed by 4,000 ft (1219 m) emerald green mountains, the Hanalei Bay Beach Park’s two-mile stretch is actually four beach parks rolled together. Come winter, surfers pile into the beach to catch some of the best swells on the planet, with surf heights reaching 20′ Queens Reef in the outer bay begins to break. By summer, the waves have calmed and it’s possible to swim in the clear waters and play about in the sand.

It’s worth taking a stroll to the beloved Hanalei Pier too. Built in 1892, the well-known landmark was originally used to load and offload sugar.

Hanalei Pier Sunrise

10. Kapalua Bay – Maui 

Frequently voted ‘America’s Best Beach’, Kapalua Bay is the stuff of tropical fantasies. Think miles of soft white sands, electric blue waters and gently swaying palm trees, and you’ve got Kapalua. The crescent-shaped cove is protected by two reefs, which means the waters here stay bathwater-warm and calm all year round. Bring your snorkelling gear because it’s one of the places in the state to explore Hawaii’s rich marine life. The reefs are bursting with parrotfish, butterflyfish and even green sea turtles. Take a hike along the Coastal Trail from D.T. Fleming Beach Park to the bay, then tuck into as much seafood as you can at teeny-tiny Merriman’s along the seafront.

11. Kauna’oa Beach – Big Island 

Home to the legendary luxury resort built by Laurence Rockefeller, Kauna’oa (or Mauna Kea) is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Big Island. Sands here are sugar-soft, fringed by leafy palm trees and crystal clear waters. At just over a quarter-mile it’s by no means a big beach, but it still packs a punch. Its sandy-bottomed, shallow shores are perfect for families too. Keen snorkelers should head out to the southern end of the beach to swim alongside colourful fish and vibrant corals. For an added dose of luxury, check into the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. 

12. Lanikai Beach – Oahu

Nestled in the sleepy beach town of Kailua on Oahu’s Windward Side, the beach offers year-round pristine swimming conditions. Hop in a kayak – or if you’re fit you can swim – to make the mile-long journey out to two offshore islands, home to a staggering variety of birds. The snorkelling is excellent here too, thanks to the offshore reef, as well as sailing and windsurfing. It’s one of the few beaches in Oahu without shore-breaking waves, making it perfect for families too.

13. Honokalani Beach, Wai’anapanapa State Park – Maui 

Hawaii might be best-known for endless stretches of powdery white sands, but Honokalani Beach is proof that the best beaches don’t always look the same. Located around three miles north of Hana, Honokalani Beach is Maui’s most famous black sand beach. Between its jet black sands, bright azure waters and jungle backdrop, it’s a photographers dream. The ‘sand’ is actually tiny lava pebbles formed by lava flow that has cooled and hardened. Historically, it’s important for Hawaiians too and there are countless legends about the site. In ancient Hawaii, people would use the larger lava pebbles as flooring for their homes.

Beyond soaking in the sun and snorkelling, there are 122-acres of parkland to explore, encompassing lava caves, temples and blow-holes. It’s wild Hawaii at its best.

14. Papohaku Beach – Molokai 

For the ultimate castaway vibes, hotfoot to Paohaku Beach on Molokai – the least visited of all of the Hawaiin islands. Papohaku is one of Hawaii’s largest white sand beaches, boasting three miles of uninterrupted soft white sands on the west coast. Squeezed between the Kiawe trees and the shimmering ocean, you’ll have plenty of space to stretch out and soak up the rays. It’s also ideal for those looking to sleep under the stars, with campsites, indoor and outdoor showers, restroom facilities and picnic areas on its doorstep. The views over Lanai and Oahu are breathtaking too.

15. Hulopoe Beach (Lanai)

Best known for the Four Seasons Manele Bay, this sweeping golden crescent is an idyllic place to snorkel. It’s also a paradise for wildlife-watchers. In colder months you can spot humpback whales, while in the summertime you might bump into some friendly spinner dolphins too. The large tidal pools on the eastern shores are ideal for little ones too.

Sarah Clayton-Lea

Co-founder of Big 7 Travel, Sarah created the company through her passion for championing the world's best food and travel experiences. Before her career in digital media, where she previously held roles such as Editor of Food&Wine Ireland, Sarah worked in the hospitality industry in Dublin and New York.

Contact [email protected]

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