What is paradise? Perhaps the answer lies in Hawaii, one of the most visited states in the US. The Hawaiian Islands are a veritable playground for all the best tropical adventures, from staggering surf to beautiful hikes. And the sights are endless: sweeping views, verdant valleys, and towering coconut palms make Hawaii one of the most beautiful places in the world. But what truly sets Hawaii apart from any other state are the jaw-dropping stretches of sand home to some of the best beaches in the world.
With so many of the best beaches in Hawaii, navigating the islands is no easy feat. So, let us be your guide, and we’ll take you through Hawaii’s most incredible beaches.
Table of Contents
- Which Island in Hawaii Has the Best Beaches?
- The 22 Most Amazing Beaches in Hawaii
- 1. Poʻipū Beach, Kauai
- 2. Hanalei Bay, Kauai
- 3. Kāʻanapali Beach, Maui
- 4. Waikīkī Beach, Oahu
- 5. Lanikai Beach, Oahu
- 6. Waimea Bay, Oahu
- 7. Kumimi Beach, Moloka‘i
- 8. Oneloa (Big Beach), Maui
- 9. Mauna Kea Beach, Big Island
- 10. Ho‘okipa Beach, Maui
- 11. Hulopoe Bay, Lanai
- 12. Hanauma Bay, Oahu
- 13. Punalu‘u Beach, Big Island
- 14. Napili Bay, Maui
- 15. Kalaupapa Beach, Moloka‘i
- 16. Polihua Beach, Lanai
- 17. Wailea Beach, Maui
- 18. Manini‘owali Beach, Big Island
- 19. Waimanalo Bay, Oahu
- 20. Lydgate Beach, Kauai
- 21. Ko Olina Beach, Oahu
- 22. Kaihalulu Beach, Maui
- See All of the Best Beaches in Hawaii with Next Vacay
Which Island in Hawaii Has the Best Beaches?
Every Hawaiian island has breathtaking beaches, but if you want the best of the best, set your sights on Oahu and Maui. Oahu will delight fun-seekers with its dramatic coasts and vibrant atmosphere, while Maui calls to the quiet sun-seekers looking for the perfect beach to soak up golden rays.
Of course, since sometimes a beautiful beach isn’t all you’re looking for, check out the best islands in Hawaii for these popular island activities and attractions.
Surfing. Head to the heart of surfing on Oahu to hang ten and try out new tricks on beaches boasting impressive waves.
Green Sea Turtles. The surfer bro voice of Crush from Finding Nemo may make you think of Oahu, but the best place to spy these little dudes in Hawaii is on the beaches—or among the coral reefs—of Maui.
Clear Waters. Along with its soaring sea cliffs, Kauai boasts some of the most crystal-clear water in Hawaii. Looking inland or out along the bay here is a feast for the eyes.
Colored Sand Beaches. The Big Island claims sprawling white sand beaches, magnificent black sand beaches, and, most rare of all, a green sand beach, one of only four in the entire world.
The 22 Most Amazing Beaches in Hawaii
It’s time to slather on your best reef-safe sunscreen because we’re about to dive deep and take a closer look at these sandy stretches that make up the best beaches Hawaii has to offer. From much-loved crown jewels to hidden gems, you won’t want to miss any of these incredible beaches on your next visit.
1. Poʻipū Beach, Kauai
Two beaches in one, Poʻipū Beach boasts two bays thanks to a sand spit that stretches out into the water, leading to the rocky island of Nukumoi Point. When viewed from above, the two bays resemble the beginning of a children’s drawing of a heart. A perfect symbol for the family-friendly Poʻipū, with its gentle waves and shallow keiki (kid) pools.
But the beach isn’t only for kids. Explore underwater sea caverns, snorkel through deep and shallow coral reefs, and splash along the sand bars. You can do anything and everything at Poʻipū, all under a lifeguard’s careful eye, seven days a week.
2. Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Nestled on Kauai’s north shore, at the mouth of the Hanalei River, lies Hanalei Bay. Sweeping scenic views and nearly two miles of sandy beach combine to create one of Kauai’s most breathtaking scenes and easily one of the best beaches in Hawaii.
Whether you want to dive headfirst into the water or stay dry, Hanalei Bay promises to keep you busy. Surf the waves, head out on a boat tour, or enjoy a family picnic, all with the sound of lapping waves and dramatic mountain views in the distance.
Even if you do nothing but soak in the sun and the views, Hanalei’s unquestionable beauty makes every trip here worth the effort.
3. Kāʻanapali Beach, Maui
Adventurous thrill-seekers find themselves called to Maui’s west shore and Black Rock for one of the best cliff diving sites on the island. Even if you don’t plan to brave the jump, you can still enjoy the daily cliff diving ceremony. Lit by the sunset, a diver lights the torches along the cliff and leaps off Black Rock in a reenactment of the beloved King Kahekili.
But this stunning beach isn’t just for cliff divers; it was once a retreat for Maui royalty. Miles of powdery soft white sand stretch along the coast, leading into crystal clear waters perfect for swimming. And along the shore lie resorts, countless shops, and fine dining to satisfy any appetite.
With space to roam, Kāʻanapali Beach is an ideal destination for a day under the sun.
4. Waikīkī Beach, Oahu
Sandwiched between high-rise hotels and turquoise blue waters on Oahu’s south shore is a place known the world over: Waikīkī Beach. This impressive two-mile sweep of sand overlooked by Diamond Head Crater is one of the most popular beaches in Honolulu. Known by one name, the area is actually made up of eight stretches of beach, each offering a distinct vibe and experience.
Kahanamoku Beach sports calm waters and a man-made lagoon perfect for family fun. Meanwhile, Royal Hawaiian Beach kicks things up a notch with a busy hotel strip at its back and surfers and Catamarans dotting the shore. Queen’s Beach offers a more local feel, with a pier, games on the beach, and live music on stage. And while you won’t find a genuine beach on Sans Souci, below the water’s surface, you’ll find plenty of new friends, from tropical fish to sea turtles.
5. Lanikai Beach, Oahu
On the island’s windward coast, opposite Waikīkī Beach, is Lanikai Beach. Meant to translate as “heavenly sea,” someone didn’t check their Hawaiian grammar beforehand, so the name is backward—if only they’d had a reliable translator.
Though the attempt at giving it a meaningful name failed, it’s easy to see what they were going for the moment you step foot on this beach. White sand and blue waters look as though they mirror the white clouds and cerulean skies on a clear day. Two islands, Nā Mokulua, pop out from the water in the distance, making Lanikai a popular spot for photographs and catching the sunrise or moonrise. For a closer look at the Mokes, hop over to the neighboring Kailua Beach Park and rent a kayak.
Part of the charm of Lanikai is that it’s just a beach. No restaurants or amenities and plenty of locals strolling through like it’s any other day keep the atmosphere peaceful. Lanikai doesn’t just look like paradise; it feels like it, too.
6. Waimea Bay, Oahu
The heart of Hawaii’s world-class waves, surf, and sand is none other than the Seven Mile Miracle along Oahu’s north shore. This surfer’s dream stretches from Haleʻiwa Beach Park to Sunset Beach, and smack dab in the middle lies Waimea Bay.
A genuine gem among the beaches of Hawaii, this haven of white sand is perfect for laying out in the summer. Calm waves make for fun days spent snorkeling and diving under the water. But with winter comes the real attraction of Waimea Bay: 30-foot tall waves. These jaw-dropping swells draw surfers from around the world to try their skills at conquering these towering giants. With such massive waves, it’s no wonder Waimea Bay also plays host to the “Eddie,” a big wave surf tournament named after champion surfer and beloved lifeguard Eddie Aikua.
7. Kumimi Beach, Moloka‘i
If your idea of paradise involves a minimal number of people, then Kumimi may be the perfect spot to relax. Also known as Murphy’s Beach or Twenty Mile Beach, Kumimi Beach Park sits tucked away on the southeast shore of Moloka‘i. Shallow waters and bright corals combine to make Kumimi a perfect place for the beginner snorkeler.
On shore, swaying palm trees shade picnic tables and patches of white sand. Take a glimpse out toward the ocean from the curved beach, and you’ll catch an enchanting view of Maui and Lanai in the distance.
8. Oneloa (Big Beach), Maui
Commonly called Makena Beach or Big Beach by the locals, the latter is definitely fitting. At roughly two-thirds of a mile long, Makena Beach State Park is the longest, undeveloped white sand beach on Maui. You won’t find any hotels or homes overlooking Big Beach, just sand dunes topped with kiawe trees and shrubs. No palm trees dot the long stretches of sand, leaving beachgoers free to soak up the sun’s rays unimpeded.
Protected from trade winds by black-lava outcroppings, Big Beach is the perfect spot to swim, fish, or take in the views of Molokini and Kahoolawe rising up out of the sea.
9. Mauna Kea Beach, Big Island
Picturesque and peaceful might not be two words you’d think to associate with a beach sitting adjacent to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Nevertheless, thanks to the limited parking available, the beach is just that: uncrowded and unspoiled.
Mauna Kea boasts soft sand, shallow waters, and spectacular views. Maui’s south shore makes itself known in the distance, and out in the water, the occasional pod of dolphins or humpback whales play offshore. Serene waters and winds make for excellent stand-up paddleboarding conditions, though the stunningly clear waters may be enough to tempt you to don your snorkel gear and take a look beneath the surface.
10. Ho‘okipa Beach, Maui
Take a turn off the Hana Highway into Ho‘okipa Beach Park, and you’ll come to one of the top windsurfing spots in the world. It’s also one of the best beaches, not just in Maui but all of Hawaii. Make no mistake; Ho‘okipa is for professionals. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the view. On top of the sandy shore and gorgeous blue waters, you can watch the masters and their daring acrobatics from the safety of the lookout point.
Ho‘okipa is beloved for another reason, and that’s because it’s one of the best places in Maui to catch a glimpse of the Hawaiian green sea turtles. If you don’t see them popping ashore, you may find them resting on the reefs. What at first glimpse may appear to be nothing more than boulders, a closer look may reveal to be the turtles just taking a rest.
11. Hulopoe Bay, Lanai
Visitors to Lanai flock to Hulopoe Bay, one of the most beautiful spots on the island. Arguably, when one says that a place like Hulopoe Bay has it all, inevitably, it reveals itself as hyperbole. But here, turquoise-blue waters lap away at a stunning expanse of ivory-white sand. Tide pools of volcanic rock hide hermit crabs and sprawling starfish. And stretching out before the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, the protected bay and tranquil waves offer pristine conditions to explore the depths of the crystal-clear water.
Keep your eyes on the horizon, and you may even be treated to the sight of spinner dolphins offshore in the summer or humpback whales in the winter.
12. Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Swimming with the fishes is on many people’s to-do lists when visiting Hawaii. Arguably, there are few better places to do it than Hanauma Bay, considered among the top ten best places to snorkel in Hawaii. Formed from a volcanic crater, the bay is a nature preserve rather than a beach park, and swimming through it feels like being inside an aquarium. Hundreds of fish, corals, and other marine life call the bay home. You may even spot the occasional reef shark—don’t worry, they don’t bite.
Once a fishing spot for Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s, Hanauma Bay has not lost any charm in the time since. Thanks to restoration and conservation efforts from the city and county, Hanauma Bay remains one of Oahu’s shining jewels.
13. Punalu‘u Beach, Big Island
It’s not all golden sand beaches in Hawaii. Some of the islands’ most popular attractions are its colored sand beaches, and the black sand at Punalu’u is among the very best in the world.
Formed from basalt sand, there’s no image quite as striking as that of towering palm fronds framing the jet black sand on Punalu‘u beach. Because of the strong currents and riptides, swimming isn’t always recommended, though when the waters are calm, you can take a quick dip offshore. However, the beach itself is unparalleled for sightseeing, with gorgeous coastal hikes and camping. To top off your experience, you’re likely to see green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles doing like humans do and sunning themselves on the warm black sand.
14. Napili Bay, Maui
Napili Bay offers a world-class beach with a small-town beach feel. Instead of high-rises and resorts, the beach sits nestled among less-assuming hotels and residential neighborhoods.
But don’t let the lack of luxury accommodations fool you; Napili is a luxury all on its own.
Golden sand and turquoise waters make it a classic Maui beach without the same crowds you’ll find at other locations. The calmer side of the bay is perfect for snorkeling and catching sight of colorful fish and massive turtles, while the bigger waves on the other side make for better play among the surf. If you’re looking for low-key brilliance, Napili delivers.
15. Kalaupapa Beach, Moloka‘i
Getting to Kalaupapa is no easy feat. Backed by the world’s largest sea cliffs, no roads lead to Kalaupapa, making it as untouchable as it is beautiful. The only way to reach the town and beach is by mule, hike, or plane.
Its inaccessibility is one of the reasons it’s such a special beach. The other is its cultural and historical significance. This isolated settlement has seen multiple tragedies: the removal of indigenous Hawaiians and the forced exile of people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Now transformed into Kalaupapa National Park, these sacred grounds offer a singular experience you won’t find on any other island.
16. Polihua Beach, Lanai
With no paved roads leading the way, this secluded beach requires a four-wheeler to access it. However, the work is definitely worth the end result: a scenic beach that feels like your own private stretch of sand. And it’s quite a long one too. Over a mile and a half in legth, Polihua is the longest white sand beach on the island.
Though the rough waters and strong winds don’t make for great play, Polihua is one of the best beaches in Hawaii to soak in the sun and snap a photo. On calm, clear days, you can see across the Kalohi Channel to catch a glimpse of Moloka‘i and even Diamond Head on Oahu’s southwest shore.
17. Wailea Beach, Maui
Wailea is one of five gorgeous, crescent-shaped beaches that make up a luxury resort community in South Maui. Steps away from the Grand Wailea Resort, the soft sand of Wailea Beach spills into gentle waters. It’s easy to see how the beach could have once been named America’s Best Beach in 1999. The picturesque views remain unspoiled, and the pristine conditions make it the place to be for a relaxing break sunbathing on the sand or venturing out for a swim.
And at the end of a long day, there’s no better way to bid goodnight than watching the sunset from Wailea’s shore.
18. Manini‘owali Beach, Big Island
The Big Island is known for its iconic and striking black sand beaches. However, that’s not to say you won’t find other colors crowding the coasts of the Big Island. Kua Bay is one such spot, offering not obsidian black sand but shimmering white.
Small but secluded, the pearlescent sands of Manini‘owali Beach draw in human and animal visitors alike. You might just see an endangered monk seal lounging on the shore. Spend the day boogie boarding or body surfing the rolling waves coming into the bay, and stick around for epic sunset views. You may even spy humpback whales breaking the water’s surface further offshore.
19. Waimanalo Bay, Oahu
Close your eyes and picture the perfect beach—azure waters, miles of uninterrupted sand, and maybe a scenic view of mountains in the distance. You might have thought this beach was only in your head, but it’s real, and it has a name: Waimanalo Beach.
Stepping out of the Ironwood forest that borders the beach feels like wandering from reality into a dream, as the perfect sandy utopia unveils itself before you. Waimanalo Beach is nothing short of paradise, suited as much for epic strolls along the sand as it is for bodysurfing the waves.
Among the many pristine and exquisite beaches Oahu has to offer, Waimanalo still stands out as one of the best beaches on the island and in Hawaii.
20. Lydgate Beach, Kauai
Perched on Kauai’s Coconut Coast on the island’s east side, Lydgate offers a picture-perfect beach day. As one of the most popular beaches on the island, beachgoers flock to its shore, from swimmers to windsurfers and campers to fishers. Two enclosed rock ponds offer protected areas perfect for year-round swimming and beginners wanting to dip their toes and practice their skills without traveling into the open ocean. A paved coastal path gives visitors space to walk or bike along the beach with plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the view.
Get an early start to Lydgate Beach for your choice of prime spots to lay out and the perfect place to watch the sunrise slip over the horizon.
21. Ko Olina Beach, Oahu
The waves of Ko Olina can be rough and surging, but that’s not a worry for visitors to Ko Olina Beach. Tucked into the shores of the Marriott Ko Olina beachfront property are four beautiful crescent-shaped lagoons making up one of the best beaches in Hawaii. These man-made havens keep swimmers safe from the more intense waves while allowing ocean water to enter the lagoons.
As one of the best luxury resorts on the island, the water isn’t all there is to enjoy. The resort grounds unveil spectacular views of the ocean and a quieter, calmer atmosphere than the one found at bustling Waikīkī Beach.
22. Kaihalulu Beach, Maui
The Big Island is undoubtedly the best place to see incredible black sand beaches and even a green sand beach. However, it’s not the only place to see sands that come in kaleidoscope colors.
Maui has its own incredible gems, one of the most eye-catching of which is Kaihalulu Beach, or, as it’s more commonly known, Red Sand Beach. Located on the east coast of Maui, Kailulu showcases bright foliage, tall red cliffs, shimmering blue waters, and the incredible sight of deep red sand. The ocean can be dangerous, and swimmers must be cautious with no lifeguard present, but it’s worth the trip to set eyes on this truly remarkable sight in person.
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