The beaches in Hawaii are world-renowned, and include calm stretches of white sand in Kauai, surfer-friendly spots in Oahu, and striking lava-created black sand in Maui. No matter which Hawaiian island you choose, there are plenty of stellar beaches available, whether you’re looking for a kid-friendly bay or secluded cove. Even better, all beaches in Hawaii are public, so you can grab your bag and head to any of them. To help you pick, we’ve rounded up the 10 best beaches in Hawaii.
1. WAILEA BEACH, MAUI
Wailea Beach is located along the southwestern coast of Maui, and it’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists. This tan stretch of sand is wide and lined with umbrella-shaded loungers for a handful of resorts. The water is suitable for snorkeling and whales can be spotted during certain times of the year. Nearby, you’ll find The Shops at Wailea, which is packed with stores and restaurants and hosts occasional entertainment such as Polynesian shows and ukulele lessons.
Our Wailea luxury hotel pick: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
2. WAIKIKI BEACH, OAHU
Certainly the most famous beach in Hawaii, Waikiki Beach is situated in tourist-friendly Honolulu. It comprises a long stretch of white sand with beautiful turquoise waters on one side and high-rise hotels on the other. Although it gets very crowded, there are multiple sections suitable for surfers, families wanting calm water and parasailing. The area is packed with affordable hotels, restaurants and shops, and it’s just a 10-minute drive from the airport.
Our Waikiki family hotel pick: Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort
3. KAPALUA BAY, MAUI
Set on the northwestern coast of Maui, Kapalua Bay is a picturesque beach with calm water due to reefs and rocky outcrops on both sides. Because of this, snorkeling here is popular and excellent, with many visitors spotting sea turtles and colorful fish. This area isn’t packed with eateries, though several highly regarded restaurants, golf courses and hiking trails are nearby.
Our Kapalua boutique hotel pick: Montage Kapalua Bay
4. HAPUNA BEACH, HAWAII
The white-sand Hapuna Beach stretches for half a mile and is located on the northwestern coast of the Island of Hawaii. It’s backed by Hapuna Beach State Park, providing a popular spot for both locals and tourists to swim, boogie board, picnic and snorkel. Lifeguards are occasionally on hand and a cafe provides casual eats for lunch during the week. A handful of nearby resorts also provide dining options, as well as loungers for guests.
Our Hapuna upscale hotel pick: The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
5. WAIMEA BAY, OAHU
On Oahu’s north coast, Waimea Bay is well-known for its big waves and consequent surfing competitions in the winter. Waves can reach up to 30 feet, making it a stellar place for brave surfers or spectators. In the summer, the ocean is much calmer, making it possible to snorkel. The Dole Plantation is a 20-minute drive from here, but there are limited dining options by the beach. The iconic Banzai Pipeline is also nearby.
Our Oahu mid-range hotel pick: Ke Iki Beach Bungalows
6. MAUNA KEA BEACH, HAWAII
On the Island of Hawaii, the crescent-shaped Mauna Kea Beach stretches for about a mile, offering visitors soft white sand against turquoise water. Also called Kauna’oa Beach, this public beach has great snorkeling along its edges. Calm waters make it a popular pick for families, and other activities found here include boogie boarding and sandcastle-making. The Mauna Kea Golf Course is adjacent.
Our Hawaii luxury hotel pick: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
7. HANALEI BAY, KAUAI
Along Kauai’s North Shore, Hanalei Bay consists of three beaches — Waioli Beach Park, Hanalei Beach Park and Black Pot Beach — making it the largest bay for the island. The beautiful sand stretches for nearly two miles, and gorgeous mountain vistas can be seen here. Aside from sunbathing, visitors can surf, boogie board and snorkel, and crowds don’t seem to be a problem for most beachgoers. There are several eateries and shops in the area, plus the community of Princeville is nearby.
Our Hanalei beachfront hotel pick: Hanalei Colony Resort
8. PUNALU’U BEACH, HAWAII
There are multiple black-sand beaches in Hawaii, but Punalu’u Beach on the southern coast of the Island of Hawaii is a standout for its population of green sea turtles. The water is rocky here, but the combination of coconut palm trees, crashing waves, and basking turtles is magnificent. Restroom facilities and a snack stand are convenient, and camping is also available.
Our Island of Hawaii value hotel pick: Big Island Bed and Breakfast
9. POIPU BEACH, KAUAI
Along Kauai’s southern coast, Poipu Beach is made up of two golden crescents, and the narrow strip of sand that separates the two often plays home to napping monk seals. A natural ocean wading pool and calm water make this beach particularly popular with families, who often partake in swimming, snorkeling and boogie boarding. Sea turtles, as well as tons of tropical fish, can be spotted here. Hotels, restaurants and shops also fill this area.
Our Poipu kid-friendly hotel pick: Sheraton Kauai Resort
10. WAI’ANAPANAPA BEACH, MAUI
Another black-sand beach, Wai’anapanapa Beach is located on Maui’s rugged eastern coast, near the southern end of the Road to Hana. It’s within the 122-acre Waianapanapa State Park, where freshwater caves, lava tubes, camping and hiking are all available. This beautiful beach has views of a striking arch in the sea, and sea turtles can sometimes be seen in the water. Water shoes are recommended for swimming.
Our Maui romantic, all-inclusive hotel pick: Travaasa Hana
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