Hawaii is home to renowned beaches that offer a variety of shades, from black to emerald green sand and white powdery beaches – there’s always something unique on every corner of the islands. Whether you’re looking for a fun family vacation with the kids or a romantic getaway with your partner, Hawaii has entertainment and activities that are perfect for every kind of tourist.
To make it easier to plan your trip, we’ve divided the best beaches according to region. Get to know what each coast has to offer, from ancient settlements to lagoons and golden sands.
Table of Contents
- Hawaii Big Island
- Best Beaches For..
Kaunaʻoa Bay is also known as Mauna Kea Beach, which got its name after Rockefeller built the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel along its beautiful white sand coast. It’s one of the best beaches on Hawaii Big Island with calm turquoise waters and fine sand. This crescent-shaped, uncrowded bay is perfect for families needing quiet time.
The north end is a great spot for snorkeling and witnessing the spectacular marine life. In the summer, families can enjoy swimming and relaxing in the gentle waves – however, in the winter, it becomes a surfing hub for avid surfers or for those who like the thrill of the big waves.
Although it’s near the famous hotel, the bay is open for everyone – and has ample parking spaces for those bringing a car. It’s best to come in the morning to secure a parking spot, especially in the peak season.
Everything is green! Don’t believe it? Come take a look for yourself. Papakolea Beach is also nicknamed Green Sand Beach – as you may have guessed, because of its emerald green sand. Located in the southern end of Big Island, this green scenic landscape got its color from olivine crystals of the volcanic cinder cone rocks. From afar, it may look brownish in color – but once you take a handful of it, you’ll instantly see the green hues.
Getting to the island requires a 1-hour hike. It is a challenging pathway that passes by an old lava field – so it’s best to prepare the most suitable hiking gear to comfortably reach this majestic place. You can also choose to ride a 4×4 or hire a local guide to take you to the beach if you’re not a fan of hiking.
As tempting as it may be, it’s important to remember that it’s illegal to take any amount of sand from the beach – so you can take pictures and simply enjoy the moment. Also, the waves in Papakolea Beach are so strong that they can easily pull you into the waters – so be careful, as there are no lifeguards in the area.
Also called Kids Beach and King Kam Beach, this small beach in the heart of Kaila Kona is a great place for families with kids to do water activities like snorkeling, kayaking, and canoeing.
It is located between the King Kamehameha Hotel and Kailua pier, being the most convenient stop for a quick swim or snorkeling. If you need to rent snorkeling gear or kayaks, there are several shops that offer rentals for each water activity. The best time to enjoy snorkeling and avoid the crowd is early in the morning.
The beach is best for children, since there are little to no waves at all. It’s a white sand beach with a bit of greenery, making it a decent stopover before going to the big beaches.
A fun fact about the beach is that it’s where King Kamehameha the Great built his temple, Ahu’ena Heiau. Moreover, Kamakahonu is derived from Ka Maka Honu, which is translated to “the turtle eye” in Hawaiian.
Kiholo Bay is more of an isolated beach that offers a great day to relax. Conservation efforts have helped preserve its pristine waters and sea turtles by banning diving. It’s one of the best beaches to spot sea turtles – but remember, they are not allowed to be touched as it’s against the law to disturb endangered animals.
The beach promises turquoise waters with its combination of fresh and saltwater. Unlike other beaches with a long stretch of sand, this beach is more of a series of beaches, with some pebbly areas.
Swimming is the most ideal activity to do in the summertime, when the waves are calmer.
Keep in mind there is a schedule to follow when visiting the beach. Beachgoers can go camping on the site for a minimal fee, and it’s only allowed on the weekends.
Other animals are typically not allowed to bring to the beach unless they are registered as service animals.
As the name suggests, the Punaluu Black Sand Beach is not your typical fine white sand, as it is blanketed by small black lava particles. Since the sand comes from lava, it easily absorbs heat – and can get too hot for the feet, so it’s best to wear water shoes for ultimate comfort.
One of the most striking features of the bay is its changing water temperatures that are caused by the underwater freshwater springs. The water is safe for swimming, but it’s advised to take extra precautions when there are stronger waves.
The Punaluu Black Sand Beach is not only popular for its unique hues, but it is also one of the best spots to watch sea turtles foraging and relaxing by the coast. The most common turtles here are Green Sea Turtles, also known as Honu. Remember: don’t touch, feed, or even stay too close to the sea turtles – unless you want to pay huge penalties for disobeying the rules.
Aside from swimming and basking in the sun, snorkeling is also a favorite activity, especially in the calm waters. However, lava rocks can be a danger – so it’s best to enter the water by finding a safer place along this beautiful stretch of sand.
Located on western Maui, the exquisite Kaanapali Beach is a 3-mile stretch of white sand and pristine waters that is home to several resorts and condos. The beach used to be a favorite retreat place for Maui royalty but is now a popular tourist destination for everyone.
There are plenty of things to do here, including:
- Witness the famous cliff diving ceremony held in the evening in honor of Maui’s King Kahekil, where a diver dives and sets torches on fire.
- If you’re coming in June, don’t forget to watch the annual Wa’a Kiakahi canoe racing.
- Talk Story (storytelling) is one of the best ways to learn more about Hawaiian culture, Maui’s history, and the ancient art of sailing.
- For a better view of Kaanapali’s coastline, try the exhilarating zipline tour along the coast.
- Aside from resorts and hotels, the beach has plenty of bars, restaurants, shopping centers, and two championship golf courses.
- It’s also a good spot for snorkeling, especially on the northern side close to Black Rock.
7. Wailea Beach
Another crescent-shaped beach, Wailea Beach is among the top beaches in the world – and it’s easy to see why, with its gentle waves, crystal clear waters, and soft, fine sand. It’s an exciting and busy beach that is home to luxurious beach resorts, high-end restaurants, golf courses, and popular restaurants.
The beach is only 35 minutes away from Kahului Airport, and is popular among celebrities – so it’s the best beach to bump into one.
Some of the most famous luxury resorts situated here are the Four Seasons Resort Maui and Grand Wailea. When you’re greeted with more moderate waves, it is the best time for snorkeling and swimming. In the afternoon, when the waves are stronger, it becomes a suitable place for surfing enthusiasts.
If you prefer to play golf, choose from among three golf courses with 54 holes: Wailea Gold, Wailea Emerald, and Wailea Blue. Other beaches to try in Wailea, Maui include Makena Beach, Polo Beach, and Ulua Beach Park.
In the southwest of Kapalua, Kapalua Beach is a crescent-shaped beach that spans 800ft long. It is rich in corals and filled with plants that add a cozy sensation. Comfort and convenience are what it stands for, as it has ample parking spaces and great facilities for its visitors.
The long stretch of sand makes a breathtaking pathway for walking or jogging. Be an early bird and go snorkeling in the morning to catch a clipse of the colorful marine life, with waters filled with abundant fish and sea urchins. After that, try out paddle surfing or simply gaze at the horizon and immerse yourself in the sense of seclusiveness of the ocean.
The beach has bars for a drink or two and restaurants to fill up one’s appetite. However, there are no lifeguards in the area, so it’s always best to stay safe at all times.
The beach is filled with coral reefs – so, to avoid them, it’s advisable to get into the water from the left side of the bay instead.
On the southwest coast of Maui lies the Makena Beach, also known as Big Beach, that is free from establishments – making it an untouched golden paradise for beachgoers. It is one of the largest beaches in Maui and is measured as long as a football field. The Big Beach usually has big shore breaks that can be unsafe for inexperienced bodysurfers.
There is a parking area, however it’s quite far from the main beach. You can also expect to find portable toilets and several food trucks to fill you up.
Lifeguards are on patrol on the beach but it’s best to stay cautious at all times for shore breaks and possible thefts. You’ll find another beach (Little Beach) nearby – where it’s relatively safe for all ages.
You’ll find a variety of restaurants and entertainment options to choose from and several high-end hotels and resorts within the area if you decide to stay here.
Located in northwestern Maui, Napili Bay is one of the best beaches for swimming and snorkeling. Its sparkling blue waters and white sandy beaches won’t disappoint beachgoers looking for a tranquil place to relax. However, take extra precaution, as the bottom suddenly gets deep as you go further out – and the currents can become strong.
There are no lifeguards on this beach, so taking on powerful shore breaks can be quite dangerous – especially for children or inexperienced bodyboarders and surfers.
There are available convenience stores nearby if you need beach supplies or food, but unfortunately, there are no public toilets for visitors – but there are showers available at the Napili Kai resort if you are a registered guest.
One of the less popular beaches, Papohaku Beach is a 3-mile beach located on the west coast between Oahu and Maui – and is considered one of Hawaii’s longest beaches. This is the best place to get a better understanding of the rural life in Hawaii, since it is more secluded compared to others.
When skies are clear and sunny, you’ll get a glimpse of the best scenery of Oahu across the waters.
It’s great to know that the beach offers several facilities, such as parking areas, restrooms, and picnic areas. However, there are no lifeguards on duty – so always be cautious in the water.
Before leaving this spectacular beach, don’t forget to see the sunset over the horizon – but don’t stay too long; you’ll have to face a long dark drive, so it’s best to make sure you have all the supplies needed for a long drive.
The crescent Hulopoe Beach is a favorite of locals and tourists in Lanai. Thanks to its groundskeepers, it is now the most beautiful protected beach in Lanai. The most stunning coast here is on the beachside of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, where you can swim and snorkel in the best waters.
If you want to spot sea animals, you might be able to get a glimpse of humpback whales and spinner dolphins. If you head over to the eastern end, you’ll see many tidal pools that were formed out of volcanic rocks and are currently inhabited by sea stars and hermit crabs.
After just a short walk, you’ll come across the famous Sweetheart Rock – where it’s believed a man jumped after learning about the death of his lover. Eventually, the rock has become a famous tourist attraction for the perfect photo.
The beach has many facilities, including shower areas with solar-heated waters, toilets, and picnic tables shaded by palm trees. The beach is only about a 5-minute walk from the ferry dock.
For a thrilling and challenging experience, visit Polihua Beach – which requires passing through rough roads on 4x4s. The mountainous trail to the beach is where you’ll find an awe-inspiring rock garden called the Garden of the Gods. Before driving a 4×4, it is necessary to have experience driving off-road as the trail to the Garden of the Gods is considerably dangerous.
Getting to the beach can be tricky as there are no actual roads on the map. Thus, it is best to go with a local who knows the area well. Going through all the hard rugged roads is worth it, however, since you’ll be rewarded with the beautiful views of the island.
Although Polihua Beach isn’t for swimming because of the strong waves, it’s still one of the best beaches to see humpback whales and sea turtles. Besides, it’s the perfect spot for peaceful sunbathing and picnicking while catching the best views of Molokai and Oahu.
The beach has no cellular service, lifeguards, or facilities – so it’s advisable to leave before dark for safety purposes.
14. Waikiki Beach
Located in Oahu and south of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach used to be a Hawaiian royal retreat and is now home to international resorts, high-end hotels, and trendy restaurants. It gained popularity when the first hotel, Moana Surfrider, was established in 1901.
Waikiki Beach has all kinds of activities to try, including jet skiing, parasailing, paddleboarding, swimming, snorkeling, and eating from a variety of cuisines. Try every food truck available to support local businesses and jam with local street musicians. If you prefer shopping, head over to Kalakaua Ave for the best shopping centers.
To learn how to surf, you can take surfing lessons from an instructor. From the name itself, Waikiki translates to “spouting waters” and the beach is best known for its calmer waves, making it one of the best places to learn surfing.
You can also visit the iconic Diamond Head Mountain, Hilton Hawaiian Village with weekly Friday-night fireworks, and Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona Memorial.
On the northern coast of Oahu, Waimea Bay is the place to be for huge waves that reach 30ft – especially during November-February, where the waves are stronger than ever – and Waimea Bay holds the most prestigious surfing competitions in the world.
When the waves are calmer during the summer months, Waimea Bay is still a popular beach for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. Other activities to include on your list of things to do are bodyboarding and fishing.
It’s one of the most ideal beaches for families, with its complete facilities such as parking spaces, bathrooms with showers, picnic areas, and a lifeguard.
A 45-minute drive from Waikiki beach, Waimanalo Beach is a 4.8km stretch that is accessible with two beach parks on both ends of the coast: Waimanalo Beach Park in the south and Waimanalo Bay State Recreation Area in the north.
Waimanalo Beach Park has park facilities including lifeguards, picnic areas, pavilions, bathrooms, and showers. Between Aloiloi Street and Tinker Road is an ironwood forest that leads to the northern entrance, Waimanalo Bay State Recreation Area, which also has the same facilities but with an additional camping space.
Waimanalo Beach is popular with surfers and bodyboarders because of the best waves it has to offer. The beach is one of the coziest places in the winter months to have a comfortable outdoor picnic, with its breezy and chilly weather.
If you don’t want to stay under the sun for too long, the beach has plenty of shade with its ironwood trees by the coast.
Located about 20km from Waikiki, Kailua Beach Park is one of the largest beaches of Oahu with a length of 2.3km. The beach park has complete amenities for a comfortable stay, including showers, picnic tables, restrooms, BBQ areas, and space for volleyball courts.
Several water activities are available, including kitesurfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Because it’s located on the windward side, you can expect lots of winds and breezy weather. Overall, it’s the best place for a spectacular view while enjoying different activities.
Independence Day in the US (July 4th) is a highly celebrated event on the beach that always includes beautiful fireworks displays.
Another highlight is the canoe racing club in Kailua Bay, giving you the chance to watch the race from island to island.
Hanauma Bay is a crescent-shaped bay created within a volcanic cone by a volcano eruption. The name Hanauma is derived the words “Hana”, which means bay, and “Uma”, which refers to a crescent shape.
It used to be a recreational place for Hawaiian Royalty, and today, this curved nook has become the best place for snorkeling and observing different kinds of fish and coral reefs.
Before visiting the bay, you’re required to watch a 9-minute video to learn about the rules and the importance of marine preservation. Moreover, a reservation is needed to enter.
Make sure to bring towels and use reef-safe sunblock, as part of the safety rules implemented by the bay.
From Hanalei River to the bay is a three-mile stretch of stunning golden sand that forms three beaches, with each beach having a suitable activity to do. The three beaches in the bay are Black Pot Beach Park on the eastern side, Wai’oli Beach Park on the west, and Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park in the middle.
If you prefer kayaking, head over to Black Pot Beach, where you’ll find the Hanalei River. It’s also one of the best spots for a BBQ or an outdoor picnic. It’s a paradise for sailboats, with a pier perfect for sailing into the water and being mesmerized by the spectacular sight of the Na Pali Mountains.
Each of the beaches has its own set of facilities, such as parking spaces and restrooms. Food is never a problem on this beach, since there are several food trucks and nearby restaurants. Moreover, the town center is teeming with nightlife with its bars and dancing.
Summer is the most ideal time for a perfect swim with gentle waves. In winter, expect more crowded beaches and stronger waves, making it the best time for surfers to come and showcase their abilities.
On the sunny side of southern Kauai, Poipu Beach is a series of golden sand crescents with dancing palm trees and sparkly ocean waters. It’s a favorite of family vacationers because of its calm waters and exciting marine life. Should you wish to visit, note that the only facilities available are restrooms and a lifeguard on duty.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to find Hawaiian monk seals who are known to bask in the sun on these shorelines. Just keep in mind that these animals are endangered and must not be disturbed at any time.
Surfing is also possible in some parts of the beach but is only recommended for experienced surfers.
Establishments that have access to the beachfront are Poipu Beach Park and some luxury resorts. If you decide to stay here, there are several resorts within the area such as Grand Hyatt Kauai and Koa Kea.
This used to be a secret beach because of its secluded location and off-the-beaten-path roads. Back in the day, it also served as a nudist hangout which contributed to its secrecy – and is now illegal. Today, it is one of the top beaches that can only be reached by a difficult 10-minute hike within wild palm trees.
After trailing down to the beach, you’ll be welcomed with crystal clear oceans, blue skies, and white powdery sands. The coastline is 3,000ft long and is located between Kalihiwai Bay and Kilauea Point. People enjoy the sense of privacy it offers because of its huge coast, making you feel like you have the beach all to yourself.
The ocean waves tend to be strong – so surfers often brave the waves, especially in the winter season. It is not generally ideal for swimming due to its rough waters, but most people can still swim in the calm summer waters. Be careful of the lava rocks found on the left side of the beach, as they can get extremely hot in scorching summers.
Aside from the coast, the secret beach also has a waterfall and tidal lagoons on the west side for a quick change of scenery from the typical beach.
Mahaulepu Beach is an isolated beach, best for experienced swimmers due to its powerful waves. Kitesurfing, windsurfing, hiking, and bodyboarding are some of the aquatic activities to do here. It’s also one of the best places for whale watching, observing monk seals, and exploring historical sites.
The beach never ceases to amaze tourists since it offers white sand beaches and different landscapes, including blowholes, caves, lava tubes, and sandstone cliffs. Don’t forget to visit the Mahaulepu Heritage site to learn about ancient settlements, Hawaii’s history and culture, and local wildlife.
Lastly, discover the Mahaulepu cave or Makauwahi cave, a sandstone sinkhole that is rich in ancient fossils of birds and fish.
Also known as Tunnels Beach, it’s one of the most popular beaches in Kauai for its golden sands and turquoise waters. Its shallow water makes it a snorkeling and diving haven. Plus, you can also go surfing, kitesurfing, or windsurfing.
It is backed by mountains and ironwood trees, making for a picturesque landscape. Go for a walk along the coast, watch the golden sunset, and discover the underwater world this beach has to offer.
Some facilities that make this beach a favorite are bathrooms, picnic areas, camping sites, showers, and lifeguards. Although it gets crowded at times, it can still be comfortable if you come early enough to score a parking space and reserve a good spot by the beach.
If you’re looking for thriving nightlife, Waikiki Beach is one of the favorites with lights and fireworks displays every week. If you go to Maui, Little Beach is best for daytime partying, drum circles, and fire dancing.
The best surfing spots depend on your level of abilities, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer.
For novice surfers, Waikiki Beach, Poipu Beach, and Waimea Bay are some of the best beaches with calmer waves, especially in the summer.
When winter comes, all the beaches in Hawaii invite larger waves that are only recommended for experienced surfers.
Poipu Beach and Hanalei Bay are best for families with children because they have great facilities, small waves, and lagoons that are perfect for little ones. The most important feature of Poipu Beach is the lifeguard on duty every day, making families feel safer with their children.