Beaches of Hawaii

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach

The Beaches of Hawaii are world-renowned for beautiful beaches. The islands have every type of beach imaginable: white, black, green and red sand beaches; romantic bays and beach parks for the family; popular shorelines for people watching and off-the-beaten-path sands untouched by development. The typical Hawaiian beach has semi-coarse golden brown sand and large lava rock formations where colorful tropical fish congregate. The water transitions from a dark blue to a ‘greenish blue’ near the shore. The water is rarely crystal clear as kicked up sand, ocean debris and sediments. The beaches and sand are clean and well maintained, and free of sand fleas and other annoying critters. A light fragrant breeze blows over calm ocean waters in the morning. In the afternoon the trade winds pick up, turning the ocean choppy with small waves.  There are 8 Hawaiian islands, with six of them having great beaches.  They are Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii Island. 

Kauai

The oldest and northernmost island in the Island chain is graced with dramatic, natural beauty. Outdoor adventures and romantic escapades flourish on Kauai. Explore the beaches of the Coconut Coast, see Waimea Canyon, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” or take a boat ride to marvel at the towering cliffs of the Napali Coast.  Here is a list of the best Kauai beaches:

Tunnels Beach

Tunnels Beach (Makua) is the ultimate snorkeling and scuba divers beach. On calm days this is some of the best snorkeling on Kauai.  This crescent shaped bay is fringed by palms and Ironwood trees. The golden sand beach has a backdrop of lush jungle and mountains making this a picture perfect beach. Tunnels is a favorite surfing, winds surfing and kite surfing beach. Lava tubes form the many underwater caverns give Tunnels it’s name as well as a magical underwater world to explore. Don’t miss the spectacular sunset from this North Shore beach.  This beach is not good for learning to surf or body board. While the reefs at Tunnels create perfectly formed waves (usually during the winter), the shallow and sharp reefs also present extreme hazards to even the most experienced surfers. Things to do at Tunnels Beach: swimming, snorkeling, surfing, shell searching, paddling, beach walks, great for families, camping and picnicking.  Parking for this beach is best at Haena Beach Park.  Search & Save on Hotels

Poipu Beach

Recreation begins here for the south shore. There is a great protected area for swimming and snorkeling – with surf breaks offshore (for experienced surfers). Poipu beach is split into two small bays. One section is protected and ideal for infants and small children. The other section is good for swimming and snorkeling, and sometimes surfing when the waves pick up. The two sections of the beach are separated by a sand bar, which is usually claimed by a monk seal.  Poipu has received numerous Top 5″beach awards, both national and worldwide. On many winter days when the North shore is stormy and rough, Poipu is calm like a swimming pool. If you are looking for privacy, Poipu might not be the spot. During warm summer months and peak holiday seasons Poipu can become very crowded.  Things to do at Poipu Beach: swimming, snorkeling, surfing, body boarding, paddling, beach walk, and great for families.

Kiahuna Beach

Kiahuna beach is remote, rugged, historical, and beautiful, and typically has strong winds. Windsurfing and kite surfing are the most common ocean activities. Occasional snorkeling can occur during extreme calms, which mostly happen in Tunnels Beachthe winter. It is great for coastal hikes. Its undeveloped shoreline offers miles of exploring.  Although you will see many windsurfers here, the rough water and reefs make surfing and body boarding hazardous. Things to do at Kiahuna Beach:  swimming, exploring, fishing, hiking, paddling, beach walks, wind and kite surfing and great for families.

Anini Beach

A tranquil stretch of beach protected by Hawaii’s largest coral reef. Windsurfers enjoy these lake like waters and common winds.  The beach stretches for over 2 miles in several sections. Despite the reef, good snorkel spots are hard to find. Anini beach has the calmest ocean conditions on Kauai’s north shore, but channels in the reef can still create strong currents.  The reef here is huge and offers protection even in a large surf.  The narrow beach and shallow water are great for the little kids, but make it hard for really active beach goers.  Things to do at Anini Beach: swimming, fishing, paddling, beach walks, camping, and great for families. 

Polihale Beach

Polihale Beach is known for its 7-mile stretch of white sand beach and hot cloudless days, Polihale is the spot to dry out when the rains come. Framed by the west end of the Na Pali cliffs, sweeping sand dunes and a Ni’ihau capped ocean, Polihale Beach can be a breath-taking experience.  It is Hawaii’s biggest gold-sand beach with amazing sunsets over Ni‘ihau island.  This beach has extremely strong currents, a dangerous shore break, patchy sharp coral and in a remote location, so there is no rescue support due to its remote location.  Things to do at Polihale Beach: swimming, surfing, body boarding, fishing, paddling, beach walks, and great for families.

Oahu

Let’s play. On the island of Oahu, learn to ride the waves in Waikiki where surfing was born or catch a big-wave surf meet on Oahu’s famed North Shore. Between sunrise and sunset, you’ll have hours to explore the hottest farm to table restaurants, browse the latest designer and local fashions, check out the urban art scene in Chinatown or stroll into Hawaii’s history at Iolani Palace. When the sun goes down, the “Heartbeat of Hawaii” awakens to a new beat, and it’s time to put on your dancing shoes.  Here is a list of the best Oahu Beaches:

Goat Island

Goat Island

Waimanalo Beach

Waimanalo Beach is massive – nearly 4 miles long. The beach park segment is located in the middle of the bay. The northern section is known as Bellows beach and used to be part of an air force base that has now closed down (used as a vacation spot for the military). The ocean here is rougher than Kailua Bay just to the north, making it less suitable for inexperienced swimmers, but the boogie boarding tends to be better. Despite less than ideal swimming conditions, the size, scenery, sand, and beautiful ocean colors make Waimanalo a great beach.  This can be a fun area to jump into the waves, and bodysurf or boogie board back to shore.  It’s a perfect area for beginners, the kids and anyone looking to play around in the friendly surf.  Waimanalo facilities include:  clean bathrooms, beach showers, benches, tables under trees, camping by permit and a free parking lot. 

Waikiki Beach

It should really be known as Waikiki Beaches, with the many different sections that make up this two-mile stretch of white sand.  Together, these beach sections make what everyone refers to as Waikiki Beach, one of the busiest and most cosmopolitan spots in Oahu where a plethora of activities geared towards tourists seem to go on all day and most of the night.  Whether you are looking forward to surfing, canoe paddling, snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, sand combing, catching a golden tan, people watching, or marvelling at a few beautiful Waikiki sunsets, it’s very easy to have a good time on the different areas of Waikiki Beach .  There is also a beautiful Waikiki Beach promenade, available for those who are interested in taking a liesurely stroll to absorb all the action. Beach facilities:  beach Showers, bathroom facilities, concession food stands, restaurants, barbeque grills & tables, street and garage parking and a beach park.  Enjoy Secret Prices!

Malaekahana State Park & Goat Island

Stretching for more than a mile and never busy on weekdays, the waves at this gently sloping beach are often lots of fun – even for novice swimmers. Offshore is Goat Island, a treasure in itself, accessed by wading through the water when the ocean is very calm.  Malachkahana State Park is a wooded beach park fronted by a sandy beach with swimming, bodysurfing, beach-related activities and shore fishing. Picnicking and camping areas are available with 37 developed campsites for tent camping from Friday through Wednesday. 

There are three beaches on Goat Island, or Mokuauia Island, the best one for swimming and the easiest to access is located toward the left. It is already visible when paddling out there. This beach is protected from the surf by cliffs and one can just float in the calm water and enjoy the awesome view of Oahu, the mountains and the beaches.  The island is close enough to the beach so it’s possible to swim over, especially during low tide when the water is only about two to four feet deep. It is not recommended to walk over there though, as there is a lot of reef and you may cut your feet if you walk. It is better to take a bodyboard or surfboard and paddle over. The current is quite strong, especially when the tide changes, and there are no lifeguards. If you’re not used to swimming in the ocean, its better to stay on land. There may also be dangerous rip tides and even though the waves may look small, they can be quite powerful in this area. The waves often times come from the left and right and in the middle, where you would swim over, they clash together, making it a bit difficult to hold your balance if you’re on a board.

Sunset Beach
Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is located on the North Shore of the island, and is one of Oahu’s finest beaches for swimming and snorkeling during the summer when the water is usually calm.  During the winter the beach is a world-famous surfing spot, home to internationally renowned surfing contests. This is when the waves can reach 30+ feet (9m), which makes Sunset Beach a real surfer’s paradise.  Sunset Beach is also known for its powerful rip current, called the Sunset Rip, that runs on every big swell. But even when the ocean appears calm, you’ll notice the strong alongshore current in the nearshore waters. You enter the ocean in one area, but a few minutes later you find yourself a little bit further down the beach. Sunset Beach has nice sunset views, especially in the summer months.

Molokai

Welcome to Molokai, The Most Hawaiian Island. Often called “The Friendly Island” because the aloha spirit flourishes here.  Molokai has breathtaking natural beauty, rain forests, and deserted beaches.  There are no big buildings here, no glitz and glamour, and aloha is a way of life.  You’ll find beaches here with the longest white sand beach that will have only your footprints.  There is little traffic here and not one single traffic light.  If shopping is your thing, you won’t find it here as there are no malls.  Just a small, friendly area of businesses in Kaunakakai and in the villages of Kualapu’u and Maunaloa.  You’ll find the vibe here slow and relaxed, rural and peaceful, and it will be like stepping back in time 50 years.

Papohaku Beach (Three Mile Beach)

Visit Papohaku Beach and discover three miles of soft-sands uninterrupted down Molokai’s west end. One of Hawaii’s largest white sand beaches at about 100 yards wide, there’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the “Friendly Island” ambience.  Here you’ll find campsites, indoor and outdoor showers, as well as picnic and restroom facilities. What you won’t find is a lot of foot traffic. There’s plenty of space to enjoy a beautiful view of Oahu. Over the Kaiwi Channel, just past Leahi (Diamond Head), is Waikiki, which actually took sand from Papohaku years ago to help build up its own shores.  During the winter months, it is best to avoid any dangerous shore break. Please heed all posted safety signs on the beach.  Find Your Flight!

Lanai

You won’t find a single traffic light here and that’s exactly how the people of Lanai like it. Only nine miles from Maui yet a world away, Lanai can feel like two places. The first is found in luxurious resorts where visitors can indulge in world-class amenities and championship-level golf at the Manele Golf Course and Koele Golf Course. The other is found bouncing along the island’s rugged back-roads in a 4-wheel drive exploring off the beaten path treasures like Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods) and Polihua Beach. The smallest inhabited island in Hawaii, Lanai offers big enticements to its visitors. From the stunning views atop the pine-lined Munro Trail to watching the acrobatic spinner dolphins from romantic Hulopoe Bay, Lanai is a special place where you’re sure to find serenity, adventure and intimacy. If you want to get away from it all, get away to Lanai.

Big Beach

Makena Beach (Big Beach)

Hulopoe Beach Park

Located in Hulopoe Bay and fronting the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, this sweeping white sand shoreline was once named America’s Best Beach. With fantastic snorkeling, tide pools to explore and Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) just a short hike away, this is Lanai’s most popular and most accessible beach. Restroom and picnic facilities are available.

Shipwreck Beach

4-wheel drive about a half-hour north from Lanai City and you’ll discover Shipwreck Beach. This windy, 8-mile stretch of beach has wrecked numerous ships along its shallow, rocky channel. In fact, the hull of a ghostly oil tanker from the 1940s is still beached on Kaiolohia Bay’s coral reef, its rusted hull giving the beach a surreal sense of wonder.  With excellent views of Molokai and Maui, this is a great area for beachcombing and exploring, but swimming is not advised. A 4-wheel drive is required. Visitors should be careful not to get their vehicles stuck in the sand. Once you reach the sand at sea level and the road opens up, roughly 30 minutes from departing the Lanai City, park and walk the rest of the way to the beach.

Maui

Makena Beach (Big Beach)

Located on the Southside of Maui, off of Makena Alanui Road, Makena Beach is the best beach Maui has to offer. There is a mile of perfect orange and white sand, cliffy dramatic landscape, and water that’s beautiful blue and green. There is little reef around here, which makes the sand bottom shine up through the water to give it that tropical brightness.  Makena Beach is famous for its inclined shoreline and large shore break. Skim boarding, body boarding, and body surfing are all very popular here for this reason. Caution is advised for those with children or inexperienced ocean swimmers when there’s large swell. These waves are deceptively powerful and can dump you into the sand without notice.  Snorkeling is not recommended in this area. Surfing also isn’t usually done here because of the shore break conditions. Big Beach has Port-a-potties, picnic tables, and shady areas under large trees. Be careful when walking out on the sand at first. These trees have large thorns that can be found on the ground underneath and around them. We’ve seen these thorns go clear through a sandal while walking. Going barefoot can be dangerous near the trees. Wait to take off your sandals or shoes until you get out past the trees.

Kama’ole Beach Park

Kamaole Beach has three separate sections called Kamaole I, II, and III, each divided by rocky points. Swimming is good at all three of these beaches. Kamaole III, which is the southernmost of the three beaches, features a wide and sandy beach and also a nice grassy area that is terrific for picnics. The sandy offshore waters get deep fairly quickly and shorebreak waves are enjoyed by bodysurfers and body boarders. Swimming is not recommended during times of high surf. The southern end of Kamaole Beach III is popular among locals who enjoy the park for barbecues, lawn games, kite flying, and family gatherings. Kamaole II beach is small though is nice for swimming and often has fun waves, particularly during a southwest swell. Kamaole I is the largest and northernmost of the three beaches and features a nice swimming area, a soft, white sand beach, and a grass lawn that is great for picnics or throwing a Frisbee around. The north end of Kamaole I is known as Charley Young Beach and has the best snorkeling.

Kaanapali Beach
Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach is one of Hawaii’s most energetic, charismatic, and active beaches. The beach’s vibe is defined by the surrounding Kaanapali Resort and the many hotels that sit along its shores. But unlike the similarly positioned Waikiki Beach, the 1.5 mile long Kaanapali Beach is able to shoulder the masses with little strain except during the busiest of times such as Christmas. Many activities including seasonal parasailing, surf lessons, volleyball, and sailing keep vacationers busy. At the north end of the beach lies Black Rock offering great snorkeling.

Kapalua Bay Beach

Considered by many to be the finest beach on Maui and definitely one of the most popular tourist beaches, Kapalua Beach is a nice crescent of golden sand lined with palm trees. Kapalua Beach borders Kapalua Resort yet there is plenty of room for everyone on this large beach which provides prime swimming and also an excellent sunbathing and relaxing. This is also a favorite beach for kids, and a nice lawn backing the beach provides a great place for a picnic. The best snorkeling is on the north side of the bay.  When swimming or snorkeling stay within the bay as there are often strong currents outside the bay creating hazardous conditions. During times of high surf or rough seas do not go into the ocean.  This beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and picnics.

Napili Beach

One of Maui’s nicest swimming and snorkeling beaches, Napili Beach is known for its shimmering blue water and beautiful white sand. Located on Maui’s northwestern coast, Napili Bay is situated between two rocky points. The ocean bottom is sandy though it gets deep relatively quickly. A strong shore break during the winter months provides waves for surfers and body boarders but beginners should stay out of the water when the ocean is rough. Napili is often fairly busy from all the vacation rentals and hotels near the beach.  Napili Bay is great for swimming and snorkeling when water is calm, sunbathing, bodysurfing and surfing.  Napili is one of Maui’s prettiest bays with sparkling white and blue water. Monk seals are often seen here.

DT Fleming Beach Park

This lovely northwestern Maui beach begins near the 16th hole of the beautiful Kapalua golf course at Makaluapuna Point and continues to the other side of the cove on Honokahua Bay which is bordered by sea cliffs. Fleming Beach is long and wide, and is usually great for swimming and snorkeling while also providing good waves for surfers and body boarders.  This beach is great for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, body boarding, surfing and diving.  This beach is generally very quiet and there are shady areas along the shore provided by ironwood trees and palms as well as a nice, shallow sandbar offshore extending out to the surf. Fleming Beach is set upon low sand dunes.  Although the beach is quite big it can get busy on weekends and also sometimes gets a bit windy in the afternoons. The shoreline is fairly steep and the water is sometimes a slightly cloudy for snorkeling. Fleming Beach is subject to seasonal high surf and dangerous conditions. Beginners should not go in the water during times of big waves or rough ocean water due to strong currents and rip tides.

Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach in southwest Maui is a beautiful crescent of golden sand and one of the five beaches near the Wailea Resort.  Wailea Beach is big and wide, and fronts the elegant Wailea Four Seasons Resort as well as the Grand Wailea Resort. An excellent swimming beach, Wailea Beach is backed by sand dunes on the southern end. The beach slopes gently to the ocean and is protected on both sides by lava rock points which also makes it nice for swimming. When the ocean is calm there is good snorkeling near the rocky points. Beginning bodyboarders like to play in the small waves near shore.  Wailea Beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, bodysurfing, body boarding, whale watching, picnics.  This beach provides great views of Molokini Crater as well as the islands of Lanai and Kahoolawe. Wailea Beach is also one of Maui’s best whale watching beaches during the winter months.  Do not go in the water during times of high surf or rough ocean water. Wailea Beach is sometimes a bit busy with tourists though the natural beauty is always outstanding.

Hawaii Island (Big Island)

Larger than all of the other islands combined, Hawaii Island, or Hawaii, the Big Island, is vast enough to hold 11 of the world’s 13 climactic zones—from sandy beaches to snowcapped mountains. See waterfalls, rainforests and botanical gardens in Hilo, explore the calm and clear water off of Kona, or view Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Save With Expedia!

Hapuna Beach State Park

One of the state’s prettiest beaches, this half-mile-long crescent of gently sloping golden sand is located between two posh resorts, Mauna Kea Beach Resort and Mauna Lani Resort on the Kohala coastline.  During the summer months the beach is about 200 feet wide and the clear blue water is excellent for swimming. Hapuna Beach has been rated the number one beach in America by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Grassy areas provide plenty of places to relax.  This beach is great for body boarding, bodysurfing, snorkeling, surfing, swimming and sunbathing.  Hapuna Beach State Park is a favorite beach of many kids for its great boogie boarding and clear water as long as the surf is not too large.

Maniniowali Beach
Kikaua Point Beach

Kikaua Point Beach

Located on Kua Bay, the fine white-sand Maniniowali Beach gently slopes to the sea and the water is usually crystal clear.  The crescent-shaped beach is one of the best places in Kona for swimming as long as the waves aren’t too big. Bodyboarding can also be very good but if the water is rough there can be surges, and inexperienced swimmers should find a calmer, more protected beach.  This beach is great for swimming and snorkeling when the water is not too rough, sunbathing and body boarding. Snorkeling is best on the far right side of the beach as well as the rocky area on the left where there is some coral.  Maniniowali is a favorite local body boarding beach. Snorkeling provides for some fun exploring as sea turtles and tropical fish are often seen around the underwater boulders and coral.  This beach is best enjoyed in the mornings before strong winds pick up as happens frequently in the afternoons. Weekends at Maniniowali can sometimes be a bit crowded compared to weekdays. Also there isn’t much shade at this beach.

Makalawena Beach

There are plenty of shady trees and even a freshwater pool near the dunes that is great for washing off the saltwater. Body boarding and surfing are also popular at Makalawena Beach, though it is fairly remote and never crowded. The powder white sand and azure waters make this one of the Big Island’s prettiest beaches. Locals call this beach “Maks.”  This beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and exploring.  Hawaiian green sea turtles are often seen at this beach. The water here shimmers teal and azure near shore and darker over the coral reef shelf offshore. The shallow water coral reef just offshore of the center crescent beach is great for snorkeling including colorful coral, caves, and sea arches.

Kikaua Point Beach

This idyllic white-sand beach is backed by a pleasant grassy area and is one of the Big Island’s nicest beaches. Palm trees and lava rocks surround this family-friendly beach, and a protected inlet area has shallow water where kids often play.  Kikaua Point Beach is great for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.  Views of Maui and Mauna Kea volcano add to the delight of this lovely crescent-shaped beach. The turquoise water and white sand surrounded by lava make this pretty beach very popular for Big Island weddings.  It is best to come early to this beach as there is limited parking and you won’t be let past the guard house if the parking lot is full. From the parking area a trail to the beach takes about five minutes to walk.

14 Comments

  1. Dushan

    Hi, so glad I stopped by on this page. I was considering Hawaii for a honeymoon destination and this info really gives some insight into the different beaches. I do like the surf but the wife likes other activities so this gives me an idea of which places to add on my list.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You would love a honeymoon in Tenerife, it is a good mix of Spanish and European culture. Beautiful and gorgeous beaches. Thanks for visiting Tenerife Vacation Guide Dushan!

      Reply
  2. jonesbunch1987

    Love this website, the pictures are great. The site is well laid out. Subtitles are very detailed and a lot of good information, like after you get to the place you are staying ask again for a reduction in your rate. You can find out about the package deals and what day is best to fly on and the best time of the day to fly. If you can be flexible on the days and times you can save a lot of money.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes you can save money! It is the best way to travel…with a little bit of flexibility. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  3. Summerly

    So many beaches! It would be hard to choose the best one. Sunset beach sounds nice. I think I would want to check that one out. I have only been to Hawaii once but I really would love to go back. We saw Waikiki, which was very ‘tourist-y’. Which ones of these beaches do you think would be not as busy?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Molokai and Lanai are going to have the least busiest beaches on the islands. Thanks for reading Summerly!

      Reply
  4. Cooper

    Love this website! the organization is well thought out and it is easy to navigate. I would work on some of the content, it can be a little wordy and may make a reader lose interest. Another suggestion would be to add a contact (email) button towards the top of the website and advertise that you would review certain locations or products at your customers request.
    Other than that, great website so far.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you for the great ideas! I actually love all of them 🙂

      Reply
  5. David

    After reading this article, I would really love to lay on any of this beaches right now 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are welcome David and I agree 100%!

      Reply
  6. Jaime

    Wow thank you for introducing me to all these beaches I didn’t know about. I live in Hawaii but never been to the other islands but now that I’ve seen what kind of beaches they have there I’m excited to plan a mini vacay there. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh wow, must be so nice to live there full time! I envy you! But, yes you need to venture out!

      Reply
  7. Marjan

    Hawaii always was place in my bucket list. And this description about beaches. I mean WOW. Make me want more. 🙂
    I have blog for traveling around Macedonia. But world is full with beautiful places.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      That it is and Hawaii is definitely beautiful! Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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