Anyone who visits Hawaii dreams of swaying palm trees, perfect weather, and of course, beautiful beaches. The Aloha State boasts some of the world’s best beaches, from famed Waikiki on Oahu to quiet Hulopoe Beach on Lanai.
You may want to watch big-wave surfers or hit the water yourself. Or you may want to stay close to shore or kayak out to an isolated islet. The good news is that there’s a beach for everyone in Hawaii – you just need to discover it.
We’ve rounded up the best beaches in Hawaii so you can get ready to hit the surf and sand. Keep reading to learn more about these beautiful locations.
BLACK SAND BEACH
Black Sand Beach, or Paiola Beach, is a scenic reward for anyone who travels the Road to Hana. On calm days, it’s a nice spot for swimming, though the pebble-like sand can be uncomfortable on your feet.
My favorite thing about Paiola Beach is the sound the waves make as they roll into shore – it’s loud and musical, unlike anything you’ll find at typical white sand beaches.
Paiola Black Sand Beach is located in Waianapanapa State Park, at mile marker #32 as you head into Hana. Make your reservation online for this must-see stop, which also features a walking trail and blow hole.
At the beach, you can relax in the tranquil blue waters, explore lava rock caves, or sunbathe on the shoreline.
Makena Beach is one of our favorite locations to relax in Maui’s water. It’s an undeveloped beach that’s ⅔ of a mile long on the island’s south shore. Visitors and locals alike flock to this lovely location to swim and hang out, but it’s spacious enough that you’ll still be able to enjoy your own little spot.
Makena Beach State Park is divided into two separate sections: Big Beach and Little Beach, each with a different parking lot. Go to Big Beach to have bathrooms and a lifeguard stand. Little Beach feels more secluded and tucked away.
We love Makena Beach because it feels untamed, though it’s a short drive away from some of the most luxurious resorts on the island. Kids love to body surf here when the waves are right, and it’s great for swimming and snorkeling on calm days.
Look for Makena Beach past Wailea. After you go by the Fairmont Kea Lani (the last major resort in Wailea), you’ll go about 3.5 more miles and then reach Big Beach.
Your trip to Maui won’t be complete without a visit to Kaanapali Beach, though chances are you may be staying along this coastline, which boasts some of the island’s most popular resorts and condos.
It’s a busy beach, and for good reason. The crystal clear water is absolutely gorgeous and offers incredible snorkeling. It’s also a lively area – Kaanapali Beach is walking distance to many attractions, like shopping, dining, entertainment, and bars.
The highlight of Kaanapali Beach is Black Rock, the point of lava rock that separates the southern stretch from its northern neighbor, Airport Beach. At sunset each night, you can catch a reenactment of King Kahekili’s jump from the cliff into the waters below, complete with a torch lighting ceremony.
During the day, many brave souls dive in from the cliff, while others stay in the water where sea turtles and other marine life roam. You may even see a Hawaiian monk seal on the beach, but if you do — keep your distance. The monk seals are critically endangered and are protected by state and federal law. (You could face a fine of up to $50,000!) Use your zoom to take pics of these amazing animals, please!
Kaanapali is located in West Maui, just north of Lahaina Town. Most of the resorts in the area have a few public parking spaces you can use for free. Get there early, as spots do fill up fast.
D.T. FLEMING BEACH
D.T. Fleming Beach Park is one of my favorite places to go when I want to spend an entire day at the beach. Nestled in a quiet area of Kapalua, this beach has almost everything – ample parking, restrooms, shady picnic tables, a snack bar, and lifeguards.
Anyone looking for calm relaxing waters may need to look elsewhere, though you could have some luck if you arrive early in the day. DT Fleming is a popular spot for body boarding, thanks to its intense shore breaks. The lifeguards here are friendly, and you should check in with them before entering the water.
This spacious, friendly family beach calls for you to slow down and simply enjoy Maui’s incredible sand and sea.
Read More: 18 MAUI WATERFALLS ON THE ROAD TO HANA AND BEYOND
WAIMEA BAY BEACH PARK
We must include a North Shore Oahu spot on our list of favorite Hawaii beaches. Waimea Bay Beach Park is a great place to visit year-round, though you’ll find something different each season.
In the winter months, big wave surfers hit these waters. The waves can reach over 30 feet. And while most of us shouldn’t enter the water during these swells, seeing the magnitude of the waves and the surfers who tackle them is a sight to behold.
In the summer, Waimea Bay becomes a calm spot for families to enjoy. Relax in the spacious sand or float around in the pristine waters.
You can find this pretty beach near Haleiwa Town, about 45 minutes from Honolulu.
KO OLINA BEACH
Ko Olina is an upscale resort area located in western Oahu. It’s where the Four Seasons and the Disney Aulani Resort are, and it’s also home to some of the island’s most beautiful lagoons.
Rock walls protect the clear blue water from waves, even in the afternoon when most beaches get rough. The sand here is soft and pristine, so it’s comfortable for kids of all ages to swim in.
There are four lagoons along Ko Olina Beach. Lagoon #4 is usually the least crowded and has the most parking spaces, so that might be the best one to visit if you’re not staying at one of the resorts along the beach.
These man-made lagoons are super kid-friendly and great for snorkeling. They face westward, so it’s also a great place to catch the sunset. Bring a change of clothes and have a nice dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.
Ko Olina is a fantastic place to visit or stay while on Oahu, thanks to its gorgeous beaches.
Waikiki Beach is probably the most iconic beach in Hawaii. The crescent-shaped shoreline features views of Diamond Head Crater in the distance, and the calm turquoise waters are inviting for surfers, snorkelers, and casual swimmers.
There are eight stretches of sand along Waikiki Beach, each with its own unique features. You really can’t go wrong at any of them. Find a parking place and claim a small piece of the shoreline. You can relax, swim, or people-watch, all only steps away from one of the most vibrant areas in the state.
Even people who stay in the Waikiki area often miss enjoying the beaches here. After all, there is a lot to do in Honolulu. But you definitely should set aside a day to truly enjoy this magical setting.
Often ranked as one of the world’s best beaches, Lanikai Beach is a must-see spot for anyone visiting Hawaii. It’s picture-perfect and offers something for everyone – swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
Despite its global accolades, Lanikai still feels somewhat like a hidden gem. It has no dedicated parking lot (you’ll need to find a legal street spot or park nearby at Kailua Beach Park), and the signs marking the entrance are nondescript. The beach does get busy, but it’s still a great spot to spend a few hours.
You’ll also see Na Mokulua from Lanikai Beach. These two islets rest just off the coast and give the beach a really magical look. You can enjoy the site of Na Mokulua from shore, or rent a kayak and head out to the northern isle to step upon its pristine sand.
Read More: 17 BEST BEACHES IN OAHU YOU DEFINITELY CAN’T MISS
HAWAII (THE BIG ISLAND)
Located along the Kona-Kohala Coast, Hapuna Beach is one of the Big Island’s largest white sand beaches and one of the most beautiful places in the state. It’s almost always sunny here, and it’s an excellent place for swimming and snorkeling on calm days.
Kids of all ages love playing in the Hapuna Beach shore break – just be sure to check with a lifeguard and stay out of the water if it’s dangerous.
There are several pavilions with BBQ grills and picnic tables, but there’s not much shade here. So bring an umbrella along when you visit this gorgeous beach.
There is a parking and entrance fee at Hapuna Beach, but it’s worth it to enjoy such a pretty and fun beach.
Located on the Southeastern edge of the Big Island, Punalu’u Beach is a long stretch of dark black sand sandwiched between lush green palm trees and aqua blue water. It’s unbelievably beautiful, and probably unlike any other place you’ve ever visited. It’s usually regarded as the best black sand beach in Hawaii, which we agree with.
Punalu’u Beach is a must-visit spot to sightsee and relax for a bit, but it’s usually too rough here for swimming. If the water is calm, you may want to put on some water shoes and snorkel around for a bit. On sunny days, the sand has a gorgeous shimmer, sea turtles often come to shore.
The surrounding area features coffee farms, 19th-century churches, and the small town of Na’alehu, so Punalu’u Beach is a great spot to stop as you do a driving tour around the Big Island.
KAUNA’OA (MAUNA KEA) BEACH
If you’re looking for a postcard-worthy beach on the Big Island, then Kauna’oa Beach is the spot for you. It’s located on the Kohala Coast next to the Mauna Kea Resort, which maintains the facilities and offers parking for the beach.
The clean, white sand makes this an excellent spot for swimming or sunbathing, and the turquoise waters are usually calm. The beach is spacious but parking is limited, so try to arrive before mid-morning to get a spot. Or, you can stay at the Mauna Kea Resort to have easy access to the beach.
At night, manta rays feed at Kauna’oa Beach, and the resort has a glowing viewing area where you can often see these unique animals.
Lanai is a serene and scenic island, and some of its best beauty is found at Hulopoe Beach. This spacious beach is near the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai. You can enjoy it as a hotel guest, or take a day trip from Maui.
It takes about an hour and a half to reach Lanai by ferry, and in the winter months, you can usually spot lots of Humpback whales along the journey.
Once at Hulopoe Beach, you’ll be treated to incredible swimming and snorkeling, along with views of spinner dolphins and optional hiking trails. The beach park is well-maintained and features showers, picnic tables, and restrooms.
Hanalei Bay is a picture-perfect beach area in Kauai. Tall, green mountains are a backdrop to the calm waters and glistening shoreline. It’s a great place to swim, snorkel, surf, or enjoy family time.
There are three beaches along Hanalei Bay: Waioli Beach Park, Hanalei Beach Park, and Black Pot Beach. The beach is spacious but can get crowded on the weekends, though you shouldn’t let that deter you from enjoying it.
Hanalei Town is a quaint place to grab a snack or check out a scenic overlook above acres of taro fields.
A visit to Hanalei Bay is a full experience, offering the beauty and peacefulness that makes Kauai such a special place.
Poipu Beach is usually included on lists of the world’s best beaches. The crescent shaped stretch of sand hugs a calm ocean cove that’s perfect for families.
Younger kids and beach bums can enjoy the natural wading pool at the shoreline, while older kids will delight in the bodyboarding opportunities here. When conditions are right, surfers take on the waves at Poipu Beach. And on its many calm days, Poipu Beach is a snorkeler’s dream.
There’s a spacious grassy area here if you need a break from the sand and surf, plus a small playground. Some of the island’s best resorts are located near Poipu Beach, so stay right at this gorgeous spot or drive in to spend the day. It truly is one of the best beaches in Hawaii!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HAWAII
- YOUR HAWAII VACATION
- WAIKIKI: 24 Best Things To Do In Waikiki You’re Gonna Love
- HONOLULU: 22 Absolute Best Things To Do In Honolulu
- OAHU WATERFALLS: 13 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes Oahu Has To Offer
- HILO: 16 Spectacular Things To Do In Hilo, Hawaii
- BEACH PACKING LIST: The Ultimate Beach Packing List For Your Next Vacation
WHERE TO STAY IN HAWAII
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