| October 11th, 2023 | No comments

Looking to escape the winter chill? Sounds like a trip to Hawaii is in order.

And what would a trip to Hawaii be without a few days spent at the beach? Hawaii has over 100 gorgeous beaches spread across its main islands – but with so many, it’s impossible to hit them all in one go.

So how will you choose which ones to visit and which to skip? Worry not – we’ve got a list of the best beaches in Hawaii for all you aspiring beachgoers.

The Best Beaches in Hawaii

We picked 15 of the very best beaches on the Hawaiian islands. We based our picks on beauty, location, and accessibility. Obviously, there are many more incredible Hawaiian beaches, but this list is a good jumping-off point as you explore the islands. 

Waikiki Beach

Buildings along the coast of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii

One of the most famous beaches on one of the most-visited islands, you can’t miss Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. Located in Honolulu, it’s not only one of the best beaches in Hawaii, but one of the best in the whole country.

Created by Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s, Waikiki Beach has transformed into a coveted vacation spot for beachgoers worldwide. This 2-mile stretch of coastline has everything you need for a perfect beach day. The pristine white sand and turquoise blue waters are draws for those who wish to tan and take a dip. On the other hand, shops, restaurants, and bars are plentiful for those just looking to enjoy a relaxing day near the water.

Waikiki Beach is also a popular surfing spot, so this is the perfect place to learn. If you’re looking for water activities that aren’t quite as taxing, rent a paddle board or embark on a catamaran cruise. To explore more, book a snorkeling excursion or a parasailing experience.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

You can find a good beach in almost any coastal area, but black sand beaches are much more rare. That’s why you should make it a point to visit at least one of them while you’re in Hawaii!

Punalu’u on Big Island is one of the best black sand beaches in Hawaii. The scenery is gorgeous; the deep black of the sand contrasts nicely with the blue of the sea and the green of the trees. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera for this one.

It’s not only the magnificent colors that stand out; you can also spot some native wildlife. Hawaiian green sea turtles and endangered Hawksbill turtles have made this their rendezvous point.

This beach is easy to access and has plenty of amenities. You’ll find picnic areas, parking, and restrooms. Just be sure to pack some snacks – you won’t find restaurants here. If you’re trying to pack this into a busy itinerary, book a day trip that includes a volcano, coffee, and black sand beach tour.

Laniakea Beach

A turtle walking into water on Laniakea Beach

If you’re a sucker for a sunset, head to Laniakea Beach on Oahu. Laniakea translates to “wide sky”, and it’s not hard to see how this beach got its name. If you time it right, you’ll have an amazing view of the sun setting over the mountains in the distance.

Laniakea has also been nicknamed Turtle Beach. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll encounter the many Hawaiian green sea turtles that call this beach home.

This small beach boasts both white sand and sections of volcanic rock, so it’s perfect for either sunbathing or exploring the rocks’ nooks and crannies. You can swim here in the summer, but in the winter the currents are strong, so use caution.

Easily reachable by bus or car, you can enjoy dinner right on the beach. If you’d like to explore this as well as other parts of Oahu’s North Shore, consider a full North Shore tour.

Papohaku Beach Park

This beach is located on one of Hawaii’s less touristy islands: Molokai. Not only are there fewer crowds, but Papohaku Beach is one of the island’s biggest, measuring 3 miles long and 100 yards wide. For this reason, it’s also known as “Three Mile Beach”. You’ll have no problem finding a spot to stretch out along the sand, making this one of the best beaches in Hawaii.

At Papohaku Beach, you’ll enjoy amenities like indoor and outdoor showers, restrooms, and overnight camping facilities. If you plan on camping, don’t forget to get a permit first.

As you wander up and down the beach, you can also enjoy the view of Oahu from across the sea. You will need a car to reach Papohaku.

Waipio Valley Beach

People with surfboards standing on the shore of Waipio Valley beach in Hawaii

Another of Big Island’s beautiful black sand beaches, this one is less crowded than many of the others. That’s because the best way to reach it is to park at the Waipio Valley lookout and hike down. The journey is about 1.5 miles, so not many people decide to make the trek.

For those who do, though, it’s worth it. You’ll enjoy having this black sand beach almost to yourself. The only downside is that there are little to no amenities here, as it’s without restrooms and other services.

This beach is also known for strong currents and there are no lifeguards, so it’s not recommended to swim. Waipio Valley is enjoyed mostly for the experience of sunbathing, relaxing, and a good photo op.

Kapalua Bay

A rocky coastline near Kapalua Bay beach in Hawaii

The beach at Kapalua Bay is one of the best things to do in Maui. If you’re looking for a beach you can spend the whole day at, this is your spot.

If you’re feeling adventurous, partake in one of the many water activities, such as paddle-boarding or snorkeling. The water here is so clear that you’ll have a great view of the marine life beneath you, including eels, coral, and sea turtles.

When you get a bit peckish, there are plenty of restaurants, so you won’t have to travel far to get some grub. Because there are so many things to do, though, prepare for this one to be a little more crowded.

Hanalei Bay Beach

Sunset over the pier in Hanalei Bay Beach in Hawaii

Consistently voted one of the top 25 beaches in the US, Hanalei Bay Beach on Kauai’s North Shore is not to be missed. With crystal clear waters, plenty of palm trees, soft white sand, and forest-covered mountains in the background, it’s one of Hawaii’s most photographed beaches.

This is a top surfing spot on the island, but you’ll also find opportunities to go kayaking, snorkeling, paddleboarding, and more. It’s also home to the historic Hanalei Pier, which is now a favorite spot for visitors to take photos.

Wailea Beach

People walking into the beach in Wailea Beach, Hawaii

If you’re looking for a more upscale experience in Maui, Wailea is one of the best beaches in Hawaii for you. This beach, named after the goddess “Lea” of canoe makers, is surrounded by luxurious resorts. As a result, most of the people you’ll find on this beach are resort dwellers, and it’s not uncommon to spot a celebrity or two.

The ocean here is generally calm, so it’s good for body surfing, boogie boarding, and the like. You’ll also find excellent snorkeling around the rocks surrounding the edges of the beach. For those concerned about amenities, there’s also a paved walkway, restrooms, showers, and free parking.

Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach on Maui’s West Shore was once a popular hangout for island royalty, and it’s easy to see why. Boasting 3 miles of white sand and deep blue waters, Kaanapali is also surrounded by cliffs.

In fact, one of the most popular attractions is the cliff-diving ceremony held at Black Rock. Be sure to stay until sunset to witness the incredible display. The cliff diver will light torches along the rock as the sun begins to set. Then, he’ll dive off of it in a reenactment of Maui’s former King Kaheliki hurling himself towards the deep blue sea below.

If you’re just in it for the water activities, though, check out one of the many snorkeling tours that start at Kaanapali.

Makena Beach

Blue water and golden sand on Makena Beach in Hawaii

Makena Beach State Park is one of Maui’s largest undeveloped beaches, so it’s more rugged than most of the resort beaches nearby. Located on the southern shore, it stretches for about 1.5 miles.

Divided into 2 areas, Little Beach and Big Beach, Big Beach is where most people want to be. Here, you’ll enjoy amenities like restrooms, lifeguards, food stands, and picnic tables. Little Beach, on the other hand, is a small, secluded cove without a lifeguard or other amenities.

Enjoy a day sunbathing, swimming, fishing, or snorkeling in the calm waters that are protected from the winds by the surrounding cliffs. From the shore, you’ll also have a great view of the nearby islands of Kahoolawe and Molikini.

Ko Olina Beach

People on beach chairs near the water on Ko Olina beach in Hawaii

Located on the western side of Oahu, Ko Olina Beach is actually 4 coves situated near the area’s resorts. Not only is it incredibly picturesque, but the rocks surrounding the lagoons serve as protection from the wind. As a result, this is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for calmer waters for swimming.

You’ll also find that this beach is less crowded than most others on Oahu, as it’s a little further from Honolulu and the Waikiki area. Here, aside from swimming, you’ll enjoy stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, and snorkeling if you’re looking for more laid-back water activities.

Poipu Beach

As the most popular beach on Kauai’s south shore, Poipu Beach is actually two crescent-shaped beaches separated by a sandbar. This sandy strip is a popular spot for sea turtles to nap, so be careful not to disturb their slumber.

This beach is perfect for all ages. If you’re a beginner bodyboarder, you’ll enjoy the waves on the western side of the beach. You’ll also find a natural ocean wading pool for the little ones. More experienced surfers will enjoy the waves a little further out, while there’s also a large reef for those who prefer to snorkel. If you’re looking to learn how to surf while you’re here, check out this personalized surfing lesson and tour.

As a bonus, if you’re visiting during the winter months, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of humpback whales in the distance.

Hulopoe Beach

Located on the southern coast of Lanai, Hulopoe Beach boasts bright white sand and crystal clear waters. During summer, this is the best spot on the island for swimming, but during winter the rough currents are best avoided.

On this beach, you’ll find amenities like barbecue grills that are free for the public to use, along with picnic tables, restrooms, and showers.

The curious at heart will love exploring the tide pools on the eastern side of the beach. You’ll find plenty of crabs, starfish, and other small creatures scuttling around among the rocks. In addition, this is a popular rendezvous spot for dolphins in the summer and humpback whales in the winter.

As this is a protected site, visitors are asked not to take anything from the beach, including stones and shells.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, there are plenty of other beautiful beaches in Hawaii worth checking out that can’t fit all in one list. If you’re looking for more, check these out:

Polihua Beach, located on the island of Lanai, is perfect for those looking for a secluded spot for sunbathing.

Hapuna Beach is Big Island’s biggest white sand beach and is perfect for swimming, bodysurfing, and snorkeling.

Hawaii has beaches galore. These are the cream of the crop, but this is just a starting point. Hit as many of these as you can to get a taste of what else awaits you in this beautiful island state. Aloha, happy travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Brittany Muldoon

Written by Brittany Muldoon

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Brittany had brief stints in North Carolina and North Dakota before moving to Prague, CZ, where she's been living for the past 7 years. Having traveled most of Europe over the past decade, she loves sharing her experiences through her writing and photography. She's recently started dipping her toes into solo travel and hopes to explore more of Portugal and the Nordic countries in the coming months.

Scroll down to see more articles by Brittany!


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