Best Beaches in Hawaii - The Best of Each Island

By Vaishnavi Sharma on Nov 01, 2017
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Famous for hula dancers, lip-smacking cuisines, swaying coconut trees, picturesque locations and balmy climate, Hawaii is every vacationer’s Mecca. Although it is the newest state to be added to the United States of America, it has been a popular tourist destination since the 19th century. The eclectic mixture of cultures and languages make it a delightful holiday destination, but the crowning glory of the Aloha State are the beaches. Hawaiian beaches offer a stunning diversity; they come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

From adventure-seekers to honeymooning couples, there is a beach for every type of vacationer in Hawaii. Listed below are some of the best beaches on the 6 islands of Hawaii.

Island of Hawaii - The Big Island  (The Most Popular Island in Hawaii)

best beaches on the big island

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The biggest island in the state, Hawaii, is nicknamed as 'The Big Island'. The marvelous diversity in the climate of the various seasons here is awe-inspiring and you can experience everything from tropical forests to snow-clad mountains. Although it is a young island, and has shorter shorelines, it makes up for this by offering a vivid selection of some of the best beaches in Hawaii. Below are the beaches on The Big Island you must visit:

1) Punaluu Beach

Punaluu Beach is a unique beach filled with black sand. The noir color is formed owing to the lava flowing from the ocean to the beach, a consequence of volcanic activity. The inky shoreline looks surreal against the foamy white waters, and is unlike any of the top beaches in Hawaii. Bustling with green sea turtles, an endangered species, you can spot a few of them if you’re an early bird. This is also one of the few places where they lay eggs. Their presence is due to the abundance of Red seaweed found here, which is their favorite snack. Furthermore, Hawaiian Monk Seals can sometimes be spotted lounging on the more secluded parts of the shoreline.

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What’s cool?

  • Pitch-black sand, Sightings of the Green turtles and Hawksbill turtles 


  • This beach is not meant for swimming, as the sea is rough and unpredictable here, and due to the lack of reefs, very deep.

2) Kauna ‘oa Beach

Are you a private person, or do you just wish to enjoy the balmy Hawaiian climate in seclusion? Kauna ‘oa Beach is the perfect beach for you! This beach allows only 40 people to park at any point, and the early bird gets the worm. It is a gorgeous, white sand beach, and the sapphire water crashing against the ivory shoreline looks like a Windows wallpaper. Stretching across an area of one and a half miles, this beach is very tranquil and hence perfect for families with children. The calm water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. 

What’s cool?

  • At night, several manta rays flock to the lights. There’s a special lookout point from where you can observe them.


  • Reach before 8.30 am to get a parking spot, as the parking space tends to get filled up quickly during peak season. 

Check Out: Best Hawaiian Islands for Honeymoon

3) Hapuna Beach

One of the few white-sand beaches in Hawaii, this beach has been frequently referred to as the best beach in Hawaii. Hapuna literally means “ the spring of life” in Hawaiian language. The white sand on the beach is soft; almost powder-like and a comfortable surface to rest on and sunbathe. You can see the towering mountains at a distance, and the coconut and palm trees lining the beach offer ample shade under which you can picnic. The sparkling gem-like water is clean, and the temperature is perfect for a quick dip or a refreshing, long swim. 

What’s cool?

  • The ‘green flash’, a rare optical phenomenon only observed from certain tropical locations during sunset, can be witnessed from this beach on some occasions, when the sky is clear.


  • The best time to visit the beach is during the earlier part of the day, as later the waves tend to get stronger. 

4) Papakolea Beach (The Green Beach)

Papakolea Beach is a unique beach owing to the vivid green color of its shoreline. It gets the emerald color from the olivine crystals which pooled here as a consequence of a volcanic eruption more than 10,000 years ago, which stayed here because they are heavier than the other particles. This beach is one of the only four green-sand beaches in the world, making it a must-visit place on the big island. The rugged, rocky formation against the vibrant olive green, together with the frothy turquoise water create an unforgettably dream-like scenario. You can drive to this place, or walk to it.

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What’s cool?

  • Numerous cave dwellings and Heiau, a.k.a Hawaiian temples on the way to the beach.


  • Don’t drive, but hike to the beach for some memorable views and to explore the ancient cave dwellings along the path. 

Check Out: 10 Breathtaking Volcanoes in the World You Can Actually Visit

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Maui - The Best Island in USA

best beaches of Maui

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Sprawling across an area of 727.2 square miles, Maui has often been referred to as the ‘Best Island in the USA’. The island is certainly worthy of this title, as it boasts of a blend of scenic beauty and a plethora of outdoor activities to choose from. The ‘Valley Island’, as it is popularly called, offers great weather all-round the year, and is a popular destination amongst Hollywood celebrities and wealthy businessmen. It offers a myriad range of the top swimming beaches in Hawaii, and each one of them is exquisite in its own way. Check out the best beaches on Maui island:

1) Makena 'Big' Beach

The largest beach in Maui, the Makena beach is fondly known as the ‘Big Beach’. It is named aptly, as it stretches across a length of almost a mile, and is as wide as 100 feet. Situated on an indented shoreline, between two black lava outcroppings, this beach is unperturbed and provides the ideal concoction of seclusion and marvelous scenery.  It is separated by a small cliff from the 'small beach', which is a nude beach. This place, which is regarded as one of the best beaches in Hawaii, is great for snorkeling, boogie boarding, and provides a challenging venue for surfing. A visit to Makena beach is one of the best things to do in Maui, as it offers a memorable and rejuvenating experience.

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What’s cool?

  • A number of food trucks line up on the beach, serving delicious authentic cuisine.


  • The waves are as strong as they are wild, and only seasoned swimmers and surfers can consider venturing into these unpredictable waters.

Check Out: 15 Family Resorts in Hawaii For The Best Vacation With Kids

2) Kapalua Bay Beach

Kapalua Bay Beach is arguably the finest beach in Maui, and attracts throngs of tourists during peak season. Its shape mimics the outline of a crescent, and the golden sand here shimmers magically when the bright sunlight hits it. Waves touch the shoreline gently, almost caressing it, making it an ideal place for swimming. Families with children can visit this beach without concerning themselves about the safety of the young ones, as the shallow waters are harmless. You can indulge in kayaking, boogie boarding and stand up paddle surfing here.Sea turtles can be spotted here, lazing on the less populated part of the beach. A lawn is situated near the beach and is an ideal venue for family picnics.

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What’s cool?

  • The vibrant and colorful marine life and vivid coral reefs make this beach the perfect destination for snorkeling.


  • Head to the northern part of the bay, as it offers the best snorkeling opportunities.

3) Wailea Beach

Amidst the group of beaches in Maui, Wailea Beach is like the glamorous, good-looking cousin who has several friends in Hollywood. Named after “the water of Lea”, the goddess of canoe makers according to Hawaiian folklore, this beach is as broad as they come. It boasts of a calm ocean offering ample snorkeling opportunities, and is surrounded by a number of luxury resorts and 5-star restaurants. The tan colored sand and the paved footpath make this beach relatively smoother than the other rugged Hawaiian beaches. It has a number of facilities including public washrooms, showers and free parking.

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What’s cool?

  • Wailea Beach is a popular destination among Hollywood celebrities and famous personalities, and if you’re lucky you might spot them sunbathing here.


  • Owing to its popularity, the beach is often crowded. If you enjoy seclusion, you must visit it early in the morning before it is flooded by tourists.

4) Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach  

Waianapanapa literally translates to ‘Glistening Water’ and is a fitting title to this exquisite beach located in Maui. The sand here is jet black, and looks breathtaking against the crashing sapphire waves. The entire area is thickly covered with vegetation, and the lively green looks vivid against the canvas of black sand and sapphire waters. But the raw, natural beauty is not the only plus point of this place. It has a labyrinth of caves that are interconnected by passages and many of them have fresh water ponds. These ponds are believed to have been utilized by the archaic people inhabiting the islands.

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What’s cool?

  • One of the several ponds is believed to be the place where an ancient Princess Popo'alaea was murdered by her husband. The water turns red once every year due to the presence of red shrimp, and locals believe it is the blood of the slain princess.


  • The state park surrounding the beach is the perfect campground, and the beauty of the ocean at night is a magical sight.

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Oahu - The Most Happening Island in Hawaii

best beaches of Oahu

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Island of Oahu is the most densely populated one in Hawaii, and is truly the heart of the state. It is home to Honolulu, a bustling city with a diverse population from wide-ranging ethnicities. The blend of contemporary and traditional values lend this island an interesting and quirky vibes. Some of the best beaches in Hawaii are located here, and swarms of tourists head to this island for an idyllic getaway. Listed below are the best beaches in Oahu:

1) Lanikai Beach

Lanikai means ‘The heavenly ocean’ in the native language, and is an appropriate name for this spectacular beach located in Oahu. This is a kid and family friendly beach as the azure, tranquil waters are a safe haven for young, inexperienced swimmers. The beach is filled with alabaster sand which has a powder like texture. However, this beach is not meant for snorkeling, as it has no coral reefs and little marine life. Instead, visitors can indulge in kayaking, swimming and sunbathing on this beach, which looks like it is straight out of a postcard. Perfect for a lazy day with your family, head out to Lanikai beach for a laid-back, refreshing experience. 

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What’s cool?

  • The Mokalua Islands, and the Windward Coastline are visible from the beach, and look spectacular against the clear blue sky.


  • It is quite difficult to locate the beach, especially if you’re a newbie. Watch out for a huge pillar bearing its name at the entrance of the beach. Furthermore, there aren’t many restaurants here, hence make sure that you carry snacks and water bottles. 

Check Out: Nightlife in Honolulu: Best Bars, Clubs, & Things To Do

2) Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay is one of the most popular surfing locations in Hawaii. It is home to some of the best surfing competitions including the Vans Triple Crown. Between November and February, the legendary winter waves hit Waimea, creating a challenging venue for seasoned surfers. The waves are gigantic, and reach heights of 50 feet at times. Witnessing the illustrious surfers expertly find their way over the enormous waves is an adrenalin-pumping experience. 

During the summers, however the ocean is quite timid, and frequented by families with children. The water is tranquil and shallow, perfect for kids. Adrenalin junkies jump off from the 30-feet rugged rock formation into the serene water for an adventurous experience.

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What’s cool?

  • Hawaiian surfing superstars like Eddie Aikau, Greg Knoll, Ken Bradshaw, and Laird Hamilton are often seen practicing here during winter. 


  • Though it looks cool, jumping off the huge monolith is not a good idea, and can cause grievous injury.

Check Out: Best Spots for Snorkeling in Honolulu

3) Waikiki Beach

Sprawling across a length of more than 2 miles, Waikiki Beach is arguably the most popular one in Oahu. It was once a favorite amongst the Hawaiian royalty, and it is easy to see why. The white sand is soft and warm, and the ocean is calm and soothing. The shallow waters offer amazing snorkeling opportunities and are ideal for swimming. Visitors can indulge in a plethora of watersports here including but not limited to kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing and bodyboarding. 

What’s cool?

  • You’ll never have a dull moment here as the beach is surrounded by a number of shopping centers, hotels, restaurants and bars.


  • It is excessively crowded during peak season, so head out to the beach before 8am for a nice spot.

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Kauai - The Garden Island

best beaches on Kauai

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Kauai, popularly known as the ‘Garden Island’, is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands according to its Geological age. It is shrouded with dense forests, towering cliffs and ever flowing rivers. Some of the regions on the island cannot be accessed by road or sea, only by air. The inaccessibility had been a boon, and the island has remained virgin, untouched by tourists. Some of the best beaches on the island are listed below:

1) Poipu Beach

This beach is actually a series of golden crescents joined together. The caramel sand and the dazzling sapphire waters compliment each other, and the warm climate is perfect for sunbathing. As the water lacks depth, this is a family-friendly beach and kids can frolic in the water without safety issues during summer. Boogie boarding and snorkeling are popular activities here, and the western side of the beach is ideal for newbies. If you’re lucky, you might spot a monk seal lounging on the beach.

What’s cool?

  • The water is home to several colorful fish, and offers the ideal snorkeling venue.


  • The water can be unpredictable during winter, stay careful if you’re visiting it during that season.

Must Visit: Best Beaches in USA

2) Makua (Tunnels) Beach

Do you enjoy seclusion? Makua Beach is the ideal getaway location for you. Several palm, coconut and ironwood trees provide shade, and the crescent shaped golden shoreline is the kind of stuff vacation dreams are made of. The best part for snorkeling is the central part of the crescent as it is home to a massive coral reef. This reef attracts a number of fish and marine animals and the shallow floor stays calm even during the harsh winter months. You can indulge in diving here, as the outer reef offers some great diving opportunities. 

What’s cool?

  • The labyrinth of lava tubes and coral formations, arches and caves under water are a bustling hub of marine biodiversity.


  • Only seasoned divers should venture to the outer reef as it is quite tricky. The beginners should stick to the inner reef. 

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Molokai - The Prettiest Island in Hawaii

best beaches on Molokai

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Fondly referred to as ‘The Friendly Isle’, Molokai Island certainly lives up to its nickname. One of the least explored islands in Hawaii, Molokai is an untouched oasis of rich heritage and natural beauty. It is widely believed that this island is the birthplace of Hula, the world-famous Hawaiian dance. Like an uncut diamond that entices onlookers with a rugged allure, Molokai lures travelers with the raw charm of its unexplored shoreline

1) Papohaku Beach

One of the largest white-sand beaches, Popohaku beach is famous as the ‘Three-Mile Beach’. True to its name, the vast expanse of white sand stretches endlessly and is almost 100 yards broad. It is not a very popular beach and therefore provides the ideal privacy, making it one of the most beautiful beach in Hawaii for couples. You could almost pretend that it is your own private island for a while. The beach also has numerous facilities including restrooms and free showers. The view of the Oahu island from the shoreline is mesmerizing and during sunsets, the sand lights up like it is on fire.

What’s cool?

  • The absolute seclusion offered by this beach.


  • Do not venture into the ocean, it is quite violent. 

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Lanai - Home to the clearest beaches in Hawaii.

best beaches on Lanai

Image Source: rickh710/Flickr

Known as ‘The Pineapple Island’ owing to the fact that it used to be a pineapple plantation, Lanai is 140.5 sq mi island. 97% of it is owned by Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, who wishes to turn it into a green, sustainable society. Lanai is famous for its enchanting beaches, some of which are listed below. 

1) Polihua beach

Located near the Garden of the Gods, Polihua Beach is a lesser known Hawaiian beach. But do not make the mistake of not visiting it due the lack of its popularity. It is actually a boon, as the two and half mile long beach hardly has any tourists, making it an idyllic oasis of seclusion. The caramel colored sand sets off the striking sapphire color of the ocean, and sea turtles are often seen resting on the shore. The ‘diamond head’ of the Oahu island is clearly visible from here, and cuts an enigmatic shape. 

What’s cool?

  • You can collect cool souvenirs for your friends from the beach, as several shells are scattered all around the beach


  • Do not touch the sea turtles or disturb them. Avoid going to the beach during the afternoon as the tide is quite strong. 

2) Hulpoe Beach

Are you a marine life enthusiast? Hulpoe Beach is THE beach for you. Home to a lively ecosystem, this place is every snorkeler's dream. The vibrant, baby blue waves touch the shoreline gently during summers, making it an ideal place for swimming. The crescent shaped shoreline is flanked by giant monoliths on both sides, sheltering it from strong winds. Spinner dolphins performing acrobatics will keep you entertained, and watch out for humpback whales who love to cruise in this part of the ocean. The coral reef attracts throngs of colorful fish, and the shallow ocean bed is perfect for novice snorkelers. 

What’s cool?

  • The Hulpoe Beach is a protected marine reserve, the ideal place in Lanai to experience marine biodiversity and one of the best beaches in Hawaii for snorkeling.  


  • Southeast to the tide pools on this beach, is a celebrated point popularly known as ‘Sweetheart’s Rock’. It’s just a 20 minute hike from here to the famous cliff, make sure you visit it. 

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Now that you've read about the best beaches in Hawaii, what are you waiting for? Pack your swimsuits and sunglasses, slather some sunscreen on, and head to the most gorgeous place in America, Hawaii!

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