The Best Beaches in Hawaii
Palm tree dotted sands, secret coves, perfect surf—it’s not hard to find a beautiful beach in Hawaii. From Maui’s glitzy resort-lined stretches to Kauai’s lush, tropical waters, the state’s eight islands have something to offer every type of traveler. Dive in.
Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.
Kāʻanapali Beach is easily one of the most famous—and most popular—stretches of sand on Maui. Sunseekers come here to catch some rays and some waves. But besides the surfing and scuba diving, you can also join a parasailing or whale-watching tour, which depart right off the beach. Or, spend an afternoon walking the two-mile stretch to Black Rock, a favorite cliff-diving spot at the northern end.
This golden strip is all about star status. From its glam beachfront resorts—Four Seasons, Andaz, and Grand Wailea, among others—to the A-listers and celebs who frequent them (ahem, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Bosworth), Wailea is the island’s most exclusive shore. It’s also one of the most beautiful thanks to its cobalt waters, black lava rocks, and views of the distant islands of Molokini, Kahoolawe and Lanai.
Kapalua Beach, Maui
Kapalua takes the crown, not just for the best beach in Maui, but in the entire U.S. It’s got a bit of something for everyone: kids can boogie board and play in the natural tide pools while adults can go for dips in the calm bay waters, which teem with green sea turtles and parrot fish. The Coastal Trail also begins at Kapalua Bay and runs all the way to D.T. Fleming Beach Park, if you’re up for a long walk. Reward yourself with a sundowner and Pacific views from around the firepit at Merriman’s Restaurant.
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Makena Beach “Big Beach” Maui
There’s a reason why Makena is nicknamed Big Beach. It’s two-thirds of a mile long and almost a mile wide, leaving plenty of space for surf despite the crowds. This cove is also home to some of the best waves—so don’t be surprised to see people body-surfing, skim-boarding, and hanging ten. Land lovers come here to picnic and eat mahi mahi tacos at Jawz Fish Tacos food truck.
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
For over a century, travelers have flocked to Honolulu’s crescent-shaped beach. They originally came for the Royal Hawaiian hotel, which opened in 1927 and still remains an icon on the island. Today, Waikiki remains popular for its soft white sands and picture-perfect backdrop of Diamond Head Crater.
Waimea Bay Beach, Oahu
Along the remote north shore of Oahu, Waimea is legendary for its big waves. Visit during the winter (November-February) to watch the fearless pros take on its massive swells—and you may even catch one of Hawaii’s surfing competitions. If you want a front-row seat, head to the oceanfront Turtle Bay Resort, where you can sip mai tais and watch all the action.
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Halona Beach Cove, Oahu
Halona isn’t your average Hawaiian beach. To get to this secluded cove, you’ll have to hike down a trail of steep rocks, but the view is worth the extra sweat. At the end of the trek, you’ll be rewarded with an overlook of the Hālona Blowhole. This saltwater geyser marks the entrance of an untouched strip of lava rock and crystal-clear water, where the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity was filmed.
Polihale State Park, Kauai
Seclusion-seekers should look no further than Polihale State Park. On the southwest side of Kauai, this off-the-beaten-path gem is so remote you'll likely have its 17 miles of windswept shoreline all to yourself. Make a pit stop at Ishihara Market in Waimea for fresh ahi poke and some local brews (we love the Longboard Island Lager), then make your way to the beach to watch the sun cast a rosy glow over the Na Pali Coast’s dramatic cliffs and Niihau, Hawaii’s forbidden island.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
The two-mile Hanalei Bay is home to not one, but four beaches. In fact, you may have seen them in George Clooney’s hit flick, The Descendants, which was filmed in one of the ultra-luxe mansions that line this rugged North Shore beachfront. For the best views, walk out to the Hanalei pier at Black Point Beach Park, where you can capture the perfect Instagram of the towering 4,000-foot peaks and the thundering waterfalls in the background.
Hulopoe Bay, Lanai
To step foot on Hulopoe Bay, you’ll have to stay at one of Lanai’s most exclusive addresses: the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. The resort and most of the 90,000-acre isle are owned by tech tycoon Larry Ellison, so expect it to be over-the-top. Guests have access to a private beach, where spinner dolphins, humpback whales, and tropical fish can be seen in the turquoise waters. And when you want a break from the sun and sand, you've got an adults-only grotto pool, a 18-hole golf course, and an award-winning Japanese restaurant to explore.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island Hawaii
While many flock to Maui and Oahu, the Big Island has plenty of jaw-dropping coasts of its own. Take the half-mile Hapuna Beach, the area’s longest strand, which is tucked away on the western shore. Both locals and tourists come to picnic and take a dip in the cool, tranquil waters. Just don’t forget to pack your snorkel as plenty of coral reefs are just a short swim away.
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