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Hawaii is famous for its beautiful beaches, but it is more than just the quantity and quality of the beaches that give rise to Hawaii's fame. In fact, it is the diversity of beaches that really sets Hawaii apart from so many other beach destinations. Hawaii boasts plenty of beautiful sandy beaches, but also includes dramatic black gravel beaches, surfing beaches, snorkeling beaches, swimming beaches, and even a green sand beach. An exhaustive list of every beach in Hawaii is probably impossible. Here are some of our favorite Hawaiian beaches.
Of course, the most famous beach in Hawaii (and perhaps the world) is Waikiki Beach, located in eastern Honolulu on the south shore of the island of Oahu. Waikiki is a great swimming beach by design. Each year, sand is brought in from other beaches to fill in the ever-eroding coastline. Indeed, Waikiki was originally a swamp, and the native Hawaiians sold the land for almost nothing. Today, Waikiki boasts hundreds of hotels, restaurants, bars, and attractions. It is a great place to enjoy the sun, learn to surf, experience a great beach, and get a Hawaiian experience. It is a terrible place for isolation, but if you come here prepared to share your beach experience with a crowd you will have a great time.
Explore Waikiki Beach on our Waikiki Beach page.
OTHER OAHU BEACHES
There are a number of other great beaches on Oahu. Heading east from Honolulu, you will come to Hanauma Bay Beach, the premiere snorkeling beach for Oahu, and possibly the best beach for species variety in all of Hawaii. On the eastern shore of Oahu, try Kailua Beach in Kailua (great facilities, but arrive early for parking) or Lanikai Beach. Lanikai Beach is located just south of Kailua Beach Park, and the only access is via public right-of-ways between private homes. (These are required by law in Hawaii since all beaches are public.) There are no facilities at Lanikai Beach, but the water is beautiful, and there are usually sea turtles swimming in the bay. Malaekahana Beach on the northeast coast of Oahu (see photo) offers over a mile of deserted beach and camping (reservations required). Waimea Bay Beach on the north shore is another nice summer swimming spot. In the winter, Waimea Bay Beach is a prime spot to watch great surfing. Don't enter the water, though - even experts have drowned here! A quiet beach park on the eastern shore is Kualoa Beach Park, which looks out toward Mokolii Island (nicknamed Chinaman's Hat because of its shape).
Explore Oahu's beaches on our Oahu beaches page.
KAUAI'S BEST BEACHES
Kauai's top beaches include Poipu Beach on the south shore, which has facilities, limited parking, and a somewhat rocky beach. Hanalei Bay Beach on the north shore is a quiet, less-visited spot with a number of great bed and breakfasts. Our favorite beach is Ke'e Beach, west of Hanalei at the end of the road. The swimming is good here, and in addition the beautiful, crystal-clear water affords great snorkeling opportunities. Kauai has a number of other good beaches, including some near the Na Pali Coast that can only be reached by boat.
Explore Kauai's beaches on our Kauai beaches page.
MAUI'S BEST BEACHES
Maui's best beaches are located on the western shores, from Kaanapali north of Lahaina down to the area south of Kihei. Many of the beaches are associated with private clubs, but thanks to Hawaii state law, all shoreline is public property and public accessways are required. One of the best snorkeling beaches on Maui is Honolua Bay just north of Lahaina. Near Hana on the eastern side of the island you can visit Waianapana Black Sand beach (swimming is dangerous, though, due to currents) and Hamoa Beach, a beautiful sandy beach tucked away near a resort.
Hulopoe Beach on Maui's western neighbor, Lanai, is also excellent but can only be accessed via tour (Trilogy Tours is great) or by staying on the island.
Explore Maui's beaches on our Maui beaches page.
BEACHES ON THE BIG ISLAND
In terms of beach variety, the Big Island of Hawaii may be the top destination. Punaluu Beach on the south shore is a beautiful black gravel beach, better for looking at than swimming. The western shore of the Big Island is dry and has a number of sandy beaches. Ironically, the most popular tourist destination here is Kailua-Kona, a city somewhat lacking in sandy beaches. A quick drive south or north will bring you to several great options. Kahaluu Beach Park is a bit rocky as a swimming destination, but has good sand and is the best place in Hawaii to spot the uncommon Lagoon Triggerfish. Another nearby possibility is White Sands Beach Park. Probably the single best beach in all the Hawaiian Islands is Hapuna Beach State Park, about an hour north of Kailua-Kona near the start of the south Kohala coast. Hapuna Beach has beautiful facilities, powder white sand, perfect waves, and beautiful tropical foliage. If you don't want to make the drive, there are also resort facilities available right at Hapuna Beach.
Explore Big Island beaches on our Big Island beaches page.