Hawaii’s beaches are some of the most diverse in the world. Here you can find beaches with white sand, black sand, red sand and even green sand, as well as rocky beaches. Plus, there is even a glass beach on the island of Kauai, a beach with millions of small pieces of so-called sea glass.
With so many beaches along its coastline, a large variety of water activities are possible, including swimming, snorkeling, diving, bodyboarding, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, kite surfing, kayaking, boating and parasailing. Each beach has something unique to offer.
Here is an overview of some of Hawaii’s best beaches, even though best is a very relative word, and any beach could be considered the best, depending what you are looking for and what your definition of a dream beach is.
Best Hawaii Beaches
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Waikiki Beach is the most popular beach in Hawaii. It is where most Hawaii vacationers choose to stay. Located on the island of Oahu, it has something for everyone. Surfers gather offshore at the edge of the reef to ride Waikiki’s popular waves. A little further out, catamarans and sailboats cruise along the coastline.
Several protected swimming areas and lagoons on the beach are the perfect playground for children. Along the beach are several equipment rental stands providing surfboards, bodyboards, fins and snorkels. Even small boats can be rented. Waikiki Beach is one of the few beaches in Hawaii where you can find many hotels, restaurants and shops within walking distance.
Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Hanauma Bay is Oahu’s most popular snorkeling beach. The bay is home to over 450 species of fish, some of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Spend a day here and explore the underwater wonders of this sunken volcanic crater. When the sun is shining, the coral reef glitters in a rainbow of colors. Because Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve, volunteers are working here to protect the bay for generations to come. All visitors will watch a 9-minute film before entering the bay to learn about what they can do to help protect this natural wonder. There is also a small museum at the visitor center that provides information about the bay’s inhabitants and the coral reef.
Tunnels Beach, Kauai
Tunnels Beach is one of the best snorkeling and diving beaches on Kauai. Located on the island’s north shore, the beach is known for its large coral reef, arches and tunnels that gave the beach its name. From the beach one can see Bali Hai, the mountain that was made famous in the movie South Pacific where it was portrayed as a forbidden island.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
This crescent-shaped bay, with its crystal clear and azure blue waters has a long white-sand beach that is ideal for a beach stroll. Hanalei Bay is backed by Kauai’s green mountains, which are frequently capped by rain clouds that produce large waterfalls that are visible from the beach.
Ka'anapali Beach is one of Maui’s most visited beaches. This long, sandy stretch of coastline is divided in half by Black Rock, also known as Pu'u Keka'a in the Hawaiian language. The area in front of the rock offers great snorkeling conditions.
Napili Bay, Maui
Located on Maui’s northwestern shore, Napili Bay is a favorite among local residents and visitors alike. The nearshore ocean bottom is sandy and the swimming and snorkeling conditions are good in the summer months when the ocean is usually calm. In the winter, it’s a great beach for surfing and bodyboarding.
Kealakekua Bay, Big Island
Kealakekua Bay is known as an excellent snorkeling and diving location. Many tour boats can be seen in the bay every day and snorkelers and divers are busy exploring the many underwater arches, lava tubes and corals. The bay is also a historic location because it was here where English explorer Captain James Cook first arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii in January 1779.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island
White-sand beaches are rare on the Big Island of Hawaii, but this is one of the few best. Hapuna Beach has repeatedly been voted the best beach in the United States by Conde Nast Traveller, a travel magazine. The beach is backed by a nicely landscaped park, palm trees and public facilities.
Hulopo'e Bay, Lanai
Hulopo'e Bay is the best swimming beach on the island of Lanai. The curved, sandy beach is also a nice place for a picnic. Tables and BBQ grills are located right on the beach. Because the bay is in a marine life conservation district, many tropical fish, turtles and dolphins can be observed here.
Papohaku Beach, Molokai
Papohaku Beach is one of the longest uninterrupted sandy beaches in Hawaii, stretching over two miles (3.2 km). Located on Molokai’s west shore, it is the prefect place for the ultimate beach stroll, as well as a great place to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet because not many people come to visit this beach.