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“We’re going to Hawaii.” Are there any happier words in the English language? In Hawaii, you can play all day, soak up the sunshine, shop ’til you drop, or party all night under the moon.

Whatever your dreams of sun and sand may look like, you’ll find a beach around Honolulu that will suit you perfectly.

Join the Fun at Waikiki

Once the playground of Hawaiian royalty, Waikiki is one of the most famous beaches in the world. Although some of the best resorts and hotels stretch out along Waikiki, the beach is open to the public for swimming, surfing, sunning, seeing, and being seen.

Waikiki divides into smaller beaches, including Fort DeRussy (best for snorkelers), Kuhio (for beginning surfers), and the less-crowded San Souci Beach, which is perfect for swimming. Waikiki is brimming with cafes, shops, and restaurants.

Photo CC by blantyre2009

There’s no shortage of great hotels in this area, either. Use a good travel site like Gogobot to find a hotel that’s close to the beaches you want to visit.

Get Away to Hanauma Bay

If you’ve had enough of the tourist scene, escape to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. The gorgeous bay is the result of ocean water breaking through the outside wall of a volcanic crater.

Image via Flickr by imgdive

Hanauma is a hot spot for snorkelers; the best spot for swimmers is the sand bar in the middle of the reef, known as “The Keyhole.”

Visit Kapiolani for Gentle Waters and Beautiful Views

Kapiolani Beach Park was a gift from the king to the people of Hawaii, which he named for Queen Kapiolani. The area is popular for picnics and walking trails.

Image via Flickr by ninacoco

Queen’s Beach, attached to the park near the Waikiki Aquarium, has calm waters and a lovely reef for snorkelers. The real attraction, though, is the view.

Swimming with Dolphins

Several dolphin encounter programs are available around Honolulu, though most of them involve captive dolphins in pools. Ko Olina Ocean Adventures is different.

A four-hour boat ride takes you to several snorkeling locations where you’re likely to come across wild spinner dolphins, along with sea turtles and other wildlife.

Image via Flickr by Anosmia

You’re not guaranteed a dolphin encounter in nature, but the entire outing is an adventure in the wild.

Serene Swimming

Kaimana Beach is where the locals go to swim, people-watch, and view the sunset. It’s a family beach, perfect for Sunday picnics and building sandcastles with the children.

Image via Flickr by tata_aka_T

Weekends can get crowded, but it remains a quiet, peaceful beach and not a party spot.

Escape the Crowds at Kahala

Kahala Beach beach lies behind the Kahala Hilton — and on weekdays, it’s sometimes nearly deserted. The water here is clear and calm, perfect for snorkeling and swimming.

A manmade sandbar offers a respite for swimmers and a delicious spot to lie in the sun.

Whether you’re hoping to sip cocktails in a designer bikini or build sand castles with your little ones, one of these beaches is sure to make your travel dreams come true.

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