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As tropical getaways go, you can’t beat a vacation to Hawaii. As a dream destination with a universal appeal, it’s easy to see why the islands have become synonymous with paradise.

From sugary white beaches to technicolor coral reefs, and a diverse range of hiking trails and volcanoes for the adventurous soul, Hawaii truly has something for everyone. Though with hundreds of miles of coastline, the islands boast some of the most stunning beaches on the planet, and this is a reason to plan a visit alone.

So to help you in your planning, we’ve compiled a list of the best beaches in Hawaii, and also put the information into a free guide on Pearlshare that you can download for offline use onto your phone.

If you’re inspired and want to travel with this information offline, download our free guide from Pearlshare straight to your phone so you don’t forget where your favorite beaches are! Click here. Closer to the Caribbean than Hawaii? Equally as epic beaches, and I’ve recently published a guide on the best beach bars.

 The Best Beaches in Hawaii

You can hover over these (or any image) to quickly pin it!

Mauna Kea Beach (Big Island)

Mauna Kea Beach (also known as Kauna’oa Beach) is one of the largest and most consistently uncrowded beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island.

A long crescent of white sand lined by coconut palms, it is a beautiful beach known for calm waters, white sands and a coral reef. This is a great spot for swimming and snorkeling, and you can spot tropical fish, sea turtles and manta ray throughout the bay.

The tricky part is that access is very limited. This beach is connected to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which is at the north end of the beach, and only holds around 30 parking spaces for those not staying at the hotel. It’s not practical to walk, so make sure you arrive early to catch a park.

Kailua Beach Park (Oahu)

With a half mile of soft white sand, turquoise water and gentle breezes, Kailua Beach Park is a popular beach among locals and tourists alike, and a hub for water sports.

The constant wind provides great conditions for windsurfing and parasailing, and kayaking and swimming are popular here too. Kayak rentals, dive shops and beachwear boutiques are conveniently located nearby the beach.

Makapu‘u Beach (Oʻahu)

Makapu’u Beach Park is a hidden gem – a small beach, but one of the most scenic on Oahu. It is semi circled by sheer black cliffs golden sand & iridescent water. It’s very private and can barely be seen from the highway that hugs the cliff edge.

Enjoy the view but don’t swim unless you’re a seriously strong swimmer  – there are very powerful rip currents here. That said, this is a popular beach for bodyboarders and surfers, and dozens brave the huge, sapphire blue waves daily.

Poipu Beach (Kauaʻi)

This is the most popular beach on the South Shore of Kauaʻi; a series of golden sand crescents, strung together where beach-goers will find snorkeling, swimming, a natural ocean wading pool, boogie-boarding and surfing.

It was named America’s Best Beach by The Travel Channel, and is a fantastic place to spot wildlife. Endangered Hawaiian monk seals come ashore here, which is a rare opportunity to witness – there are only around 1,200 or so left in the world.

Poipu Beach (Kauaʻi)

Halona Beach Cove (Oahu)

Halona Beach Cove is a small cove tucked into a lava rock shoreline, with a small sandy beach and calm waters great for nervous swimmers. It’s very secluded, though requires a tough hike to reach it.

It’s dramatically picturesque, and features in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, 50 First Dates.

Waikīkī Beach (Oʻahu)

Waikiki Beach is not only Hawaii’s most famous beach, but one of the most recognized Oahu beaches in the world.  With 8 different sections that are distinctly different from each other, there are a plethora of activities geared towards tourists seem to go on all day and most of the night.

Come here for surfing, canoe paddling, snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, sand combing, catching a golden tan, people watching, or marvelling at a few beautiful Waikiki sunsets. It is most famous for it’s lively atmosphere and epic surf breaks, and as a playground for the rich and famous.

It loses points for being the busiest beach we’ve ever come across, but Kapiolani beach park is a less crowded section.

Hanauma Bay (Oahu)

Formed within a volcanic cone, Hanauma Bay is now a popular spot for snorkeling due to its pristine marine ecosystem. It was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967 and teems with reefs and colorful fish.

The beach can be crowded during the morning hours. If you are after a more secluded visit, try visiting in the mid-afternoon. During your stay you can also take a short tram ride (for a small fee) up to the rim of the crater to view the entire bay.

Papakolea Green Sand Beach (Big Island)

Papakōlea Beach is located on the southern tip of the Big Island and is one of four beaches in the world known for their beautiful green sand (one of two in the USA). Olivine crystals from surrounding lava rocks in the Pu’u Mahana cinder cone of Mahana Bay give the sand its unique green color.

Interestingly, these crystals are broken down by weathering and the combination of carbon dioxide and water. So while the constant erosion of the Pu’u Mahana cinder cone currently ensures a steady supply of green sand, eventually it will run out and the beach will look normal again.

Papakōlea Beach is located in the Kaʻū district on the southern tip of the Big Island and is one of four beaches in the world known for their beautiful green sand (one of two in the USA).

Makena Beach (Maui)

Maui’s southwestern shores are home to many extraordinary beaches and Makena Beach, also known as “Big Beach,” is one of the island’s best. This is one of the largest beaches in Maui, with golden sands extending nearly two thirds of a mile long and 100 yards wide.

Visitors can swim or snorkel in these pristine waters, picnic in the shade, or simply sunbathe on the seemingly endless expanse of sand. “Little beach”, next to Big Beach, is a secluded stretch of sand surrounded by gnarled trees where visitors go nude.

Lanikai Beach (Oahu)

Lanikai Beach is a destination all unto itself.  It is not only described as “most beautiful” of all Oahu beaches, but also ranks as one of the best beaches in the world.

This is a relaxed beach featuring a half-mile white sand and calm waters accessible by public paths. Surrounded by endless miles of calm tranquil aqua blue waters, it’s hard to look at it these special windward ocean waters without getting an urge to jump right in. There is public access even though it is surrounded by multimillion dollar mansions.

Mokuleia Beach (Oahu)

Mokuleia is a long sandy beach and shallow reef that attracts swimmers, surfers, kite and windsurfers year-round. It is one of the quieter beaches in Hawaii.

The TV series “Lost” was filmed here, and the beach is secluded and often empty. Amazing wild / marine life; you might catch a green sea turtle basking on the shore in summer. “

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Kailua Beach Park by Floyd Manzano. Hawaiian Monk Seal by Frédéric Trudeau. Surf boards by Edmund Garman. Suntanning by BOMBTWINZ BOMBTWINZ. Green sand beach by Ian Charleton. Lanikai Beach handstand by BOMBTWINZ BOMBTWINZ. Lanikai Beach sunset by Floyd Manzano.

    36 Comments

  1. I can imagine the contrasts…sugary white to technicolor beaches. Hawaii seems like a dream. If only it weren’t so far on the other end of the world! Sigh..

    • Absolutely worth the long haul flight though … promise! :D

  2. What a great, comprehensive list. Halona Beach Cove would have to be my pick. I love that you can hike to get in and it’s small and quieter. No doubt the hike limits the number of people that head in again. Really great list to appeal to any traveller really – I know a few guys who would love the surf beaches but it’s those small coves for me, every time. Lots more to see on our next trip for sure.

    • Halona Beach Cove is one of my favorites too :) The hike definitely limits the amount of tourism that visits here, though I’ve always been willing to put in the extra effort for extra rewards :D

  3. This article gives us the sweet envy to pack our bags and go to Hawai! Gorgeous photos!

    • Do it :D It’ll be the best spontaneous trip ever! :)

  4. Poipu beach WANT! Never been to Hawaii and it looks like the sort of place you dream about visiting. This place has got lots of the “best beaches in the world’ going on eh? Have pinned to our fav beaches boards.

    • OMG I know!! Aren’t those endangered Hawaiian monk seals adorable!! You would both love Hawaii – hope you have the chance to plan a trip :) And thanks for the pins! X

  5. As a old windsurfer I have always wanted to visit Hawaii, a couple of my friends have surfed there. This makes me want to go even more, especially this time of year.

    • Hope you do have the chance to visit, the surfing and windsurfing here are epic! Would be a great place to pick up windsurfing again :)

  6. This photo of the seal napping is just adorbs haha. Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay was my first ever snorkeling experience and I vividly remember it even though it was 10 odd years ago. Such a magical place! I even saw turtles!

    • Can’t get any cuter than an endangered Hawaiian monk seal!! So glad to hear you have amazing memories of your time in Hanauma Bay Amelie! The first snorkeling experience is a magical one, and it sounds like you had amazing sightings!

      Hope you have the chance to re-visit Hawaii at some stage :)

  7. Whoa! The extremes in beaches… I have this greed of visiting each of them. The green sand beach seems to be rarest of the rare!

    • Some of the most amazing and unique in the world, that’s for sure. Amazing that one archipelago has everything from white sand, to black, red, gold and even green!!

      Hope you have the chance to visit soon and experience them all Indrani :)

  8. These beaches all look amazing. What a terrific recap of the beaches of Hawaii. Which one is your favorite? The green sand beach looks to be unique, one that would make for some great photo opps.

    • Thanks Sara! I honestly don’t know if I have a favorite, though Makena beach is definitely one of the most special to me as this is where we got married :)

      The green sand beach is definitely the most unique though and one you won’t forget for a very long time!

  9. What a great selection of beaches in Hawaii. I’m positive I need some beach time there. Was that you doing the handstand on Lanikai Beach? Awesome.

    • Thanks Christina! I wish I was that fantastic at gymnastics lol no, that was not me doing the handstand on Lanikai Beach – I actually found this as a CC image on Flickr and thought it was a great photo to share :)

  10. Great article Megan! I absolutely love it! I hope I can get to visit Hawaii soon. <3 Thanks for sharing this detailed write-up and awesome pictures too! :-)

    • Thanks Ryazan! So glad you enjoyed the post :) Hope you have the chance to visit Hawaii soon too :)

  11. Ahh, I love Hawaii! This really makes me want to go back, especially since my sister-in-law now lives there! We only visited Oahu, so I’d love to explore some of the other islands sometime. The green sand beach looks like it will be at the top of my list! Great suggestions!

    • You have an awesome excuse for visiting Hawaii Jenna! Can totally combine a family visit with some island hopping and days at the beach! Hope you have the chance to organize a trip back soon :)

  12. Hawaii is really the stuff that dreams are made of. Each beach seems better then the other, a veritable paradise on earth. No wonder that Hawaii must be one of the most exotic locations on earth. Hope to get to this paradise some day.

    • Totally agreed! It’s an exotic paradise, but an extremely accessible one which is fantastic! Ease of travel to a destination as beautiful as this is quite rare :)

  13. WOW. Hawaii has some incredible beaches I never knew about. Hawaii is becoming increasingly popular, I have seen a few bloggers/ you tubers visiting there lately. In particular, I would love to visit Makapu‘u Beach. I love discovering hidden gems!

    • Absolutely – I do recommend visiting soon before the quieter islands see a big tourism boom :)

  14. I love this list! We lived in Hawaii for years and have been to several of these beaches. The green sand beach is so awesome to see and the trek in keeps it from getting too crowded. We went there a few times and it is really interesting to see the color change with tides and weather. Sometimes it doesn’t look green at all and others the color is very vibrant! Thanks for sharing this list.

    • Thanks Adam! How fantastic to have had Hawaii as a base for a couple of years … one of the places I would definitely consider if I was moving overseas.

      Totally agree that you’re usually better off for having done the trek when other tourists aren’t keen to put in the effort. I’ve always enjoyed secluded experiences far more than over crowding :D

      Happy travels!

  15. there is a great place. you’ll want to get there and there always. you no longer want to be again. blue and sunny beaches make people feel comfortable

    • Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  16. This article gives us the sweet envy to pack our bags and go to Hawai! Gorgeous photos!

    • I’m so glad! You’ll LOVE it there!! What better way to kick start 2017 than from the beach :D

    • Hope that dream becomes a reality for you very soon! :)

  17. Living in Hawaii I try to take advantage of going to new beaches as often as I can. This is a fantastic list of beaches to enjoy. Lanakai is super crowded on the weekends but if you get the opportunity for an early morning on a weekday – it’s super peaceful and you can get some amazing photos. Mokuleia beach is also amazing – a great place to cool off after hiking in the area. I highly recommend visiting Hawaii – it’s totally worth it.

    • Thanks for the local tips Suzanne! It must be incredible to call Hawaii home :) We’re personally very avid hikers, so Mokuleia is definitely one of our favorites for being able to combine hikes with a dip at the end :)

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