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
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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.
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.
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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.