9 Hawaiian Beaches You Just Can't Miss
Hawaii has always been one of our favorite places to take a vacation, and there a million reasons to visit these gorgeous islands; from the surfing hotspots on the North Shore and the many famous TV and film locations, to the rich history of Oahu’s Pearl Harbor. Today we’re exploring perhaps the most obvious reason to visit Hawaii; the abundance of beautiful beaches that can be found around every corner, each with something different to offer. There are so many beaches in Hawaii that it would be impossible to enjoy all of them in one vacation, so to make your decision easier, we’re singling out our most-loved spots so you can choose which ones to include in your itinerary! Now sit back, relax, and let us guide you through our favorite slices of paradise...
The Most Famous Beach in Hawaii
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu
If there’s one beach you’ve heard of in Hawaii, it’s almost definitely Waikiki. In fact, Waikiki is one of the most well-known beaches in the world! Located in Honolulu on the south shore of Oahu, Waikiki Beach spans such an enormous area that it’s actually divided into eight separate sections! Waikiki can get pretty busy, especially in the sections on the densely populated hotel strip, but there are some great areas you can head to where you’ll get some more space to yourself! Our favorite section of Waikiki is San Souci, located at the far end of the beach and boasting some great snorkeling and kayaking. Pop into the Sunset Lanai beach bar for a light lunch and some cocktails – their daily happy hour runs from 2 – 5PM!
The Surfing Hotspot
Waimea Bay, the North Shore, Oahu
We know, we know, the North Shore is an obvious pick, but surfing is such an integral aspect of Hawaiian culture that we couldn’t help but include it! Waimea Bay is perhaps the most significant landmark in the history of big-wave surfing and also hosts The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau. Outside of the surf world, Waimea not only makes for a very picturesque place to spend a day, but was made internationally famous by the 1964 romantic film Ride The Wild Surf, and fans of critically-acclaimed TV show Lost may also recognise the beach from scenes that were filmed there.
For A Romantic Stroll
Puunoa Beach, Maui
Located right on the shore of Old Lahaina Town, this beach is all swaying palm fronds, superb sunset views and – if you’re lucky – some fat, happy seals rolling around in the shallows. Treat your other half to a fresh seafood dinner at Kimos Maui overlooking the ocean and follow up with a romantic stroll across Puunoa’s golden sands. They’ll never forget it!
For Wildlife-Watching and Local Mythology
Hulopoe Beach, Lanai
Hulopoe Bay is Lanai’s local treasure. Fringed with exotic flowers and brimming with little hideaway coves and tide pools, there is plenty to explore here. One of the best things about Hulopoe is spotting the native sea life; the tide pools are full of hermit crabs and starfish, you can see dolphins leaping through the waves here year-round, and during the winter it’s one of the best places in Hawaii for catching sight of a humpback whale! Our personal highlight of Hulopoe is taking the short cliff-side hike 15 minutes beyond the tide pools to see Puu-Pehe, or ‘Sweetheart Rock’, a dramatic 80-foot rock that plays an important role in Hawaiian folklore! Learn all about the ancient legend of Pehe and Makakehau as you take in the breathtaking view before you.
The Best Family Oriented Beach
Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
While there are a plethora of family-friendly beaches all across Hawaii, our favorite is located on the island of Kauai, Hawaii’s northern-most island. Just a five-minute drive from Lihue Airport, Kalapaki Beach is the perfect first stop when exploring the island of Kauai. Upon your arrival you’ll see why we’ve included this spectacular beach. Located in Nawiliwili Bay, this beach is protected by luscious rainforest hills and has an amazing view of the North Pacific Ocean. With plenty of activities like volleyball and water sports, this beach has something to offer for all ages. If you’re new to surfing the bay makes for a fantastic safe environment to learn, and there are plenty of brilliant companies to hire and take lessons from. Hoku Watersports is a great place to start.
If the kids are craving some frozen snacks, we recommend paying a visit to Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shop for the best sundaes and shaved ice.
The Black-Sands Beach
Punalu’u Beach, the Big Island
No trip to Hawaii is complete without stopping at a black sands beach, more specifically Punalu’u Beach, nestled at the south end of Hawaii’s Big Island, beside the Volcanoes National Park. The black sand is a result of Punalu’u’s proximity to volcanic activity, created as lava flows into the ocean and explodes as it cools. The striking, jet-black sands are a truly unforgettable sight and make for some remarkable photos for the family album! Punalu’u is also home to Hawaii’s endangered Hawksbill and Green Turtles, yet another incredible reason to visit!
For Peace and Quiet
Papohaku Beach, Molokai
Molokai – also affectionately known as ‘The Friendly Isle’ – is far less of a tourist hotspot than the other Hawaiian Islands, and therefore a visit to the beaches here means dodging the crowds. You can fly into Molokai from Honolulu Airport, or just pop over for the day or overnight on the ferry from Lahaina, Maui. At 10.4 acres, Pophaku is the longest and widest white-sand beach in the whole of Hawaii and more often than not, you can settle down to sunbathe here and not see another soul from morning ‘til night! Pack yourself a picnic and set out for a day of uninterrupted bliss...
The Best Snorkeling Spot
Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Located on the southernmost tip of Oahu Island, Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii, and for good reason; it was voted best beach in the United States in 2016! Above the water, this marvelous beach is an amazing place to be. Spend the whole day on this golden strip of sand and you’ll never be out of the sun as it passes from the one side of the horizon to the other. However, Hanauma is best known for its underwater sights. A top snorkeling spot, on a visit to these fabulous depths you could see butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, eels, crustaceans, invertebrates and much more! We recommend renting gear from Hanauma Bay Snorkel Fun due to their affordable prices and great mainland shuttle service!
To protect this wonderful bay, visitors are forbidden by law from harming any marine life or touching the coral, so make sure that you leave this gem as you found it for future guests to enjoy. There is an entrance fee of $5 per person over the age of 13 that goes towards the protection of the bay, so you can be rest assured that the spot will maintain its beauty and biodiversity for years to come!
The Most Beautiful Beach
Polihale Beach, Kauai
Polihale Beach is located on the western side of Kauai and is a little less accessible than some of the others on this list; but trust us when we say that it’s worth it. After a walk from the parking area, you’ll see why you made the trip. You’ll be greeted by an expansive view of the ocean, and the long beach leaves plenty of space to feel like you’ve got your own portion of paradise. Polihale is more remote than most beaches and there are no lifeguards, so take care when swimming. Due to this remoteness however, it is less busy than most of the beaches in Hawaii! At the northern end of the beach you’ll be faced with towering green cliffs that create a dramatic backdrop for some spectacular vacation photos. This west-facing beach provides one of the best views for Hawaii’s incredible sunsets, so don’t miss out!