Picking a favorite beach in Hawaii is a difficult task, as there are so many contenders for your affections. Much of your choice will depend factors like whether you prefer lots of sand to stretch out on, sandy bottomed water for the kids, pretty reefs for snorkeling, or waves for surfing. With miles and miles of beaches on all of the Hawaiian Islands, the good news is that there is something for everyone.
Keep in mind that north-facing shores get large winter swells (while they remain mostly flat in the summer) and south shores have the opposite, so the time of the year you visit can also change the personality of a particular beach. Here we’ll attempt to pick one all-around enjoyable beach from each of the main islands.
Feel free to leave your favorites (and reasons why!) in the comments below.
Lanikai Beach (Oahu)
On the windward side of Oahu, Lanikai beach is often mention on “best beaches” lists for its beautiful stretch of white sand and picturesque view. Just off shore you can see two islands (locals call them “the mokes” or Mokulua Islands) which are a popular spot for a kayak or standup paddleboard trip. Other popular windward beaches include nearby Kailua Beach and Waimanalo.
>> Explore the island of Oahu
Hulopoe Beach (Lanai)
As part of a protected marine preserve with excellent snorkeling and interesting tide pools, Hulopoe Beach in Manele Bay is easily one of the best places to explore Hawaii’s sea creatures. White sand invites you to lounge about, while there are facilities for picnics and palm trees for shade. Use caution in the winter when the waves get larger – this is the perfect time for whale watching from shore.
>> Explore the island of Lanai
Hapuna Beach (Big Island)
One of the most popular beaches on the Big Island, Hapuna Beach is a great spot to play with the kids, to snorkel, swim, or just enjoy the warm white sand. Sunsets on the Kohala Coast can be spectacular as well, although the water is calmest in the mornings. Anaehoomalu Bay (A-Bay) in Waikoloa and Kealakekua Bay in South Kona are popular choices for those looking to swim and snorkel as well.
>> Explore the Big Island of Hawaii
Kaanapali Beach (Maui)
Colorful sunsets aren’t the only reason to choose Kaanapali Beach as a favorite on Maui. While it can get crowded at times, it’s not hard to walk a bit down the beach to find a spot for yourself, as it runs the entire length of the Kaanapali Resort area. Boogie boarding and snorkeling are popular here and at the far end of the beach you can watch cliff jumpers at Block Rock. Other popular Maui beaches include Launiupoko Beach (great for standup paddle boarding) on the west side, and Big Beach in Makena on the south shore. Hana’s Wainapanapa State Park has a beautiful black sand beach as well.
>> Explore the island of Maui
Tunnels Beach (Kauai)
Tunnels Beach is one of the islands’ most popular, with golden sand and calm waters for swimming and snorkeling (especially in the summer months), underwater lava formations for scuba diving, as well as great waves for surfing. Kauai’s Na Pali Coast serves as a jaw-dropping backdrop. Nearby Haena Beach Park is a popular spot for camping on the north shore as well.
>> Explore the island of Kauai
Papohaku Beach (Molokai)
Located on the west side of Molokai, Papohaku Beach (also known as “Three Mile Beach” for obvious reasons) is just about as picturesque and deserted as they come. The waters can get rough, so go early in the day if possible (although sunsets are spectacular) and be extremely careful during the winter swells as there are no lifeguards on duty.
>> Explore the island of Molokai
What is your favorite beach in Hawaii and why? Feel free to leave us a comment below!