Hawaii Activities

Top 10 Beaches in Hawaiʻi

September 17, 2020, 10:30 AM HST
* Updated September 10, 11:21 AM
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Reminder: Always pack your trash and leave the beaches as you arrived. Never turn your back to the ocean. Always go under a breaking wave or run. If in doubt, don’t go out. Ask a lifeguard if conditions look dangerous as conditions can change at any time.

Hapuna beach on the Big Island before sunset.

1. Punaluʻu (Black Sand Beach), Big Island

This beach is located on the southeast coast of the Big Island and because of the constant volcanic activity, it has black sand. Punaluʻu is the most famous of the black sand beaches in Hawaii. Turtle sightings are common here, but remember they are protected and do not touch them and do not remove any black sand from this beach. This beach is good for snorkeling, swimming, and picnics. The coconut palms provide shade, so it’s best to come early and grab because the black sand can get very hot in the sun. There can be strong currents at times here, so take caution. It’s recommended to enter the water from the boat ramp on the left of the beach.

2. Hulopoe Beach, Lānaʻi

This beach sits on the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi and has crystal blue waters and white sand. Restrooms, showers and picnic facilities available. This is one of the best locations on the island for snorkeling and swimming. In the winter, visitors should take caution as the water can get rough. Spinner dolphins can be seen from the beach, and in the winter months, humpback whales are almost always visible. There are restrooms and showers available here. The only restaurant nearby is at the Four Seasons which can be pricey so if you’re visiting Lanai for the day, make sure you pack your own lunch.

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3. Hapuna Beach, Big Island

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Located near Kaunaʻoa Beach, this beach is a half mile long and almost always sunny. In fact, it’s the largest of the island’s white sand beaches. There’s usually a continuous shore break that’s fun to play in for all ages. Snorkeling is good here. Food, drinks, and beach gear for rent are available at Three Frogs Café. There is a $5 fee to park, free for locals. Not a lot of shade available but one of few white sand beaches on the west coast of the Big Island.

4. Hanalei Bay, Kauaʻi

Hanalei Bay is nearly three miles long and is picturesque with the beautiful mountains and the Hanalei pier as the backdrop. Hanalei is a well-known surf spot; experienced surfers are provided with big waves during the winter months. This beach is perfect for stand-up paddle boarding and swimming, when the conditions are calm. Sailing is also popular here too. There are three beach parks located here; Black Pot Beach Park, Hanalei Pavilion, and Waioli Beach Park. Each has restrooms, showers and parking. Lifeguards are present.

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5. Kaunaʻoa Beach, Big Island

This beach fronts the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Kaunaʻoa features gorgeous white sand and is good for snorkeling. During winter, waves can be high and this beach can have a rough shore break. The hotel restaurant sits right on the beach and you can rent snorkel equipment and boogieboards from the beach concession. Parking is at the hotel parking lot and only has 40 spaces for beach parking and they can fill up quickly. Restrooms and showers are available.

6. Makena “Big Beach,” Maui

This beach is well over a half mile long and has plenty of room to relax without being on top of your neighbor’s beach towel. Enjoy whales breaching in the winter time with views of Molokini and Kahoolawe. The beach is calm for most parts of the year, but when a swell rolls in the shore break can become dangerous to those who are inexperienced. The waves during a south swell can be very powerful and big. This beach is good for boogieboarding, body surfing and swimming. Lifeguards are on duty here, be sure to check with them if the waves look big. There are no showers here but there are porta potty’s available. There are two parking lots, Entrance One and Entrance Two, both very limited on parking stalls. Third entrance is street parking, be aware of signs and residential driveways.

7. Seven-Mile Miracle, North Shore, Oʻahu

Every beach is amazing on the seven-mile stretch on Oahu’s fabled North Shore. From Waimea Bay to Ke Iki Beach, to Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. In the summer, the North Shore is a lake, and completely flat, you can find a large area of sand all to yourself at any beach past Sharks Cove. The water is blue and the sand is soft. Shade can be tricky depending on which beach you go to. The most popular beaches, Haleiwa Beach Park, Waimea Bay, Pipeline and Sunset all have restrooms, showers and lifeguards on duty. In the winter, North Shore is a surf mecca as huge swells come through and swimming is not recommended. Waves can reach 20 feet high and are very dangerous. An unbelievable sight to see, the best surfers in the world flock here to surf the best waves. Ask a lifeguard for safer beaches to swim in the winter and always be aware of where you set your belongings down. If the sand is wet and no footprints are on the sand, then the water will reach that area and take your stuff into the ocean. Parking at Waimea Bay is a nightmare, all other locations are street parking or have their own lots. Traffic getting to the North Shore is also pretty bad. It’s best to avoid Laniakea Beach at the beginning, there are much better beaches to be enjoyed and way less people. But once you arrive, pick a beach and enjoy the beautiful blue clear waters.

8. Mōkapu/Ulua Beach, Maui

Mokapu Beach is a quarter-mile long that sits in front of the Andaz Wailea and offers good swimming, boogie boarding and excellent snorkeling to the left side of the beach. Surf can be good when a swell comes in. Not recommended to go into the ocean if not experienced when the waves are big. If you’re staying at the Andaz there are beach chairs and umbrellas available with the beach crew. There isn’t a lot of shade at this beach. The parking lot, showers and restroom is shared with Ulua Beach which too is perfect for snorkeling. Ulua is a bit more crowded than Mokapu and is a popular beach for scuba lessons, so parking can get full early in the morning. The two beaches can get blown out in the afternoon, as trade winds come in around 1 p.m. Not recommended to snorkel when the wind line is visible, people have been pushed up against the rocks and struck wana (sea urchins). Good whale watching at both beaches in the winter.

9. Lanikai Beach, Oʻahu

This mile long beach is a postcard beach and ranked among the best beaches in the world for years. The crystal clear turquoise water, white sand, and the color transparencies with the Mokulua islands sitting in the backdrop offer a picturesque scene. The beach remains calm year-round so it is perfect for families. People often rent kayaks and paddle to Moku Nui, the island on the left. Both are seabird sanctuaries protected by the state. Moku Iki is off limits and protected by law. Parking can be a nightmare here and the local residents are pretty fed up with the number of cars that come through on a daily basis. Make sure you read all signs before parking. There is no parking lot and no public restrooms, showers or water fountains.

10. Hamoa Beach, Maui

Located near Hana this beach is perfect for swimming, body surfing, surfing and snorkeling. The beach features some of the clearest ocean waters on Maui and is an excellent break from driving the Road to Hana. Hotel Travassa maintains the beach and landscaping, if you’re staying at the hotel there is a shuttle service, beach chairs and accessories available for hotel guests. Trees provide plenty of shade. The beach is unprotected by outlying reefs which can make surf conditions severe. Hamoa can experience large surf conditions in winter months or when East swells are present. There is no lifeguard on duty. There are restrooms and showers. Parking is available on the street, but limited. Be mindful of residents driveways and do not block them. Hamoa is consistently ranked one of the best beaches on Maui.

 

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