SD › Hawaii Beaches & Beach Resorts
Updated: January 4, 2022
- Where to Stay on the Big Island
- Where to Stay on Kauai
- Where to Stay on Maui
- Where to Stay on Oahu
- Where to Stay in Honolulu
The 26 Best Beaches in Hawaii
Kaanapali Beach • Maui
Gorgeous, three-mile stretch of white sand, perfect for swimming. Snorkeling is best on the north end near Black Rock. This is a busy, high-energy beach. Good bars and restaurants stretch along the sand.
Recommended Hotels: Westin Maui Resort and Spa (luxury) • Aston at The Whaler (luxury) • Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa (moderate)
Hanalei Bay • Kauai
Absolutely stunning beach, crescent shaped and surrounded by mountains. There are actually three beaches here, and Black Pot Beach is the best of them, at the mouth of the Hanalei River with the huge pier that kids love jumping from. This beach is great for swimming, surfing, fishing, and paddleboarding; camping is allowed with a permit.
Recommended Hotels: Hanalei Bay Resort (moderate) • Hanalei Dolphin Cottages (moderate) • Hanalei Inn (budget)
Wailea Beach • Maui
Wailea Beach has it all: soft sand, gentle waves, and clear water, perfect for nearly all water activities. This is a busy beach with many resorts, trendy restaurants, and high-end shopping in the area. The Mana Kai Maui is a great mid-range choice as it’s an easy walk along Kihei Beach to the Wailea resort area.
Recommended Hotels: Grand Wailea (luxury) • Andaz Maui (luxury) • Mana Kai Maui (moderate)
Keawakapu Beach • Maui
Kihei has a string of great swimming beaches (Kamaole Beach Parks I, II, and III) but the best sand and swimming in this laid-back town is the last one (as you go south): Keawakapu Beach. Two great hotels are on each end of the beach: Mana Kai Maui on the north end and Andaz Maui on the south end (and the start of Wailea). You can walk from one to the other without having to walk on a road or sidewalk. This is the best beach for first time visitors to Maui.
Recommended Hotels: Andaz Maui (luxury) • Mana Kai Maui (moderate)
Waikiki Beach • Oahu
Waikiki Beach is best known as the birthplace of modern surfing. A manmade beach, it was designed to be versatile and is great for swimming, standup paddleboarding, kayaking, and people watching; certain areas are walled off from the waves, perfect for little kids and beginning swimmers.
Recommended Hotels: Halekulani (luxury) • Moana Surfrider (luxury) • Outrigger Waikiki Beach (luxury) • Waikiki Shore Beachfront (moderate)
Kapalua Bay • Maui
Crescent-shaped bay with gentle waves and blue waters, popular with families. This stunning beach is flanked by two reefs and offers great swimming and snorkeling. Water can be cloudy in the middle, so head to the north end for the best snorkeling.
Recommended Hotels: Montage Kapalua Bay (luxury) • Ritz Carlton (luxury) • Napili Kai Beach Resort (moderate)
Poipu Beach • Kauai
“Sunny Poipu” is wonderful stretch of white sand beach, shaped like three half-moons. Gentle waves and unique reefs make this a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, scuba, boogieboarding, and beginner surfing. Popular with families, busy with tourists.
Recommended Hotels: Grand Hyatt Kauai(luxury) • Koa Kea (luxury) • Whaler’s Cove (moderate)
Napili Bay • Maui
West Maui white sand beach, excellent for swimming and snorkeling. This little beach sits in between crowded Kaanapali Beach and Kapalua Bay, but is usually quieter. Great for swimming and snorkeling in summer and for experienced surfing in the winter.
Recommended Hotels: Montage Kapalua Bay (luxury) • Ritz Carlton (luxury) • Napili Kai Beach Resort (moderate) • Napili Sunset Beach Front Resort (moderate)
Ho’okipa Beach • Maui
Best known for surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. Waves here can be big in the winter, but in the summer it’s great for swimming; enter the water all the way down at the eastern end to avoid rocks. This is also a great spot to find sea turtles that come ashore in droves at sunset.
Recommended Hotels: The Inn at Mama’s Fish House (luxury) • Pa’ia Inn (moderate) • Mangolani Inn (moderate)
Waimea Bay • Oahu
Famous for huge waves, Waimea Bay hosts international surfing competitions every year. In the summer, though, the waves die down almost entirely, making the beach perfect for swimming. During summer months, this is the most popular beach with families on Oahu’s North Shore.
Recommended Hotels: Turtle Bay Resort (luxury)
Kauna’oa Beach (aka Mauna Kea Beach) • Big Island
Sparkling, turquoise waters and fine white sand make this the Big Island’s best beach. Waves are usually gentle, and there are two reefs. A fantastic spot for snorkeling, swimming, and sunning.
Recommended Hotels: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (luxury)
Carlsmith Beach • Big Island
A truly unique spot for swimming, snorkeling, and sea turtle encounters! This spectacular beach is made of a series of big lagoons fed by cool, freshwater springs. The shore is rocky, but the bottom is sandy.
Baldwin Beach • Maui
Perfect for swimming and bodyboarding with a calm lagoon area called Baby Beach that’s great for little ones. This dazzling beach stretches out a mile long and can be busy, especially on weekends. Walking distance or an easy bike ride from downtown Paia.
Recommended Hotels: Paia Inn (moderate)
Hapuna Beach • Big Island
This breathtaking spot is the largest white sand beach on the Big Island. It’s fairly flat, not too crowded, perfect for families, and has great snorkeling, swimming, and boogieboarding. There are shade trees and a lava tube on the south end.
Recommended Hotels: Westin Hapuna Beach Resort (moderate)
Kekaha Beach • Kauai
Kekaha Beach marks the start of the longest stretch of white sand on Kaua’i. On the west end of the island, its distance from resort areas means this spot is usually quiet, more of a locals’ hangout than a tourist destination. Waters can be rough and waves can get big, making this a great spot for experienced surfers and swimmers, beach bumming, spectacular sunsets, and views of Ni’ihau aka The Forbidden Isle.
Recommended Hotels: Waimea Plantation Cottages
Richardson Beach • Big Island
Heavenly black sand beach near Hilo, where the ocean is fed by freshwater springs. With its tidepools, calm waves, and tropical fish, this is an excellent spot for snorkeling with family.
Banzai Pipeline • Oahu
Actually part of ‘Ehukai Beach, the legendary Banzai Pipeline, aka The Pipe, is one of the world’s most famous, challenging, and dangerous surf spots. International surf competitions are held here every winter. In summer, extra sand deposits make the beach grow, and the waves flatten out for lovely swimming.
Recommended Hotels: Turtle Bay Resort (luxury)
Hamoa Beach • Maui
Hamoa Beach is a salt-and-pepper beach, with white sand and black lava rock sand, near Hana. Surrounded by sea cliffs and lush with jungle greens, this is a family-friendly beach great for surfing, snorkeling, scuba, and swimming. Currents are strong outside the bay, and waves can get big, especially in winter.
Recommended Hotels: Hana Maui Resort (moderate)
Wai’anapanapa State Park • Maui
This picturesque black sand beach near Hana offers the most bang for your buck. Visitors will find a lava tube, blowhole, vibrant green jungle, and black lava cliffs with hiking trails. Water is often rough, so be cautious.
Recommended Hotels: Hana Maui Resort (moderate)
Lydgate Beach Park • Kauai
A fantastic family beach, Lydgate Beach has two protected lagoon areas filled with tropical fish and calm waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The adjacent park has bike trails, a big wooden playground, and a grassy area where many people fly kites.
Recommended Hotels: Hilton Garden Inn (moderate) • Fern Grotto Inn (moderate)
Kahaluu Beach Park • Big Island
A little cove in Kailua-Kona teeming with tropical fish, sea turtles, and colorful coral. The beach itself is not very pretty, but the abundance of wildlife here is astounding. Come early in the morning to avoid crowds.
Recommended Hotels: Holualoa Inn (luxury) • Kanaloa at Kona by Outrigger (moderate) • Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel (moderate)
Sunset Beach Park • Oahu
Big wave surf spot on Oahu’s North Shore, part of the Triple Crown surfing competition, which also includes Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline. In the summer, this becomes a family beach with striking tropical fish in the reef. Perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and bodyboarding.
Recommended Hotels: Turtle Bay Resort (luxury)
Coconut Island (aka Moku Ola) • Big Island
This little island in Hilo Bay is very popular with families and is connected to downtown by a footbridge. It has great swimming, a tower where local kids jump into the water, several tiny beaches, and a grassy area for picnicking. This spot is culturally significant as an ancient City of Refuge; if lawbreakers could outrun the warriors chasing them and make it here, they would be pardoned for their crimes.
Recommended Hotels: Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (moderate) • Grand Naniloa Hotel, Doubletree by Hilton (moderate)
Kalapaki Beach • Kauai
This gorgeous white sand beach in a little cove has gentle waters, and is great for swimming, standup paddleboarding, and sailing. Close to downtown Lihue and restaurants, this beach is a favorite for families.
Recommended Hotels: Kauai Marriott Resort (moderate)
Anaeho’omalu Bay Beach (aka A-Bay) • Big Island
Salt-and-pepper sand beach with tidepools and coconut groves, adjacent to two ancient fishponds. The offshore reef softens the waves here and provides superior snorkeling, scuba, swimming, and net fishing. Just south of Waikoloa Beach and much less crowded.
Recommended Hotels:Hilton Waikoloa Village (moderate) • Waikoloa Beach Marriott (moderate)
Kamakohonu Beach (aka King Kam Beach, aka Kids Beach) • Big Island
In downtown Kailua-Kona, this beach is as flat as a pond, perfect for small children and a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking. This is also home to ‘Ahu’ena Heiau, King Kamehameha the Great’s personal temple and where he spent his last seven years.
Recommended Hotels: Holualoa Inn (luxury) • Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel (moderate) • Royal Kona Resort (moderate)
Bonus Beach – Off the Beaten Path: Waiohuli Beach • Maui
Maybe Maui’s best-kept secret, Waiohuli Beach in Kihei is completely unheard of by tourists and rarely frequented by locals, though you may spot a few fishing there. Shallow waters make it great for walking, wading, and for little ones to splash in. An excellent spot to relax and catch a dazzling sunset. This beach is not listed on most maps, but is easy to get to; just take South Kihei Road until it meets West Lipoa Street near St Theresa Church, then head west. The road dead-ends at the beach.
What’s the best Hawaii beach for me?
- What are Hawaii’s best beaches for kids?
Hawaii has an abundance of kid-friendly beaches, though Poipu Beach and Hapuna Beach stand out for their consistently good weather, calm water, and access to facilities. Poipu Beach has a lifeguard on duty seven days a week, and its central cove has a lagoon area with extra gentle waves perfect for little ones. Hapuna Beach has shallow waters and nearly always small waves, great for beginners. Other great family beaches include Hanalei Bay, Baldwin Beach, Kaanapali Beach, and Coconut Island.
- What are Hawaii’s best party beaches?
The best beach for partying in Hawaii is definitely Waikiki Beach. City lights keep the beach glowing, there’s a free firework show every Friday night, and last call’s not ‘til 4 a.m. Almost everywhere else in the state winds down around 9 o’clock, if not earlier. For daytime partying, Little Beach on Maui is best. It’s overrun by nudists most days (which is totally illegal!), and Sundays at sunset there’s usually a drum circle going on with fire dancers, magic brownies, and folks drinking out of brown paper bags.
- What are Hawaii’s most tranquil beaches?
Most of the time, a quiet beach means one that’s off the beaten path. For a very quiet beach that’s easily accessible, though, Waiohuli Beach in South Kihei can’t be beat. Shallow water with a lack of snorkeling keeps most visitors away, but for people who just want to hear the waves or take in a sunset, this is a wonderful option. The black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park is also fairly quiet, surrounded by absolutely stunning landscapes. Another great spot is Secret Beach in Kauai; stop by here early in the morning for great odds of swimming with a pod of wild spinner dolphins.
- What are Hawaii’s best beaches for snorkeling?
Much of Hawaii is surrounded by reefs, which means that great snorkeling spots are everywhere. The Big Island has some of the healthiest reefs and clearest waters of all the islands. For beginners, Kahaluu Beach Park is best for its calm waters and overflow of wildlife. Black Rock, at the north end of Kaanapali Beach in Maui, is another wonderful spot, though currents can be stronger here. Molikini Crater, Kapalua Bay, and Poipu Beach area also prime areas for snorkeling.
- What are Hawaii’s best beaches for surfing?
The choice of best beaches for surfing really depends on the skill level of the surfer. Waikiki Beach is where modern surfing took off, and it’s still one of the best places for beginners. Kahaluu Beach is a wonderful option for those staying on the Big Island, while Poipu Beach is great for first timers in Maui. Oahu’s North Shore beaches, including Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline, and Sunset Beach, along with Kaua’i’s Hanalei Bay are all perfect spots for beginners in the summertime, but when winter rolls around, they’re best left to the pros.
- What are Hawaii’s best beaches for swimming?
Great swimming beaches can be found all over Hawaii. Some of the best are in Maui, and include Kapalua Beach, Baldwin Beach, and Napili Beach. Hapuna Beach is the best on the Big Island; Poipu Beach and Hanalei Bay are best in Kauai; and Waikiki is best year-round in Oahu.
- What are Hawaii’s best beaches for animal lovers?
There’s an incredible amount of marine life in Hawaii, and the best spots for them depend on which animal you’re hoping to see. The most consistent beach for sea turtles is Ho’okipa Beach in Maui at sunset. Kaanapali Beach in Maui may be your best bet for spotting humpback whales. Keauhou Bay on the Big Island is best for spotting manta rays, but taking a boat tour off the coast will let travelers get a better look. The beaches in Haleiwa are best for swimming with sharks. Monk seals are often spotted on Poipu Beach or on the tiny, hard to reach beaches of the Na Pali Coast in Kauai. Dolphins are everywhere, but Secret Beach in Kauai is a good place to look for them, especially early in the morning.
- Which are Hawaii’s best beaches for seashells?
Seashells in Hawaii are rarely found on the beach; usually, people spot them while kayaking, snorkeling, or diving. Be sure to get a guidebook for identifying shells, and be advised that cone shells often house stinging snails. Respect nature, and take only broken or abandoned shells. With these things in mind, the waters off Hanalei Bay in Kauai and Hapuna Beach on the Big Island are the best spots for finding shells.
- Which are Hawaii’s best beaches for sea glass?
Glass Beach in Kaua’i, as its name implies, is a great spot to look for sea glass. But with a name like that, it has attracted a lot of glass hunters over the years, so its supplies are dwindling. Honoli’i Beach Park on the Big Island tends to have plenty of glass; travelers will want to wear sturdy shoes for the walk. On Oahu, Sandy Beach may be the best bet.
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Hi Dave, staying on the Big Island at the end of September. We aren’t sure where yet, though. It’s confusing to really know what resorts are actually on a swimmable beach. All the photos I see are of black, jagged rock, not sand.
Are any resorts on beaches?
The Big Island’s white-sand beaches are on the western (leeward) side, with the longest stretches of soft sand on the Kohala Coast near Hapuna Beach. Consider staying at the Fairmont Orchid, Mauna Lani, Westin Hapuna, or Mauna Kea in that area. There are some excellent sandy beaches farther south in Kailua-Kona, too.
I’ll be staying at a Maui Airbnb, so I won’t have access to the amenities of a resort hotel. Could you point me to a good beach where I could rent snorkel gear and maybe take some surf lessons with my kids? Thank you in advance.
The best thing about Hawai’i is that all beaches here are public, even those fronting the resorts. You will find several spots for snorkel, surf, and beach rentals along either of Maui’s west coasts, especially at Ka’anapali, Napili, and Kapalua beaches near Lahaina or at Wailea Beach near Kihei. Boss Frog’s is a great local chain with several locations at these beaches. Rivers to the Sea and the Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy offer the best surf lessons in the Lahaina area, while Hawaiian Paddle Sports and Waves Hawaii Surf School are the best near Kihei.
Hi Dave. What’s the best beach on Oahu if we want to escape Honolulu for the day to someplace more rustic/natural?
Two of hidden gems on Oahu are right next to each other: Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach Park. Lanikai is consistently rated one of the top beaches on the island, with its white sand and crystal blue waters. Access to the most remote part of the beach is on Kuailima Drive. Just northwest along the coast is Kaulia Beach. This one has the same soft, powdery sand as Lanikai, but it’s a bigger space and includes facilities Lanikai does not, including picnic tables, showers, and restrooms. Both beaches usually have small waves and are great for swimming, kayaking, and bodyboarding, but do check the local surf report for current conditions.
Is Waikiki Beach good for kids? I know it’s extremely popular, and am wondering if it’ll be hard to keep track of my toddler. Is there a different beach nearby that would be better? We’re staying at the Coconut Waikiki, and would like to get out to the ocean a bit instead of simply relying on the hotel pool.
Waikiki Beach is really a collection of several smaller beaches, many that are perfect for kids. On the northwest end, you’ll find the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon just in front of the Hilton and the Ilikai. Many people assume it’s for hotel guests only, but it is free and open to the public. Perfect for beginning swimmers, this area has clean sand and no waves. SUP, aqua bikes, and other beach gear is available to rent. If you prefer to be on the open ocean, the next beach down is Fort Derussy Beach Park. This beach is less crowded than those in central Waikiki, and has a grassy area with shade trees and picnic tables. On the southeast end, you’ll find San Souci Beach, a popular locals’ hangout removed from the hotel area with the area’s best snorkeling.
Hi, great blog! I’m an artist who will be vacationing in Hawaii with my extended family next December, staying on Maui. I’d like to get away from the pack for a bit to do some painting and sketching. Can you recommend a good beach on Maui that is scenic, but won’t be too populated? And the more natural the surroundings, the better. Thanks in advance.
Maui still has a few beautiful beaches that are off the tourist radar. Secret Beach (Paako Cove) is one of them, just south of Makena Beach in a residential neighborhood and accessible through two lava rock walls; this is the quintessential white sand beach with palm trees, turquoise water, and probably a few nudists. If you plan on driving the road to Hana, you can find a striking black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park; the beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs with bright green ferns and trees, a lava tube, and unique rock formations. Oneloa Beach in the Kapalua area is another quiet beach; the most striking landscape from the bay faces east toward Makaluapuna Point. If you go to the top of the Point, there’s a prayer labyrinth with gorgeous sea views.
Hi Dave. Is there a fee for visitors to use the beaches at the Wai’anapanapa State Park? Is camping allowed?
There is no entry fee for Wai’anapanapa State Park; the beaches, hiking trails, and parking are all available to use for free. Camping is allowed with a permit. For out-of-state visitors, the rate for tent or van camping is $18 per night for up to six people, $3 per night for each additional person, and free for kids under two years old. There are also cabins available for two nights minimum. They sleep up to six and include a kitchen with a microwave, hot plates, fridge, bathroom with hot and cold water, and electricity.