The best beaches in Hawaii for surfers, families, swimming and more.
Naming the best Hawaiian beach is kind of like trying to name the best shave ice flavor. So many of the beaches in Hawaii are wonderful, and your favorite can depend on your mood and interests.
So here we offer you the best beach for different types of traveler, whether you’re looking to laze, be active or just get that perfect shot for Instagram.
And you may notice the most famous Hawaiian beach, Waikiki, is missing. While Waikiki is no slouch, we decided to present 10 worthy, but less obvious, contenders.
Best for couples
Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu
With five miles of white sand, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park is the longest beach on Oahu. The spacious plot is a quiet beach for relaxing and swimming. There are far fewer crowds at this mostly locals’ spot, making it easy to find a little place all to yourself.
Located 20 minutes past Makapuu Beach on the windward coast, it’s also a great place to practice bodyboarding and bodysurfing.
Best for surfers
Waimea Bay, Oahu
Waimea Bay was an influential surf spot during the dawn of the sport on Oahu in the 1950s, and hosts the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surf competition. During the winter months, the waves provide experienced boarders with an adrenalin rush.
Besides the break beyond the point, the inner shore break reaches impressive heights of 10 to12 feet. The difference in Waimea’s winter and summer surf is quite different, though. During the summer months, the water is much more placid, drawing leisure swimmers.
Best for snorkelers
Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Hanauma Bay was declared a protected marine-life conservation area and underwater park in 1967. Sitting astride a volcanic cone on Oahu, the coral beach has arguably the best easy-access snorkeling of all the Hawaiian beaches.
The marine environment is pristine, thanks in part to a strict state conservation plan requiring all first-time visitors to watch a video to learn about the marine life that lives there. The park service runs shuttles from the parking lot to keep cars farther away, and it’s closed every Tuesday to give the tropical fish a little peace and quiet.
Best for celeb seekers and literary buffs
Hamoa Beach, Maui
Author James Michener wrote about this perfectly formed crescent beach lined with Hala trees, and today’s Hana residents include Oprah Winfrey, Kris Kristofferson and Clint Eastwood. Farther to the west reside Steven Tyler and Mick Fleetwood; up north are the homes of Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.
Best for kids
Poipu Beach Park, Kauai
Poipu Beach Park on Kauai’s south shore is a top pick for families, as kids have a decent chance of spotting humpback whales during whale watching season, and spying green sea turtles and monk seals sunbathing on the shore.
The highlight for kids, though, may be the huge natural wading pool where little swimmers can splash around. This park is a series of golden-sand, crescent-shaped beaches strung together, all of which offer easy snorkeling for parents and kids.
Best for hikers
Keoneoio Bay, Maui
The historic gateway to the six miles of south Maui’s pristine coastline, Keoneoio Bay (aka La Perouse Bay) consists of several trails that traverse the area, which is covered in rough lava from the last eruption of Haleakala in 1790.
King’s Highway, an ancient Hawaiian footpath, continues from the bay toward Cape Hanamanioa. If you choose the Lava Trail, you’ll see areas of surprising blow holes where the lava created gorges and tunnels. Hikers say it’s like visiting the moon, but with beautiful views of the mountains and ocean.
Wild donkeys have been known to wander about, and you’ll probably happen upon a few coves for swimming and snorkeling (though there are no snorkeling gear rentals, so come prepared).
Best for convenience
Hapuna Beach State Park, Hawaii
If you like your beaches to be as relaxing as they are pretty, consider Hapuna Beach State Park, the biggest white-sand beach on the Big Island, located on the volcanic western coastline of the Kohala Coast.
As with most Hawaii beaches, you can swim, surf, snorkel and bodyboard, but you can also fish, and a lifeguard is on duty as you enjoy it all. It’s ADA-accessible, and has food vendors, a picnic pavilion, plenty of trash cans and water fountains.
Best for campers
Malaekahana Beach, Oahu
Camping devotees may want to head to the northeastern shore of Oahu to the wooded beach park at Malaekahana Beach. Camping accommodations can be rented (or you can bring your own), and sleeping under the stars takes on new meaning, where it’s almost certainly a lot darker at night than it is at home.
At Malaekahana, visitors can rent just about anything they’d need for an active good time, including kayaks, surfboards, body boards, stand up paddleboards and bicycles. (Surfing and paddleboarding lessons can be booked, too, for the uninitiated).
A food truck serves the requisite shave ice, along with burgers. The more adventurous might want to try the spam dog, which is spam dipped in a corn-dog batter and fried.
Just off shore is tiny Goat Island, a bird sanctuary which can be reached by kayak.
Best for budding photographers
Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Hawaii
Located on the southeastern Kau coast of the Big Island, Punaluu Black Sand Beach is one of the most photographed black-sand beaches in Hawaii. Swimming conditions here are not ideal, but the tradeoff just may be worth it. You’ll enjoy the sight of the obsidian-colored shores, coconut palms fringing the upper edge of the sand and (sometimes) green sea turtles lounging around.
Best for dolphin lovers
Hulopoe Beach Park, Lanai
The only swimmable beach on Lanai is Hulopoe Beach Park. With excellent snorkeling, tide pools to explore and Puu Pehe — which locals call Sweetheart Rock — just a short hike away, this is unofficially the most popular tourist spot on Lanai.
But what seems to draw the most visitors is the reputation this bay has for attracting spinner dolphins. You’re especially likely to see them frolicking in the morning.
Along the east side of the bay are tide pools, and visiting them is a fun way to see hermit crabs, snails and exotic little fish up close and without snorkel gear.
Read the original story, The Best Beaches in Hawaii for Each Type of Traveler, by Christina Vercelletto, on Oyster.com