Top 10 Hawaiian Beaches
A true tropical oasis, Hawaii has something to suit most everyone's fancy. Swirling 30-foot waves make surfers' dreams come true, while down the coast, tranquil turquoise waters beckon frolicking toddlers and families. Sit back, relax and imagine warm, tropical breezes tickling your skin as we take you on a tour of Hawaii's hottest beaches.
The beauty of Waikiki begins at the yacht harbor, where boats of all kinds, from sporty, racing numbers to salty-dog blue cruisers, line the water. It is here where Hawaiian canoe clubs train and stately yachts strut their stuff. Next door, the Hilton Hawaiian Village stages hula shows to welcome the weekend and blasts fireworks visible from miles away. However, not enough visitors find time to visit the other end of Waikiki, where 200 acres of parkland wrap around the base of Diamond Head Crater, and there's always a quiet spot in the shade. This is where the locals come to jog in the park, swim at Sans Souci Beach or barbecue dinner with family and friends. Between these 2 extremes, the 7/10 of a square mile that make up Waikiki are packed with hotels, theaters, restaurants and shops that offer something for everyone.
What's Cool: Visit the statue of Hawaiian hero Duke Kahanamoku, who is regarded as the father of modern surfing.
2. Honaunau Bay
Once the site of a ruling chief's palace, Honaunau Bay offers visitors something other than the white, sandy beaches and rolling surf characteristic of Hawaii. Honaunau is home to a true underwater paradise, the Place of Refuge, which attracts scuba divers from all around. Over time, eruptions of the Kilueau volcano poured lava into the ocean, and it hardened into large, smooth formations that are now home to an expansive reef of colorful coral heads and formations. The bay satisfies all levels of divers, from beginners to experts, and boasts a large number of fish native to Hawaii, roughly 40% of which can be found only in Honaunau. Divers can swim with the likes of long-nosed butterfly fish, surgeon fish, yellow tang and kala and kole — even the endangered green sea turtle.
What's Cool: Explore Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, an ancient sanctuary where breakers of the kapu (sacred laws) could take refuge from a death sentence.
If luxury hotels and constant pampering are your idea of the perfect beach getaway, Kaanapali Beach is the gem you've been seeking. Some of Hawaii's most exclusive resorts line this stretch of sand and are ready to spoil anyone willing. Perhaps you're looking for your own personal beach butler to deliver daiquiris or hoping to splurge and rent out a beach cabana. Your every wish can be easily granted on Kaanapali. After soaking in the sun, visit one of the resorts and indulge in a tanning consultation or unwind with a lomi lomi massage — noted for its spiritual and healing aspects.
What's Cool: The company Beach Activities of Maui is suited to cater a visitor's every whim.
Crescent-shaped Kauna'oa Beach is the ideal oasis for visitors seeking pristine sands and serenity. This quarter-mile-long beach is very private, and 78-degree water provides the perfect respite from the sand. The famed Mauna Kea Beach Hotel keeps the beach clean and full of healthy coral and fish life, as well as offering guests access to its swank beach facilities. Visitors not staying at the resort can still enjoy this tropical paradise, just with a few restrictions. The hotel limits entry — to both its private beach and a public beach accessible via its grounds — to 25 passes at any given time. Your best bet? Arrive at the beach before 9 a.m. Otherwise, spend the morning enjoying a delectable meal at one of the resort's 5 restaurants and try to get on the beach later in the afternoon.
What's Cool: Golfers love the nearby $18 million Mauna Kea Golf Course.
5. Poipu Beach
Located on the southern tip of the island of Kauai, Poipu Beach offers beachgoers something unusual among Hawaiian shores — calm waters. In the midst of beaches noted for mind-blowing surf, Poipu has gained a reputation for tranquil seas and golden beaches. Peaceful trade winds blow offshore, keeping the waters serene for most of the year. Protected bays offer a sandy bottom and never get deeper than 3 feet, making Poipu popular among families with toddlers and other small children. More advanced swimmers can go beyond this kiddie haven to a reef that guarantees underwater adventures. Families are sure to adore the well-maintained picnic areas and covered pavilions, as well as the shower and bathroom facilities.
What's Cool: The endangered monk seal is known to play on these shores.
Nestled in the quaint whaling village of Lahaina, where thatched-roof huts are the norm, idyllic Lahaina Beach is considered one of the world's most romantic beaches. The tranquility of its old fishing village, the lush tropical plant life and the majesty of the ocean have made Lahaina a favorite locale for marriage ceremonies. Of course, a great wedding ceremony isn't the only thing this place has to offer — no trip here is complete without experiencing the Old Lahaina Luau. This traditional luau traces the history of the hula dance and tantalizes guests with passionate dancing, lei ceremonies and a succulent imu-roasted pig.
What's Cool: Celebrate your nuptials Hawaiian-style at the Old Lahaina sea wall.
It isn't the gorgeous windswept sands that attract visitors to Hookipa Beach — it's the winds themselves! Hookipa Beach and its notorious trade winds are home to some of the finest windsurfing conditions in the world. Wave-riders travel from around the globe to catch the surf at Hookipa. Windsurfers will tell you the best views of Hookipa Beach's gleaming white sands and towering palm trees are from the water, where surfers are privy to the beach's spectacular setting. If jumping on a board and catching some wind doesn't suit your fancy, relax oceanside and watch one of 2 world-class competitions held in Hookipa, when windsurfing champions battle wind and sea.
What's Cool: Visit Kuau Cove, home of Mama's Fish House, a favorite among locals.
One of nature's rarest wonders stretches across the island of Hawaii's shores — the black-sand beach of Punaluu. This magnificent beach formed when lava from 2 of the world's most active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, spilled into the ocean and quickly cooled, breaking into minuscule pieces that now make up the "sand." The black-sand beach, with its smoothed glass granules, is always warm and soothing, and the wild tropical landscape makes this spot irresistible. Should swimming and sunbathing grow tiresome, grab a net and join the ranks of local fishermen; the waters off Punaluu are noted for their tremendous fishing.
What's Cool: The natural freshwater wading pool at the far end of the beach is good for rinsing off after snorkeling with endangered turtles.
Along the 7-mile stretch of sand encompassing the North Shore, 3 beaches stand out from the rest. Located in the center of the North Shore, Waimeia Bay boasts calm waters and a large expanse of tranquil beach in the summer, when there is little wave action. But surfers need not despair! In the winter, Waimeia's waves pick up, and the surf can grow to 30 feet. For die-hard surfers, the mecca of the sport lies in Pipeline. Those lucky enough to ride the seemingly impossible waves without a wipeout are left with a lifetime of bragging rights. Finally, as the day draws to a close, visit Sunset Beach, where an explosion of light and color paints the sky as the sun sets gracefully behind the waves.
What's Cool: Visit Pipeline in mid-November to catch the Triple Crown of Surfing.
10. Lanikai Beach
Half a mile of sparkling sand, palm trees that sway over a white beach, lush tropical plants and endless sunshine make Lanikai one of Hawaii's most scenic beaches. The shore is protected by a nearby coral reef, which keeps the surf relatively calm, and the water is always a deep turquoise or green. Visitors to Lanikai can kayak to the nearby twin islands of Mokumanu and Mokulua, both noted bird sanctuaries. Lanikai not only seems postcard-perfect — it truly is! Having lured many models and photographers over the years, this beach is one of Hawaii's most popular spots for photo shoots!
What's Cool: This beach oasis is noted for serving up one of the best sunrises on Oahu.