The Hawaiian Islands are the ultimate destination for people who want to unplug and numb the stress of everyday life. How could you not feel reenergized after a getaway of long days on the beach, endless mai tais and spectacular sunsets. Wait, did we say long days on the beach? Look…you can’t deny how awesome it would be to spend some time watching the crystal blue waters of the Central Pacific lap at the sandy shores of the beaches on these islands, especially if they’re known to have glistening, colored sand like Kaihalulu Beach (red sand), Papakolea Beach (green sand) and Papohaku Beach (orange sand).
Finding the right beach can be a daunting task. So, we pulled together a list of our favorite to help you find a stretch of coastline that suits your desires. If you’re a couple looking for romance, a surfer looking for the best waves or a family looking to spend a day at the beach, you’ll find it on the islands of Hawaii.
Best Classic Beach:
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Turquoise water, colorful surfboards lined up along the shore and views of the volcanic cone known as Diamond Head are just a few reasons why Waikiki Beach is arguably Hawaii’s most famous stretch of sand. OK, maybe because it’s also featured in TV shows and movies like Hawaii Five-O, The Bachelorette, Godzilla and The Descendants. Anyway, a visit here all but requires a surfing lesson, as novice surfers can easily handle the lazy winter waves and well-timed summer swells. Afterward, grab a mai tai under the banyan tree at the Moana Surfrider Beach Bar and take in some of the best people-watching Oahu has to offer.
Best Hidden Beach:
Kauapea Beach (“Secret Beach”), Kauai
Brave a short but rocky hike to reach the aptly nicknamed Secret Beach, where Hawaiian monk seals can be found doing their best impressions of lava boulders as the sand changes color from pink to gold. Although strong North Shore currents make the ocean here too dangerous for swimming, sun-warmed tidal pools and lagoons are a good substitute. There’s also several small waterfalls that tumble gently down the cliffs surrounding the beach.
Best Family-Friendly Beach:
Kamaole Beach Park, Maui
Known affectionately as Kam I, II and III, Maui’s three Kamaole beaches are set in a row along Maui’s southwest shore. Kam III is the perfect beach for families because of its picnic-friendly park, opportunity to snorkel amid sea turtles and easy access to facilities (e.g. bathrooms, playground, etc.). There are also plenty of shops and restaurants nearby. The sunsets at this beach are spectacular, but if you enjoy snorkeling, then morning is the ideal time to explore the marine life.
Best Romantic Beach:
Puu Pehe Cove, Lanai
Surrounded by dramatic red cliffs, this white-sand beach comes with its own love tale. Check this out! A young warrior was so taken by the beauty of a Hawaiian maiden, that whenever he saw her his eyes would mist with tears. So he hid her in a sea cave where she was drowned by a surge of waves. Stricken with grief, he buried her on top of the 80-foot-tall sea stack called Sweetheart Rock and then dove to his death. It’s not your average rom-com, but the love he felt for her must have been intense. Now, getting to Puu Pehe Cove is part of its intrigue. Along Lanai’s southern coast, the pathway begins at Hulopoe Beach and meanders through rocks, sand and tidal pools before reaching the massive rock formation.
Best Dramatic Beach:
Waipio Valley Beach, Hawaii
On an island filled with the most spectacular of sights — think black-sand beaches, rumbling volcanoes, fiery lava fields and tremendous valleys — Waipio Valley Beach still manages to stand out. The valley’s most amazing feature is Kaluahine Falls, which cascade from a 1,400-foot-tall cliff before crashing into the ocean. To get there, it’s advised to take one of the many guided tours, which will also give you a chance to see more waterfalls as you make your way through the 2,000-foot-deep Waipio Valley.