Best Beaches in Hawaii to Visit for a Tropical Escape

The Hawaiian archipelago, a jewel in the Pacific Ocean, is globally celebrated for its stunning beaches, each island offering its own unique version of paradise.

The diversity is breathtaking, from Oahu’s famous shores and cultural vibrancy to Maui’s enchanting bays, where luxury meets natural splendor. Kauai, often draped in a cloak of greenery, presents beaches that are sanctuaries of tranquility and scenic beauty. At the same time, the Big Island offers a kaleidoscope of sands from volcanic black to exotic green, catering to the adventurous at heart.

Each with its distinct personality, these islands collectively showcase the best tropical beach experiences.

Best Beaches in Oahu

Windward coast of Oahu, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@zoiakostina/DepositPhotos]

Oahu, the heart of Hawaii, is a tropical paradise known for its spectacular beaches catering to every beachgoer. From the bustling shores lined with high-rise hotels to tranquil, hidden gems tucked away from the crowds, Oahu’s beaches offer a range of experiences. The island’s waters are a haven for surfers, with some beaches hosting world-class surfing competitions while others provide calm, clear waters ideal for snorkeling and swimming.

Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@SergiyN/DepositPhotos]

This iconic beach in Honolulu is a symbol of Hawaiian hospitality, featuring a long, golden sand beach backed by high-rise hotels and shops. Waikiki is famous for its historic sites, like the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, and offers excellent surfing and swimming conditions. The beach is always bustling with tourists and provides numerous entertainment options, including beachside bars and live music.

Lanikai Beach

Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@tomasfoto/DepositPhotos]

Located in Kailua, Lanikai Beach is celebrated for its white sand and clear, calm waters, ideal for swimming and kayaking. The view of the Mokulua Islands adds to its picturesque beauty. This beach is less commercialized and offers a tranquil escape. Sunrise views here are particularly stunning and sought after by photographers.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@marchello74/DepositPhotos]

On the southeast coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. It’s one of the best places in Hawaii for snorkeling, with range of marine life and coral. The bay results from a volcanic crater and offers educational programs about marine ecosystem conservation. Visitor numbers are regulated to preserve its natural beauty.

Waimea Bay

Waimea Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@KelllyHeadrick/Deposit

On Oahu’s North Shore, Waimea Bay is known for its giant winter waves and professional surfing contests. During the summer, the bay becomes calm and is excellent for swimming and diving. The beach also features a large rock that people enjoy jumping into the water. Waimea Bay is adjacent to Waimea Valley and is known for its historical and cultural significance.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@zhuzhu/DepositPhotos]

Also on the North Shore, Sunset Beach is famous for its incredible waves in the winter, making it a spot for surfing competitions. During the summer, the water becomes calm, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The beach offers the best sunset views on the island, hence its name. Sunset Beach is also known for the phenomenon of ‘Backdoor,’ a challenging wave for surfers.

Best Beaches in Maui

west coast of Maui
Photo Credit: [@mihtiander/DepositPhotos]

With its stunning coastline, Maui is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, each offering a unique slice of paradise. From the luxurious resort-lined shores in the west to the more secluded, untouched sands in the south, Maui’s beaches are a testament to the island’s natural beauty and diverse landscapes.

Ka’anapali Beach

Ka'anapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@richie0703/DepositPhotos]

Located in West Maui, Ka’anapali Beach is a popular resort area known for its clear water and white sand. The beach is famous for its cliff diving ceremony at Black Rock, a daily tradition at sunset. It offers a variety of water sports, including snorkeling, parasailing, and whale watching. The beachfront walkway is lined with hotels, shops, and restaurants.

Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@digital94086/DepositPhotos]

Wailea Beach in South Maui is surrounded by luxury resorts known for its excellent swimming and snorkeling conditions. The beach is well-maintained, with soft sand and clear blue waters. It’s a wonderful place for whale watching during the winter months. The scenic walking path along the coast offers stunning views of neighboring islands.

Makena Beach (Big Beach)

Makena Beach (Big Beach), Maui, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@elenasuvorova/DepositPhotos]

In South Maui, Makena Beach is known for its large size and undeveloped landscape, offering a sense of seclusion. The beach is known for its golden sand and powerful waves, making it popular among more experienced swimmers and bodyboarders. The area is less crowded than other Maui beaches, providing a more natural and tranquil experience. The nearby Little Beach is famous for its drum circles and Sunday fire dancing.

Kapalua Bay Beach

Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@KevinPanizza/DepositPhotos]

Kapalua Bay, located in West Maui, is known for its calm waters and excellent snorkeling conditions. The beach is crescent-shaped and offers a protected area perfect for families. The bay is surrounded by greenery and luxury resorts. It’s also an excellent spot for paddleboarding and kayaking.

Baldwin Beach

Baldwin Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@Pierre_Leclerc_Photography/DepositPhotos]

Near the town of Paia, Baldwin Beach is favored by locals for its long sandy stretches, ideal for beach walks and picnics. The beach features a protected area known as “Baby Beach,” with calm waters suitable for young children. Baldwin Beach is also popular for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The beach park offers amenities like picnic areas and restrooms.

Best Beaches in Kauai

Kauai aerial
Photo Credit: [@noblige/DepositPhotos]

Kauai, known as the “Garden Isle,” has some of Hawaii’s most enchanting and beautiful beaches. The island’s beaches are characterized by their dramatic natural beauty, from the lush, green mountains that serve as a stunning backdrop to the crystal-clear, blue waters that gently lap the shores.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@steveheap/DepositPhotos]

In the quaint town of Hanalei, this bay offers a picturesque setting with its backdrop of lush green mountains. The bay is ideal for water sports, including surfing, paddleboarding, and swimming. The historic Hanalei Pier is popular for fishing and enjoying panoramic views. The beach is also an excellent location for spotting rainbows and enjoying the natural beauty of Kauai.

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@jewhyte/DepositPhotos]

Situated on Kauai’s South Shore, Poipu Beach is known for its excellent snorkeling and swimming conditions. Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles often visit the beach. A natural ocean-wading pool makes it a safe and enjoyable spot for children. Poipu Beach Park nearby offers facilities like picnic areas, restrooms, and showers.

Polihale Beach

Polihale Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@steveheap/DepositPhotos]

Located on the western end of Kauai, Polihale Beach is the state’s longest stretch of sand, offering solitude and breathtaking views. The beach is accessible by a dirt road and is less crowded than other tourist spots. It’s known for its spectacular sunsets and views of the Na Pali Coast. However, swimming can be dangerous due to strong currents, so it’s more suitable for sunbathing and beach walks.

Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach)

Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach), Kauai, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@Emson/DepositPhotos]

On Kauai’s North Shore, Tunnels Beach is famous for its extensive reef system, making it a premier snorkeling and scuba diving location. The beach offers stunning views of the mountains and lush landscapes. The unique “tunnels” formed by the reef provide excellent underwater exploration opportunities. Tunnels Beach is also a popular spot for experienced surfers due to its large waves during the winter.

Anini Beach

Anini Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@PJ1960/DepositPhotos]

On Kauai’s North Shore, Anini Beach is known for its shallow, calm waters protected by Hawaii’s largest reef. It’s an ideal spot for beginner snorkelers and families with children. The beach is less crowded, offering a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. The area is also popular for windsurfing and fishing.

Best Beaches on Big Island (Hawaii)

Waipio Valley Lookout - Big Island Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@Vacclav/DepositPhotos]

The Big Island of Hawaii, with its diverse and dramatic landscapes, offers unique beaches as varied as the island. From the striking black sand beaches formed from volcanic lava to the rare and beautiful green sand shores, the Big Island’s beaches are a study in contrasts and natural wonder.

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach, Big Island Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@mark52/DepositPhotos]

On the Kohala Coast, Hapuna Beach is one of the Big Island’s most extensive white sand beaches. The beach is popular for swimming and snorkeling, with clear waters and gentle waves. It’s part of the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, offering picnic areas, restrooms, and showers. The beach is also an excellent spot for whale-watching in winter.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Big Island Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@ademyan/DepositPhotos]

Famous for its striking black sand, Punalu’u is located on the southeastern Kau coast. The beach is a prime spot for seeing endangered Hawksbill turtles and Green Sea turtles basking in the sun. Punalu’u offers a unique beach experience with its jet-black sand formed from volcanic lava. The beach is also known for its coconut palm trees and freshwater ponds.

Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna’oa Bay)

Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna'oa Bay), Big Island Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@silverfox39/DepositPhotos]

Situated on the Kohala Coast, Mauna Kea Beach is known for its crescent shape and fine white sand. The beach, with calm, clear waters, is ideal for swimming and snorkeling. It’s located opposite the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, offering easy access to amenities. The beach is also a popular spot for manta rays viewing at night.

Kua Bay (Manini’owali Beach)

Kua Bay (Manini'owali Beach), Big Island Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@wpd911/DepositPhotos]

On the Kona Coast, Kua Bay features crystal-clear waters and fine white sand. The beach, with occasional strong waves, is a favorite for swimming and bodyboarding. It’s part of the Kekaha Kai State Park, offering a more secluded and natural beach experience. The beach is also known for its stunning sunsets and lack of commercial development.

Best Beaches in Hawaii

Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Photo Credit: [@richie0703/DepositPhotos]

Hawaii’s islands, each with their own unique charm and character, have some of the most magnificent beaches in the world.

From Oahu’s vibrant and lively shores to Maui’s luxurious and picturesque bays, the Hawaiian Islands offer a beach experience for every preference. Kauai’s beaches are a haven of tranquility and natural splendor, perfect for those seeking peace and serenity. In contrast, the Big Island presents a wild and diverse coastal landscape, from black sand beaches to hidden green sands, catering to adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Together, these beaches in Hawaii encompass the full spectrum of tropical beach experiences.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Best Beaches in Hawaii to Visit for a Tropical Escape

Alexandrea Sumuel Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.