- Jonathan Stern
Hanalei Bay Beach, Kauai
Located on Kauai’s northern shore, Hanalei Bay is a huge, crescent-shaped bay that boasts an impossibly beautiful beach. The shore’s white sand stretches for nearly two miles and is surrounded by majestic mountains, making it one of the most picturesque spots in Hawaii. The ocean is calm here in the summer, making it a fantastic place for paddle boarding, kayaking, or surf lessons for beginners. Hanalei has a small pier that juts out into the water, from which many visitors take the opportunity to jump into the Pacific below.
Lanikai Beach, Oahu
With its soft golden sand and turquoise waters, Lanikai Beach in Oahu is like heaven on Earth. Perhaps it’s no surprise that “Lanikai” translates to “Heavenly Sea”. The two Mokulua Islands that rise from the tranquil ocean about a mile offshore are an added bonus to the already stunning view. With sun, sand, calm seas and palm trees swaying in the breeze, this is certainly one of the most relaxing spots on the planet.
Ho’okipa Beach, Maui
We travel to the island of Maui for the next beach on our list: Ho’okipa, a world-renowned windsurfing destination with dramatic surf that’s a mesmerizing site on its own. The long and narrow beach is usually not crowded, so there’s plenty of room to spread out and soak up some sun. A distinct feature of the beach is the exposed reef that runs along most of the shore break, where beach-goers might be lucky enough spot a sea turtle or two.
Punalu’u Beach, Big Island
A trip to the Big Island’s Punalu’u Beach – simply called “Black Sand Beach” – is sure to be a memorable one. The black sand is made of basalt created from lava flowing from the active volcanoes in nearby Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Once it hits the ocean, the lava cools quickly, solidifying and then shattering into many tiny pieces. Because the black sand retains heat extremely well, beaches like Punalu’u are favorite sunning spots for turtles.
Kaihalulu Beach, Maui
Hawaii has beaches that come in all sorts of colors, including the stunning red sand of Kaihalulu Beach. In fact, there’s a chorus of colors here: the deep red sand, the dark blue hues of the water, the lava black of the natural sea wall, and the green trees. This hidden pocket beach is cut into rugged red cliffs made of lava cinder, which gives the sand its color. Kaihalulu is only accessible by a short but sometimes strenuous hike – the rewards are well worth it.
Makena Beach, Maui
Also known as Big Beach among locals, Makena Beach in Maui is 1.5 miles long and more than 100 feet wide – perfect for those looking to enjoy a long stroll on the sand. Thanks to the expansive shoreline and the fact that there is not too much development in the immediate vicinity, Makena does not get overly crowded like some of the other Maui beaches. It is also a prime place to admire a picturesque Hawaiian sunset.
Polihua Beach, Lanai
A less popular destination than the other Hawaiian islands, Lanai often feels like a private paradise. There is no better place on the island to feel that way than the remote Polihua Beach, located on Lanai’s nature-filled northwest coast. So remote, in fact, that it’s only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle. This long sandy beach features dunes crafted by the wind and a great view of the island of Molokai. In the winter, Polihua is a top spot for humpback whale watching.
Waipi’o Valley Beach, Big Island
Waipi’o Valley on the Big Island was once home to Hawaiian royalty, who oversaw the production of the taro root in the area’s fertile soil. The mile-long black sand beach is a spectacular site, especially the stunning views of the Kaluahine Falls on its eastern side. On the opposite end, the beach meets cliffs that are equally impressive. Getting to this hidden, sacred beach requires a difficult hike of several miles.
Kauapea Beach, Kauai
On the northern shore of Kauai is Kauapea Beach, a secluded spot popularly known as Secret Beach. As the name suggests, there is no public road or even signage indicating its location. The shore is quite beautiful, as it features both fine white sand and black lava rock. Cliffs on either end of the beach only add to its charm; they are covered in tropical plants such as ironwood trees and taro. Another highlight is the Kilauea lighthouse, which can be spotted just to the east.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island
Hapuna Beach is consistently praised as one of the world’s top beaches by travel magazines, and it’s easy to see why. The velvety, cream-colored sand slopes gently down to the shore, while the clear waters are perfect for swimming, body surfing and snorkeling in the summer. Winter brings powerful waves that come crashing in. With its palm trees dotting the coastline, Hapuna has all the makings of that classic beach that comes to mind when picturing Hawaii.