The 7 Most Stunning Beaches in Hawaii

hanalei bay - stunning beaches in hawaii
Frankly, there isn’t a beach in Hawaii that wouldn’t be nice to visit. The incredible thing about Hawaii’s beaches is that they each offer visitors something special and unique. You can choose the beaches you want to visit based on location, how secluded they are, by the landscape they feature, the kinds of marine life you’re likely to see or the water-sports they’re amenable to. You can even pick a beach out by colour. In this article, we’ll help you sift through your many choices and show you our picks for the most stunning beaches in Hawaii.

The best time of year to go to the beach depends on what you want to do there. Winter whips up the stronger waves that make Hawaii one of the world’s top surfing destinations. In summer, the waters tend to be calmer and safer for swimming, especially for kids. Not every beach that’s beautiful will be suitable for all activities, but we’ve tried to pick a range of beaches that also offer at least a few things to do, from wildlife watching to sunset strolls to family fun.

Hanalei Bay

Location: Kauai

A ring of breathtaking mountains forms the backdrop to this scenic crescent of beaches. Between the sea and the mountain peaks and cliffs studded with waterfalls, visitors to the bay can bask on the white sand of what’s been called the most beautiful beach in Hawaii.

Here, the Hanalei River empties out at Black Pot Beach, which offers excellent opportunities for kayaking and features a long pier visitors can walk along or jump off. Keep an eye out for dolphins - they frequent the bay in the summer. Winter sees some of the state’s best surfing, but in the summer, less adventurous types can work on their tans or take in any number of other water sports.

Polihale State Park

Location: Kauai

If you’re looking for a more isolated stretch of sand to walk along or just relax on, consider Polihale, on Kauai’s western shore. The beach offers amazing views of the forbidden island of Niihau and the Napali cliffs and an unparalleled place to watch the sun set. It also features gorgeous sand dunes that can reach over 100 feet in height.

Swimming is possible at Queens Pond but is otherwise not recommended. This beach really is off the beaten track, making it perfect for adventurers. To get here, you’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle that can get you down the long access road.

Makena Beach

makena beach - most stunning beaches in hawaii

Location: Maui

There are actually two beaches here, Big Beach and Little Beach, both situated between black lava rock outcroppings that shelter them from the winds. The whole area is undeveloped and provides a lush, tropical backdrop to the perfect, white sands.

Big Beach is both long and quite wide, so visitors have loads of space to stretch out, even if there are a lot of people around. The waves here are large and visitors are warned not to venture into the water if they’re inexperienced. Little Beach isn’t much more than a tiny cove, but if it’s seclusion you’re after, this beach is a lovely spot to find it in.

Papohaku Beach

Location: Molokai

The long white sands of Papohaku are less travelled than many of Hawaii’s other beaches. Nevertheless, the beach is one of Hawaii’s largest; three miles of nothing but sand and sea. There's so much pristine sand here that it was actually mined to add to the beach at Waikiki.

Visitors can enjoy walking its scenic dunes and enjoying the sunset or exploring the beach’s tide pools. On a clear day, the views of Oahu alone are worth the trip. Strong currents mean swimming isn’t advisable. For most visitors, though, the biggest draw is the rare feeling of having an entire tropical beach to themselves.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

punalu'u black sand beach - most stunning beaches in hawaii

Location: Hawaii

No list would be complete without mentioning one of Hawaii’s famous coloured beaches. Sinking your toes into the dramatic black sands of Punalu’u is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Visitors flock here to simply to see this unique natural phenomenon, although there’s a lot to do here, as well. Beachgoers can also swim, snorkel or just relax in the shade of the beach’s many coconut palms when the black sands get too hot.

For wildlife watchers, the beach is a dream. Turtles and seals frequent the area. Hawksbill turtles are sometimes spotted in the waters and green sea turtles can often be seen on the beach, which is an important nesting site for these endangered creatures.

Polihua Beach

Location: Lanai

While the currents make the waters off this beach unsuitable for swimming, Polihua is still a wonderful spot for sun-worshippers. This is the perfect location for those who like a very long walk on the beach. It’s incredibly secluded and visitors frequently report spending hours by the water with nothing but sea, sand, rock and sky for company.

Polihua is also a great spot for wildlife watching: migrating humpback whales can be seen from the shore in the winter. You’ll need a vehicle with four-wheel drive to make it down the trail to the beach, but the views across to Molokai will make it worth your efforts.

Waimea Bay Beach Park

waimea bay - most stunning beaches in hawaii

Location: Oahu

Turquoise waters and white sands make Waimea Bay a classic beauty. Waimea Bay is best known for its surfing - from November to February, the beach sees top-notch international surfing competitions. The calm summer waters make it a favourite for swimmers, divers and snorkellers.

Jutting into the water, “The Rock” offers a natural spot for high diving, while other less impressive rock formations create tide pools that are perfect for exploring. Its location on the less developed North shore means it’s a little less travelled than some of the major beaches, although even in summer it can still get busy.

Visitors to Hawaii’s stunning beaches should be aware that ocean conditions are highly variable. If you’re venturing into the water, make sure there’s a lifeguard at hand and that you’re always aware of the beach’s guidelines and of your own surroundings. Be safe!

Feature image: Harshil Shah; Image 1: dronepicr; Image 2: HandsLive; Image 3: Andrew K. Smith

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