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With miles of stunning shoreline dotted with palm trees, Hawaii is synonymous with beautiful beaches. If you’re planning a trip to the Aloha State and want to know the very best stretch of sand, look no further.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Wailea Beach on Maui offers perfect swimming conditions, golden sand, nearby resorts and restaurants, and unbeatable sunsets making it one of the best beaches in Hawaii.

In this guide to the best beach in Hawaii, we’ll cover everything you need to know to decide which Hawaiian beach is right for you, including factors like popularity, swimming conditions, accessibility, scenery and nearby amenities.

Popular Hawaiian Beaches Worth Considering

Waikiki Beach (Oahu)

Stretching for around 2 miles along the southern shore of Oahu, Waikiki Beach is one of Hawaii’s most famous and lively beaches, with sparkling waters perfect for swimming and surfing. Over 4 million visitors flock here every year to enjoy the iconic views of Diamond Head volcano, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and colorful high-rise hotels.

With its gentle waves, Waikiki is ideal for novice surfers and snorkelers. Rent a board and wetsuit from one of the many surf shops dotting the main strip, take a quick lesson if needed, then paddle out to ride your first wave.

For an unforgettable underwater adventure, hop on a catamaran cruise and snorkel with sea turtles and bright tropical fish at spots just offshore.

Hanauma Bay (Oahu)

Hailed as one of the world’s best snorkeling destinations, Hanauma Bay‘s protected waters contain over 450 species of colorful fish and more Green Sea Turtles than anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands. This curved natural bay on Oahu’s southeast coast dazzles with postcard views of palm trees, white sand, and aquamarine water.

Before exploring underwater, watch an informative 9-minute safety video at the beach’s Marine Education Center introducing you to the bay’s unique ecosystem. Then enter the main bay’s calm, shallow inner ring or venture out from the beach to see larger fish and coral formations teeming with schooling fish and perhaps a friendly turtle or two!

Poipu Beach (Kauai)

On Kauai’s sunny south shore, Poipu Beach attracts families and water sports enthusiasts to its sandy crescent-shaped shoreline. With protected areas perfect for kids as well as prime spots for snorkeling, surfing, and boogie boarding, Poipu offers something for everyone.

Poipu is one of Kauai’s driest regions, with almost year-round blue skies and comfortably warm tropical temperatures. After you’ve had your fill of sun and surf, check out Born on the Fourth of July, one of the most popular food trucks on the island serving up delicious tropical shave ice.

Nothing caps off a day at the beach better than a cold, sweet treat!

What Makes a Hawaiian Beach the ‘Best’

Safe Swimming Conditions

When deciding on the best beach in Hawaii, one of the key factors is having safe conditions for swimming and water activities. Many of the top beaches have lifeguards on duty, warnings about strong currents or shore breaks, and protected areas for beginner swimmers.

Locals also know which spots tend to have the calmest waters and smallest waves at different times of the year.

Beautiful Scenery

Another major draw is the incredible natural scenery you’ll find at Hawaiian beaches. From sea cliffs and lava rock formations to swaying palm trees and mountains in the background, the islands offer some breathtaking vistas.

Some of the most iconic beaches feature volcanic black sand or the famous green sand at Papakōlea Beach. The best views combine the turquoise ocean water with dramatic landscapes only found in Hawaii.

Nearby Amenities

While some secluded beaches are peaceful and serene, others stand out for having amenities nearby. When ranking Hawaii’s best beaches, many look for those with convenient access to restrooms, showers, lifeguard stations, restaurants, shops, and parking.

Beaches in resort areas or state parks often have the most services available. These handy amenities coupled with natural beauty check off all the boxes.

With so much diversity among the islands’ beaches, there’s something for everyone when it comes to the best spot to soak up the sun or enjoy water sports. By weighing factors like safety, scenery and amenities, you’re sure to find your version of paradise along Hawaii’s gorgeous shores.

The Best Beach in Hawaii: Wailea Beach (Maui)

Ideal Beach for Relaxation and Recreation

With its golden sand stretches, gentle waves, and warm azure waters, Wailea Beach is considered a premier spot on Maui for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The sloping sandy beach makes access easy, and the reef a short swim out helps to buffer big waves, creating a calm protected area perfect for paddling with kids or leisurely floating on the water with a noodle.

Wailea beach has a stunning waterside pathway with grassy parks, picnic tables, showers, and ample parking nearby. Located in an upscale 5-star resort area, visitors flock to this family-friendly beach for a relaxing and leisurely vacation by day, catching spectacular sunsets in the evenings.

Stunning Beauty and Epic Sunsets

With unobstructed view to the west out over the ocean, sunsets at Wailea beach are legendary. In the evenings, visitors flock to the shoreline to watch in awe as the horizon ignites into a vibrant canvas of orange, pink, and purple hues.

It’s not uncommon to hear cheers and applause from the crowds gathered as the final sliver of red sun sinks into the endless blue Pacific.

A backdrop of the picturesque Wailea coastline, lined with swaying palms and posh oceanside resorts, completes the stunning scene. Many consider Wailea beach at sunset one of the most beautiful spots in the Hawaiian Islands to end the day.

Luxury Resorts and Dining Nearby

Wailea beach sits bordered between two renowned 5-star vacation resorts, making it a prime destination for luxury seekers. The Four Seasons Maui to the south and Grand Wailea to the north offer high-end amenities from golf courses and spas to fine dining and sunset views.

With lavish rooms starting at $1000 per night, these upscale resorts attract celebrity visitors frequently.

Visitors not staying at the resorts can still enjoy the nearby collection of award-winning upscale restaurants perfect for a special beachside dinner after sunset. Choices range from five-star fresh seafood, prime steaks with impressive wine lists, innovative Asian fusion, and the best sushi on Maui.

With so many exceptional dining options closeby, visitors may choose to linger long after the sun dips into the Pacific.

Other Top Beaches on Maui

Kapalua Bay Beach

Kapalua Bay Beach is located on Maui’s northwest coast, nestled between two rocky points that protect it from strong currents and large waves. This crescent-shaped beach has sparkling turquoise waters and soft golden sand, making it a perfect spot for swimming, snorkeling, and simply relaxing under the Hawaiian sun.

Some even say the calm, clear waters of Kapalua Bay resemble those of the Caribbean!

One of the top attractions at Kapalua Bay is the incredible snorkeling. Just offshore is a sea turtle cleaning station, where Hawai’i’s gentle honu come to have small fish pick algae and parasites off their shells.

When the waters are calm, you’re almost guaranteed to spot a turtle or two gliding gracefully through the bay. The rocky fingers on either side of the beach also house colorful fish and even eels.

Kaanapali Beach

Stretching over 3 miles along Maui’s western shore, Kaanapali Beach is one of the island’s most famous beaches. Its sparkling sands and gentle waves have attracted visitors since its early days as a vacation retreat for Hawaiian royalty in the 1860s.

Today, Kaanapali Beach fronts some of Maui’s most luxurious resorts, world-class golf courses, and the quaint, open-air shops at Whalers Village museum. It’s also renowned for its nightly cliff diving ceremony off of Pu’u Keka’a, or Black Rock, at the Sheraton resort.

As the sun sets each evening, a diver lights the torches along the rocky outcrop before plunging into the Pacific — a tradition that dates back centuries.

With its postcard-perfect views of Moloka’i and Lāna’i islands, calm waters perfect for snorkeling and swimming, and surrounding amenities, it’s no wonder Kaanapali Beach was once voted America’s Best Beach.

Makena Beach State Park

On Maui’s sun-baked south shore lies Makena Beach State Park, whose beaches are considered some of Maui’s most beautiful. Its centerpiece is Big Beach, named for its spacious golden sands that stretch over 100 yards wide.

Neighboring Little Beach is a haven for visitors seeking a clothing-optional, tranquil oasis. Collectively nicknamed “Secret Beach,” both beaches rest below eroded cinder cones and are bounded by ancient collapsed lava tubes that lead out to sea.

The beaches here feel untouched and wild, with views of Molokini Crater, Kahoʻolawe, and Lāna’i island beyond the turquoise waters. And they can be dangerous too, with rough shorebreaks that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Lifeguards are on duty seven days a week to monitor conditions and keep beachgoers safe.

Whether you’re here to surf, swim, soak up rays on the sand, or watch an incredible Maui sunset, Makena Beach State Park offers natural Hawaiian beauty at its finest.

Best Beaches on Hawaii’s Other Islands

Kauai’s Hanalei Bay

Flanked by emerald mountains and lush tropical forests, the crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay on Kauai island boasts nearly 2 miles of golden sand ideal for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. This picturesque beach provides visitors a front-row seat to impressive waves and memorable sunsets.

According to a 2021 survey conducted among travelers, Hanalei Bay topped the list as Kauai’s most popular beach destination with a 93% satisfaction rate.

Hanalei Bay has something special to offer beachgoers of all kinds. Surfers can challenge themselves riding big winter swells up to 20 feet high. Swimmers enjoy calmer conditions in summer protected from currents by an offshore reef.

Beach walkers delight in strolling along soft sands while soaking up incredible views. Families appreciate the gentle surf and lifeguards on duty. And everyone loves Hanalei Bay’s laid-back ambiance perfect for an afternoon picnic or just relaxing under the sun.

Hawaii Island’s Hapuna Beach State Park

With its clear turquoise water, powdery white sand and palm tree-dotted shoreline, Hapuna Beach frequently lands a spot among the world’s top beaches. This half-mile stretch of perfection lies on Hawaii Island’s Kohala Coast, providing exceptional swimming, bodyboarding and snorkeling opportunities as well as incredible views of Mauna Kea volcano.

Hapuna Beach is especially popular for its calm, protected swimming area during summer thanks to an offshore reef that blunts heavy waves. Lifeguards patrol the beach daily, helping ensure safety for all visitors.

The facilities also shine with parking for over 1,000 vehicles, restaurants, picnic areas with BBQs, showers and restrooms that earned a perfect 5-star public rating. Whether you’re looking for an exciting day of water sports or a relaxing afternoon on the sand, it’s easy to see why Hapuna Beach ranks among Hawaii’s best.

Lanikai Beach on Oahu

Voted as one of the best beaches in the U.S., the gorgeous Lanikai Beach on Oahu’s windward coast regularly attracts big crowds drawn by its soft white sands, calm turquoise waters and postcard views. Two small offshore islands complete the dreamy tropical scene at this upscale neighborhood beach.

While not great for swimming due to rocky shoals and strong currents off shore, Lanikai Beach offers exceptional conditions for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling in a lagoon protected by a reef.

During high surf seasons, expert surfers can also challenge themselves on waves that break over the outer reefs. Or you can simply kick back on the powdery sand and soak up the relaxing vibe and breathtaking natural beauty that makes Lanikai Beach so special.


With so many world-class beaches to choose from, selecting the single best beach in Hawaii is no easy task. For its golden sand, gentle surf, incredible sunsets and nearby resort amenities, Wailea Beach on Maui takes the top spot.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Luckily, you can’t go wrong with any Hawaiian beach. Just look for the features most important to you, whether that’s easy access, dramatic scenery or seclusion from crowds. With this guide in hand, you’re sure to find your perfect patch of paradise.

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