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The Best Beaches in Hawaii to Visit in Your Lifetime

Hang ten at great surf spots, relax at resort getaways, snorkel at stunning coral reefs, float in quiet coves, and dig your toes into silky sand—whatever kind of beach experience you're dreaming of, Hawaii offers an opportunity to indulge your tropical getaway fantasies. But which Hawaiian beaches are best? We've got the sandy scoop!

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A lone coconut palm tree leans into the wind and waves on a rocky beach in Maui.
MH Anderson Photography/Shutterstock

How we found the best beaches in Hawaii

Crystal blue water, palm trees, black lava coves, silky white sand, golden shores—Hawaii’s beaches offer everything you need for a tropical vacation in paradise, but not every beach is created equal, so we checked in with some of the top sources to dig out the best ones to visit in your lifetime. To build our best beaches list, we consulted TripAdvisor and tallied up the scores for reader’s favorite spots, crossed-checked with sand expert Dr. Beach‘s recommendations for the Best Beaches in America, and then fact-checked with the Hawaiian tourism board to come up with these top picks. Before you pack your bags, find out everything you need to know about planning a Hawaiian vacation.

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Looking down on Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Eva Browning/Shutterstock

Ka’anapali Beach, Maui

Topping the rating list on TripAdvisor for best beaches in Hawaii is this iconic stretch of Maui beach framed by some of the most popular hotels on the island. You’ll find it all here: gentle surf for swimming, slight breaks perfect for beginner surfers, and some of the best snorkeling in Maui by Black Rocks near the Sheraton Hotel. The expansive white sand framed by emerald palms is picture-perfect, one reason you’ve probably spotted this Hawaii beach on postcards before you ever kick off your flip-flops. Ka’anapali is also one of our favorite warm-weather getaways for families.

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poipu beach park on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

Poipu Beach, Kauai

One of the best beaches in Hawaii for families, Poipu features gentle blue waves overseen by lifeguards. There are also showers and restrooms and snack spots, making it easy to spend an entire day here relaxing under a shady palm tree watching the turquoise blue waters lap the shores and the occasional green sea turtle and monk seal wander up onto the white sand. You’ll want to see these beaches with the clearest water on Earth

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Waikiki Beach, Oahu

If you like your sand with a side of cosmopolitan sizzle, Waikiki should be at the top of your list for best beaches in Hawaii to visit. It’s been a perennial favorite since the 1950s for its mix of wide white sand beach lined with popular hotels, bars, and restaurants where you can grab an umbrella drink to sip under the radiant sky and take in the vast views of the Pacific.

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Hapuna Beach State Park,Hawaii Island

Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island

One of the best beaches in Hawaii for daydream worthy white sand and deep blue water, this idealistic stretch of beach on the scenic west Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii and came in at number eight on Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches for 2019 list.

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turquoise water beach

Kailua Beach Park, Oahu

Kailua is Dr. Beach’s top pick for the best beach in the entire United States in 2019 based on an intensive inspection of 50 different factors, including the number of sunny days, water and sand quality, and overall safety of the beach, including the presence of lifeguards. Some of the highlights that carried this best beach in Hawaii to the top of the list: sugar-white sand, gentle waves in its clear waters, and a range of amenities like picnic tables and showers. Sand lovers will want to take a gander at these gorgeous clear water beaches around the world.

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Beautiful beach at Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

Wailea Beach, Maui

A stellar spot in south Maui, this wonderful white stretch of beach is where the swanky Four Seasons is located, giving it an extra bit of cache. However, the beach is still open to the public and offers excellent swimming in crystal waters, plus the opportunity to spot the green sea turtles who like to sun on the warm shores here. And a paved beach walk allows easy access to Wailea’s hotels, restaurants, and shops. Wailea also ranks as one of the top beaches in America.

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Sand beach along Hanalei Bay coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanalei Beach, Kauai

A crescent of glittering golden sand on the lush north shore of Kauai made even more scenic by the backdrop of mountain peaks and verdant forest nearby. The gentle waves and warm water here make it popular for body surfing and boogie boarding, letting even non-surfers enjoy mild to wild water thrills.

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Kaihalulu Bay in Hana, Maui, Hawaii
Pierre Leclerc/Shutterstock

Kaihalulu Beach, Maui

Beaches come in all colors in Hawaii, and this hidden gem in Hana on Maui’s wild western side offers brick-red sand to sink your toes into. It’s a steep hike to get to the sheltered ruby cove, but it’s worth the effort for the dramatic views. With so many relaxing beaches, it’s no wonder Hawaii is one of the happiest states in America.

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Hideaway Beach (Pali Ke Kua) on Kauai's north shore

Pali Ke Kua Beach, Kauai

Aptly also called “Hideaway Beach,” you’ll need to navigate a rope trail down an incline to reach this hidden golden patch on Kauai’s north shore in Princeville. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with crystal clear turquoise water and spectacular snorkeling and swimming, especially in the summer.

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Big beach of Makena beach State park, Maui, Hawaii
Marisa Estivill/Shutterstock

Makena Beach State Park, Maui

Often referred to as “Big Beach,” this sunny spot on the southern shores of Maui in Wailea is popular with surfers at its north end where you’ll find big breaks, and with snorkelers on its southern end, where the warm emerald water is filled with a rainbow of fish. The uncrowded white sands here extend for nearly a mile, meaning you can always find a private patch of sand to call your own. Plan your beach vacation at one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii.

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Lanikai beach in Oahu island.

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

Live like a local on this silky white sand beach, where the crowds of Waikiki seem as distant as the mainland. The reef-protected waters are popular with snorkelers and kayakers. Nearby, Pillbox Hike offers spectacular vistas of the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean.

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Punalu'u Beach, Hawaii
Phillip B. Espinasse

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Big Island

One of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii, this volcanic beach near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park isn’t just a great photo op—although you definitely should get a picture of your toes stepping into sand the color of caviar—it’s also an opportunity to watch sea turtles up close; turns out they’re fans of the jet black sand, too. Punalu’u Beach is one of the 12 most stunning black sand beaches around the world.

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Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is an intrepid explorer and award-winning travel journalist with more than 25 years of experience. She covers topics ranging from family travel and Disney to honeymoons and romantic beaches and everything in between.