Hawaii has too many incredible beaches to visit in one lifetime, so let us be your guide.
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
The Best Beaches in Hawaii
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Travelers have been flocking to this calm, golden, crescent-shaped stretch of sand on the island of Oahu since the early 1900s—when Hawaii first popped up on the tourist radar, and visitors would arrive only by steamship. Today, it’s a bit more crowded, but the scene is still fun: grab a mai tai at the iconic Royal Hawaiian hotel, built in 1927; kick back; and watch locals mingle with tourists, all with impressive Diamond Head as a backdrop.
One of the many reasons we love Hawaii—aside from an incredible mai tai, fresh seafood, and laid-back surf culture—is that it can easily lay claim to having the most beautiful beaches in the world. Why is that? For starters, they come in every size, shape, and color there: wide, calm expanses that are perfect for families and little ones who just want to dip their toes in the Pacific; tiny, secluded coves where honeymooning couples can get away from the crowds; and red, white, black, and green sandy stretches that provide the ultimate photo-op for Instagram. Best of all, you can access every single one of them, since all of Hawaii’s beaches are public.
Better still, you’re not limited to experiencing these beaches on just one island. Like many travelers, you can visit Hawaii on a multi-island itinerary, and spend each day of your sun-filled vacation hitting up a different shoreline. Oahu, home to world-famous Waikiki Beach, is known for having some of the widest golden stretches—and the best surfing—in all of Hawaii.
Related: Maui Travel Guide
Kauai is nicknamed the Garden Island, and with good reason: the tropical forests here are lovely and lush, and have served as a backdrop for films such as Jurassic Park. But the coastline is also blessed with many reefs, which in turn create ideal beaches for snorkeling. Tiny Lanai, famous for having two luxurious Four Seasons resorts, has one of the best beaches in the world for spotting spinner dolphins.
Hawaii, which also goes by the name Big Island, may be best known for its lunar-like volcanic rock landscape, and can also lay claim to having some crowd-pleasing white-sand beaches, including the photographic gem Punalu’u black sand beach. A secluded island off-the-beaten tourist path, Molokai has some of the most pristine stretches, where you’re likely to run into mainly locals.
So how to pick from all these spectacular stretches of sand? Here are some of Travel + Leisure’s favorite beaches where you can get a slice of that true Hawaiian paradise.