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8 best Hawaii beaches to visit for a slice of paradise

From snorkelling spots to black volcanic sand stretches

Helen Wilson-Beevers
Thursday 06 July 2023 13:09 BST
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This tropical archipelago boasts beautiful sandy stretches on both the mainland and smaller islands
This tropical archipelago boasts beautiful sandy stretches on both the mainland and smaller islands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The tropical archipelago of Hawaii is famous for being a slice of paradise, with lush greenery, glass-clear waters and idyllic sandy bays. The US’s 50th state has eight main islands – as well as several smaller islets – and Hawaii Island itself is also known as the Big Island.

Situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is built upon 15 volcanoes and six of those, including Mauna Loa and Kilauea, are currently active. While top sights to see for travellers include the Hawaii National Park, this destination’s beaches have a huge holiday pull when it comes to both relaxation and water sports. Whether you’re looking to spend time in one place or explore several islands, you can expect to see both black and white sands, sea turtles, mountainous landscapes, palm trees and much more.

From snorkelling spots rich with marine life to luxury resorts, from tidal pools to historical landmarks, keep reading for a list of the best beaches in Hawaii.

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Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui

This snorkelling spot has an abundance of marine life, including sea turtles (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Kapalua Bay Beach is located in the northwest of Maui Island and is famous for being a superb snorkelling and kayaking spot. The sandy beach is surrounded by palm trees and has clear turquoise waters for sunbathing, swimming and viewing its abundance of marine life, including sea turtles. To explore the wider area, follow the Kapalua Coastal Trail along to Fleming Beach, which is under two miles and will take you across lava rock and offer an idyllic view of the Pacific Ocean.

Where to stay

Situated only three miles from Kapalua-West Maui Airport, Hale Napili is an apartment building with beachfront views, barbecue facilities and a garden area.

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

The peaceful bay looks out onto the nearby Mokulu Islands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Lanikai Beach is a peaceful haven in the town of Kailua on Oahu Island. You’ll find this quiet bay near the busier Kailua Beach, and it has calm waters for taking a dip. There’s a kayak rental company on the beach and you can paddle out to the nearby Mokulu Islands, which have their own seabird sanctuary. Alternatively, the Lanikai Pillbox Hike offers 360-degree views and takes walkers along an exposed mountain ridge.

Where to stay

The Kahala Hotel and Resort is a five-star facility with four restaurants, an outdoor pool and a spa.

Mauna Kea Beach, Hawaii Island

The beach is on Hawaii’s Big Island and boasts beautiful white sand (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Also known as Kaunaoa, this Big Island beach is over a quarter of a mile long, framed by greenery and boasting beautiful white sand. The family-friendly bay has a cove with calm, shallow waters of less than 10ft deep and it’s popular for water sports further out too. These include kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving, with equipment rental available at nearby five-star hotel, Mauna Kea Resort.

Where to stay

There are four outdoor swimming pools, a hot tub and a restaurant at Hilton Grand Vacations Club Kings Land Waikoloa, located on the Kohala Coast.

Hanalei Beach, Kauai

Hanalei Pier is a famous landmark on the Kauai coast (Getty Images)

Set among mountains and palm trees, Hanalei Beach has beautiful blue waters. Like many Hawaiian beaches, Hanalei is ideal for riding the waves and there are multiple surfboard rental shops in the town itself. Further along the coastline, you’ll find famous Hawaiian landmark Hanalei Pier and this bay meets the mouth of the Hanalei River. Black Pot Beach Park is found behind the pier, with showers, picnic tables and other facilities.

Where to stay

Halaei Bay Resort has beach access and a large outdoor swimming pool, and is a 15-minute drive from Hanalei Pier.

Hulopoe Bay, Lanai

The unspoilt bay has tidal pools made of volcanic rock (Getty Images)

Situated on the south coast of Lanai Island, unspoilt Hulopoe Bay is a picturesque place for snorkelling, swimming and surfing. There are large tidal pools made of volcanic rock for taking a closer look at marine life. Meanwhile, Hulopoe Beach Park has picnic tables and other facilities. Walk along the rocky cliff path to famous rock formation Puupehe, which sits 80ft above the sea and is home to white-tailed tropicbirds.

Where to stay

Four Seasons Resort Lana’i overlooks Hulopoe Bay and features two swimming pools, a spa and gardens.

Punaluu Beach, Hawaii Island

The black sand was formed after lava flowed from the nearby Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Punaluu Beach is between Pahala and Naalehu on Hawaii Island’s southeast coast and holds unique appeal because of its black sand, which becomes hot in the sun. It’s made from fine particles of igneous rock basalt and formed after lava flowed from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where active volcanoes Mauna Loa and Kilauea are. The beach is also home to endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles.

Where to stay

Keola Retreat offers luxury glamping accommodation in Naalehu, complete with an outdoor bath and private parking.

Halawa Beach Park, Molokai

There are two bays within Halawa Beach Park (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Halawa Beach Park is on the east coast of Molokai and its golden sands sit below the Halawa Valley. Kamaalaea Beach and Kawili Beach are the two bays found within this area and both are popular swimming spots in the summer months. Visitors can soak up the green mountain backdrop featuring tropical rainforests, and keep an eye out for the ruins of historical buildings.

Where to stay

Less than an hour from Halawa Beach Park is Hotel Molokai, complete with coastal views and an outdoor pool.

Wailea Beach, Maui

Wailea Beach is a premium location with luxury resorts (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Wailea Beach is on the southwest shores of Maui and known for being a premium location lined with luxury hotels and resorts. The beach is great for snorkelling and swimming and there are several golf courses in the area. You can glimpse a view of the Molokini Crater from the beach and there are guided boat tours from nearby Maalaea Harbour if you’d like to get a closer look.

Where to stay

Just 800m from the beach is Residence Inn by Marriott Maui Wailea, with amenities including an outdoor swimming pool with its own bar, plus a fitness centre and hot tub.

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