Wailea Beach, Maui
Wailea Beach is one of five gorgeous crescent-shaped beaches that make up the 1,500-acre resort community of Wailea in south Maui about 35 minutes from Kahului Airport. Consistently ranked among the world’s most beautiful beaches, it is wide and golden hued, fronting a calm stretch of sea that is good for swimming.
The area is home to some of Maui’s most luxurious hotel real estate, with the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea here and the equally opulent Grand Wailea. Both properties face Makena Beach’s stunning cobalt-hued water. It’s a celebrity favorite vacation spot, and you may run into a famous face or two on the beach.
Other notable Wailea beaches include Polo Beach, with good snorkeling and swimming, and Ulua Beach Park, where locals come to walk and jog along the sand at dawn and dusk. There are also 54 holes of championship golf to play on three courses: Wailea Blue, Wailea Emerald, and Wailea Gold.
Ko Olina Beach, Oahu
If you have kids, get to this placid beach on the west side of Oahu right away. The clear blue water is shallow enough for little ones to splash around in, and sitting just above the lagoon is Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. Another property not to be missed is the five-star Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina.
Big Beach, Maui
Backed by the lush, 165-acre Makena State Park and sheltered by low lava cliffs, Big Beach is one of Maui’s most breathtaking beaches—and also one of its largest. True to its name, Big Beach stretches more than a mile long, and is 100 feet wide from sand to shoreline. It’s completely undeveloped, but that’s precisely why you’re here: There’s nothing around to distract you from its cushiony white sand and cool crystalline waters. That said, Big Beach has powerful shore breaks that can make it dangerous for kids and less experienced swimmers, so unless you’re a surfer or a body boarder, we recommend wading in the shallows or simply relaxing on the sand with an onolicious Jawz taco in hand (you can’t miss the big yellow truck at the entrance of the parking lot). If you find it tough to sit still on the sand, you can also try your hand at one of the beach’s weekly open volleyball games.
Waimanalo Beach, Oahu
In “paniolo” country, far from the bustling streets of Waikiki, sits unspoiled Waimanalo Beach, named the best beach in the U.S. by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach. Five miles of talcum sand invite basking and beach combing along Oahu’s longest stretch of sand.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Absolutely stunning beach, crescent shaped and surrounded by mountains. There are actually three beaches here, and Black Pot Beach is the best of them, at the mouth of the Hanalei River with the huge pier that kids love jumping from. This beach is great for swimming, surfing, fishing, and paddleboarding; camping is allowed with a permit.
Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Honolulu’s most popular beach, Waikiki, was once a playground for Hawaiian royalty. Relax on the white sands or take a surfing lesson with the majestic Diamond Head Crater in the backdrop.
Papakolea Beach (Green Sand Beach)
Green sand? No way! But indeed it is true, and you can find green sand on the Big Island’s remote Papakolea Beach, at the island’s southernmost point. The colorful Papakolea Beach got its hue from olivine crystals found in the eroding volcanic cinder cone rocks. Beachgoers have to shimmy down the side of the cinder cone on a worn trail to the beach. The relatively steep beach appears dark brown at first, but once you pick up a handful, the olivine crystals will shine with an unmistakably green glint. The green cliffs around the beach also offer a nice walkabout at this volcanic masterpiece.
Polihua Beach, Lanai
The longest beach on Lanai, Polihua Beach is accessible by a four-wheel drive vehicle from Lanai City and stretches two miles along Lanai’s northeastern shore. If you are looking for that perfect secluded spot on the tiny island of Lanai, Polihua Beach just might be what you’re looking for.
You won’t find beach bars with lounge chairs here, as this amazing beach is all about privacy and relaxation. Keep in mind that swimming is not allowed at Polihua Beach because of the strong currents and lack of protective offshore reefs.
However, on a clear day, you can enjoy spectacular views of Molokai and go for long walks. Travelers who are planning to visit Polihua Beach in winter may even spot a couple of whales here.