As travelers plan their 2024 Hawaii vacations, the quest for the islands’ best beaches becomes one of their top priorities. Notably, renowned sources like TripAdvisor and Dr. Beach play prominently and offer divergent perspectives.
While TripAdvisor relies on crowd-sourced opinions from Hawaii enthusiasts, Dr. Beach positions himself as a seasoned expert in U.S. beach evaluations with his own personal recommendations. And in articles on this topic we’ve authored, countless comments have sometimes indicated that these expert and crowd-sourced opinions are virtually worthless. In any event, disagreement between various authorities and visitors adds intrigue to this perennial topic of discussion in Hawaii.
TripAdvisor’s “Best Of The Best” Beaches in Hawaii
#1 in USA: Kaanapali Beach, Lahaina Maui
Despite the nearby tragic Lahaina fire, Kaanapali Beach continues to rank among the best in the country. The beach extends an inviting three miles of pristine blond sand set along beautiful turquoise waters. Known as Hawaii’s inaugural planned resort community, Kaanapali has a concrete path spanning its length (but with some now inaccessible breaks) and the iconic cliff divers at Black Rock. The north end is ideal for whale watching, and the south end features a reef that can be challenging on bare feet.
#4 Hanalei Bay, Kauai.
To us, Hanalei Bay embodies the quintessential Hawaii beach experience, including a glimpse of the laid-back charm of a bygone era. Hanalei is set amidst green, waterfall-laden mountains. The captivating bay is long and crescent-shaped, with a nearly two-mile shoreline ideal for many activities. Stretching from the Hanalei River to the Waipa Stream, Hanalei is the largest bay on Kauai, complete with breathtaking views of distant Bali Hai (Makana) and surrounding mountains. Activities include water sports, beach relaxation, iconic ocean walks, dining, and shopping in town. Spectacular views are on tap in every direction.
#5: Hookipa Beach, Maui.
Perched along Maui’s north shore, Hookipa Beach is a destination unique for water sports fans, particularly those who enjoy windsurfing and surfing. The iconic beach is renowned for the trade winds and powerful waves, enhancing the already exhilarating location for adrenaline-starved surfers. Hookipa has a festive atmosphere that beckons windsurfing and surfing competitions and attracts skilled athletes from around the world who are fascinating to watch. Hookipa is a relaxing scenic beauty, and visitors enjoy the unique Maui coastal landscape. It is also prime for humpback whale watching in season.
#15 Lanikai Beach Oahu.
Lanikai Beach, Oahu, recently received top ratings from Dr. Beach, who reveled in the breathtaking scenery and serene atmosphere, dubbing it one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches. Who can disagree? However, the reality is that the beach is challenged by over-tourism, and visitors must contend with parking struggles and crowded conditions. Lanikai is known for its pristine white sand and iconic Mokulua Island views. However, it lacks typical beach park amenities and faces ongoing parking issues. Lanikai is approximately 45 minutes from Waikiki. Alternative parking can be found at Kailua Beach, where visitors can walk to Lanikai. Activities at Lanikai include snorkeling and swimming in crystal-clear waters. The Mokulua Islands offer kayaking, which is available through various rental and tour companies. For the best experience, we suggest arriving before 8 am on weekdays and steering clear of weekends and holidays.
#16 Poipu Beach, Kauai.
Poipu Beach, situated on the vibrant and busy south shore of Kauai, stands as an iconic destination renowned for enchanting beauty and diverse beach recreation. It’s made the list of Best Beach in America by many, including The Travel Channel, and frequently makes it into multiple top beaches in USA rankings. The beach gem is a collection of connected golden sand beach crescents. The beach offers a broad spectrum of beach activities, including snorkeling, swimming experiences, and the allure of its natural ocean-wading pool for kids. More adventurous people can try boogie-boarding at Brennecke’s and surfing at various spots. Poipu Beach seamlessly integrates sun, sand, and ocean.
#17. Napili Beach, Maui.
Set on the northwest coast of Maui, Napili Bay is a tropical beauty renowned for its pristine waters and gentle ambiance. The crescent-shaped bay is replete with golden sand and crystal-clear turquoise water. This is an idyllic place for beachgoers who seek serenity, too. The bay is sheltered by lush greenery and palm trees. Snorkeling abounds along coral reefs with abundant marine life. The waves are typically gentle, creating an excellent wading, swimming, and paddle-boarding spot. This is a perfect spot for unforgettable sunsets.
#21. Kailua, Oahu.
Kailua Beach is on the windward side of Oahu. It’s a gorgeous large stretch of pristine white sand and blue water, renowned for natural beauty and diverse beach recreation. This crescent-shaped bay is along ironwood tree-lined shores. It features soft and fine sand that invites beachgoers. It also has frequently excellent windsurfing opportunities. Clear and calm ocean water provides good kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling opportunities. In the distance, the Mokulua Islands provide a picture-perfect panorama, making Kailua a beautiful change of scene from Waikiki.
#24. Hapuna Beach, Big Island.
On the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, Hapuna Beach is a much-loved beach for both residents and visitors. And for good reason. It is a half-mile-long expanse of exquisite sands and blue water that’s renowned. Hapuna consistently ranks among the best beaches in the USA. The extra-wide beach provides enough space never to feel crowded, whether sunbathing, walking, swimming, body boarding, or participating in other beach recreation. The crystal clear waters are ideal for beginners and beyond. This is an essential Hawaii beach, to be sure.
Dr. Beach’s top 10 picks head in an entirely different direction.
We’ll await Dr. Beach’s next update which is upcoming this spring. In the meantime, here are his Hawaii top pics among the best beaches in the USA.
#2. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu.
Duke Kahanamoku Beach is named for the renowned Hawaiian surfer and Olympic gold medalist. It is in Waikiki, right by the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the neighboring Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. This golden sand beach has great views of Diamond Head and Waikiki. Gentle waves make this a spot for good swimming and paddle boarding.
#7. Wailea Beach, Maui.
Nearby the Wailea Resort is this beach loved for pristine sand and crystal-clear blue water. With a backdrop of lush greenery and swaying palm trees, this crescent-shaped beach exudes a serene ambiance, making it a sought-after retreat. Offering an array of water activities, from snorkeling among vibrant coral reefs to kayaking along the gentle waves, Wailea Beach caters to both relaxation seekers and adventure enthusiasts. The well-maintained promenade provides a scenic stroll along the shoreline, while upscale resorts and world-class amenities add a touch of luxury to the overall experience. Whether basking in the sun, indulging in water sports, or enjoying the stunning sunset views, Wailea Beach captures the essence of Maui’s tropical allure in a captivating coastal setting.
#9 Poipu Beach, Kauai.
How many of these beaches have you been to?