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Visitors and Experts Dispute List of Hawaii’s Best Beaches

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

Kaanapali Beach

#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.

Hanalei Bay Beach

#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.

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Hookipa Beach

#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.

Lanikai Beach Oahu
Lanikai Beach

#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.

poipu beach park
Poipu Beach

#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.

Best Beaches in Hawaii | Napili Beach
Napili Beach

#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.

Kailua Beach

#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.

Hapuna Beach #1 Beach in U.S.
Hapuna Beach

#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?

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17 thoughts on “Visitors and Experts Dispute List of Hawaii’s Best Beaches”

  1. For myself, Waikiki is hard to beat, beautiful beach, not a lot of coral, all the amenities, dining, hotels w/o the need for a Weekly Rental and Parking. To Maui, though much of my business was in Lahaina and Kaanapali, I preferred both Wailea Beach and D.T.Fleming in Kapalua. To Kauai, Poipu was our choice from the Stouffer Waiohai in ‘86 through the Grand Hyatt Poipu in the new millennia.

  2. These are predictable lists from travel writers, pretty standard and expected. We’ve been coming to Hawaii for years and have our own favorites, thankfully not on these lists. Our fav is on Maui. Bottom line is who can argue with any of these places? Sun, surf and Hawaii vibe can’t be beat🤙

  3. “Best beaches” is a very personal and subjective list. I agree that the beaches mentioned by both are beautiful. Some like much more intimate and pristine locations though. So I’ll just let those lists stand as is, and keep the intimate pristine locations to myself and Ohana locals. 😉

  4. The best beaches on BI have limited access first come first serve (25 cars only) White sand, bathroom facilities, a trash can, shade available, whale sightings, and snorkeling. “Secret Beaches” can be found with a little research on Google Earth.

  5. I travel every year. My favorite beaches are Ala Moana Park (any area), Lanikai beach and any beach on North Shore. If I’m on the Big Island, I like Hapuna beach. Thanks

  6. 1. Slaughterhouse Beach (Mokuleʻia Beach), is a sand beach in Maui, Hawaii. It’s considered one of the best places to snorkel on Maui a protected reef with lots of aquatic life. In the summer, the ocean is usually calm, making it a good place for swimming, snorkeling, and body surfing this is a plus !

    2. Hamoa Beach Hana , Maui
    is a popular surf break, It’s also a great place for swimming and snorkeling, especially in the summer and fall. Body surfing this is a plus !

    3. Maui’s Kaʻanapali Beach Black Rock area Fronting Kāʻanapali’s hotels and resorts, whale watching too !

  7. I think most people take “lists” with a grain of salt – although it is fun to have a favorite included. My takeaway is that most beaches in Hawaii are paradisiacal. To us it depends on the mood of the day, and at that moment the beach you chose is always number one. On another note, and no doubt BOH is aware, the NYT list of 52 places to go in 2024 includes … drum roll … Maui at number five. Doesn’t look like a pity pitch to visit the island. Just a reminder that beyond the tragedy good still beckons, and even better good if you care to participate in the recovery. We did. We were greeted like kama-aina and had one of our best visits in memory.

  8. Waikiki was GREAT — at least in the ’50s … but my top 2 now?? My iconoclast list:

    1st place: Bellows Beach, Bellows Air Force Station, Oahu … weekdays the beach is practically empty yet has plenty of amenities (food, parking, restrooms, showers, simple basic lodging) — hearkens back to life in the slo-o-o-o-o-www lane .. da’ kine’ 50s style …

    2nd place: Kahana Bay Beach Park, North Shore, Oahu … once again, deserted during the weekdays … see where I’m going here?? Away from the maddening crowds and the “rush” of modern-day “touristy” and/or large weekend groups of locals.

    Disclaimer: Bellows may cost you — i.e., approximately 20 years of your life … (smiles)

  9. Beaches. We are Blessed to have been to any of them. Favorites should be kept a secret, and only shared with loved ones. Expert, no such thing, ex is a “has been” and a spert is just ” a drip caught under pressure”.
    Best Beach, ” Love the one your with” and take your trash home with you.

  10. I absolutely love these types of lists. Why? Because mainlanders eat these lists up. The reality is that they are often the worst beaches due to them being overcrowded, lack of parking, and the majority of visitors are tourists.

    The best beaches are the ones that never get mentioned. IYKYK

  11. As a former resident of the Big Island, I’ve been to some of the beaches featured. However, aside from Hapuna Beach, my favs were the secluded beaches n coves where the locals went and some lucky tourists found by accident. One of my favs back in the 80′ s was Beach 69 or Walea bay just south of Hapuna. Back then it was accesible by a rocky dirt road with no amenities. It was never crowded and perfect for camping. The coral reef was amazing full of green sea turtles and colorful reef fish. Aloha Nui Loa.

  12. I’ve been to all the wonderful beaches named in your thoughtful article. To me, the #1 beach in the State of Hawaii is Hanalei Bay…calm, clear water and scenery wherever you turn. Being on that beach is like being in a postcard.

    One beach that was not mentioned is Keawakapu, in Kihei on Maui. By far, my favorite beach on the island. Not nearly as crowded as the Kam beaches, but offers perfect sand, water and scenery.

  13. Over all these years I can say that I have been to all of them, and a few, many times. Not everyone will agree with me on this, but in my opinion Hanalei Bay Beach and the historic Pier, is in my opinion today the most beautiful and ironic beach in Hawaii, and yes perhaps the world! It’s especially very unique in this day of over development of iconic beach property around the world and especially in the United States. I would also add that Lumahai Beach on Kauai is one of my favorites. You can’t swim there, it’s too dangerous, but it has spectacular waves and an awesome picturesque setting and scenery!!!

  14. My top 3 are:
    1. Lanakai has calm pristinely clear water!
    2. Hanalei Bay Beach is the most picturesque!
    3. Hapuna Beach is My Absolute Favorite…simply breathtaking!

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