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As an island chain, Hawaii is home to hundreds of beaches, each with its own set of unique qualities. What makes one beach great for surfers doesn’t necessarily make for a perfect family destination or vacationers looking to relax on the shore.

We thought we could help narrow down the search for your own perfect beach.


Vacationers love Hapuna Beach, located just north of Kona. The beach has a long stretch of soft sand that leads to clear Pacific water. Swimming conditions are usually excellent here, and skilled snorkelers can go nearly a mile down the coast to reach Wailea Bay. Lush, beautiful greenery surrounds the expansive beach, which becomes nearly 200 feet wide during the summer months, plenty of room to play.


Located just south of Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) in the Keauhou area, Kahaluu Beach is known for honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) that frequent its shores. This is one of the best snorkeling beaches in the world and a fantastic beach to learn snorkeling and surfing.


Located on Kua Bay in Kona, Maniniowali Beach is sometimes called “The Caribbean of Hawaii,” because of its fine white-sand beaches that gently slope toward the crystal-clear Pacific. The crescent-shaped beach is one of the best places for swimming where the water is calm, usually during the morning hours. The surf can get rough, however, during which time inexperienced swimmers should look for a calmer, more protected beach. Maniniowali also is a favorite destination for bodyboarders and snorkelers, the latter of whom look forward to seeing sea turtles and tropical fish in the underwater boulders and coral


This northern beach is just as picturesque and tranquil as the nearby Maniniowali Beach, but because the only way to access Makalawena is via a 20-minute hike across an unpaved lava path, you will often find yourself almost alone on this beach. In this case, it pays to get “off the beaten path,” as Makalawena is one of the Big Island’s most spectacular beaches, with powder soft sand and water so clear shimmering water in bright sunshine. Makalawena is perfect for swimming and sunbathing, while shallow coral reefs just offshore provide a perfect destination for exploring colorful underwater caves, coral and sea arches.


Located on the southern portion of Kawaihae Bay, Waialea Bay is one of the island’s most popular beaches, though it is not particularly easy to access. The beach itself actually erodes due to strong surf in the winter months, so the best time to visit is during the summer when it is pristine. The bay’s diversity of marine life is among the best in all of Kawaihae Bay, making it a favorite site for snorkel and scuba activities. The sand gently slopes into the water, making conditions near-perfect for swimmers and families with young children. Soft sand, tide pools and shady trees make Waialea Bay feel even more like a private retreat.