Our Favorite Beaches

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When you think of summer, and certainly when you think of Hawaii, you probably think of beaches. And so do we! We love the beach. When people visit, they often ask us what’s the best beach to go to. The answer is, it depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the beaches we like to go to and why. This is by no means a list of the top beaches in Hawaii. This is just a list of the beaches we go to most often (mostly on Oahu where we’re based). And we almost never go to the beach on weekends because of the crowds.

Hanauma Bay
If you’re a visitor to Hawaii and have never gone here, go here. This State Park located on the Makapuu Coast about 20 minutes from Waikiki is famous because you can swim with the fish. We’re not talking about fish in a tank. You get to put on your snorkel and fins and swim among hundreds of fish inside a protected reef. You’ll see fish up close, so close you could almost touch them. Check out this video by Viator.com for a quick look at what it’s like to snorkel at Hanauma Bay.

The parking lot fills up early and you need to pay admission to get into the beach but it is worth it. Just make sure you go early to beat the crowd. Take shuttle, cab or Uber it.

Like: Fish!
No Like: Parking

Sherwood Beach

Sherwood Beach sits between Waimanalo Beach and Bellows Airfield Beach.

The beaches along Waimanlo area all beautiful but are often crowded. When we feel like beaching in this area, we like Sherwood Beach which sits right between the popular Waimanalo Beach Park and Bellows Field Beach Park. We avoid this beach and any beach along this coast on particularly windy days since the fine sand is more problematic than the heavier coarser sand at other beaches on Oahu.

Panoramic view of the ocean at Sherwood Beach at around 10am.

Like: Beautiful and relaxing! Great sand and water.
No Like: Sometimes wind can kick up some sand

Lanikai / Kailua / Kalama Beach

Morning at Lanikai Beach

Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach are absolutely gorgeous. But they are so well-known that they can get quite crowded if you go at the wrong time. A good alternative is Kalama Beach nearby because it is way less crowded. Parking is a bit challenging as you probably need to park in the neighborhood and walk across the street to get there. But when you’re there, you have all the beauty and less of a crowd.

Like: Gorgons views, fine sand, nice water
No Like: Parking, sometimes windy

Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park

We love the beach area that sits between Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park and Army Beach.

The North Shore of Oahu is home to many fine beaches so it’s hard to pick one over the other. Recently we’ve been going to a beach area next to Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park. It’s actually a strip of beach between Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park and Army Beach. We don’t know what the name is but that’s where it is. What we like most about this place is that so far, it doesn’t get too crowded, the sand is wide and expansive, and the water is clean and not too rough. It’s a perfect place to relax and get away from the daily stresses of life. If you don’t find parking at the beach parking lot, you can park across the street and walk over.

Like: Not crowded
No Like: Parking is not the most convenient, depending on what part you go to

Papailoa Beach

A turtle rests on the warm sand of Papailoa Beach.

When people think of the North Shore, they usually think of Waimea Bay. That beach is great, especially to watch huge winter surf, but is often too crowded for our tastes. When we’re looking for a little quiet beach time, we go to the less-traveled Papailoa Beach just past Haleiwa Town. There’s not much parking and you can’t see it from the main road. And that’s why we like it. Like many beaches along the North Shore, you’ll probably see some sea turtles cruising around near shore or even resting on the sand.

Like: Not crowded. Turtles. Super relaxing.
No Like: If the small parking area is full, you’ll have to find someplace else to park and walk.

Sand Island

You can see Waikiki and Diamond Head in the distance from Sand Island Beach Park.

Besides the stretch beach from Ala Moana to Waikiki, there aren’t many “town” beaches on Oahu. Ala Moana and Waikiki Beach are always crowded because of their proximity to Waikiki and Ala Moana Shopping Center. So when we don’t feel like venturing too far for some beach time, we head to Sand Island. It may not be as pretty as some of the other beaches on this list, but it is close to town, convenient are usually pretty empty.

Panoramic view at San Island Beach.

Like: Convenient town beach. Not crowded.
No Like: Not as pretty as other beaches, but it works.

Sandy Beach

The famous shore break area of Sandy Beach is in the distance off to the right of this image.

Sandy Beach on the South Shore of Oahu is known for its powerful shore break. It is not a place for novices to folic in the water. But just off to the left things get a little calmer and less crowded. We’ve gone to this beach a few times to relax with a morning cup of coffee and put our feet in the sand and water.

This vacationing couple has prime ocean front seats at Sandy Beach.

Like: Beautiful and relaxing.
No Like: Rough surf can be dangerous for kids (and adults)

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Turtles are coming ashore to rest at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach on Hawaii Island.

The cool thing about this beach on the Big Island of Hawaii is that the sand is black. The black sand is made of tiny granules of lava rock which is a little bit coarser than regular coral sand. Sea turtles often come to shore to rest so that’s another thing you can check out. We like this beach because it is a different experience than your normal white sand beach.

The novelty of the lava rock black sand at Punalu’u Beach will fascinate and bring out the kid in you.

Like: Black sand! Turtles.
No Like: If you go at a popular time, it will be super crowded.

So that’s it. Those are some of the beaches we like to visit for some relaxation. The common theme is to go early and go on a weekday if possible to avoid the crowds. And in general, for every famous and popular beach, there is probably a beach nearby that’s just as good (or nearly so) but much less crowded. Those are the beaches we like.

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