What makes Hawaii beaches so enjoyable is not just their world-renowned beauty, it’s their diversity as well. There are surfing beaches like Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach; swimming beaches like Kailua and Kapalua; snorkeling beaches like Hanauma Bay; and bodyboarding beaches such as Kapuna and Hanalei.
But the diversity is not just defined by the variety of activities on Hawaii beaches; there are also the incredible backdrops — cliffs covered with deep green vegetation, colorful reefs and fish, sandy beaches in various colors (golden, white, black, green), black jutting lava, and tropical plants and trees that you only find in Hawaii. In our international travels, we have not seen anything as interesting and beautiful as Hawaii beaches.
The Hawaiian Islands have four distinct coastal areas — north shore, south shore, leeward (west) coast and windward (east) coast — each of which has its own peculiar water conditions. The conditions can vary significantly with the season but when it’s rough on one side, it’s generally calm on another, so you can find perfect conditions for swimming and other activities all year round. As a general rule, the best Hawaii beaches to swim in the winter are along the south shores of the islands, and in the summer, the north shores.
Which island has the best Hawaii beaches is a matter of opinion — many people argue it is Maui and Oahu. Maui’s Kaanapali Coast and the southern and windward shores of Oahu are particularly inviting. The world famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is one of the best swimming spots, but locals generally prefer nearby Sans Souci. On Oahu’s windward side both Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach offer beautiful, clear water without the crowds you find at Waikiki Beach.
If you’re into surfing, winter months are the best, especially the Christmas season at Oahu’s North Shore, otherwise the summer (July – August) has the best water condition for swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing and scuba diving. However, be aware that some beaches have seasonal high surf in summer.
In contrast to the mile-long beaches that you find on Oahu and Maui, The Big Island has many small picture-perfect sandy pockets surrounded by black lava and turquoise water.
Hawaii Beaches are busiest in winter (Dec – Feb), mainly because of the weather elsewhere. June to October is the hottest beach weather with December to March the wettest. The average temperatures are more or less the same winter and summer.