One of the most underrated facts about Hawaii’s land is that all of its beaches are free—some of them are even secret to the islands.
Though it’s easy enough to lay down a towel on the manmade beaches of Waikiki, there are a number of shorelines that rarely ever see a crowd. Most of these beaches are remote, so remember to pack some quintessential Hawaiian snacks, a good deal of Maui Babe sunscreen, and enough drinking water to properly enjoy an afternoon at one of these local gems.
8. Mokule’ia Beach Park
You wouldn’t imagine that this lonely beach is located just outside of Waikiki. The sand is incredibly soft, making it a perfect place to lay down for an afternoon. You’ll have to be a strong swimmer to take on these waters, though, as the strong winds manipulate the current. This is part of the reason the beach is so empty for most of the week. On weekends, however, locals come by to spend the day gazing up at the planes casting off from the Dillingham Airfield nearby. Any other day, you can stop by to lounge around and watch the kitesurfers in the distance, while knowing that you’re very likely to have the whole beach to yourself. For the film buffs, this is also the site from the pilot of the LOST series, sending fans down memory lane as they walk down the shoreline.
7. Halona Beach Cove
Like something out of a desktop screensaver, Halona Beach Cove is a gem of a find. In terms of sand, the real estate is not very large, but what’s available is perfectly enchanting. There’s something to do for everyone here. The water and marine life is prime for snorkeling, and it’s a perfectly safe place to swim around and relax. For the thrill-seekers, you can follow the locals climbing up the rocks, venturing into nearby caves, and jumping off the rocks. For the observers, there’s also a blowhole viewable on the other side for those who decide to relax on the beach for the day. And, for the Adam Sandler fans out there, this was also the site of his memorable dream scene in 50 First Dates.
6. Waipi’o Black Sand Beach
They used to call this area the “Valley of the Kings,” denoting its long history of royal estates and population that once inhabited the area. Surrounded by lush rainforests and majestic waterfalls, Waipi’o beach sometimes gets overlooked as a place to visit. With not many people living in the area and most of the land being privately owned, the black-sand beach is usually fairly deserted and a wonderful respite from the tourist trail. Wild horses roam freely in this sacred land, which is filled with culturally-protected areas from a Hawaii of many centuries ago. Just a short hike from the Waipi’o Valley lookout, it’s easy to understand why Hawaiian royalty spent their days here.
5. Kapukahehu Beach
Known as Dixie Maru Beach after the Japanese shipwreck nearby, Kapukahehu is a great, secluded beach to spend the day lazying about. This shoreline on the west side of Molokai offers some very calm waters with almost no waves—a rarity in the Hawaiian islands. If you want to go for a swim without having to catch your breath, this is the place to do it. The beach itself is protected by the nearby reef, allowing for more relaxed tides. There are shells scattered along the coast, ripe and ready for inspection and collection. If that’s not enough to entice a visit, we should mention that Hawaii’s treasured monk seals also choose this spot as a place to relax.
4. Polihua Beach
On a clear day, you can see the top of Diamond Head Crater from your chosen spot at Polihua Beach on the island of Lana‘i. The tough roads require four-wheel drive and discourage most people from visiting. But the difficulty in getting here makes it all the more relaxing once you arrive on the pristine beach. Swimming isn’t recommended and it’s probably best left to the wild animals that frequent the area. Because of the Molokai channel nearby, you can see sea turtles, tiger sharks, and even whales. It’s easy to sit back and enjoy the two miles of sand with views like Molokai on the horizon.
3. Papohaku Beach Park
Walking down the beach at Papohaku almost feels like a rugged workout. The white sand is so fine and soft that you sink a bit with every step. And maybe that’s all the better. It forces you to enjoy the moments a bit more and to slow down. Like many of Hawaii’s secret beaches, the water is also rough, but it’s a small price to pay for an unspoiled stretch of wide beach. The sand here is so special that it was once mined to fill up the tourist beaches of O‘ahu. Unlike the more popular beaches, however, the sand here can be very loose and unpacked. On a very windy day, prepare yourself for some unprecedented exfoliation. But, if you can tolerate the winds, you’ll be rewarded with waves that you can contemplate for hours, as well as a view of Honolulu’s lights twinkling in the distance at night that are pretty mesmerizing.
2. Kekaha Beach
With a clear view of Ni‘ihau, Hawaii’s “Forbidden Island,” in the distance, one could spend all day imagining what life could possibly be like there. Kekaha is very much a locals’ beach with barbecue pits and picnic tables for weekenders to enjoy. People-watching is a treasured activity on this stretch of sand; as is the surfing that goes on in the water. If you don’t have a board or a fin, it’s also a great place for finding yourself a large patch of sand and enjoying the sun’s rays. It’s also one of the best places to end any day. Pick up dinner to go and park up next to the beach to catch the sunset and maybe even befriend a few locals.
1. Makua Beach
Locally known as Tunnels Beach, the environment here is fantastic for all kinds of fun. Most visitors will miss the entrance completely, as it is hard to find and the sign to the beach is tiny—as if on purpose. The beach can be found between Yokohama and Makaha beach, so if you’ve passed both, you know you’ve missed it. There’s so much exploring to be done on Makua. The tide pools are perfect for a lazy afternoon or for families with small children. The beach also offers some cliffs to dive off of and a decent reef for snorkeling. Some dolphin encounters have even been reported. Another insider secret? Take a walk to the caves and you’ll find one with a tide pool inside. Is there any better place to cool off on a hot afternoon?