It’s no spoiler that Hawaii has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches. With over 750 miles of combined coastline, narrowing down a place to lay out your beach blanket isn’t easy. Sure, it wouldn’t be the worst vacation ever if you had to try each one. (You really can’t go wrong.) But if you want to skip the runaround and get the most out of your postwedding getaway, head straight to these favorites—each with something unique to offer.
1. Waimea Bay Beach Park, Oahu
Locals here refer to the months spanning November to February as “Big Wave Season” for a reason—the swells in Waimea Bay can top 20 feet. Join the crowds on land (you’ll come here for the scene and not for the solitude) to watch legendary surfers ride them to shore. In the summer months, feel free to wade in yourselves when the waters are much more tranquil.
2. Waikiki Beach, Oahu
With so much to do at this world-famous playground, why not spend the night here to take advantage of it all? There are plenty of hotels, plus many dining and nightlife options for sipping mai tais or sampling Hawaiian cuisine. During the day, take a surf lesson in the very same spot where waterman Duke Kahanamoku became an icon or hop in an outrigger canoe and set sail toward Diamond Head in the distance. Or even watch a hula show.
3. Hanauma Bay, Oahu
If underwater sightseeing is on your list, grab your snorkeling or diving gear and head to Hanauma Bay. This bay, which is actually a former volcanic crater, is home to more than 300 species of native fish and offers the perfect conditions for spotting them. The crescent shape acts like a shield, resulting in calm waters that allow for amazing visibility. Arrive early for the best conditions and to avoid the inevitable crowds. Also note that the spot is closed on Tuesdays to allow the fish a day off. (Hey, they deserve a vacay, too!)
4. Lanikai Beach, Oahu
The name Lanikai means “heavenly sea,” and we couldn’t agree more. One of the best swimming destinations on the island, this hidden gem has everything you’d picture a Hawaiian beach to have: powdery sand, clear waters and coconut palms swaying in the gentle tradewinds.
5. Makena Beach, Maui
With a shoreline that stretches over a mile and a half long and 100 yards wide, the aptly nicknamed “Big Beach” offers plenty of room for spreading out your blanket. Swim in the turquoise waters during the calm surf or watch bodyboarders ride the famously large shorebreak when the swell picks up. Looking for a place to spend the whole day? With trees offering just the right amount of shade, picnic tables and restrooms, this beach is perfect for all-day lounging.
6. Wailea Beach, Maui
A favorite among celebs like Matt Damon, Jennifer Garner and Megan Fox, this picturesque expanse of sand is rated one of the best beaches on Maui and one of the top beaches in the world. Backed by luxe resorts such as the Four Seasons and the Grand Wailea, the (occasionally crowded) crescent shoreline offers up a swimming Eden, with calm waters and a nice, sandy bottom. And when you want to feel like a star yourself (it is your honeymoon, after all!), you can visit the amazing shops, restaurants and spa options that are all within walking distance.
7. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Hawaii
Although there are several black sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii, Punalu’u Beach is the most popular—mainly due to its accessibility. Take in the unforgettable sight of the shiny, black sand (made up of ground lava rocks) and count the sea turtles basking in the sun along the coast. Feeling adventurous? Take a dip in the nearby freshwater pond.
8. Papakolea Beach (AKA Green Sand Beach), Big Island
Here’s a trek that’s totally worth it: the three-mile hike to Papakolea. You’ll arrive to a rugged shoreline of olive green sand that is completely unique (it’s one of only four green sand beaches in the world). The glistening sand gets its color from olivine crystals eroding off the cinder cone of Pu’u Mahana, a 49,000-year-old volcano on Mauna Loa.
9. Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Majestic 4,000-foot green mountains are the backdrop to what some say is the most picturesque beach in all of Hawaii. This destination also happens to be great for surfing, except during the summer months when the water is placid. Beginner surfers hang by the pier to catch knee- to chest-high waves, while advanced surfers head out to the Bowl or “middles.” Swim, surf or just take in the sights—Hanalei has a little something for everyone.
10. Poipu Beach Park, Kauai
You’re looking for calm waters. Your other half? Waves. Have the best of both worlds at Poipu Beach Park. Technically, this is two beaches in one, separated by a tombolo (a fancy name for a sandbar). The eastern side is ideal for taking a dip, while the western side is favored by surfers and snorkelers. You’ll also likely spot an endangered Hawaiian monk seal sunbathing on the shore. With only 1,200 remaining, it’s a pretty awesome sight.
11. Papohaku Beach, Molokai
Although not as popular as Oahu, Maui and Kauai, Molokai still offers plenty to do, especially on a day trip. While there, you’ll want to check out Papohaku Beach. Also known as Three Mile Beach, it’s the ideal distance for a romantic stroll—hand in hand, of course.