hawaii secret beaches

Head to the smaller island of Lanai for some truly striking stretches of beach. (Photo: Getty Images)


Please Don’t Tell: Hawaii’s Secret Beaches Are Closer Than You Think

Mega-celebs like Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry and Celine Dion own private islands — a luxury far beyond the budget for most of us mere mortals. Luckily, in Hawaii, even the non-famous can slip away to a gorgeous, unpopulated beach.

The state boasts 750 miles of coastline, and while some beaches are busy enough that they’ve become household names — Waikiki, Sunset Beach — there are still plenty of secluded sand oases to discover. And thanks to Hawaii’s generous access laws, all of the beaches are public.

A few words for the savvy traveler: Just because a beach is public doesn’t mean the land around it is, so respect signage. Remember, too, that more secluded beaches may not have lifeguards, restrooms or access to the ubiquitous ABC convenience stores, so be careful swimming and plan accordingly. As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Now, grab your slippahs (Island-speak for flip-flops) and let’s go!

hawaii secret beaches
Drive into Ahupuaa O Kahana State Park en route to a glorious beach. (Photo: Getty Images)


Most people drive right by Ahupuaa O Kahana State Park, on the windward side of Oahu, but there’s a serene crescent beach tucked in on Kahana Bay, perfect for a picnic. It’s surrounded by the lush Koolau Mountains, towering toward the sky, and has plenty of trees for shade. Across the road, the park has hiking trails, taking you through an ahupua’a, or mountain-to-sea zone vital for the Native Hawaiian way of life.

For a secluded beach on the west side of Oahu, Makua Beach is the ticket. The few visitors who come here will find a white stretch of sand, stunning sunsets and strong waves, making for excellent surfing in the winter months. There are also tide pools, and you can frequently spot dolphins offshore during morning hours.

hawaii secret beaches
Explore Kauai’s rugged shores. (Photo: Getty Images)


Kauai has a relaxed country vibe overall, but you can truly get away from it all on Mahaulepu Beach. A quiet sanctuary on Kauai’s South Shore, this unspoiled beach is reached via a slow drive down a historic sugar cane hauling road.

The rugged area is a habitat for monk seals, sea turtles and other endangered animals and has a coastal heritage hiking trail, too, if you’re feeling ambitious enough to rise off the cushy beach towel. Hmm, it’s a toss-up.


With aquamarine waters and exceptional whale watching — yes, even from the shore — Maui has some of the best beaches in Hawaii. Ditch the crowds at Poolenalena Beach, aka Paipu Beach, which has incredible sunsets and superb snorkeling. Insider’s tip: Go during the week, not weekend, for even more privacy.

Maui County also includes the lesser-visited islands of Molokai and Lanai, both of which have glorious beaches. On Molokai, Kawakiu Beach, on the north side, is ideal for those seeking solitude — and a splendid natural wading pool. This beach is accessible via a 45-minute hike. Stay south for the main beach, but for even more isolation, walk to the northern part of this stunning paradise.

hawaii secret beaches
Off-roading will get you to some amazing coastline. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you like your beaches on the wilder side, Lanai’s Polihua Beach has breathtaking views and untouched beauty. It can only be reached via a four-wheel-drive vehicle — bumpin’ and grindin’ along a very rough road. The ocean currents are strong here, so this beach is best for strolls, picnics and turtle-spotting.

Hawaii Island

True, you have to work a bit to reach Makalawena Beach on the North Kona Coast. It’s accessible via a 20-minute, hot hike from Kekaha Kai Beach, so bring plenty of water and sturdy shoes for this beach getaway. But upon arrival … whoa, this spot is breathtaking: Picture turquoise water tickling a white sand beach, punctuated by lava rocks.

No matter which beaches you ultimately decide to visit while you’re in Hawaii, it’s hard to go wrong. So kick back, relax and savor the view.