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When you think of Hawaii, chances are you think of stunning beaches. And between Hawaii’s four main islands—Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island—there are more than 100 sandy beaches on this dazzling island chain. Add in the gorgeous coves of the two smaller inhabited islands, Molokai and Lanai, and there’s almost too much tropical expanse to choose from. Finding the best beach in Hawaii means zeroing in on idyllic waters, super-soft sand, and lush green cliffs. However, it also means finding spots you don’t have to share with mobs of tourists. For the luxury traveler looking to escape the city and kick back, there are plenty of untapped beaches that afford you all the relaxation of Hawaii but have the exclusive feel of a private resort. So pack your beach bag, grab a good sunscreen, and start sunning yourself at one of these nine under-the-radar Hawaiian beaches in no time:
Papohaku Beach, Molokai
Known as Three Mile Beach, there’s little risk of running into anyone at this secluded hideaway, and the views are spectacular (with glimmers of Oahu across the Kaiwi Channel). At 38 miles long and 10 miles wide, Molokai is Hawaii’s fifth largest island, and in addition to being fairly remote it also boasts the state’s highest sea cliffs.
Honokahua Bay, Maui
DT Fleming Beach sits on the shores of Honokahua Bay in Maui, and is widely considered one of the most luxurious beaches on the island. With a private entrance leading from the Ritz Carlton Kapalua, rent one of the Ritz Carlton’s beachside cabanas and split your time between your cozy chair on the lawn and the pristine sands. Walk along the Kapalua Coastal Trail directly behind DT Fleming Beach, which brings you to Kapalua Bay, the perfect hidden snorkeling spot.
Makua Beach, Oahu
Makua Beach sits on a relatively isolated stretch of Oahu, guaranteeing there’s rarely a crowd. If the ocean is calm, which it often is in the summer, you might even glimpse a dolphin passing by. In the winter, the current picks up, making it the ideal surf spot. This secluded beach with soft white sand also has some of the best views of Oahu’s radiant sunsets.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Hanalei Bay is cradled by a shaded, mountain-lined stretch of coast. The tropical slopes, gold sand, and glistening turquoise Kauai waters are hard to match, especially when you have the unspoiled beach almost entirely to yourself. You’ll find the beach from Hanalei Colony Resort, nestled below the north shore mountains in Kauai.
Polihua Beach, Lanai
Polihua Beach on Lanai has water clear enough to see fish (and maybe even a turtle or whale), plush sand, and shaded areas for when you need a good post-snorkel nap. Lanai is the smallest inhabited Hawaiian island, and one of the most exclusive. From the beaches along the north coast, you can see Molokai and Maui.
Kuana’oa Beach, the Big Island
One of the most luxurious beaches on the Big Island, Kuana’oa Beach is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Situated along the Kohala coast of the Big Island, this white sand beach has dramatic rocks skirting the perimeter. Guests of Mauna Kea Resort get first priority, and the tiny parking lot keeps crowds to a minimum. Be warned, though: If you aren’t a resort guest, and get there later in the day, you may be turned away.
Paako Beach, Maui
Also known as “Secret Cove,” the lava-walled Paako Beach in Makena on Maui is well regarded among the locals for its hidden beauty. Known as a romantic spot for wedding ceremonies, while the beach is serene, the waves are more energetic than you might think, so swim with caution.
Papa’iloa Beach, Oahu
One of the best places to spot sea turtles on Oahu, and a Lost filming location, it’s surprising that Papa’iloa Beach doesn’t draw more of a crowd. The north shores of Oahu are known for their huge waves and pristine beaches, and Papa’iloa lives up to this reputation. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter a basking Hawaiian Monk Seal.
Kauapea Beach, Kauai
Not to be confused with “Secret Cove,” Kauapea Beach in Kauai is known as “Secret Beach,” mainly because it’s hard to find. The blink-and-you-miss-it spot on the north shore of Kauai is accessible from the Red Sea Cliff Trail, which is a 15-minute hike. Once on the beach, you’re surrounded by high cliff walls and, since the hike deters most tourists, you won’t have to share the beach—or the view of Kilauea lighthouse—with more than a few people.