Hawaii has more than 750 miles of coastline, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. When a state is made up of seven populated islands—and more than a hundred unpopulated ones—there are miles and miles of beaches that are off the beaten path.
Many would be packed if only they were easier to get to, but the ruggedness of the volcanoes and the lushness of the tropical rainforests make some of the best beaches only accessible by four-wheel-drive or by hike.
Pololu Valley Beach
A short, 30-minute hike along the Awini Trail leads to Pololu Valley Beach. The current is swift and sometimes there are Portuguese Man-O-Wars, so swimming is out. The black sand, stunning emerald ground cover and gorgeous vistas make it totally worth the hike that's steep in places while offering beautiful views of the beach from above.
New Kaimu Beach
New Kaimu Beach really is new—it's less than 20 years old. This black beach was formed when the Kilauea volcano erupted and buried the town of Kaimu under lava in 1990. The beach was a a famous attraction before the eruption when people came to relax on the black sands. It was one of Hawaii's most photographed beaches.
Now, it's beautiful but in a more rugged, different way. The sandy beaches are gone, as are the homes and trees nearby and locals are planting coconut trees to restore those that were destroyed.
Haena Beach on Kauai is almost the textbook definition of a tropical paradise. Mount Makana and its tropical jungles gives way to a white sandy beach and turquoise water. This beach may not be secluded for part of the year—it's a favorite campground and is popular with surfers. There are sudden drop-offs and the waves can be strong, even for Hawaii, so swimming isn't the best idea. The sunsets here are spectacular and it's a great beach for exploring.
Once upon a time, Waipio was home to Hawaii's royalty. The beach is at the edge of a valley that is about one-mile wide and six-miles deep with steep canyon walls that rise up on either side.
Get to the beach either by a narrow, steep road that is only accessible with a four-wheel-drive or by walking. During winter months, wave breaks make it a popular surfing area and a place to watch humpback whales swim past.
You'll have to work to get to this beach, but it's worth it. It's about a 20-minute hike—unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. With a dramatic mix of white sand and black lava rocks, this beach has some of the most extensive sand dunes around.
The best place to swim is the largest inlet; there are several coves along this stretch of shoreline. After exploring the beach, visit the nearby 12-acre Opaeula Pond, a bird sanctuary that is home to endangered birds as well as ducks, doves, sparrows and cardinals.
One of the most picturesque beaches on Hawaii Island, Honomalino Beach is only accessible by foot. It's an easy hike that is about 1.5 miles round trip through rainforest and over lava flows. The hike takes you through private property via public easement, so make sure to stay on the well-marked trails. It's next to one of the oldest fishing villages on the island, Milolii. Once on this quiet beach, keep an eye out for dolphins who frequently swim in the bay.