Ready for some serious sandcastle time? You’ve come to the right place. Hawaii has over 750 miles of amazing white, gold, green, black and red sand beaches. Here are some of the very best beaches for bubs on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii (the Big Island). Use the tips below to find your own perfect playground.
Ka’anapali Beach, Maui
For a great first time beach experience on Maui, Ka’anapali Beach has everything you could want and more. Three miles of golden sand, a stroller-ready boardwalk, enough space to stake out a place of your own plus showers, gear rental shops and great people watching. Parking, dining and shopping are just steps away at Whalers Village Mall. Come by the Sheraton Maui at sundown where an ancient Hawaiian tradition is recreated every night. A diver lights torches on the way to the top of Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock), then leaps from the cliff top into the sea.
Hanauma Bay – Oahu
Waikiki Beach is tempting if your hotel is within walking distance. If not, consider a short drive to Hanauma Bay, voted Best Beach in the USA for 2016 by Dr. Beaches. This sheltered volcanic cove and marine preserve offers a creamy beach that bubs will love and outstanding snorkeling for parents and older kids (snorkel rentals available). Buy an all-day pass on the tram to get up and down the hillside. Use it to take a break and enjoy the U of Hawaii exploration center at the top. The fascinating displays of ocean life are a great introduction to the beach below. On Highway 72, 10 miles east of Waikiki. Arrive early as the parking lot fills up fast. Adults $7.50; children under 13 free.
Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Hanalei Bay is made up of four beaches that attract local and world class surfers. it’s exceptionally picturesque, even by Hawaiian standards, with a historic pier and a ring of emerald mountains. Scenes from The Descendants were filmed here. Wai’oli Beach, located at the midway point of the bay, has an additional name, Pine Tree Beach. Rumour has it that the sand at Pine Tree is ideal for sandcastles, though all the beaches here are certainly pail and shovel-worthy. There are showers, picnic tables and ironwood trees for shade, but swimming is not recommended. Take Highway 56 from Princeville to Aku Road, turn left on Weke Road then right on Hee Road for free parking.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Hawaii, the Big Island
Madam Pele, the volcano goddess, has laid out a beautiful ebony welcome mat at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. The ocean churns itself into creamy foam along the rocky shoreline of this otherworldly black beach ringed with lanky green palms. There’s no swimming but toddlers will love the unusual sand and the turtles who come to sunbathe on the warm shore. Look but don’t touch, of course. Drive south on Highway 11. Near Mile Marker 56 turn right and drive 1.2 miles to the beach. Ample parking, modern restrooms, easy beach access.
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, Hawaii, the Big Island
White sand and turquoise water frame this half-mile long west-facing beach. This is the perfect place to take family vacation photos, especially with a classic Hawaiian sunset as the backdrop. It’s very popular on weekends so arrive early to get a good parking spot. Lifeguards are on duty during peak hours. Located 30 miles north of Kailua-Kona. Turn left at mile marker 69 off Highway 19. Parking is $5; there’s a snack bar, picnic tables and showers.
Tips for First Time Ocean-Goers:
Stop – Got everything?
Bring everything you need from the car after you park. Going back for sunscreen, water or diapers means one less person to watch the kids, or everyone has to trek back to the car together (not fun).
If you have time, freeze bottles of water and bags of grapes the night before and pop them in your cooler. Sort snacks and sandwiches into individual plastic bags so you won’t wind up with real “sand”wiches if your picnic basket tips over.
Instead of towels or blankets, pick up extra-large size bamboo mats to sit on at Walmart or most drugstores. They’re cheap, light, fold up small and sand falls off them like magic.
Instead of an umbrella, consider a pop up sun shelter that’s easier to anchor.
Many condos and hotels lend out mats, coolers and beach toys. Ask about them before you invest in your own.
Look – Get to know your Beach
Take a minute to notice if the tide is going in or out and read the beach safety notices.
Stake out your spot well away from the shoreline. The best places to set up camp are where the local folks are, or next to the lifeguard station.
Plan to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon. There’s more parking and a better choice of shady spots to hang out. Plus, you’re out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Listen – A life might depend on it
Introduce yourselves to the lifeguard. They are experts on their beaches. Although your toddlers won’t be going swimming, one of your family members might like to take a dip, and they’ll want to know about jellyfish, riptides and the best snorkeling spots. The lifeguard can tell you if there are any dangerous shore breaks in the area.
If there’s no lifeguard, ask other swimmers if they’ve heard of any problems.
Remember that the ocean is extremely powerful and unpredictable. Rogue waves at shore breaks can easily wash people right off the beach.
Follow your kids every minute and stick to recommended areas even if they just want to get their toes wet. And, of course, never turn your back on the sea.