Misty mountains and volcanoes rise up from the sea, whales breach offshore, and that hang-loose Hawaiian vibe is present everywhere -- from ramshackle surf towns to even the most lavish hotels. There's simply so much to do here: Get your adrenaline flowing by riding the waves on Oahu, take a scenic hike along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, or kick back just about anywhere on the beach.
Black lava rocks jut out from this sandy nook on the island's southwest coast to create a lagoon of calm azure water. Bring a beach chair, set it in the shallow surf, and let the gentle waves wash over your feet. From your perch you can see Kahoolawe, an uninhabited island that locals are fighting to preserve.
How to get there: Drive south along the west-coast section of State Highway 31, passing through Kihei and Wailea-Makena. Secret Beach is just south of Makena State Park.
If you're craving some R&R, Molokai -- one of the most untouched Hawaiian Islands -- is just the ticket. And as far as beaches go, Papohaku, located on the west coast, is its crown jewel, a sublime white-sand beauty that seems to go on for days. The swells can be epic at times, so take care if you decide to take a dip.
How to get there: Follow Mauna Loa Highway (Hwy 460) due west, then take a right onto Kailua Koi Road, which will lead you to the coast.
White-sand beaches, though beautiful, are common in Hawaii. For a change of pace, seek out this southeastern spot where the sand comes in a striking shade of black thanks to lava-rock fragments. Even cooler? In the afternoons, green sea turtles belly up along the shoreline to catch some rays.
How to get there: Head east of Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy 11), between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the town of Naalehu.
Oahu is by far Hawaii's most popular island, but secluded Malaekahana is worlds away from the high-rises of Waikiki Beach. Turquoise water laps the sandy shore, and an uninhabited island with three more beaches sits right offshore -- close enough to wade to.
How to get there: Drive north along the east coast on Kamehameha Highway (Hwy 83). Go 0.6 miles past the town of Laie; the beach will be on your right.
This half-moon spit of sand (its name means "lei-shaped") is the stuff of dreams. It stretches for two uninterrupted miles along the north coast and has bright-blue water and a picturesque pier. The green peaks of nearby mountains provide a spectacular backdrop. Come here to fish alongside the locals, catch waves, or do nothing but enjoy the scenery.
How to get there: Follow Kuhio Highway (Hwy 560) west along the north coast. Pass Princeville, cross the Hanalei Bridge, then take a right on Aku Road and another right on Weke Road.
Though this north-coast stunner sits dramatically at the foot of the Waianae Mountain Range, it's most loved for what's under the sea: a gorgeous reef full of parrotfish, wrasse, and even reef sharks. Bring your snorkel gear!
How to get there: Drive west along the north coast on Kuhio Highway (Hwy 560). Go 1.1 miles past the Hanalei Colony Resort, and there you'll find the beach.
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