Hawaii beach vacation tips​

It is no coincidence that the Hawaiian Islands are a bucket list place for many. Probably there is no other spot on the planet that offers more things to do for water and nature lovers that this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. On a Hawaii beach vacation, you will experience impressive natural scenery featuring breath-taking beaches, active volcanoes and unique tropical flora and fauna. Hawaii is definitely a destination that can make all your holiday dreams a reality and create memories that last a lifetime.

Hawaii beach vacation guide contents

Hawaii quick info guide

Language: English, Hawaiian

Capital city: Honolulu

Currency: USD

Visa: Hawaii belongs to the US (it is the southernmost and only island state) meaning that the visa rules are the same as in the United States. US citizens and legal residents can travel to Hawaii with a photo ID issued by the government. Australia and New Zealand citizens, moreover most European passport holders are eligible to travel on ESTA through the VWP Visa Waiver Program and can stay in Hawaii up to 90 days. The application for this program must be completed at least 72 hours before the departure date.

Those who cannot apply for an ESTA need to get a tourist visa. The up-to-date entry conditions please check with your local US Embassy or consulate before departing for your Hawaii beach vacation.

Safety: Visitors don’t need to worry much about the crime in the Hawaiian Islands since the safety level is good and tourists generally feel at ease during their vacation. However, common crimes can occur such as pickpocketing and theft from cars. Therefore, visitors should stay alert and apply obvious precautions for example avoiding deserted areas, carrying valuables on the street or leaving expensive equipment in the rental car.

Another factor that is important regarding safety is the weather, especially the wave conditions. Being known as one of the best surfing locales of the world, strong currents and high seas can happen any time of the year making the beaches unsafe. To stay safe always follow the warnings and lifeguards’ instructions. Moreover, Hawaii is notorious for its sunburns too, so don’t forget to protect your skin against the harmful ultraviolet radiation wearing UV protective clothing and/or high-SPF ocean safe sunscreen.

Hawaii beach vacation quick info

Why is Hawaii perfect for a beach vacation?

It is difficult to decide that the gorgeous scenery or the famous Aloha spirit make the Hawaiian archipelago (that consists of 137 islands altogether) one of the world’s top holiday destination, but it is indisputable that a Hawaii beach vacation offers ideal conditions to relax and reconnect with nature.

The state has more than 750 miles (1200 km) coastline and Hawaii beaches are worthily some of the best in the world. As a world-class surf, scuba, snorkel and fishing destinations, the list of water activities is endless and so are the land attractions.

Impressive Hawaii Coastline

The 6 main Hawaiian Islands are Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Big Island, Molokai and Lanai that all have a different, unique character:

Oahu: features big city life with the capital city of Honolulu’s attractions, five-star accommodations and nightlife.

Maui: it has a more laid-back atmosphere with scenic drives through lush valleys that extend from the West Mountains to Haleakala.

Kauai: the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands has an abundance of hiking trails, dramatic cliffs and striking mountain views.

Hawaii’s Big Island: the largest one with more than 260 miles of coastline features several national parks, massive mountains and if this wouldn’t be enough, the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea.

Molokai: it is the original Hawaii and recommended to visit for those who want to slow down. You won’t find huge resorts here, but untouched nature and friendly people.

Lanai: the smallest inhabited Hawaii island is famous for its beauty and luxury resorts like the Four Seasons. Offering peace and tranquillity, Lanai is a perfect place for privacy seekers. 

No matter you are looking for the perfect place for a fun-filled family trip, a surf-getaway with friends. a beach wedding or a romantic honeymoon, I can guarantee that you will find an island that will satisfy your needs!

Hawaii’s best 5 beaches

One of the many reasons we state that a beach vacation in Hawaii is second to none the great variety of the beaches that come in every shape and size. Some feature powdery soft sand and calm waters, some superb waves for surfing, but it is easy to find secluded coves to get away from the crowds too. Each Hawaii island feature beaches for all types of beachgoers and it is not easy to highlight just a few, but let’s start with the 5 best ones!

Waikiki Beach

Found on the south shore of the island of Oahu, Waikiki is alleged to be not only one of the best beaches in Hawaii but also one of the best surfing beaches in the world. With two-miles of golden sand surrounded by high-rise hotels, visitors can surf and sunbathe by day and party all night. In fact, Waikiki is not a single beach but consists of 9 smaller beaches that all have a specific character. Kuhio and Royal Moana are the places where usually tourists go, Colony and Kapiolani are surfers’ paradise, Kaimana and Gray’s Beach are the best for swimming, Kahanamoku in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village is the most family-friendly, while if you wish to stay away from the hoards, choose the Queens or the Fort Derussy Beach.

Waikiki beach Oahu

Ko Olina Beach

Oahu’s second most famous beach, Ko Olina has four man-made lagoons with gently sloping sand and shallow waters providing safe conditions for water activities. An interesting fact is that the sand to fill up the lagoons was imported from another Hawaiian island, Lanai. Ko Olina’s top attractions is the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa that is one of the most luxurious hotels on the island.

Ko Olina Beach - Ohau

Kauna’oa Beach

This popular beach on the Big Island is known also as Mauna Kea beach because it can be found in front of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. It is considered as one of the cleanest and best-kept beaches of the island with a wide range of facilities available around such as sport equipment rentals, shops, bars and restaurants. Kauna’oa Beach is perfect for snorkeling. There are two small reefs not so far from the shore on the south side of the bay where tropical fish and often turtles can be seen.

Mauna Kea Beach - Hawaii

Ka’anapali Beach

On the west shore of Maui, Ka’anapali is an excellent family-friendly place with three miles of gorgeous sands and gentle waves fringed by well-known hotels and resorts. Those who find chilling on the beach boring can go snorkeling around Black Rock at the north end of the beach or stroll along the long promenade and visit shops or restaurants. A torch-lit, evening cliff diving ceremony will nicely round off a day in the sun.

Black Rock Kaanapali - Maui

Kailua Beach Park

More than two miles of silvery sands and the aqua waters offering safe and calm conditions for swimming and snorkeling. Water sports activities include kayaking, kitesurfing and paddleboarding. Thanks to its facilities such as lifeguard service, volleyball courts, picnic tables, restrooms and due to its proximity to downtown Kailua for shopping or buying lunch, Kailua Beach Park has to be on your Hawaii beach vacation itinerary when on Oahu.

Beach activities in Hawaii

With a wide variety of beaches, excellent weather and crystal-clear water, Hawaii is a place for all kind of beach activities. No matter what type of activity you plan, paddling, surfing, snorkeling or scuba, with so many options available I’m sure you won’t have time to get bored

Surfing: this is the main reason why water sports fanatics take a Hawaii holiday. Thanks to the islands’ geographical features, there is always a shore where the wave and wind conditions are ideal to get on the board whether you are a beginner or a professional surfer. During November and December, world surfing competitions are held on the north shore of Oahu, including Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

Surfer at Waialua

Kayaking: getting into a kayak or canoe is the best way of discovering Hawaii’s hidden treasures. Paddle to the barrier reefs or offshore islands and get a better perspective of Hawaii’s geography.

Snorkeling: it is the top water activity and almost every beach has a concession stand to rent equipment. The clear waters provide the opportunity to observe colorful tropical fish species such as parrotfish or the famous Humuhumunukunukuapua`a Hawaii State Fish, but swimming with turtles, dolphins or even monk seals is also possible on a Hawaii beach vacation.

Snorkeling with turtle Maui

Parasailing: this activity is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but enjoying the beauty of the islands’ beaches and shoreline from a bird’s eye view will certainly make any Hawaii holiday unforgettable!

Marine life spotting: Hawaii waters are teeming with life so if you are keen on observing interesting and often rare sea creatures such as whale sharks, dolphin species and humpback whales, sign up for a marine life spotting trip! Make sure to choose an operator who respects the ocean and follows eco-friendly guidelines.

Whale breaching in Hawaii

Best time for a Hawaii beach vacation

To decide what is the best time to visit Hawaii is really just depend on your personal preferences since any month of the year is suitable to take a beach vacation in Hawaii due to the pleasant, consistent weather with only minor temperature changes throughout the year. The ocean temperatures are comfortable for water activities all year round.

The special microclimates that vary with the elevation give the Hawaiian Islands a unique character and making possible that visiting sunny beaches, trekking in the mountains and exploring a lush rainforest can be done in one day without getting on a plane or driving huge distances.

Rain can occur any time of the year due to the tropical climate and proximity to the equator, but usually the north-eastern sides of the islands get most of it because of the north Pacific high-pressure zones while the other areas are drier. Thanks to this phenomenon, even during the wettest winter months it is possible to find a place around the coast where you can enjoy sunny weather.

Hawaii weather key features are the wind and wave conditions. The trade winds are almost always blowing (at least there is a breeze) and it depends on their direction whether they bring stormy or extremely hot weather. The wave conditions vary by island and coast, but generally the water is calm during the dry summer months, while the winter swell brings the legendary big waves that attract thousands of surfers to the islands.

To check the current water temperatures, visit seatemperature.org.

Average sea temperature: 

Summer: 25-26C/77-78.8F

Winter: 23-23C/73.4-75.2F

Dry season: 

May to September

Rainy season: 

November to April

Hawaii beach vacation costs

Hawaii is certainly one of the most exotic places in the entire world, but we have to admit that it isn’t a cheap destination. To answer the question How much does a Hawaii trip cost will depend on the season you travel, which island you visit, what type of accommodation you choose and if you eat in restaurants or self-cater. Prices in the Hawaiian Islands are generally higher than in mainland U.S. because most commodities need to be shipped there and incur extra charges and taxes. By traveling off-season and limiting the days you rent a car will help you keep to your budget.

See below a rough guide on the daily budget per person (including accommodation and meals but excluding flights):

Budget

$ 100 - 150
  •  

Mid-range

$ 250 - 300
  •  

Luxury

$ 500 - 1000
  •  

Places to stay in Hawaii

The Islands of Hawaii offer a wide variety of lodging options from wallet-friendly campgrounds and hostels through affordable vacation rentals to luxury resorts. The prices mainly depend on the hotel’s location and if you want room only or meals included, so with a little flexibility, it is easy to find the right accommodation that fits your trip.

All-inclusive resorts in Hawaii are very popular; these complexes are usually built near the best Hawaii beaches and offer good value for money since not only the meals but often many activities and some water sports are included. Those who seek a more local feel can choose an apartment, condominium or townhome to rent.

Seaside hotels in Waikiki Hawaii

Average accommodation prices per night in Hawaii:

Hostel or simple hotel: 50-70 USD

Average hotel: 150-200 USD

5-star resort/luxury vacation rental: 400-700 USD

Always choose a reliable booking website with 24/7 customer support to book your accommodation! (We have good experience with Booking.com so we do recommend their platform.)

Beach etiquette in Hawaii

To get the best out of your Hawaii beach vacation, familiarize yourself with the rules of the accepted behavior before you go.
Hawaiians believe that the beach is a place for relaxation not to party, so don’t talk in raised voices or play loud music. Do not plunk down next to people already on the beach, invading their space, but instead choose a place at least eight feet away. Keep children and teens under control and stop them from kicking up sand and disturbing others.

Topless sunbathing is not forbidden in Hawaii, but the islands have strict rules regarding indecent exposure, which in some cases might apply to sunbathing in the nude, so choose your location carefully—on a quiet or secluded beach, which will not offend other people or families.

Hawaiian specialties to eat and drink

One of the best things to do on your Hawaii beach vacation is to sample Hawaiian food. The modern Hawaiian cuisine is as diverse as the archipelago’s scenery: Polynesian, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Chinese and even Portuguese dishes make up the selection. Here are some specialties you shouldn’t miss out when visiting any of the Hawaiian Islands:

Poi: the cuisine of Hawaii often features its national dish, the poi, that is made from cooked, mashed taro root. Recipes originally brought from the Pacific Polynesian Islands, and handed down from generation to generation, feature locally grown vegetables, fruits and seafood.

Spam Musubi: one of the most popular appetizers (or pupus) in Hawaii is Spam Musubi made with marinated, cooked spam, white rice wrapped in nori (dry seaweed). Can be served warm or chilled.

Spam Musubi

Poke: one dish you should definitely try while in Hawaii is Poke. It is a raw fish salad often made with ahi tuna or octopus, soy sauce, macadamia nuts, scallions and sesame oil. Some eateries add different spices and rice and vegetables to make it into a full meal.

Luau Stew: there are many variations available of this Hawaiian dish, which is comprised of cooked taro leaves with beef brisket, ginger, onion, coconut milk and limu (seaweed.)

Lomi Lomi Salmon: seafood is a large part of the Hawaiian diet and Lomi Lomi Salmon is an excellent example. Cube tomatoes, onions, seasoning (or spices), raw salmon, chili peppers and serve with poi.

Lomi-lomi Salmon

Pasteles: offered on most menus, pasteles are different fillings encased in a tamale. Try them filled with spicy pork and chicken, mashed plantains and yucca and served with piquant rice.

Blue Hawaii: with fruit abundant in the islands, Hawaiian drinks come blended with pineapple, oranges, melon, coconut or papaya. One favorite, the Blue Hawaii, contains light rum, blue Curacao liqueur, pineapple juice, coconut cream all mixed together, and topped with a maraschino cherry.

Find here how to prepare the perfect Blue Hawaii cocktail.

Useful Hawaiian Phrases

The Hawaiian language, which is originally a Polynesian one was in danger of extinction for a while so it is a very nice gesture to learn a few words and expressions when traveling to Hawaii. Surprise the locals by using some of these Hawaiian phrases!
Aloha – probably this is the word that you will hear the most often when on Hawaii. This easy to remember Hawaiian phrase originally means love but used as a greeting to wish a positive life.

Mahalo – after Aloha, Mahalo (means Thank You) is another easy word that expressing your respect towards the local culture. When you really appreciate something and want to say ‘thank you so much’ then say Mahalo nui loa.

Howzit – an informal local greeting that means ‘What’s up’ or ‘How are you’. If you hear ‘Howzit Braddah’ it means ‘How is it going, friend’.

Ono grinds – an expression to describe delicious food. You can also say onolicious!

Akamai – a compliment that you can hear in everyday conversations and means that someone is clever, smart.

Mālama pono – a common Hawaiian expression meaning ‘take care’.

Mauka, Makai – it can happen that you need to ask for some help to find the right direction. If the person who gives the instruction uses the word ‘mauka’ it means toward the mountains, while if she/she uses ‘makai’ it is towards the ocean.

E kala mai – it can happen that you need to state your apology. In this case, ‘ay kala mai’ is the expression you need to use.

Holo holo – Hawaiian love adventures and spending time outdoors so going to ‘holo holo’ (having fun) is part of the lifestyle.

Honu – honu is the word you will hear very often on Hawaiian beaches and it refers to a turtle.

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