By Susan Johnston
I used to think that all beach vacations were similar. There’s sand, sun, water, and the inevitably awkward man sporting a too-small Speedo. But all that changed when I took my first Hawaii vacation a few years ago. I soon discovered that just as each island offers different flavors and scenery (where else but the Big Island can you find a sun-kissed beach and a snow-capped volcano within miles of each other?), each beach offers a little something different.
Some have calm waves lapping at the shoreline for those who want the perfect photo opp, while others are more suited for active travelers searching for windsurfing or snorkeling. Read on for the best beaches for each kind of traveler.
In a secluded cove in Oahu, Hanauma Bay is widely considered one of the best beach vacations for snorkeling or scuba diving, especially for beginners who want to enjoy clear views of coral reefs and marine life in swallow waters. I wasn’t adventurous enough to explore in deeper water, but I’m told that the water just beyond the cove has colorful reefs that will appeal to more experienced snorkelers. It’s also great for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring. For a luxurious beach vacation, check out the Kahala Hotel & Resort just outside of Waikiki. Budget-minded travelers will appreciate the Miramar at Waikiki, since it’s on the city bus line that travels to Hanauma Bay.
Wet and wild windsurfing
Experienced windsurfers flock to Ho’okipa Beach Park in Paiai, Maui, especially during winter beach vacations when the island’s wind and waves are out in full force. Ho’okipa also hosts professional competitions annually. While lifeguards are on duty daily, this beach is not recommended for swimming, in part because of the rocky shoreline. Paia Inn Hotel is close to three different beaches, includling Ho’okipa, and features wireless internet, complimentary pastries and coffee in the morning and free parking.
Picture perfect relaxation: Hapuna Beach on the Big Island is the quintessentially beautiful beach that you’d see pictured on postcards: endless blue skies and fine white sand dotted with sunbathers and surfers. I had a blast learning to boogie board at Hapuna Beach; but the beach isn’t protected from the open ocean, so caution is advised during high surf conditions. Adjacent to Hapuna Beach is the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, which offers majestic oceanfront views and lavish accommodations. Fans of The Bachelorette may also recognize the hotel as the site of a season finale.
Susan Johnston lives, writes, and dreams about her next beach vacation from her home near Boston. Favorite beachside activities include reading fashion mags and body boarding.