No surprise here. Our Hawaiian shores out-shined the others in this year’s list of top 10 U.S. beaches – not necessarily placing first but having more beaches listed than any other state.

Featured on last year’s list, Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki and Waimanalo Beach Park have since moved up in rankings for 2012, inching a couple spots closer to the top. Kahanamoku Beach got second, while Waimanalo ranked seventh; last year, it was third and ninth, respectively. Also in the top beach list: Hamoa Beach in Hana, Maui came in at number five.

Life’s a beach! A view of beautiful Waimanalo Bay.

Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University who goes by “Dr. Beach,” has compiled this list for the past 22 years. He visits each beach and ranks them according to 50 different criteria, which could be anything from sand quality to nearby noise levels to swimming safety. Twelve Hawaii beaches have already earned a spot in the top, making them ineligible for future consideration.

Kahanamoku Beach is tucked between the Hilton Hawaiian Village catamaran pier and the Ala Wai small boat harbor. Over the years, Hilton has made the beach more welcoming to visitors by adding a surfboard rental stand and renovating the nearby manmade lagoon. You may even see segway tours whiz around the lagoon for a water break and photo op. I used to tan here after surfing a nearby break, and despite the surrounding action, there was still lots of privacy; no beach balls bouncing across you or loud radios blasting. The crescent-shaped beach is wide enough to fit many families at once.

Located on the east side of Oahu, Waimanalo Beach Park is gorgeous, with super soft sand and clear waters. The view of the surrounding bay? Stunning. It’s a family-friendly beach that’s safe for swimming and has lifeguards on duty. I can see why Dr. Beach chose Waimanalo for the list; but not sure if he took into account the homeless population in the beach park area? Despite the state’s efforts to aide the homeless, Waimanalo has unfortunately accumulated a tent community along the roadside, which is often what discourages beach-goers from driving to this spot.

According to his website, Dr. Beach describes Hamoa Beach as such: “This pocket beach is rimmed by cliffs, covered by coconut palm trees and beautiful flowering vegetation. This crescent beach, which is a mixture of coral and lava sand, is the most famous of Maui’s Hana beaches. The beach is actually inside a breached volcanic crater. To get to Hamoa Beach, one has to take the “Road to Hana”, the treacherous road with drop-offs of over 1,000 feet and sporadic guardrails, which can be an adventure in itself! Taking it slow on this road, with over 50 one-way bridges, is probably the safest bet. Ernest Hemmingway once said that Hamoa Beach was the world’s best beach.”

Because visiting this beach requires a long, winding drive into Hana, competition for beach here is slim to none. I remember coming to this beach a while back and instantly falling asleep in the sand because we were so pooped from the drive. Personally, I think Hamoa should be much higher up on the list than the others. To me, the “best” beach is one like this; one that’s an escape from the city life. Kahanamoku and Waimanalo are easy to get to, so there’s no doubt people will be there. We came to Hamoa and had the beach to ourselves.

Wondering about other Hawaii beaches that made the top of the list? They are: Hanauma Bay, Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach on Oahu; Hanalei Bay on Kauai; Fleming Beach Park on Maui; and Kaanapali, Poipu Beach, Kaunaoa Beach, Wailea Beach, Hulope, Hapuna and Kapalua Bay Beach on the Big Island.

Photo Credit: Noa Myers (first); Cindy Scheopner (second)


  1. Waimanalo is definitely my favorite. Kualoa after that. Not much beach there but the scenery is fantastic no matter which way you look.

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