The ocean in Hawai‘i is no joke. Even seasoned ocean goers will find conditions that quickly humble them. But the beach is the main activity for most everyone in Hawai‘i. If you’re unfamiliar with ocean or have little ones that need close supervision, this can complicate things. Dodging waves and worrying about currents turns what should be a relaxing experience into an anxiety ridden ordeal. Luckily, each island has a few spots that are almost always a safe bet when it comes to ocean conditions. (Finding parking or space on the beach are another topic.) Here’s user-friendly beaches for each island where you can usually have a worry free time thanks to barriers to the open ocean.
Lydgate Beach Park, Kaua‘i
Located just south of the Wailua River, Lydgate Beach Park is one of the most user-friendly beaches to swim on the island. It has a boulder-enclosed pond that allows water and fish in but keeps out the ocean’s force. There is even a keiki (kid) pond, which is shallower. The facilities and amenities are plentiful—several picnic areas, large patches of grass, shade trees, oceanside walking path, campground, restrooms, two nice playgrounds, showers and lifeguard tower. Plus two marvelous, boulder-enclosed ponds. These ponds are nearly always safe to swim, but after a heavy rain should be avoided. Weekends get very busy.
Kuhio Beach (aka The Ponds), O‘ahu
So, the entire beach here is known as Waikiki Beach (heard of it?), but different stretches have different names. This section, Kuhio Beach is also known as The Ponds and is probably the most user-friendly beach in Waikiki. Kuhio has concrete walls forming two separate ponds–perfect for kids and those skittish about swimming in the open ocean. This stretch of beach has been a favorite for generations and often is ranked as one of the best on the island. Even though all Waikiki Beach is very sandy, the nearshore waters often have lots of rocks and reef that conspire to attack your feet. Smart beachgoers wear reef or water shoes.
Wawa‘u Point/Sprecklesville Beach, Maui
This beach goes by several names, some more accurate than others. It’s technically the far, west end of Baldwin Beach, but sometimes it will be referred to as Sprecklesville Beach (though there’s several stretches of sand that could claim that name). The defining landmark is Wawa‘u Point on the west end. To most residents, it’s known as Baby Beach. There’s a bench of lithified sand (sandstone) near the water’s edge that provides some protection for keiki (kids) and nervous swimmers. (Well, it’s the north shore baby beach, there’s another baby beach in West Maui.) Overall, we have mixed feelings about this one. On the plus side, it’s one of most user-friendly beaches on the island. It’s a long, very attractive beach with unusually firm sand that’s deserted most of the time during the week. Plus there’s expansive views of the north coast. On the negative side, currents and winds are pretty dependable companions all day long (especially in the afternoon), the water is cloudy, and it’s become even more popular with dog owners looking for safe place for their pooch to swim. That last bit wouldn’t normally bother us. Too often we’ve noticed people letting their doggos run wild and failing to pick up after them.
Wawaloli Beach, Big Island
This is our favorite tide-pool area on the west side of the island. The instantly accessible sand beach is cut off from the ocean by a large tide-pool that offers warm swimming when the surf is too high elsewhere. There are restrooms and showers here, making it popular with local families who bring their keiki (kids) to play in the mostly protected area. The largest pool (mostly sand-lined) is best near high tide most of the year, only best at low tide if the surf’s cranking. The other, less protected tide-pool is better at low tide. A water channel in the lava closer to the restrooms can be fun to wander in. In late afternoon you might want to pick up a pizza on your way out, bring the kids, if you have ’em, and watch the sunset.
While these are very user-friendly beaches, there’s even more beach day options to be found. Here’s a clip of just how ferocious conditions at the not so user-friendly beaches and shorelines can be. Check out our guidebooks, apps and driving tours to find the beaches that best suit your vacationing style.