“Hawaiʻi” typically evokes warm Pacific breezes, gorgeous beaches with arcing waves, soothing stretches of sand, tropical vegetation, cratered lava rock surfaces and clear, star-studded night skies. In other words, most everything that makes a beach vacation spot qualify as idyllic. But there’s another quality that makes a beach destination even more compelling. That quality is ‘hidden.’ Let’s face it—people want to visit great areas, but they would prefer not to contend with the crowds that come with the territory.
If you’re willing to stake out your claim to a secret remote wonder by enduring a bit of inconvenience, the Hawaiian islands have a handful of truly stunning secluded sand options.
Get into the Zone on Kealakekua Bay
The really cool thing about Hawaiʻi Island is that beaches can appear out of nowhere, providing a relaxing and beautiful fun-in-the-sun hangout that no one but you will ever see and experience. How so? The shore makeup and surrounding water characteristics—lava flow debris and rapidly changing currents—can lead to pop-up beaches that come and go with the tides. But honestly, since you can’t count on coming across one of these magical manifestations, it’s best to head over to a far more dependable spot—the shores of Kealakekua Bay, where a stony beach and the hypnotic sounds of the rolling surf will put you in a quiet, reflective mood, in keeping with the culturally treasured temple here—Hikiau Heiau (this is also the place to park).
Sink into Solitude at Secret Beach
The name of compact ‘Secret Beach’ tells it like it is—it is indeed little known. There’s no free public parking, so the masses simply don’t come here. But you can—on foot—if you take advantage of the entertainment options at Ko Olina resorts (like Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa). Unlike the beaches at many resorts, this one’s no land-locked, man-made lagoon. But it’s just as calming. And not only that—it’s fit for a queen (and respite from gatherings). Queen Ka’ahumanu, the favorite wife of King Kamehameha I, reportedly came here on frequent visits and this beach was her daily ablution site.
Snorkel and Surf at Tunnels Beach (aka Makua Beach)
Part of Ka’ena Point State Park located on Oahu’s west coast (leeward) coast, Tunnels Beach features golden sands and a picture postcard-caliber backdrop—the Waianae Mountain Range and Makua Valley. The good news for seclusion-seekers is that no tour buses go here. Most visitors are wintertime surfers seeking the super high waves that come with the lack of an offshore reef. Tunnels Beach has been called a surfer’s paradise for most any kind of surfing, be it wave, wind or kite. The crystal-clear waters here enable clear views down to 30 feet below, which means this beach is also a snorkeler’s dream come true. But if snorkeling and surfing are not your thing, there are ample gifts for beachcombers along this half-mile stretch of sand as well—you can expect to encounter tide pools and wildlife. And a morning visit might grace you with sightings of diving dolphins (they tend to swim only a few hundred yards from shore), and, in winter, breaching whales.
Send Your Eyes into the Distance at Waimea Beach
Want to experience an old Hawaiʻi atmosphere with a touch of seclusion—the sort of island character early seafaring explorers might have experienced? That’s a combination that’s pretty hard to come by in Kauai given the level of development here. But the sun-drenched west side of the island offers one excellent option—Waimea Beach. While the western coast can be reached by car—the kind of access that would typically put a beach at risk for overcrowding—there’s just one big lodging facility here. And, in addition, Waimea Beach has somewhat murky waters (it’s adjacent to the mouth of a river) that are not ideal for swimming. These two factors keep the population of tourists down while preserving the charm quotient inherent in fine black/brown sands and gorgeous long-distance vistas. This beach is a perfect place to lounge, beach-comb and gaze out over the channel—the views of Niihau island are great!
Leave Your Footprints in the Fine Sands of Polihua Beach
If sitting behind the wheel of a four-wheel drive and navigating tough roads are a turnoff, Polihua Beach on Lanai’s northwest tip isn’t for you. But the payoff is huge if you’re willing to accept the challenge, and also forego swimming (leave that to the wild animals, like the tiger sharks, sea turtles and whales that frequent these local waters). Soaking up the rays and taking in the lovely views of Diamond Head Crater and Molokai on the pristine sands of this two-mile-long beach will give you the feeling that you’re, in fact, its owner—there will be no one else in sight. Since the beach is located many miles from any resort or facility (in general, this island is sparsely populated relative to other Hawaiian islands), be sure to take water and other supplies with you, and also let your hotel know that you’re going to Polihua Beach before you head out.
Swim Away at Kapukahehu Beach (aka Dixie Maru Beach)
This small crescent-shaped beach is protected by a nearby reef and offers that rarest of things in Hawaiʻi—extremely calm, wave-free turquoise waters that seem made-to-order for swimmers, especially during the summer months. Here, you don’t need to be concerned about what might knock you over or pull you under—the tides are nothing if not easygoing. Before or after your calming dips, you’ll want to do some shell seeking with an empty bag in tow—the shells deposited here are definitely collection worthy. While there likely won’t be any people around, it’s doubtful you’ll feel lonely—beloved monk seals love to hang out on this beach.