The 8 Best Beach Towns to Visit in Hawaii

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After what felt like the longest winter ever, summer is finally here and the revenge traveling (and toe dip trips) has commenced. But if you’re that person who’s just itching for an island vacation but doesn’t want to deal with a crowd of tourists, we’ve got you covered. Grab your sunscreen and brand-new luggage, and make your way to one of the eight best beach towns in Hawaii. An aquatic adventure without swarms of people? Sign us up.

The 25 Best Beach Towns in America

best beach towns in hawaii kailua
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1. Kailua, Oahu

Kailua—meaning “two seas” or “two currents”—got its moniker from either the two lagoons that can be found on the island or the two currents that run through Kailua Bay. It might not be the renowned tourist hub that is Honolulu, but this small town in Oahu has its own flair. Located on the windward side of Oahu, Kailua is the queen of lush, ultra-green foliage. You can spend a relaxing day basking in the glory that is Kailua Beach Park, embark on a helicopter tour, or keep things grounded by going wine tasting at Winery Oeno. Your pick.

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2. Pa’ia, Maui

This tiny town on the north shore of Maui is one of the Hawaii’s best kept secrets. It’ll give you all the feels of a small town—from locally owned businesses to secret hangout spots that only the locals know about—while also offering an abundance of island vibes. While most people pass through Pa’ia as they drive the winding Road to Hana, this little town has plenty to offer visitors. Hop over to Paia Secret Beach which is (ahem) clothing optional if you’re feeling extra saucy, or get your snorkel on at Ho’okipa Beach Park.

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3. Kailua-kona, Hawaii Island

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Kailua located on Oahu Island, locals simply call this small town on the Big Island “Kona.” Coffee lovers might recognize the name, since the town is the source of some of the most decadent coffee beans in the world. But a visit to Kona is not all caffeine highs and beach visits. This island offers a bunch of fun bucket-list activities for travelers. Channel your inner marine biologist at the renowned Manta Ray Night Dive, learn a bit of history at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, or indulge in a classic Hawaiian experience by attending the Laniakea An Umekes Luau.

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4. Kaunakakai, Molokai

The first thing to know before you visit? Molokai isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s as tranquil and rural as any Hawaiian island can get, with only 8,000 people calling Molokai home. In fact, there’s so little traffic on this quaint little isle that there isn’t a single traffic light there. Still, there are tons of adventures to plan if you want to break up the peace and quiet. You could go hiking, horseback riding, or sign up for one of the many air tours, too.

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5. Lanai City, Lanai

Giving Molokai a run for its money when it comes to quaint islands, Lanai City is Hawaii’s smallest inhabited island. Once responsible for 75 percent of the world’s pineapple production, the Lanai is now a sanctuary offering peace and relaxation for those who need a getaway. If you plan your visit for the summer, you might be able to make the annual Pineapple Festival. Otherwise, visit the Lanai Art Center—which displays local artists’ works—or drop by the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center to plan a visit to one of the many cultural and historical sites on Lanai. A visit to Lanai is no rowdy adventure, but it can definitely bring you some calm.

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6. Kapaa, Kauai

This town located at the base of Nounou (the Sleeping Giant) Mountain is a tourist favorite because of its wide range of hotels, shopping centers and restaurants. Whatever type of escapade you’re looking for, Kapaa has you covered. From water activities like kayaking, to various hiking trails, as well as all-encompassing tours that take you through Kauai’s vast water forests, this compact isle gives you a whole lotta bang for your buck.

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7. Lahaina, Maui

Though it was once the capital of Hawaii back in the early 19th century, Lahaina hasn’t lost its luster over the years. In fact, it’s one of Hawaii’s biggest tourist hotspots, thanks to its abundance of art galleries, shops and restaurants. And when it comes to beaches, you’ll be spoiled for choice if you choose to make Lahaina your destination. You can visit Ka'anapali Beach, a favorite for both relaxation and water sports; Baby Beach where you can take a scuba lesson; or Napili Beach, which is close to tons of local restaurants and attractions.

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8. Hilo, Hawaii Island

Averaging a whopping 140 inches of rain every year, expect to see lavish tropical forests filled with vibrant flowers and robust waterfalls when you visit Hilo. The island has a variety of beaches with different types of sand: black, gray, brown and white­­. (Hey, Insta photo op.) Hilo is also home to the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo (temporarily closed due to COVID-19) which is the only zoo in the U.S. set in a tropical rainforest. Looking for more? You can also book a stargazing tour, go on a waterfall adventure, or take in the scenery while flying high in a helicopter.

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