Secret Beach, Kauai
Though its real name is Kauapea, this empty, half-mile stretch of sand is better known among locals as Secret Beach. The name fits: Nestled between Kalihiwai Bay and Kilauea Point, it’s located far off the tourist track and accessible only by a rocky unmarked trail. Lava rocks border the beach on both sides and jutting red cliffs cloaked by lush vegetation and cascading waterfalls form a dramatic backdrop. Be warned: though public nudity is illegal in Hawaii, the far east side of the beach is unofficially clothing-optional.
We love Waikiki as much as the next person, but its crowded, resort-studded shore isn’t exactly what you’d call tranquil. If it’s serenity and solitude you’re after, head to one of Hawaii’s many secret, off-the-beaten-path beaches. See more from best hidden beaches on CNTraveler.com.
Waipio Valley Beach, Big Island
Of all the beaches on the Big Island, the unspoiled crescent of black sand at the base of Waipio Valley is easily the most secluded: it’s sheltered by 2,000-foot cliffs and it’s a grueling three-mile hike down. But don’t be dissuaded: you’ll be rewarded handsomely for your efforts with superfine, inky sand and calm, clear turquoise water. Look to the east, and you’ll spot the spectacular Kaluahine Waterfall (pictured) and the larger Waiulili Falls, which can be accessed by a rocky trail along the surf. Due to its remote location, you’ll likely have this secret paradise all to yourself.
Halona Cove, Oahu
Tucked in between Halona Point and the Halona Blowhole, the small, rocky Halona Cove is so dramatically picturesque you’ll swear you’ve seen it in a movie. Chances are, you have; it’s been featured in flicks like From Here to Eternity, Pirates of the Caribbean, and 50 First Dates. Somehow, despite its silver screen fame, it remains sparsely visited, perhaps due to the rocky, somewhat treacherous hike required to reach it. Be extremely cautious when swimming—the current is mellow inside the cove itself, but rough once you venture outside of it.
Makapu’u Beach, Oahu
Though it’s a mere pocket of sand—no wider than a quarter-mile long—Makapu’u Beach is undoubtedly one of Oahu’s most scenic beaches. It’s backed by the high lava rock cliffs of Makapu’u Point, its shore is wide and golden and its waters are cool and iridescent. But be warned: as pretty as it looks, rip currents and a powerful shorebreak make Makapu’u unsuitable for leisurely swims. Best to enjoy the view from the shore or from the Makapu'u Lighthouse, perched atop a sea cliff on the eastern end of the beach.
Secret Beach, Maui
Secret Beach in Maui—not to be confused with Kauai’s Secret Beach—is located just south of the popular Makena Beach, concealed behind a lava rock wall in a quiet residential neighborhood—keep an eye out for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sign. Its beauty and serenity might be staggering, but be warned: like Kauai’s Secret Beach, it’s unofficially clothing-optional. (Though with a view like that, you’re unlikely to notice anyone else’s presence).
New Kaimu Beach, Big Island
As the name implies, the black-sand New Kaimu Beach is, in fact, new. It didn’t exist a mere 20 years ago, or at least not in its current state: the original Kaimu Beach, flanked by lush coconut groves, was completely destroyed by lava flow in 1990. Years later, a new, mineral-rich beach began to form naturally where the original one used to be. Because it’s so young, the sleepy beach remains largely unknown and mostly tourist free, particularly with the larger and more popular Punalu‘u Beach just down the coast. (But be warned: It's not a place where you should go swimming, or even necessarily sunbathe.)
Polihua Beach, Lanai
Largely overlooked by tourists in favor of Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, the island of Lanai itself feels like a secret paradise filled with undeveloped beaches and desert-like landscapes. Polihua Beach feels especially remote, located on Lanai’s wild northwestern coast and accessible only via four-wheel drive. (It's also not somewhere that you should try swimming.) The two-mile sandbar used to be the nesting ground of Hawaiian green sea turtles; they’ve since moved to islands further north, but you’ll likely spot migrating humpback whales between December and April.
Mokuleia Beach, Oahu
Located on Oahu’s remote northwest shore, just past Haleiwa, the silky sands of Mokuleia Beach are often empty. Add to that its sheer seclusion—the nearest store or restroom is over ten miles away—and it makes for the perfect tropical island “set” (in fact, the television show Lost filmed its first season on Mokuleia). Though its bright blue waters are almost always choppy, they’re rich with marine life, and you’ll likely find large green sea turtles basking on the shore in the summer months.
Polihale Beach, Kauai
Located at the end of a long, unpaved dirt road off Kaumuali'i Highway, Polihale Beach is often overlooked in favor of the more accessible beaches at Poipu and Kalapaki. Which is a shame—sprawled over 17 miles, it’s the longest stretch of beach in Hawaii and arguably one of the most beautiful, backed by 100-foot sand dunes and framed by the Na Pali cliffs. From its silvery sands, you can even spot the “forbidden” Hawaiian island of Niihau.
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