Your trip to Hawaii won’t be complete without a day on the beach or time in the water. Hawaii has 750 miles of coastline, waters that contain 70% of the reefs in the US, and perfect conditions for a slew of water sports. There are so many fun water activities that it is hard to go wrong, but here are 10 of our favorite water-based adventures across the islands.
Located on the southern coast of Maui, the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve is a marine life conservation area that prohibits fishing of any kind. The coastline is made up of a unique mix of lava and coral, making it the perfect habitat for fish and underwater plants to flourish. Since so many of Hawaii’s colorful fish make their home in the shallow waters, you don’t have to snorkel far to see their colorful underwater world just below the surface. Interested in a guided tour? Maui offers plenty of snorkeling excursions for all ages.
Kiteboard—or learn how to—on the gorgeous and windy Kailua Bay. With year-round trade winds and protected bay waters, it’s the perfect spot to catch a wave. Since the beach can get pretty narrow at high tide, we recommend taking a lesson to learn how to safely and properly set up, launch, and land.
3. The Big Island
Bodysurf at the often overlooked Papakōlea Green Sand Beach. One of only four green sand beaches in the world, it gets its unique color by a common mineral in lava called olvine. It’s a bit of a hike to get there, but we promise it’s worth it.
Windsurf off Paia at Hookipa Beach. This world-renowned destination attracts tourists and pros alike. Head there on any day that has wind (which is most days in Maui) to try your hand at this popular watersport, or simply watch the jaw-dropping antics of the professionals as they frolic in the waves. It’s a must-see stop on any tour of Maui.
Sail out to Molokini Crater for unparalleled snorkeling. This crescent-shaped islet is uninhabited and provides the perfect backdrop to exploring the colorful underwater world off its coast. Thousands of colorful fish and marine animals call this area home, offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore their habitat. You can even embark on a glass-bottom catamaran for an up-close view right below your feet.
Surf on world-class waves at one of several North Shore beaches. Or better yet, keep your feet firmly planted in the sand and watch the pros tackle the enormous waves at this surfing mecca. The swells are biggest during the winter months when the stormy North Pacific is churning, so be sure to head here if you’re visiting during that time of year. And if you do decide to go to battle with the waves, a surf lesson is the perfect way to sharpen your skills.
Explore Maniniholo dry cave across the street from Haena beach. The sandy floor and low ceiling stretch about 150 feet and was formed by waves eroding the cliff over a long period of time. The cave doesn’t take long to explore, so consider including it as part of a day-long tour of Kauai.
Swim or snorkel next to hundreds of brightly colored fish and sea turtles in Hanauma Bay. This tourist destination is popular for a reason—it’s home to over 400 species of marine life, including sea turtles and Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua‘a. A guided tour of these famously clear waters is the best way to explore this underwater wonderland.
Kayak along the North Shore Sea Cliffs. The views of the untouched valleys alone are worth it, but you’ll also catch a glimpse of the longest ocean-terminating waterfall in the world.
Marvel at the fiery sunset from blissfully remote Polihale Beach. Located on the western side of the island, it’s the longest stretch of beach in the state. It’s accessed by an unpaved road, and you won’t find any lifeguards here, but nature’s show every night (weather permitting, of course) makes the journey here worth it.