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World's 50 Best Beaches include three in Hawaii

World's 50 Best Beaches include three in Hawaii
Visitors cast their gaze to one of two uninhabited islets offshore from Oahu's Lanikai Beach on the island's less-traveled windward side. Lanikai has been selected as one of the world's top 50 beaches. (Daeja Faris/Hawaii Tourism Authority)

Three little-known gems among Hawaii’s beaches — Maui’s Honokalani Beach, Kauai’s Tunnels Beach and Oahu’s Lanikai Beach — ranked among the World’s 50 Best Beaches compiled by FlightNetwork.

More than 600 travel experts polled by the Canadian travel company placed Honokalani Beach at No. 28, Tunnels Beach at No. 32 and Oahu’s Lanikai Beach at No. 41.

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Criteria for the best beaches include sheer untouched beauty, remoteness, sand and water quality, and annual days of sunshine.

Tucked in a cove within Maui's Wai'anapanapa State Park, Honokalani Beach allows visitors to dip their toes into volcanic, black sand.
Tucked in a cove within Maui's Wai'anapanapa State Park, Honokalani Beach allows visitors to dip their toes into volcanic, black sand. (Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority)

For remote locations, the crescent-shaped Honokalani Beach easily qualifies. It’s tucked away at the lush Wai’anapanapa State Park amid the switchbacks and one-lane bridges of the famous Hana Highway.

The beach is well-known to locals but often overlooked by white-knuckled tourists desperate to reach the village of Hana, a few miles to the south. The black sand strand sits beside tide pools that turn red several times a year with the arrival of small shrimp. Blowholes and lava tubes add to the allure.

Surrounded by the lush greenery of Wai'anapanapa State Park, Honokalani Beach is a Maui gem that's often overlooked by motorists on their way to nearby Hana.
Surrounded by the lush greenery of Wai'anapanapa State Park, Honokalani Beach is a Maui gem that's often overlooked by motorists on their way to nearby Hana. (Hawaii Division of State Parks)

Not for the timid, the drive from Kahului Airport (OGG) takes about 2 1/2 hours.

On Oahu, it’s only a 45-minute drive from the hotels of Waikiki to the Lanikai Beach, on the island’s windward side.

Often overlooked by visitors, the eastern side of the island is dotted with pristine, uncrowded beaches. FlightNetwork’s Top 50 list gives Lanikai 10 out of 10 in the “sheer, untouched beauty” category.

Located in the city of Kailua (the one on Oahu, not Hawaii Island), Lanikai looks out toward two nearby islets, which make it a beautiful backdrop for photos. Calm waters make this spot ideal for a splash in the ocean or more serious endeavors such as kayaking and paddleboarding.

Kayakers glide past pristine Lanikai Beach on the eastern side of the island of Oahu, just 45 minutes from far-more congested Waikiki Beach.
Kayakers glide past pristine Lanikai Beach on the eastern side of the island of Oahu, just 45 minutes from far-more congested Waikiki Beach. (Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority)

Experts, including the folks at the Kailua Chamber of Commerce, recommend the portion of beach just north of Onekea Drive. But don’t be tempted to park in the no-parking zones or block driveways; you’ll face a hefty fine.

Lush green mountains provide the backdrop for Tunnels Beach sought out by snorkelers and surfers alike. Lava tube tunnels filled with tropical fish provide the underwater wow factor. Get out your camera and stick around for the sunset at Kauai’s North Shore location (not to be confused with Oahu’s North Shore).

By the way, the best beach in the world is Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos, followed by Whitehaven Beach in Australia’s Whitsunday Island National Park (No. 2) and Anse Lazio in the Seychelle Islands (No. 3).

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