Aerial panoramic image at sunrise off the coast over Hanalei Bay and pier on Hawaiian island of Kauai

Aerial panoramic image at sunrise off the coast over Hanalei Bay and pier on Hawaiian island of Kauai (Photo: Getty Images)

As an island chain, Hawaii is home to hundreds of beaches, each possessing its own set of unique qualities. What makes one beach great for surfers and water-sport enthusiasts does not necessarily make for a great destination for families or vacationers looking to relax on the shore.

To help narrow down the search for the your own personal perfect beach destination, the following list is a compilation of what are widely agreed to be the top five beaches on Kauai.

Hanalei Bay

Located on Kauai’s North Shore, Hanalei Bay is a beach like no other. With more than two miles of soft white sand and set among a backdrop of majestic mountains, Hanalei offers a little bit of paradise for everyone. Experienced surfers have the luxury of large waves, while beginners are treated to smaller waves that lap closer to the reef. During the summer months, the bay is calm, turning into a virtual wonderland for swimmers and stand-up paddlers. The beach itself is never crowded, which offers plenty of room for children and families to play.

Tunnels Beach

One of the best snorkeling destinations on Kauai, especially during the summer months when the ocean is at its calmest. Running two miles long from Hanalei Colony Resort to Haena Beach Park, this North Shore beach is famous for its huge half-moon-shaped reef located just 1/8-mile offshore. Deep-water caverns located close to shore also make for a great diving site, while swimmers and families with young children enjoy the shallower, calmer areas of the beach.

Poipu Beach

There truly is something for everyone at this South Shore beach. Crowned America’s Best Beach by The Travel Channel, Poipu Beach is naturally split into two smaller bays by a sand bar, which usually is the napping spot of a Hawaiian monk seal. To the west of the sand bar is what is known as Baby Beach, a protected cove perfect for very young children. The eastern section is a beachgoers paradise with loads of activities to keep you busy, from swimming and snorkeling to boogie boarding and surfing.

Kiahuna Beach

This South Shore beach is one of Garden Isle’s most popular beaches, largely due to the fact that Kiahuna presents an ideal spot for swimmers, beginner surfers, boogie boarders, and, on occasion when the weather conditions are right, snorkelers.

Mahaulepu Beach

Another idyllic stretch of beach located on the South Shore, Mahaulepu Beach is a popular destination for windsurfers, snorkelers, swimmers, fishers, and sunbathers. The undeveloped shoreline offers miles of exploring, including a fascinating hike that goes past geological and cultural sites found along a coastal trail. To access the remote beach, take a two-mile car ride to the end of Poipu Road, then travel east on the dirt cane field to the main cane haul road intersection and turn right. There you’ll find a security shack posting beach hours (beach access closes at 6 p.m.) that are strictly enforced by the landowner, who allows public access at their own risk.