My cousin who flies from the mainland to dog-sit for us while we vacation doesn’t swim. She has a healthy respect for the ocean, but she loves beaches. So, while I might suggest she pack a beach chair, good book, cooler of snacks and beverages and spend the day walking the long beach at Polihale on Kauai’s west side, I wouldn’t suggest the same beach for my college friend with the three children whose ages are still in the single digits. Because while those kids love the ocean and swim like fish, they are too young and inexperienced for the on-shore break at Polihale. I will, however, send her and the kids with their snorkel gear and boogie boards to Haena. But only in the summer.
That’s another thing. Some people say there are no seasons in this string of islands that sits 19 to 22 degrees north of the equator in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And while it may be true that our temperatures don’t swing 50 or 60 or, even, 70 degrees from winter to summer (unless you go from sea level to the summit of Mauna Kea), we do have seasons in Hawaii. Because “season” is much more than just a thermostat reading.
There’s what’s blooming, what’s fruiting, what’s nesting, what’s mating and there’s what’s breaking. As in, waves.
Hawaii’s airport baggage carousels clog with slim but oversized bags each winter. Inside? Surfboards. Known as the birthplace of surfing, Hawaii is famous for its winter waves along the north shores of the islands.
And that’s why I don’t recommend Haena in the winter to my friend with the water-loving kids. Then, as the surfers sash their boards to the roofs of their cars and head north, I send my girlfriend south to Poipu.
That’s the thing about Hawaii’s beaches. Like fashion, they change.
Personally, I think that’s what makes Hawaii’s beaches so special. They are never boring.
There’s another factor at play here, too, besides the seasonal variations of the beaches themselves. And that’s the personal tastes of the beachgoers.
My cousin doesn’t swim, so I can safely send her to any beach, the ones with more scenic beauty, the better. She’s young, too, so can handle a long hike to reach one. And when she arrived last winter to get married on the beach, a sunset view was important.
I’m trying to think of a beach I don’t like in Hawaii.
If you ask me to name the best beach on Kauai, I won’t give one answer. Instead, I’ll ask you a question--or twelve. Like do you want to swim? Snorkel? Surf? SCUBA? SUP? Float on an inflatable? Or do you want to see the sunset, sunrise, waterfalls, big waves? Do you want to look for Niihau shells? Pick limu? See turtles, monk seals, whales? Take pretty pictures? And who’s going? How old are they? Can they swim?
Because the “best” beach depends. On you.
To help you create the perfect beach experience, we’ve created an infographic for four of Hawaii’s islands—Oahu
; Hawaii, the Big Island