Three Hawaiʻi Beaches Make Dr. Beach’s Top 10 for 2023

Beaches on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi made the annual list—but not at the top.
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Aerial view of Kahanamoku Beach on Oʻahu. Photo (cropped to fit): Courtesy of Edmund Garman/Creative Commons 2.0

Three Hawaiʻi beaches made the 2023 Top 10 Beach List—but, like last year, none topped it.

Oʻahu’s Duke Kahanamoku Beach moved up to No. 2 in the rankings by coastal coastal expert Stephen Leatherman—aka Dr. Beach—a professor at Florida International University. Wailea Beach on Maui and Poʻipū Beach on. Kauaʻi took the No. 7 and No. 9 spots, respectively.

Topping the list was Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

What’s surprising is Hāpuna Beach on Hawaiʻi Island—which topped the list last year—isn’t even in the Top 10 this year.

He uses 50 criteria to evaluate hundreds of public beaches in the United States. The criteria include beach width, sand softness, water temperature and color, wildlife and more.

The No. 2 beach for 2023, Duke Kahanamoku Beach on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, is on the west end of the famed Waikiki Beach with fewer visitors than the more crowded stretches. Diamond Head volcano rises in the distance, making for an especially stunning setting, and the beach is good for families with children thanks to a protective offshore coral reef.

Wailea Beach in Maui and Poipu Beach in Kauai are the other Hawaii beaches in this year’s top 10.

St. George Island State Park in the Florida Panhandle earned the top spot, with Leatherman saying the 9-mile-long stretch of beach on the barrier island park has “some of the whitest, finest sand in the world.” (It was ranked No. 4 last year.)

Last year’s winner, Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, didn’t make the Top 10 this year.

Leatherman, who has been ranking America’s best beaches since 1991, uses 50 criteria to evaluate hundreds of public beaches in the U.S. The criteria include beach width, sand softness, wave action, water temperature and color, wildlife, crowding and more.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Lagoon, Oahu Hawaii

Duke Kahanamoku Beach on Oʻahu is No. 2 on Dr. Beach’s list of best U.S. beaches for 2023.
Photo: Getty Images

Duke Kahanamoku Beach on Oʻahu, which ranked No. 2 on the list, was noted for its size and location in Waikīkī—farther away from the larger crowds elsewhere. The beach, which is named after famed Native Hawaiian Olympian and surfer Duke Kahanamoku, is protected by an offshore reef, making this a great beach for families with kids.“This is one of the most picturesque beaches in the USA with the iconic Diamond Head volcano in the distance,” Leatherman said on his site.


Maui’s Wailea Beach is popular among travelers and local families alike.  
Photo: Getty Images

At No. 7 is Wailea Beach on Maui. This crescent-shaped beach on the island’s south shore features golden sand and crystal-clear waters, great for swimming and snorkeling with the conditions are calm. “The swanky hotels are setback far from the beach, providing a beautiful-landscaped park, adorned with tropical vegetation and flowering bushes and trees,” Leatherman said on this site. (Wailea Beach was No. 8 last year.)

Sunset At Tropical Poipu Beach Of Kauai, Hawaii

Sunset at Poiʻpū Beach.
Photo: Getty Images

Making the list this year at No. 9 is Poʻipū Beach on Kauaʻi’s sunny south shore—which, according to Leatherman, is really two beaches in one. A tombolo—a narrow spit that extends from shore to an island—splits the beach into two. The offshore island provides a barrier, blocking larger waves and creating a fun area for keiki to play. There’s a lot to do here, from surfing to snorkeling, and there’s lifeguards, parking, rental kiosks and a playground for kids. And sunsets here are spectacular.

Top 10 U.S. Beaches for 2023

  1. St. George Island State Park, Florida
  2. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi
  3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
  5. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outer Banks of North Carolina
  6. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
  7. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaiʻi
  8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  9. Poʻipū Beach, Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi
  10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

(Featured image: Photo by Edmund Garman, source)

Categories: Beaches, Couples, First-Time, Kauaʻi, Maui, News, Oʻahu