The votes are tallied, and Cooking Light readers’ pick for the world’s best beaches are the islands known for clear air, green mountains, and unforgettable seaside stays.

Hawaii is home to hundreds of beaches.

Hawaii is home to hundreds of beaches.

Douglas Merriam

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There’s no shortage of places worldwide offering sun, sea, and sand, but none compare to Hawaii. This archipelago is the most isolated group of islands on the planet, located almost 2,300 miles from the continental United States without a speck of land in between.

Hawaii is home to hundreds of beaches. Some are as easily accessible as pulling to the side of the road and stepping from your car onto the sand, while others require hikes or boat rides. The variety is amazing: Hawaii has white sand beaches (made from crushed coral), black sand beaches (created when molten lava was pulverized by the ocean), gray sand beaches (a blend of the two), red sand beaches (from red lava cinders), even green sand beaches (where the semiprecious stone olivine from encrusted lava dominates). And then there are those magnificent beaches on which you can actually stay the night.

Having explored every beach in Hawaii in the past decade to author the Revealed guidebooks, I found it hard to narrow down the five best places where you can stay on the beach. I picked one from each of the four major islands, plus the winner. Although you’ve undoubtedly heard of some of these beaches, my top choice allows you to keep a piece of tropical paradise all to yourself―at least for a little while.

Beach 5―Oahu: Waikiki Beach

There’s a reason why more than 95 percent of all hotel and condo rooms on Oahu are centered around this mile-and-a-half-long stretch of sand: Because of its location on the drier, leeward side of the island, Waikiki’s waters are usually gentle and warm. It provides the ideal spot to enjoy both beaches and Honolulu’s thriving city scene.

Where to stay: Centrally located on the beach, the Moana Surfrider (from $350, 866-500–8313) is a Waikiki landmark, dating from 1901 when it was the first hotel to open in the islands. Splurge on an oceanfront room for an unbeatable view.

Eat Smart: The Ocean House has reasonable prices for a beachfront location. Try their hapu’upu’u, a Hawaiian seabass sautéed with bananas in Frangelico sauce.

Be Fit: The nearshore waters here offer the best conditions to learn how to surf: The waves roll modestly and push for long stretches. Beginners can easily hang 10 with less than an hour of instruction. Lessons are a breeze to find at the Waikiki Beach Center.

Live well: Snorkelers near the beach may find the water cloudy with sand as waves come ashore. Boats carry you far enough to take advantage of clearer waters, where sea turtles and spinner dolphins are common sights. Outrigger Catamaran (808-922–2210) leaves directly from the beach.


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