Hawaiʻi Shorelines Top List of Best Beaches in America
Hāpuna Beach State Park was awarded the number one spot for the best beaches in America as part of Dr. Beach’s 30th annual rankings.
This was the second time Hāpuna received this designation, placing first in 1993, according to USA Today.
“Hapuna Beach, a beautiful coral sand beach, seems incredibly white, partly because of the sharp contrast with the black lava rock that flanks and bounds this half-mile pocket beach,” according to coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, professor at Florida International University.
Rankings are based on an encompassing 50 criteria, the most important being safety and cleanliness, tallied using a slider on a scale from one to five.
“It is always an honor for one of our State Parks to receive recognition of this caliber,” said DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell. “It reflects both the scenic and natural resource value of Hāpuna, as well as the quality of recent upgrades at this popular park.”
Another choice this year was Duke Kahanamoku Beach on the island of Oʻahu, which landed the sixth spot.
A Hawaiʻi beach has been named the national winner 18 times since 1991, the most of any state. Hawaiʻi beaches’ consistent success, by Dr. Beach’s standards, is attributed to cleanliness and the prohibition of smoking.
The purpose of his list is aimed at informing the public, protecting the natural environment and improving beach etiquette.
Over three decades, beach-expert Dr. Stephen Leatherman (aka “Dr. Beach”) has worked to increase awareness about the dangers of rip currents and to promote no smoking at beaches.
“In the winter during big wave days, pounding shore breaks and rip currents make swimming impossible. At these times, I enjoy riding the rapidly moving swash of the broken waves up the beach face on a boogie board; the key is to stay in the shallow water far from the breakers so that you are not swept back into the ocean,” said Leatherman.
As for smoking, all beaches in Hawaiʻi are considered no-smoking areas.
This year, rounding the corner of the pandemic has given additional meaning to making the list.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources released a statement Thursday that said Leatherman’s designation of Hāpuna highlights a paradox.
“We’re approaching the busy summer season with post-pandemic visitor numbers expected to potentially increase sharply,” said Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell. “This undoubtedly means more people spending time at Hāpuna and Waialea, so our conundrum is balancing resource protection, quality of experience, and public safety concerns.”
Waialea Bay, the neighboring beach adjacent to Hāpuna, is one of 11 Hawai’i Marine Life Conservation Districts which enjoy the State’s greatest level of natural resource protections.
The concern is that national attention could breed higher traffic that does more harm than help for the beaches.
Important Information for Beach-Goers
The state agency said visitors should use reef-safe sunscreen and know that lifeguard coverage may be reduced because of revenue loss and budget cuts during the pandemic.
As a result of sunscreen bleaching, some beaches may close periodically to allow for coral spawning during certain moon phases.
For more on the Top 10 List, visit https://www.drbeach.org/.