Which Beaches Are Better, Florida or Hawaii? (Know Before You Go)

Florida and Hawaii are arguably the best beach destinations in the US, but which has better beaches? 

Few things beat the joy of planning a vacation, but you need to decide what you want from your trip before deciding on a location. Do you enjoy lounging on the beach and sipping on cocktails? Does nightlife appeal to you, or are you more outdoorsy? 

Are you traveling with family, as a couple, or solo? Both the Sunshine and the Aloha States are blessed with incredible beaches, yet each state has something unique to offer.  

Are Florida Or Hawaii Beaches Better?

Florida’s many wide, sandy beaches are lined with fantastic restaurants and offer many activities. In contrast, Hawaii’s beaches are more scenic but scattered among several islands. Florida has a buzzing nightlife and many theme parks and museums, making it a fantastic destination for party lovers or families with children. Hawaii is an “outdoor adventure meets island escape” destination best suited for couples and adventurous vacationers.

The Top Rated Beaches In Florida 

Florida has some of the most popular beaches in the country and great weather, too; no wonder many choose to retire in the Sunshine state! 

The East coast is known for its beaches, watersports, and party life. However, some of the best beaches are on the Gulf coast. The sand is sugar white and fine in the West and Panhandle, and the beaches are wide.

The Florida Keys is located on an ancient exposed coral reef. While the water is crystal clear, the beaches are less sandy. There are still a few beautiful beaches here, though.

The beaches in Florida are easily accessible and lined with eateries and other attractions. The most populated beaches have lifeguard towers, ample parking, and outdoor play parks.

With more than 1500 miles of coastline, there’s no shortage of magnificent beaches, but the top-rated ones are:

  • Siesta Key Beach on Florida’s west coast is one of the most popular beaches in the state. The sand consists primarily of quartz, resulting in a soft white beach that feels like baby powder.  
  • South Beach in Miami. Less crowded than Miami Beach, South Beach has all the glamor and nightlife of Miami and is excellent for watersports. 
  • Destin Beach in the Pandhandle has the most picturesque emerald-green waters and plenty of family-friendly activities nearby. 
  • Clearwater on the west coast. Perfect for swimming, taking long strolls, or playing volleyball on the beach.
  • Fort Meyers Beach is ideal if you love a coastal village atmosphere, casual vibes, and dolphin-watching.

The Top Rated Beaches In Hawaii

Hawaii and its beaches are world-renowned. The islands are breathtaking and wild, with a rich, diverse culture. In short, it is pure paradise.

With six islands accessible to tourists and many beaches, choosing the most beautiful ones can be tricky. However, Hawaii boasts a beach experience like no other in the world. 

The beaches of Hawaii have one thing over those in Florida. Hawaii’s mountains and natural scenery surrounding the beaches create a dramatic backdrop and breathtaking views.

With lush forests, coconut trees, and beach sand in all colors of the rainbow, you won’t regret visiting any of these beaches:

  • Waikiki Beach in Oahu is the equivalent of Florida’s Miami. Great for luxury resorts and high-end shopping experiences. 
  • Ka’anapali Beach in Maui. Ideal for snorkeling, whale watching, and otherworldly sunsets.
  • Punalu’u Beach on the island of Hawaii. The famous black sand beach is awe-inspiring.
  • The Big Island’s Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area has a sandy white beach and clear, turquoise waters.
  • Kailua Beach in Oahu is one of the island’s best beaches. This idyllic beach has soft sand, crystal-clear waters, and ample shade. 

Island hopping is the best way to thoroughly enjoy all Hawaii offers. However, it is easy to travel between islands by air or boat. 

Things To Do In Florida 

Florida is quite a large state, and the vibe on each coast is entirely different, from the panhandle to the keys to the east. There is plenty to do that will please every type of person. 

Whether traveling with your family or as a couple, your options are endless. Florida has phenomenal Cuban and seafood, excellent golf courses, and many resorts and shopping spots.

For bucket list activities in Florida, you can’t miss these:

  • Selfies at the Southernmost Point of the Continental USA
  • The prehistoric spring in Devil’s Den
  • A palm reading by a psychic in Cassadaga

If you are traveling with children, there are many resorts and theme parks to keep young ones entertained. The best theme parks are between Orlando and Tampa, including Disney World, Universal Studios, and Lego Land.

Top museums in Florida include:

Head to the east coast for watersports and boating. Jetski in Miami or South beach for breathtaking views of Miami’s skyline. At night, the city comes alive. The nightlife and party scene are much better here than in Hawaii, so party animals prefer Florida.

If nature and hiking are more your thing, Dry Tortugas and Everglades National Parks are well worth a visit. Snorkeling is best done in the Keys, where many reefs and sea life exist.

Of course, snorkeling (or kayaking) with manatees is a must. Crystal River, north of Tampa, is one of the best locations for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Things To Do In Hawaii  

Hawaii is the epitome of tropical paradise. The untamed wilderness of the islands has inspired movies like Jurassic Park. 

No trip to Hawaii will be complete without a visit to Kualoa Ranch. Many Hollywood films were shot here, including Lost, Jumanji, and several Jurassic Park movies. 

Take a helicopter tour over Manawaiopuna Falls in Kauai to recreate the movie scene. The falls are now fondly called “The Jurassic Park Falls.” A must-do for Jurassic Park fans! 

Hawaii has a plethora of outdoor activities that beat Florida hands down. Here are the top must-do activities:

  • Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Oahu
  • Take a helicopter tour over the active volcano on the main island
  • Surfing
  • Whalewatching
  • Snorkel with sea turtles in Waikiki
  • Visit Volcanos National Park
  • Indulge in mouthwatering traditional Hawaiian cuisines like shaved ice desserts and poke bowls
  • Hiking Kauai’s epic Kalalau trail
  • Immerse yourself in Hawaiin culture by experiencing Old Lahaina Luau
  • Snorkel with Mantra rays in Kona on the Big Island
  • Hike through bamboo forests to Waimoku Falls in Maui

Verdict: Florida Vs. Hawaii

The beaches of Florida and Hawaii are equally beautiful in their own right. Which beaches appeal to you largely depends on your idea of the perfect beach vacation.

Florida is best for a traditional beach vacation with fun activities, ice cream, food trucks, lounging on the beach, and enjoying watersports. But if your vision of the perfect beach getaway is tropical island vibes, you won’t regret going to Hawaii. 

Hawaii is ideal for adventurous travelers who enjoy hiking, scuba diving, and other outdoor activities. It is also the best place for a rejuvenating island getaway and an unforgettable romantic destination for couples. 

If you are traveling with children, Florida is a better destination than Hawaii unless they love dinosaurs and Jurassic Park. The many theme parks and family-friendly beaches in Florida warrant a fun-filled holiday. Traveling around is also much easier, which is always a bonus with active little ones. 

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.