The 3 Best Hawaii Lakes for Swimming

Oahu island
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Written by Angie Menjivar

Updated: May 20, 2023

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In Hawaii, you have abundant swimming opportunities and most of them are in the ocean itself. Since Hawaii is a string of islands, there isn’t an abundance of lakes. There are, however, some natural lakes found throughout the state that house wetland bird species and several fish species. These naturally occurring lakes vary in size. In addition to the natural lakes, there are some great swimming spots you can check out to swim to your heart’s content.

5 Hawaii Lakes

1. Hālaliʻi Lake

Map of Ni'ihau.,Hawaii.,Usa

Ni’ihau is home to one of the best Hawaii lakes for swimming.

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Hālaliʻi Lake is located on the island of Ni’ihau and when it’s time for rain, it quickly becomes the largest lake found throughout the state. This lake covers just over 840 acres when it’s at its biggest. However, when it’s dry season, it dries out significantly, becoming reddish with only a few sections where water pools, creating much smaller saline lakes. The water level gets so irregular here that it’s not always referred to as a lake. When it is, however, locals use it for mullet fishing. You can also birdwatch here.

2. Lake Waiau

Lake Waiau at Mauna Kea, Big Island, Hawaii

One of the smaller choices for the best Hawaii lakes for swimming is Lake Waiau.

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Lake Waiau sits 13,020 feet above sea level in Mauna Kea. It’s situated on Hawaii, the biggest island of the state, and is small in comparison to other lakes, just under 330 feet across. Water levels shift here, changing its size regularly. When it’s at its highest water level, a bit of water is released via a small outlet stream that soaks into the earth below. Although the name alludes to moving waters, the lake itself is rather still. When winter months roll around, the water typically freezes over.

3. Laysan Lake

Layson Island, Hawaii

On Layson Island, you can find shallow swimming holes to enjoy in Hawaii.

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Located smack dab in the center of Laysan Island, Laysan Lake is enclosed by white, sandy beaches. The saline content in this lake is remarkably high (three times more than the ocean’s saline content) and several seabirds and shorebirds tend to visit the area. It’s rather shallow, reaching, at most, 30 feet deep, and covers about 100 acres. Despite the saline content, there are pockets of fresh water in Laysan Lake that you can find by following the finches.

4. Violet Lake

Violet Lake

Violet Lake is the third-highest lake in the United States and sits on Maui Island.

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The location of Violet Lake makes it hard to find, as it’s surrounded by dense rainforests. It’s situated on Maui Island on Mauna Kahalawai. It’s a great destination if you’re ready for a hike. Here, you can enjoy several of nature’s marvels, including the Maui violet, a unique flower species, and Megalagrion, which are Hawaiian damselflies. To the Hawaiian people, this location is sacred, viewed as a meeting place between heaven and earth. Many hike here just to revel in the glory of nature.

5. Halulu Lake

Ni'ihau Island, Hawaii

Ni’ihau Island is home to one of the largest lakes in Hawaii.

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This large lake is located on Ni’ihau island and during the rainy season, it expands to over 180 acres. However, during the summer season, it shrinks significantly. The lakebed has a distinctive reddish color. Although Hālaliʻi Lake on this same island is considered the largest during the rainy season, Halulu Lake is the biggest non-intermittent lake found throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Best Hawaii Spots for Swimming

1. Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

One of the largest bays on Kauai and one of the best Hawaii lakes for swimming is Hanalei Bay.

©Pierre Leclerc/Shutterstock.com

Hanalei Bay has a crescent shape and is a popular destination for those looking to enjoy stunning, sparking blue water beaches and take in gorgeous mountain views. It’s located on the island of Kauai and spans two miles. You can head out into the water and enjoy a good swim before popping back onto land for incredible food and cozy places to rest your head. When you’re out and about, you can enjoy shopping in the surf town or plan your next water outing to include paddling and kayaks.

2. Waimea Bay Beach Park

Waimea Bay Beach

Waimea Bay has a lovely beach and is one of the best Hawaii lakes for swimming.

©Kelly Headrick/Shutterstock.com

Located on the north shore of Oʻahu is Waimea Bay Beach Park. For swimming, your best bet is the summer season when the waters are calm and inviting. During the winter season, it’s a different experience altogether with waves reaching a towering 30 feet (perfect for thrill-seeking surfers!). Aside from swimming, you can also enjoy snorkeling, bodyboarding, and fishing. When you’re back on the sand, you can take a break, set up your lunch on a picnic table, and enjoy the water from shore. Before you head out, you can stop by the showers to rinse off.

3. Ko Olina Lagoons

Ko Olina Lagoon, Hawaii

Ko Olina Lagoon is one of the best Hawaii lakes for swimming.

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The Ko Olina Lagoons are a series of four lagoons that you can enjoy a swim in. However, keep in mind that there are no lifeguards present so all who enter the water do so at their own risk. These lagoons are connected by 1.5 miles of seaside trails. They sit on private property and there are restrictions on activities. Whereas in other locations, you can enjoy additional activities, Ko Olina Lagoons are much more prohibitive, banning usual beach-goer activities like surfing, fishing, cooking, and even setting up sunshades and tents.

Summary of 5 Hawaii Lakes

RankLakeSize
1Hālaliʻi Lake840 acres
2Lake Waiauunder 330 feet across
3Laysan Lake100 acres
4Violet Lake10 feet × 20 feet
5Halulu Lake180 acres

Summary of Best Spots for Swimming in Hawaii

1Hanalei Bay
2Waimea Bay Beach Park
3Ko Olina Lagoons


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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