Maui's Wailea Beach tops list of world's best beaches for 1999

MIAMI -- Wailea Beach on Maui is the best beach in America for 1999, according to a leading beach expert. A Hawaii beach was chosen for the top accolade for the fourth straight year, and seven Hawaii beaches made the Top 20 list for 1999.

David Leatherman, an environmental studies professor at Florida International University, Miami, has conducted the annual best-beach ranking since 1991. Said Leatherman, "Wailea is excellent for swimming and snorkeling. Divers and snorkelers often encounter large sea turtles and sometimes manta rays just offshore.

Maui's Wailea Beach at sunset. "This pocket of beach of white coral sand is defined by two points of black lava rock and the trademark hotels in a tropical setting."

Wailea Beach is one of five beaches, and the largest, at the 1,500-acre Wailea resort. Between promontories, it reaches from Outrigger Wailea Beach to Four Seasons Resort Maui and fronts Grand Wailea Resort.

Of the beaches that made the Top 20 list this year, Florida has seven; New York and North Carolina each have two, and Massachusetts and California each have one.

Besides Wailea, the other six Hawaii beaches that made the list are as follows:

  • The Big Island's Kaunaoa Beach (also known as Mauna Kea Beach), second.
  • Hanalei, Kauai (fourth).
  • Kaanapali, Maui (fifth).
  • Hamoa, at Hana, Maui (eighth).
  • Poipu Beach Park, Kauai (17th).
  • Hanauma Bay, Oahu (18th).
  • Leatherman, known as Dr. Beach, judges the nation's public beaches using 50 criteria, including sand and waves, water quality, wildlife and human use and impact.

    The top beach chosen each year is excluded from the list for 10 years. Other previous winners were: 1991, Kapalua, Maui; 1992, Bahia Honda State Recreation Area, Fla.; 1993, Hapuna, Big Island; 1994, Grayton Beach, Fla.; 1995, St. Andrews, Fla.; 1996, Lanikai, Oahu; 1997, Hulopoe, Lanai, and 1998, Kailua, Oahu.

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