For photographers from around the world, Hawaii is like one giant photogenic playground. From active volcanic lava flows to unique marine life found nowhere else on Earth to dramatic landscapes that highlight Hawaii’s rugged beauty, there are countless locations on each island to capture seriously amazing images.
While you certainly don’t have to be a professional to capture and appreciate the beauty of Hawaii, we’re here to help guide you to some of the most scenic locations on each island.
BIG ISLAND – “The Orchid Isle”
With 5 major volcanoes, the Big Island certainly has its fair share of volcanic activity, including Kilauea, which has been continually erupting since 1983. On your next visit to the Big Island, make sure to drive the Crater Rim Trail to enjoy views of the Kilauea Caldera and Halema’uma’u Crater.
The rising steam and desolate landscape allow for unique photo opportunities of one of Hawaii’s most interesting locations. There are many ways to visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Papakolea Grean Sand Beach
One of only two green sand beaches in the world, Papakolea is located at the southern tip of the island in Mahana Bay. The sand’s green color is the result of a former volcanic eruption, and the beach is actually located within a former cinder cone.
The surrounding lava rock paired with the turquoise water and green sand creates an unusually beautiful scene, perfect for capturing great photos. While you can only reach this beach by a 2.5-mile hike (each way), if you’re up for it, you definitely won’t regret the journey!
Located on the northern tip of the island, the Kohala Coast features rugged lava fields, towering sea cliffs, the largest restored heiau (or ancient temple) in Hawaii, deep valleys, and cascading waterfalls, all of which are the perfect excuse to pull out your camera and snap away.
On helicopter ours doing Kohala Coast Adventure, guests will enjoy views of this rugged coast from the side and above, creating scenic viewpoints of many of the area’s most photogenic locations you won’t get any other way.
Big Island, Kauai, and Maui Snorkeling
You’ll want to get shots underwater as well. Whether you’ve got a GoPro or a professional housing for your DSLR, getting in our ocean for photos is a must!
Renting snorkel gear? Reserve your snorkel set online with Boss Frogs, then pick it up when you get on island. You can do inter-island returns if traveling. Boss Frogs has many locations across the islands.
MAUI – “The Valley Isle”
For the best photos of Maui, we recommend the following sites:
Wai’anapanapa State Park
While Maui’s famous Road to Hana offers more than several locations for great photos, including bamboo forests, gardens, panoramic views of mountains and taro fields, and an array of colorful beaches, you can get the most bang for your buck, so to speak, at Wai’anapanapa State Park, located at Mile Marker #32.
Home to a dramatic black sand beach, lava tubes, freshwater caves, sea arches, blowholes, and cliffs of lava rock, there isn’t a way to leave here without getting a good photograph.
With a summit 10,000 feet above sea level, Haleakala is a great location to travel above the cloud line to witness a truly stunning sunrise or sunset on Maui. The crater itself, located at the top of the volcano and large enough to fit Manhattan, includes several hiking trails and two campsites, allowing residents and guests the opportunity to explore an other-worldly, desert-like landscape.
The scenery is unusually interesting and unlike anything else you’ll experience on Maui.
West Maui Mountains
While a trip to historic Iao Valley State Park provides a sample of the hidden treasures located within the West Maui Mountains, it’s an aerial view of the towering cliffs, valleys, streams, and cascading waterfalls, many of which cannot be seen any other way, that really offer the best opportunity for amazing photos.
The clouds and occasional rainbows only add to the experience, and we highly recommend a Maui helicopter tour of the West Maui Mountains to see it for yourself.
OAHU – “The Gathering Place”
Nuuanu Pali Lookout
Meaning cliff in Hawaiian, the Pali Lookout offers a great vantage point for panoramic views of some of the island’s most beautiful locations, including Koolau cliffs, Mokolii (often called Chinamen’s Hat), Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Coconut Island, and the areas of Kaneohe and Kailua.
Snap a photo of Oahu’s beautiful windward side and learn about the historical significance of the area as the site of the famous Battle of Nuuanu, which allowed King Kamehameha to unite Oahu under his rule.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
For those of you interested in capturing underwater photos of Hawaii’s unique marine life, Hanauma Bay is a great place to do just that. The first Marine Life Conservation District in Hawaii, Hanauma Bay is a circular-shaped bay filled with colorful tropical fish and coral.
The clear, shallow waters are perfect for a day of relaxed snorkeling and swimming, and a great place to capture close-up shots of Hawaii’s most interesting marine species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
Although there are hundreds of places on Oahu with opportunities for great photographs, you can’t come all the way to Hawaii without visiting the #1 attraction in the state, the historic grounds of Pearl Harbor. Skip the long waiting line, receive round-trip transportation from your accommodation, and enjoy a spectacular tour of all 4 Pearl Harbor attractions – the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Battleship Missouri, USS Bowfin, and Pacific Aviation Museum – with the folks at Pearl Harbor Tours. Guests will also be treated to a narrated tour of other Oahu must-sees like Honolulu City, Iolani Palace, Kawaiahao Church, Punchbowl National Cemetery, King Kamehameha Statue, Ali’iolani Hale, and even the Hawaii State Capitol on this once-in-a-lifetime Hawaii tour.
One of the best ways to see this site, along with the beautiful coral reefs of Waikiki, Diamond Head, Waimanalo Beach, Kaneohe Bay, cliffs of the Nuuanu Valley Rainforest, Sacred Falls, Dole Pineapple Plantation, Arizona Memorial and the Battleship Missouri is from above on an Oahu Helicopter tour. This is a great way to see several of Oahu’s most picturesque sights in less than an hour!
LANAI – “The Pineapple Isle”
With a population of only 3,000 residents, Lanai is a great place to explore if crowds aren’t necessarily your thing. Home to two Four Seasons Resorts, Hotel Lanai, and a beautiful campground at Hulopoe Bay, you can choose to spend a few days or take the ferry from Maui’s Lahaina Harbor for a short day adventure.
Also known as ‘Garden of the Gods’, this rugged destination is located on the northwest side of the island. Said to be a result of a fire burning challenge gone wrong between two kahunas (Hawaiian priests), the area is a barren landscape of boulders and dramatic rock formations. Visit at sunset for the best results, and be aware that this area can only be reached by 4×4 vehicle.
Commonly referred to as ‘Shipwreck Beach’, this photogenic Lanai spot is the site of numerous shipwrecks due to the surrounding shallow rocky area. An oil tanker crashed here in the 1940s, and its hull remains on the reef today, creating the perfect scene for dramatic photographs. Enjoy views of the neighbor islands of Maui and Molokai, visit the nearby Kukui Point petroglyphs, and be advised that 4-wheel drive is required.
MOLOKAI – “The Friendly Isle”
Known as the most Hawaiian island, Molokai has a rich history of both tragedy and natural beauty. With no traffic lights and the steepest sea cliffs in the world, this is truly a unique and less visited look inside the real Hawaii.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
One of the most remote areas in Hawaii, Kalaupapa was the former exile site for Hawaiians who contracted Hansen’s disease or leprosy. Father Damien, a Belgian missionary, came to the aid of the banished population, and after 16 years of service, suffered the same fate as the victims he was so selflessly trying to help.
Today, the area remains as a place of historical preservation and education, accessible only by mule ride or hiking tour. The mule ride offers a 3-mile ride along steep sea cliffs, reaching up to 3,900 feet, and this surreal view and experience are not to be missed when visiting Molokai.
A historic area that dates back to 650 AD, Halawa Valley is home to the 250-foot Mooula Falls and several hidden heiaus (Hawaiian temples). Although the only way to reach the area is by joining a guided tour due to its location through private property, it’s well worth the trek.
If you plan on swimming in the falls, Hawaiian legend states that you must drop a ti leaf in first. If the leaf floats, the moo, or giant lizard that’s said to reside at the bottom of the falls, is saying it’s safe to swim. If the leaf sinks, the moo does not welcome visitors at that time.
While you can certainly appreciate Molokai’s beauty from the ground, the best place to experience the world’s tallest sea cliffs is from a helicopter. With on-level and aerial views of the world’s tallest sea cliffs, located in east Molokai, you’re sure to capture some jaw-dropping photos of one of Hawaii’s best-kept secrets.
KAUAI – “The Garden Isle”
Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, Waimea Canyon is more than 3,600 feet deep and 14 miles long, offering prime opportunities to capture panoramic photographs of deep gorges, valleys, and the bright colors that make this one of the most scenic places on Kauai.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike along one of the many trails in the area and snap photos along the way.
Originally built in 1892, this frequently visited north shore pier was completely restored only a few years ago, offering visitors an excellent location for sunset gazing, fishing, swimming, water sports, and beach picnics.
This beloved hangout is a great place to photograph a beautiful sunset or beach landscape.
Na Pali Coast
If you’ve ever seen photographs of Kauai, chances are it included the famous Na Pali Coastline. Featuring gorgeous views from any angle, one of the best ways to see this area (besides the strenuous hike along Kalalau Trail) is from the air.
Some Kauai helicopter tours cover almost the entire island, including Hanapepe Valley, Mana Waiapuna (or Jurassic Park Falls), Olokele Canyon, Waimea Canyon, Na Pali Coast, Bali Hai Cliffs, Hanalei Bay, and Princeville Resort area. If the weather permits, you’ll even explore Mt Waialeale, the wettest spot on Earth, enjoying views of 5,000-foot walls and 3,000-foot waterfalls as you descend into the crater.