Hawaii in Pictures: 19 Beautiful Places to Photograph
The incredible landscapes and rich biodiversity of the Hawaiian Islands make them one of the word's best destinations for photography. There's an incredible range of environments to capture, from barren, Mars-like volcanic landscapes to idyllic beaches and even tropical rainforests.
The islands' relatively compact size also means many different sites can be visited in a single day, and several islands can be visited on a single vacation. Here's a look at the most beautiful places to photograph around the Hawaiian islands.
1. Hanauma Bay, Oahu
This aquatic park is a protected marine sanctuary, located close to Honolulu. It's like swimming in a giant aquarium as you're surrounded by sea life as you snorkel around. Hanauma Bay is a great location for underwater photography.
The curving crescent of beach is also beautiful, and from the highway, you can get some great shots of the overall circular location, as it's the top of an extinct volcano.
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2. Diamond Head, Oahu
This mountain at the end of Waikiki Beach offers a wide range of photo opportunities, all from a site only minutes away from the attractions of Waikiki. Diamond Head also offers great photos whether you're shooting it or shooting from it. The best photos can be obtained by hiking to the top in the very early morning, then taking pics of the beach and coastline below you.
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3. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
This huge space offers a wide range of landscapes and environments to photograph. The park has it all: mountains, valleys, jungles, two active volcanoes (Kilauea and Mauna Loa), and barren rocky areas that look like another planet. It's possible to hike for hours, or you can easily see many photogenic and volcanic areas from your car with a drive along Crater Rim Drive or Chain of Craters Road.
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4. Punalu'u Beach, Hawaii
Hawaii's most famous black-sand beach is a great place for photos. It's off the road between Pahala and Na'alehu. The black sand is actually pulverized basalt lava, which flows into the sea and explodes as it cools, creating the sand that forms the beach.
5. Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Oahu
This hallowed site in the harbor of the naval station is focused around a shrine built over the sunken wreckage of two American battleships. The memorial also includes a museum building onshore, in addition to the over-the-water memorial. The stark white memorial building sitting on the blue water can make for some moving photographs.
6. The Road to Hana, Maui
Probably Hawaii's most famous road, this incredible 64-mile stretch of mainly two-lane highway connects the towns of Kahului and Hana. Along the way there are forests, mountains, and waterfalls along with deserted beaches and tiny beach towns.
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7. Koki Beach, Maui
To complete your Hawaii beach color palette, visit this red-sand beach on Maui. It's a serious surf break and where many locals teach their kids. The rich red color of the sand is due to the local geology and volcanic activity. It's easily accessible and just off the Road to Hana.
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8. Shipwreck Beach, Lanai
This remote beach, only accessible on foot or by jeep, has a huge WWII tanker wreck sitting just offshore. The wreck offers some really cool photos. You can also see the islands of Molokai and Maui from the beach. The ship was left here intentionally - it's an artificial reef and is made from concrete, not metal.
9. Garden of the Gods, Lanai
Hawaii is filled with otherworldly landscapes that could easily be mistaken for Mars or the Moon. The Garden of the Gods (Keahiakawelo in Hawaiian) is one of those places. It's great for photography and is about 45 minutes from Lanai City. The Garden of the Gods is a strange landscape populated with large boulders and rock towers.
10. Laniakea Beach, Oahu
Known as "turtle beach," this North Shore beach is the place to spot sea turtles. They lay eggs and sun themselves on the beach, and volunteers rope off the areas where the turtles are located. You can get some great wildlife pics here. When you're done taking turtle pics, the beach is part of a seven-mile stretch of some of the world's best surfing beaches.
11. Haleakala National Park, Maui
This large national park is an excellent place for wildlife photography. The park is home to more endangered species than any other national park in the country. You can photograph a subtropical rainforest or barren volcanic landscapes, all within the park. Daily ranger talks are given each morning at the visitor center (10am); they're a great way to discover the best photo ops.
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12. Wailua Falls, Kauai
This nearly 200-feet-tall waterfall may still best be known for its appearance in the opening sequence of the iconic 1970s TV series Fantasy Island. It's on the island of Kauai near the town of Lihue. While you're here, drive a bit down Route 580 to view Opaeka'a Falls, a 150-foot-tall double waterfall, which is less well-known (and less visited) than Wailua.
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13. Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, Molokai
This former royal coconut grove is right off the Mauna Loa Highway on the island of Molokai. The best time to visit is sunset, when the dense grove of tall trees stands out against the pinks and purples of the sunset sky. This really was a royal grove, it was planted in the mid-19th century for the king to provide a source of coconuts.
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14. Waimea Canyon, Kauai
Known as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii, this large gorge is a great place to take photos. The colors are incredible - deep reds and browns due to the ground's high iron content. Most of the viewpoints along the rim face to the east, so late afternoon gives the best lighting.
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15. Aloha Tower, Oahu
This is both a place to photograph as a subject and a place to photograph from, as it's a 10-story former lighthouse. There is an outdoor observation deck, and you can get some great images from that vantage point. You can take some beautiful photos of the Honolulu harbor and of the city's always growing skyline.
16. Waipio Valley, Hawaii
Located on the Big Island's Hamakua Coast, the sacred Waipio Valley has a lot of photogenic features. The valley itself has 2,000-foot-high cliffs; a black-sand beach; and Hi'ilawe Falls, a 1,400-foot waterfall and the highest in the Hawaiian Islands. There are even wild horses here, but getting a photo of one of them can be difficult, as they tend to avoid people.
17. Sea Cliffs, Molokai
The Hawaiian island of Molokai has the highest sea cliffs in the world, some reaching 4,000 feet. Kalaupapa National Historical Park has hiking paths and mule tours that will get you to the cliffs. You can also rent a boat to take you offshore to get photos of the cliffs from the sea.
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18. Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu
Located in Laie on Oahu, this is the place to photograph Hawaiian culture as presented for tourists. They have all kinds of dances and performances, including luaus. Expect to see colorful clothing and photograph performers in motion.
19. Banzai Pipeline, Oahu
If you want to take photos of surfers and the surf culture, head to the famous Banzai Pipeline. It's a world-famous reef surfing break near Ehukai Beach Park on Oahu's North Shore. Capture action shots, along with crashing waves and spray.