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- Where to stay: Hilton Hawaiian Village offers 4-star accommodations in Waikiki, and depending on the time of year, rooms can be found for around $250.
- Where to eat: For fish straight out of the ocean as soon as your plane lands, head to Nico’s Pier for a delicious poke bowl. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck on the island's north shore is a must with nearly 30 years of happy customers more than willing to vouch for eating out of the back of a truck.
- Where to fly into: Daniel K. Inouye Airport is the largest airport in Hawaii.
- Where to rent a car: Enterprise, Hertz, and Budget all operate out of the airport.
- Best luggage: For a trip of this length, the Nomatic Check-In roller bag is the ideal choice. It offers polycarbonate construction that stands up to the rigors of travel, silent wheels, low-profile handles, and a three-stage aluminum handle to fit your height. With space for 78 liters of gear, this bag has plenty of room for a 5-day trip or longer.
- Best camera: The GoPro Hero 8 Black can go from the top of Kilauea to below the surface of the ocean and everywhere in between. Shoot beautiful still photos, crisp 4K video, and take advantage of tons of features like HyperSmooth to get stabilized footage.
- Check the weather in Hawaii right now.
photo by Evan Austen via iStock
Hawaii is one of the most exciting places in the United States. It’s made up of 8 major islands, one of which is completely closed off to everyone who is not a native Hawaiian. So, it makes sense that this is an ecological paradise.
While you cannot go to Niihau (unless you marry an inhabitant), you can go to Oahu (the island with arguably the prettiest landscapes and unarguably the most incredible Asian food).
And, if you’re planning on making your vacation a working vacation, then you’re going to need some tips about places to photograph in Hawaii.
Here are our favorite popular Hawaii photography spots; we also may have snuck some local favorites in as well.
Yokohama Bay at Sunset
photo by Nalunani_Photography via iStock
Sunset Beach is overrated and I’m the first person to say it. It’s gorgeous, but it’s constantly flooded with tourists, which makes photographing the natural landscape incredibly difficult.
Yokohama Bay is an incredibly well-kept local secret. It lies all the way on the far northwestern tip of Oahu, which means it will take you about an hour long drive through tropical forests to reach.
Yokohama Bay is quite a long beach, which means even on the most popular travel days, you should be able to find a huge spot to stakeout for yourself. Plus, Yokohama, or “yokes,” isn’t featured in any Hawaii photography guide yet, so you won’t be fighting crowds even on the weekends.
As is the case with most of Hawaii’s best kept secrets, there are very few photographs available online of this secret paradise. Thanks to Papahui Hawaii for the video about Yokohama Bay.
While you can photograph this gorgeous beach any time of the day, the sunset here is the best on the island.
Plus, you can make an entire day of Yokohama and photograph the wildlife in the area, like the endangered Hawaiian monk seal featured in this video by BlueWorldTV.
Pro Tip: There’s a hiking trail at the very end of Yokohama Bay which takes you to Ka’ena Point. During the winter months, you can find the world’s largest population of nesting albatross at Ka’ena Point, and during the summer months (if you’re lucky) you can photograph endangered Hawaiian monk seals resting along the shores.
Ko’olau Mountain Range
photo by Teri Wertman via iStock
The Ko’olau mountains are one of my favorite places to photograph in Hawaii because they are huge, which means there are hundreds of hikes you can take on them to snap a photo nobody else ever has before.
The Ko’olaus are located on the westward side of the island, opposite from Honolulu. They also wrap around a small Hawaiian town, “Waimanalo,” which the locals refer to as “God’s Country.”
While you’re out photographing the Ko’olaus, you can stop by any one of the farms located in Waimanalo.
photo by Joshua McDonough via iStock
A favorite spot for the locals is Waimanalo Country Farms, which hosts pumpkin patches and sunflower fields year round.
As much as I love all of the flora and fauna that is local to Oahu, it’s always fun to read about travel tips for Hawaii that remind you of home, but with a twist.
It’s definitely an odd feeling to visit a pumpkin patch in the middle of the Pacific, but an experience that is not to be missed.
Editor's Tip: When I head out for a long photography journey, I want a camera bag that's bulletproof and can accommodate a lot of gear. For that, I've got the Nomatic Check-In. This bag has a lightweight polycarbonate shell that'll stand up well to the rigors of airline travel. It has TSA locking zippers, low-profile handles that won't get caught in luggage systems, and it holds up to 78 liters of gear!
photo by Kirkikis via iStock
The Byodo-In Temple was created to commemorate the first time Japanese immigrants came to the island of Oahu. It is a smaller replica of a nearly 1,000 year old temple located in Uji, Japan.
After you’re done photographing all of the other places to photograph in Hawaii on this list, you may need a bit of relaxation, which is what the Byodo-In Temple is all about.
The temple itself houses a 9-foot-tall Buddha, which is thought to be the largest Buddha sculpture outside of Japan. Despite the fact that this is not a practicing temple, you must remove your footwear before entering to show respect for the religion.
The temple grounds are almost more beautiful, though. The temple is surrounded by a huge koi pond. You can purchase coconuts and trinkets from the tea house. Finally, the temple is located in a place called the “Valley of the Temples,” which also houses beautiful graveyards with intricately designed mausoleums and granite headstones for many wealthy Japanese families.
photo by kcastagnola via iStock
Pro tip: I’m not usually a fan of using a Hawaii travel guide, but they do have one good tip: don’t forget your bug spray. While the temple itself shouldn’t have many bugs, the less populated gardens surrounding the temple (which are an absolute must see) will. Don’t let a fear of mosquitos keep you from banging the three-ton gong (which is said to bring happiness and a long life) or meditate in the pavilion which is open to people of all faiths.
Any One of the Hundreds of Waterfalls
photo by Marcel Fuentes via iStock
I could create an entire list of places to photograph in Hawaii of just different waterfalls.
Some waterfalls are easy to reach, like Manoa Falls which requires a .8 mile hike along a well-maintained trail.
Some other waterfalls are a little more difficult, like Maunawili Falls which requires a 4-mile round trip hike through a well-marked, but less well-maintained trail. Maunawili is for the adventurers among you because once you scramble through the slippery tree root paved path, and wade through a river, you can actually cliff dive off of the waterfall into a pool at the bottom.
photo by Don White via iStock
Some waterfalls, on the other hand, are only for the serious adventurers. One of my favorite places to photograph in Hawaii is a series of 3 waterfalls along Ka’au Crater.
But, Ka’au Crater will take you at least 6 hours to hike, and climb, and fall. There are multiple points on this trail where it is only a single rope tied lovingly by another hiker between you and certain death.
Do you trust your hiking capabilities as much as your photography skills?
Diamond Head Crater
photo by Noah Sauve via iStock
Skip the crowds at Waikiki in favor of this spot overlooking it. Diamond Head is a .8 mile trail along the rim of an old volcano that helped to form Oahu.
Of all my Hawaii photography tips, my number one tip is to get as far out of Waikiki to photograph as possible. And there’s not much farther you can get than nearly one mile into the air over it.
And if Waikiki is still on your places to photograph in Hawaii bucket list, then you can catch beautiful aerial photos of it like the one above from the top of Diamond Head.
photo by BackyardProduction via iStock
Shark’s Cove is not known for its sharks (although you may find some reef sharks if you know where to look) but it is known for its beauty.
If you don’t know what to photograph in Hawaii, other than sea turtles, then this is definitely the place for you because it is one of the most likely places for a turtle sighting, but it has so much more to offer as well.
Shark’s Cove has the best snorkeling on the island, which means underwater photography enthusiasts will have the time of their lives.
photo by LFPuntel via iStock
There are plenty of underwater caves, fluorescent schools of fish, and impeccably clear bodies of water here.
Editor's Tip: Traveling to Hawaii requires a multiple-day stay. After all, you can't appreciate it beauty on a quick trip! The Nomatic Check-In is the ideal bag for a multi-day adventure. It has a customizable folding compression panel to maximize interior space. It also has a full perimeter expansion zipper that gets you 12 liters of additional space. This bag is well-made, perfectly designed, and ultra functional. Just what you want in a travel bag!
photo by maximkabb via iStock
If you’re lucky enough to get invited to Kualoa Ranch, take the opportunity. Technically, the entirety of Kualoa Ranch is private property (although they do host a variety of tours through the more well-traveled portion of the land).
Most of Jurassic Park was shot on Kualoa land, which speaks for the otherworldly beauty of it.
You can see some of this beauty in this video by Devinsupertramp.
Some places to photograph in Hawaii are a little more difficult to get into. This is one of them. Although, Kualoa Ranch hosts a half marathon every November where runners can trek through the backcountry of the ranch. So, if you’re really hoping to shoot here, you may want to start training.
Lanikai Beach (and “The Mokes”)
photo by ShaneMyersPhoto via iStock
Lanikai Beach is another well-hidden treasure on the westward side of the island. A little less than one mile from Lanikai Beach are a set of twin islands, called “the mokes” by the locals that you can kayak to.
There’s a natural turtle feeding ground between the beach and the islands, so don’t forget to look down during your journey out.
Plus, these islands provide an incredible spot for landscape photography shots that you would otherwise need to lease a boat to get.
Pro Tip: After a long day photographing Lanikai Beach, head over to Lanikai Brewing for an authentic, island inspired brew.
The Haiku Stairs
photo by SvetlanaSF via iStock
This hike is technically very illegal. But, nobody said popular Hawaii photography spots were easy to get to.
The Haiku Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, hike is illegal because it’s incredibly dangerous. The stairs were created during World War II to allow military members to build a naval radio station on the summit of Puu Keahiakahoe. And, its nearly 4,000 stairs haven’t had many repairs since that time.
Unless you’re planning on outrunning the 24-hour security guards at the bottom of this hike, or paying the $1,000 fine, you can do the legal hike on the other side of the mountain which brings you to the summit where you can then hike down some of the stairs to get those quintessential shots.
One of the more popular places to photograph in Hawaii are the mermaid caves off the Nanakuli Beach coast.
These caves, which were created by the steady erosion of lava tunnels, provide a photographer’s paradise.
However, don’t get in if you’re not comfortable swimming in strong tides and make sure to check the wave report before you go out. People have been stuck in the caves during high tide and drowned.
Planning Your Hawaii Photography Trip