Heading to Hawaii? Want to take great pictures during your visit to the Big Island? Rob’s mom was born and raised on the Island of Hawaii, so we’ve spent a lot of time exploring all its treasures. Plus, we enlisted the help of our Hawaiian Aunties to unearth the best photo spots on Hawaii. Here’s my guide to the best places to take photos on the Big Island…complete with maps. I’ve also highlighted some of the best places to take photos on the Big Island in a video – so be sure to give that a look.
20 of The Best Places to Take Photos on the Big Island
Heaps of History
The City of Refuge at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park offers a great glimpse into Hawaii’s history, and then some. Black lava rock contrasts beautifully with crystal blue water, while palm trees mingle with tiki statues, and green sea turtles pop their adorable heads up for air.
Just around the point from the City of Refuge, the barbecue area at Honaunau Beach is a great place to capture one of Hawaii’s infamous sunsets. Palm trees offer a perfect foreground to a beautiful tropical painted sky.
Weather you hike down or join a snorkel tour, the Captain Cook Monument on Kealakekua Bay is one of the best snorkel spots on the island.
Hawaii often has awesome tropical sunsets. The entire western coastline is scattered with superb beaches. The picture happened to be taken at a more “locals friendly” spot, Spencer Beach. I like to look for a subject other than the sun to really make a sunset photo special. Wether it’s a surfer, a SUPer, a sailboat, a palm tree, a turtle, a tiki statue, etc. Kona side offers all kinds of sunset opportunities.
Oh Hello, Maui
The Hawaiian Belt road between Waimea and Kona goes right past the baron lava fields. On a clear day, you won’t just see the stunning ocean sparkling in the background, you’ll also see Hawaii’s closest neighbor, Maui.
Get Away From it All
While the Hawaiian Belt Road offers lava field views, the Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Waimea is a great place to not only get away from the hordes of tourists in Kona, but is also a great place to enjoy a non-beach sunset.
Need to give your sunburn a break? Want to get away from the heat for a bit? The upcountry paniolo lands are much cooler, and offer a glimpse into local life. The ranch-lands and Eucalyptus groves of Waimea and Honoka’a are simply stunning. Plus, downtown Honoka’a is a perfect example of an old school Hawaiian town – great for shopping and eating, but also quite photogenic.
Waipi’o Valley is a stunner from afar, at the lookout, but just as pretty if not prettier from within. It is a very steep narrow road down into the valley – 4wd is required. Lots of people hike down or join a tour. However you choose to get into the valley, I highly recommend it. You’ll find wonderful waterfalls, wild horse, lush vegetation, black sand beaches, crystal blue ocean, etc. etc. etc. DO NOT MISS WAIPI’O VALLEY!!!
Waterfalls…Waterfalls…and More Waterfalls
Most tourists stay on the Kona side of the island, but Hilo has a ton to offer. The wet side of the island, this looks more like the tropical rain forest one might expect to find in Hawaii. And when you get tired of the lava fields and beaches in Kona, come on over for a waterfall extravaganza. Umauma Falls is considered by some, the prettiest series of waterfalls in the entire state. You do have to pay an entrance fee, but it is well worth it. And if you’re looking for a super fun experience, try their world class zip-lining or get down in it on their canyoning tour.
Akaka Falls is one of the taller waterfalls in the state. Rainbow Falls is beautiful and the lookout is super accessible. Depending on the recent rainfall, Peepee Falls and Boiling Pots are both just up the Wailuku river. You can spend days just touring the waterfalls in the area.
Real Life Narnia
OK, now, this is one waterfall you have to work to get to…well, it’s actually a series of waterfalls. Locals refer to them as Narnia Falls because after hiking through the jungle and coming to a clearing, you won’t believe your eyes. This place is so magic, it must not be real…Narnia. Just up the road from the turn off to Boiling Pots, at the corner of Akolea Rd. & Waianuenue Ave., is a small unofficial parking lot on the left hand side. Here you will see a chain hung across a small access road. Step over the chain, head up the access road and hang a right on the dirt path. Continue up the dirt path for about 40 minutes. When you hit a large water tank on the left, hang a right. You’ll know when you arrive. It’s up to you to decide how many waterfalls you want to see, and how much scrambling you’re willing to do. As scuba divers say, the deeper you go, the cooler it gets. The same rings true in the jungle.
MUST SEE!!! Hawaii Volcanos National Park is a one of a kind must see. Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world. In addition to active lava flow there are giant lava tubes, a crater rim drive, steam vents, sulphur banks, hiking trails, etc. We cannot say better things about our experience with Lava Boat Tours. Now, this is a volcano – the tour company has no control over the quality of the flow on any given day, nor can they control the roughness of the seas. TAKE A LAVA OCEAN TOUR!!! It doesn’t get better than this. We were mere feet away from a river of lava falling into the ocean. Better than any steam facial! Better than any other viewing point. This tour was simply the best thing we’ve ever done in Hawaii and is absolutely one of the best places to take photos on the Big Island.
Arched bridges, palm trees, tropical gardens and remarkable reflections Wailoa River State Park is a great place to stroll, and an even better place to take photos in Hilo.
Above the Clouds
The highest mountain in the entire state, Mauna Kea gets you above the clouds. With 360 degree views, Mauna Kea Summit is a great place to photograph sunrise or sunset. It’s also one of the only places in Hawaii where it snows. So if you really want to impress your friends and family with some unique shots, how about a family portrait with a Hawaiian snowman for your next Christmas card…Mele Kalikimaka!!!!
A Breath of Fresh Air
A drive in the country can be even more relaxing that a day at the beach. Kohala Mountain road is just minutes from the beach, but offers stunning coastal and mountain views. At times lined with giant eucalyptus and surrounded by ranch-lands, this is a great escape from the crowded resorts and offers truly different photo opportunities.
Sure, there are plenty of selfie opportunities with beautiful tropical flowers and on stunning white sand beaches, but why not get one with The King? The statue of King Kamehameha in Kapaau offers a perfect selfie setting…complete with the American and Hawaiian flags, palm trees and an old traditional Hawaiian plantation home.
One of the best places on the island to take sunrise photos, Pololu Valley is stunning any time of day. Depending on your fitness level, you can take pictures from the lookout, head halfway down the trail for even better views, or head all the way down to the stunning black sand beach backed by a gorgeous massive valley. Pololu Valley is, without a doubt, one of the best places to take photos on the Big Island.
Maybe not traditionally photogenic, but there really is something special about the ancient ruins at Mo’okini Heiau. And if you’re looking to snap ghosts, this might just be your best bet as tens of thousands of people were said to be sacrificed to the gods on this very site. There’s definitely a spooky feeling in the air here. Looking on the bright side, Maui is just across the Alenuihaha Channel.
Lapakahi State Historical Park offers a little of what the City of Refuge at Pu’uhonua does, but with zero crowds. So if you’re up in the area, it’s worth the short stroll through the historical park, if for no other reason than to see the gorgeous coastline.
Most people come to Hawaii to catch some sun and relax. Eventually, you might just grow tired of that though. So, whether you’re staying Kona side or Hilo side, be sure to make it to the other side of the island. And don’t forget the splendid untouched north. Grab your camera, hop in your rental (most likely a jeep), and enjoy all that the Island of Hawaii has to offer. Let us know if we missed any hot spots, and feel free to check out my video on the Best Places to Take Photos on the Big Island.