Oahu's Best Photo Locations

Oahu Photography Tips

Hawaii is one of the most beautiful and photogenic places on the planet – abundant in wildlife and natural untouched landscapes, gorgeous pristine white sandy beaches, and a buzzing and a vibrant city full of friendly locals and laid-back travelers in Honolulu.

The main island of Oahu offers photography opportunities aplenty; from sunrise to sunset and every minute in between as the cloudless skies illuminate the land and provide the perfect light for capturing some wonderful photographs.

When thinking about what to pack for Hawaii, think about all the different terrain you'll find and the appropriate camera to suit. Cool and trendy cityscapes like Honolulu can be captured instantly with your smartphone, while wild nights out call for a Polaroid-style camera, of course. When thinking about the rolling landscapes and stunning panoramic views, a DSLR is essential. Finally, when hitting the beaches a micro action shot camera is certainly worth adding to your Hawaii packing list to capture all the underwater action!

You do not need to be a trained professional to capture the essence of Oahu on camera. Simply follow the hashtags #Oahu, #livealoha and #livewellhawaii to see how– even through the camera of a smartphone– Oahu can be framed as paradise on Earth.

With secluded spots not filled with tourists, you'll have the time to patiently work for the perfect shot. From urban street photography to caves and waterfalls, Oahu has it all. Just be sure to pack your best cameras and your eye for detail!

We've found Oahu's best locations for taking great pictures... so you don't have to. Enjoy!

#1. Snap Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach

Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, is one of Oahu’s most famous beaches and is the epitome of white-sanded luxury. Found on the North Shore of Oahu, Laniakea Beach is also known to many as Turtle Beach. If you're lucky you’ll find endangered Hawaiian sea turtles basking in the sun on the sandy shores.

Snap Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach

Snap Sea Turtles at Laniakea Beach

This beach can get crowded at times, so remember to always be a respectful traveling photographer; take photos in such a way that does not disturb these wonderful creatures. The green sea turtles enjoy eating seaweed and you can watch them munch away on the green grass of the rocky outcrops. Try to get a mid-mouthful shot for ultimate kudos from your fellow photographers!

#2. Snorkeling Paradise at Hanauma Bay

Widely regarded as the best snorkeling spot in the world, Hanauma Bay is an underwater photographer’s dream! Dive beneath the surface of the cool blue seas and discover a myriad of tropical fish zipping around at their leisure. Hanauma Bay is a legally protected marine conservation site and, as such, is home to the endangered sea turtles and a plethora of other fascinating marine animals and plants. 

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

Back on land, Hanauma Bay beach is vast and wide. Although popular with tourists, it is possible to capture the beach uninhabited. Watch the sunrise over the bay in a quiet spot beneath the shady palm trees before the day visitors arrive!

#3. Serene Skies at Sunset Beach

So we’ve talked about the sunrise, now for the sunset. Not only a Mecca for surfers, Sunset Beach provides some of the best sunset vistas in the South Pacific. Creamy blue skies merge into soft yellow, then to deep burning orange, and finally rose red to black and star-speckled as the sun sets on the horizon.

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach

For those photographers with a keen eye for action shots, Sunset Beach is where you need to be headed. With big rip curling waves during the winter months, set your shutter speed to 1/200 to capture the surfer guys and girls working their magic on the waves.

#4. Hipster Hangouts in Haleiwa Town

Oahu's North shore is where you'll find the small but perfectly-formed town of Haleiwa. A popular destination for hippie surfer travelers, Haleiwa is a great place to meet locals and backpackers alike. Exchange stories, plan adventures and find out about the locals' favorite photo spots that we may have missed out here.

Haleiwa Town

Haleiwa Town

Haleiwa is great for street photography, but be sure to always ask permission before taking photos of local people and offer to send your snaps to them via email. With hiking trails and beach camping galore, find your crew and capture the memories of a great day of Hawaiian adventure!

#5. Meet your Ancestral Soul at Kaena Point

Kaena Point is considered a sacred spot for the Hawaiian people. Kaena Point is said to be where souls would jump off the Earth plane to meet the souls of their ancestors. This headland at the Western tip of Oahu is rugged and rustic and provides stunning panoramic ocean views.

With two hiking trails for you to walk, get your camera set to macro to capture all creatures small and mighty from lizards to butterflies and from birds to insects. The Kaena Point hiking trails provide the perfect opportunity to practice your up-close photography shots.

#6. Peek Over the Plains at Pali Lookout

Although Oahu is famed for its stunning coastal vistas, the island also has a myriad of spectacular countryside landscapes and none so breathtaking as Pali Lookout. Just a short 5-mile drive from Downtown Honolulu, Pali Lookout is a great spot to capture the panoramic landscapes of Hawaii’s main island. With sheer rocky cliff faces and views of Honolulu city in the distance, Pali Lookout is not only a great place for photography but also a lovely place to sit down, take a deep breath, and appreciate Hawaii’s natural beauty.

Pali Lookout has historical significance, too. During the Battle of Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, many soldiers were forced off the cliffs to win the battle for King Kamehameha I.

Peek Over the Plains at Pali Lookout

Peek Over the Plains at Pali Lookout

#7. Magical Waters at Maunawili Falls

The perfect spot to incorporate into a day trip to Pali Lookout, Maunawili Falls are one of Oahu’s best-kept secrets and a hidden Hawaiian gem. As the sunlight hits the fast-flowing falls the water drops appear to dance in the air as they glisten and gleam before falling into the green rocky pool below.

Be sure to wear your hiking boots, as the trail to Maunawili Falls is often very muddy; however, the lovely views certainly make the muddy boots worth it! 

#8. Bountiful and Beautiful Foster Botanical Gardens

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city but don’t want to venture too far to be in nature, look no further than the Foster Botanical Gardens. Set in Downtown Honolulu, the Foster Botanical Gardens are a 14-acre refreshing floral complex created in the 1850s.

This is the perfect spot to photograph flora and fauna alike. The Outdoor Butterfly Garden is a wonderful experience and each and every butterfly poses a unique photo opportunity for you. Be patient; the slow flap of a butterfly’s wings are hard to capture but when you get that perfect shot… get the photo frame ready!

#9. Sea, Shores, and Spitting Caves

The Spitting Cave Trail offers unrivaled views of rocky cliffs and choppy seas. As the waves swirl and curl and crash against the rugged cave entrance, the waters merge from deep azure blue to vibrant turquoise to sparkling emerald green.

With almost no tourist activity, Spitting Cave is a secluded spot unknown even to many locals! It's also a wonderful location for landscape photography, so if you have time, stay a little while longer and try to capture some of Oahu's wonderful and varied birds flying over the ocean. 

Sea, Shores, and Spitting Caves

Sea, Shores, and Spitting Caves

With choppy seas and a strong current, swimming at Spitting Cave is certainly not recommended. Also, be on the lookout for slippery and uneven rocks that could cause a tumble from the cliffs above.

#10. Capture History Today at Pearl Harbor

For those with a keen interest in Naval history, a visit to Pearl Harbor is simply a must. Although visiting a place with such a sad and destructive past may be hard for many, Pearl Harbor is an important landmark in U.S. history.

Still a fully-functioning Naval Port, Pearl Harbor is a great place to photograph imposing and expansive naval ships before they head out to sea. The Visitor’s Center houses some fascinating artifacts from Pearl Harbor and provides great insight into Oahu’s history. Panoramic views of the harbor on a sunny day make for a wonderful wide angle photograph.

Picture Perfect Paradise…

Oahu is –  without a shadow of a doubt –  one of the most photogenic places on Earth. With vast open spaces, lush green landscapes, breathtaking coastal vistas, endangered species, and even trendy hipster hangouts, Oahu will have you snap happy for days on end.

Pack your best camera and plenty of memory cards, because once you start snapping on Oahu… you won’t be able to stop!

About the Author

Linda Smith is passionate about traveling and is excited to share all her travel experiences and tips with you on her blog. Connect with her via Twitter Facebook.

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Article Edited/Contributed by: Michele L. & Linda Smith
Published/Updated:

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