Hawaii is a bucket list location for pretty much everyone. While most flock to the beaches of Maui and Honolulu, the Big Island of Hawaii often gets overlooked. Hoping to end that, we wanted to present the most amazing photography locations on Hawaii. We reached out to other travel bloggers, Instragrammers and lots of locals to create the most comprehensive guide to the best photo spots on Hawaii’s Big Island that you can find on the Internet. We hope it is helpful.
We would also love to hear your favorite locations that we missed. Join in the discussion at our Facebook Group!
Once you have finished with Hawaii, be sure to check out the rest of our awesome photography and Instagram guides for cities across the world.
Here are all the best photo locations on the Big Island of Hawaii on one map. Feel free to save it and use it on your vacation.
Waipi’o Valley is a river valley that starts in Waipi’o and works down to the black sand beach on the north part of the Big Island. The Valley is five miles long and one mile wide, with 2,000 foot cliffs. The attractions include the valley itself, an overlook and the black sand beach. The Valley is packed with history, also known as The Valley of the Kings.
The 13,000 foot Hiilawe Falls is a favorite of mine. There are other great waterfalls to that fall into the lush valley and Taro fields. You can see the beautiful location in the image below from traveler Anneloes.
A great view of the valley can be seen from the overlook lacated at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive. from local realtor Maly Romero.
You can’t visit Waipi’o Valley without trekking down to the beautiful beach. As you can see in the image below from photographer Danny Wild, sunset is the ideal time to visit.
Even stepping away from the black sand, there are so many great compositions with the fantastic trees and beautiful backdrop. You can see the beautiful scene in the shot below from iPhone photographer @philtuths.
Kailua-Kona is the main tourist city on the Big Island, sitting on the west coast. The city is full of resorts sitting on the scenic Kailua Bay. There are some historic sites in the town, but the most popular spots are along the beautiful bay. You can see a great aerial view of Kailua-Kona in the image below from the awesome charity Ywam Ships Kona.
The beautiful coast at Kailua Bay makes for some fantastic landscapes that offer something different from the normal sand beaches. The great sunset image below was from Jen at @rainbowsnsunsets.
Kealakekua Bay is a beautiful bay featuring a state historical park and beautiful scenery just 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona on the west side of the island. On the north side of the bay is the Captain James Cook Monument, memorializing the place where Captain James Cook first established contact for the British with the Hawaiian Islands.
Kealakekua Bay is most popular for snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. The bay features coral reefs teaming with tropical fish and the occasional dolphin. In the image below, Tarlan Eshghi shows off the beautiful setting for kayaking with the green cliffs around the bay.
In the image below, banker Qian Yu shows of the view looking to the Captain James Cook Monument.
Saddle Road, or State Route 200, is a beautiful scenic road that starts on the east side of the island just west of Hilo and on the west side of the island south of Waimea. About half the road traverses forest reserves and offers beautiful views all along the way.
Capturing long stretches of the road is a must if you are traveling along Saddle Road. I love the shot below from photographer Sagar Barbhaya.
Mauna Kea is the place to go to capture some of the most amazing night skies you can imagine. The Summit is located in the northern center of the island, just north of the Hilo Forest Reserve. This dormant volcano is the highest point in Hawaii, located 13,803 feet above sea level.
You can see the amazing night sky in the image below from Kendall Lyons.
There are 13 telescopes funded by 11 different countries at the summit. The telescopes make a great foreground for images, as you can see in the image below from travel blogger Angie aka The Lovely Escapist, which also captures snow in Hawaii, which is always fun.
Mauna Kea Beach
Mauna Kea Beach, or Kauna’oa, is surprisingly nowhere close to Mauna Kea Volcano. It is on the northwest side of the island just north of Hapuna Beach state park. You can get public access to the beach at the end of the road marked “Mauna Kea Resort.” You will want to get there early to ensure availability for the public parking.
Mauna Kea Beach is famous for its beautiful white sand and family-friendly atmosphere with good snorkeling. It also has a special attraction at night when the resort turns lights on the water to attract plankton and the manta rays that eat them.
You can see some of the beautiful white sand in the image below from yoga teacher Wipawee Morris.
Spotting turtles is one of the highlights of snorkeling at Mauna Kea Beach. The fantastic image below from photographer Jake Landon highlights this aspect of the beach.
Another shot of a turtle at Mauna Kea Beach, this one from Kelly Fitzpatrick, shows how close to the surface the turtles will come for you to see. That is not the case at many beaches we have been to.
Keauhou Bay features a smaller beach park just a short distance south of Kailua-Kona. The area is packed full of history and is popular for surfing and kayaking. You can see the beautiful water of Keauhou Bay in the image below from Anna Renée.
The beach is not the perfect sand beach you get at Mauna Kea Beach, but the rocks interspersed on the beach and in the water are much more interesting for photography, as you can see in the image below from blogger Diletta Sicolo.
The bay and its beautifully colored water are great for snorkeling and other water activities. You can see how clear the water is in the great image below from blogger Cinceya.
Rainbow Falls is an awesome waterfall on the Wailuku River in the west end of Wailuku River State Park in Hilo. Rainbow Falls is known for its turquoise water and lush foliage. Both of which are on full display in the image below from Niranjan Nandrekar.
Rainbow Falls plunges into deep pools that are perfect for swimming. The image below from Sincere Owens makes you want to jump in and enjoy that water.
Pe’epe’e Falls is another waterfall on the Wailuku River. Pe’epe’e Falls is a little west of Rainbow Falls. You can see the beautiful waterfall in the image below from travel blogger V’s Voyages.
A little downstream from the waterfall, the river opens into bigger pools with beautiful rock formations, as you can see in the image below from John Crossen.
A little further downstream on the river, you can find the Hilo Boiling Pots on the Wailuku River. Although it sounds like hot springs, the Hilo Boiling Pots got their name due to the lava flows that formed vertical columns in the river. During high flow, the water appears to boil as it comes over the columns.
You can see the beautiful formations in the shot below from Maurissa Roslan.
The Kaumana Caves are just west of Hilo and south of Rainbow falls. The lava tube was created during the 1881 lava flow from Mauna Kea. Stairs descend deep into the cave where you can explore approximately 2 miles of the 20+ mile cave system.
All the images below of Kaumana Caves were provided by Niranjan Nandrekar.
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is located on the west coast of the Big Island, south of Kailua-Kona. It is one of more fascinating historical places out there: It is the location where those who violated laws could flee to avoid death. The site features a complex of archeological sites including temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks, and coastal village sites.
One of the highlights of the historical site was captured in the image below from Paige Hazeltine Weidner.
Not only do you get great history, but the landscape is beautiful as well, which you can see below in the image from traveler Maria Salim.
The lava flows running into the ocean are another great site at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park. The image below was provided by Lisa Chambers.
If you want a shot to really stand out on the lava flows, combine it with a bold colored dress, like the shot below from Anna Liza Liezl Stuart.
Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Falls State Park is up the coast north from Hilo. 11 miles north of Hilo, turn west on Hwy. 220. The 442 foot Akaka Falls is obviously the main draw to this State Park. There are other falls worth viewing too, but the trail through the Park will show you a bunch of great viewpoints from the top of Akaka Falls.
In the image below, Andrea Carolina captured the entire Akaka Falls and the amazing greenery all over!
In the image below from Antoinette of @myexploristalife, we get to see the trail that goes through the park.
Corrina Salazar provides another great viewpoint of the Akaka Falls from the trail.
This view of Akaka Falls really shows off the waterfall quite impressively. It was proved by travel photographer Michael Schüren.
Puna Coast Trail
The Puna Coast Trail is located at the south end of Volcanoes National Park. The 5.2 mile, out and back, Puna Coast Trail leads through lava fields, historic sites and beautiful scenery.
The amazing lava fields are shown in the image below from Dina Godfrey Stearns.
Another image of the lava fields with some greenery is shown in the below shot from travelers Christa and Sean.
The beautiful Pololu Valley is located almost at the north end of Hawaii. You can find both the Pololu Valley Lookout and the Pololu Trailhead by following the 270 East until you reach the end. From the lookout, the trail descends sharply for about a half mile to the valley floor.
You can see one of the prominent features of this area in the image below–the stunning sea cliffs. This shot was provided to us by model Sarah Jain.
While the sea cliffs and black sand may get the glory, the trail down to the valley floor is amazing in its own right. Just look at the image below from the family of travelers that blog at Hoff to See the World!
Old Kona Airport
The old Kona Airport is located in Kailua Kona. An airport was built here during WWII and turned into a commercial airport after the war. It was operational until 1970 when the new airport was built. It was made into a park in 1974. While there are lots of facilities, walking paths and other attractions, the beach is obviously the highlight.
I love these trees in the sunset from Bria Hicks.
The beach is the perfect place to catch a sunset from in Kailua-Kona, as you can see in the image below from Samantha Overmann.
A helicopter tour is the perfect way to capture some amazing images in the big island. If you are going on a helicopter ride, don’t forget to get a shot with the helicopter. The image below is from Daniella Martinez Norman.
This is another shot from Daniela Martinez Norman’s helicopter ride. The Hawaiian coast looks completely different from the sky.
Capturing the tall waterfalls from a helicopter is the best way to show of this beauty. The image below is from acclaimed photographer Mahesh of @starvingphotographer.
Lava Boat Tour
If you are in Hawaii at the right time, a lava boat tour is an amazing experience to capture some amazing images. The image below from Julia Matsumoto was taken on a lava boat tour.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is definitely a highlight of the Big Island. The chance to capture flowing lava has to be a bucket list item for any landscape photographer. The beautiful image below was provided by talented travel photographer Sarmad.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a great place to photograph the night sky as well. You can see how well the core of the Milky Way can be captured in the image below from Kauai-based photographer Paul Grace.
The Kilauea Iki Crater is a popular destination on the north side of the National Park. It is a great place to capture unique images, as you can see in the shot below, which is another one from travel blogger Amanda Wanders of this great travel blog.
Be sure to check out the Thurston Lava Tube, which is just east of the Kilauea Iki Crater in Volcanoes National Park. The entrance to the famous Thurston Lava Tube is impressive for its greenery and unique presentation, which you can see below in the image from travel blogger Nomad Nikz.
Once you get inside the lava tube, it is basically a huge cave, but where the walls are all lava flow. You can see part of the tube in the image below from Espi at @nationalparksmom.
Another shot of the Thurston Lava Tube highlights how much there is to explore in the Thurston Lava Tube. The shot came from Bruno Costa.
A last image from the Thurston Lava Tube, this one from travel website Less Talk More Adventures.
Laupahoehoe Point is along the Hamakua coastline of Hawaii between Akaka Falls and Waipi’o Valley. Unlike a lot of the coastal locations featured in this article, Laupahoehoe is not a beach for swimming and snorkeling. However, Laupahoehoe Point is one of the more scenic coastlines you will find and is amazing for photographers. For those with families and kids, the beach park does have some areas to play and relax as well.
Laupahoehoe Point is a point where lava flowed into the ocean, creating a coastline of lava rock formations in the water. You can see the point and a beautiful sunset in the image below from Rachel Beach.
There is a lookout at Laupahoehoe Point that provides great ocean views. You can see the lookout in the below image of yoga instructor Alison Rose taken by Madalyn Geraldine. If you need some yoga time on the Big Island, be sure to check out Alison Rose Yoga.
The rock outcrops provide a great foreground for landscape images and many places to pose for different portraits as well. You can see the great lava rock features in the image below from graphic designer Kelso.
Holei Sea Arch
Holei Sea Arch is a place you should visit soon before it falls into the ocean like other sea arches have done recently. It is located on the southwestern coast of Hawaii, not far from the Puna Coast Trail. To get there, enter Volcanoes National Park and take the Crater Rim Drive to Chain of Craters Road and follow that south all the way to the ocean where it will then follow the coast to Holei Sea Arch.
Holei Sea Arch is unique because it is an arch formed from lava rock where most arches are some form of sandstone. You can see the arch in the image below from blogger Tanja.
You can see the scale better and enjoy the surrounding landscape in the great image below from photographer Roshni.
Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden
The Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden is a natural reserve located just north of Hilo. If nature is your thing, this place is a must on your visit to Hawaii. The Bioreserve features over a mile of trails that guide your through rare and endangered flora from around the world. You will also enjoy mountain views, mountain streams, waterfalls and views of Onomea Bay.
The amazing flora is on display in the image below from Rungwat Boonpok.
The beautiful image below from @inna_yaninna also highlights the beauty to be found at Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden.
South Point Park
South Point Park is the southernmost point of the United States, so of course, you can find it at the south end of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is about an hour and a half drive from Kailua-Kona, but can make for a good outing if you are headed to Volcanoes National Park.
South Point Park is great because it usually is not crowded. Unlike the rest of the island, there aren’t a ton of attractions nearby so South Point Park does not get as many visitors.
South Point Park is popular for cliff jumping. Head to the old boat hoists and there are great 40 foot high cliffs that you can jump off if the water conditions are calm. A ladder leads from the water back up to the boat joist. The water below is also popular for snorkeling so take a jump, snorkel for a little while, then head back up for another jump, and don’t forget to capture some good action shots.
The image below from Danny Shin shows what you can expect from the cliff jumping.
Fishing at South Point Park is another option, as you can see in the shot below from blogger Rick.
You can see the ladder leading down and the great ocean view in the shot below, another one from blogger Rick.
Kona Coffee & Tea
Kona Coffee & Tea is a popular café in Kailua-Kona. The café grows its own coffee beans so the coffee is as fresh as you can get.
It is popular amongst Instagrammers for their fancy drinks and relaxed atmosphere. You can see the exterior of the café in the shot below from Kevin Christensen.
Contributor Landrey poses with the iconic mug in the great portrait below.
Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm
If you want to experience a working coffee farm, Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm is the place to go. It is located a little south of Kailua-Kona in the town of Honalo. It is east of town off Bishop Rd. and Mana Opelu Ln.
I always love finding signs to photograph like the post of signs in the image below from Maria Springs.
If you haven’t seen coffee bean plants before, they are actually pretty unique and surprising. You can see the plants in the image below from Hannah Bolton.
There is more to do at Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm than just checking out the coffee plants, just look at the fun pool in the shot below from Wendy O Soleil.
Magic Sands Beach
You have probably been reading through all these attractions, thinking “I thought this was Hawaii, where’s all the beaches?” Well, here you go, I saved all the fun and picturesque beaches for last!
Magic Sands Beach is the first one on our list. It is a popular small beach park south of Kailua-Kona. This is a small beach surrounded by rocks on both sides so it is great for keeping an eye on your kids as they play in the water.
You can see the beach in the great shot below from digital creator Jodi of Parents who Travel.
As you can see in the shot below from Instagrammer @chloedegucci, this beach always has lots of people. There is a reason for that as this is a great swimming beach.
Pine Trees Surfing Beach
Pine Trees Surfing Beach is a popular spot in Kailua-Kona. It is located in the north of town, just north of Puhili Point. Despite its proximity to Kailua-Kona, this beach feels remote because you need a four-wheel drive vehicle for access. The beach is quite rocky so it is not great for swimming, but it is a fun place for picnics, sight seeing, surfing and snorkeling. Surprisingly, there are no actual pine trees at the beach.
Like most beaches in Hawaii, the sunsets at Pine Trees are great, as you can see in the image below from local photographer Bea of @thewanderingb.
You’ll always find surfers at this beach and can have fun capturing action shots, like the one below from Laaanoa.
Below is another great surfing shot, this one from Joe Knox.
If surfing isn’t your thing, this is also a good beach for snorkeling. Just check out the image below from Dakota Wayne Bursell.
Ha’ena or Shipman Beach
Ha’ena Beach is a secluded white sand beach southeast of Hilo. Ha’ena Beach is often referred to as Shipman Beach because the Shipman family owns all the land around the Beach. While the beach itself is public, the land around it is private so you cannot drive up to the beach, thus the reason for its seclusion. It is a 2.5 mile hike along the Puna trail to reach the beach.
You can see the beautiful Ha’ena Beach in the image below from Tom Schifanella.
Another shot of the beach shows off its beautiful scenery. This image was provided by Maya Bee.
Manini Kapahukapu Beach
The Manini Beach is located at the southeast end of Kealakekua Bay, south of Kailua-Kona. This beach is much more secluded than the Captain Cook Monument across the bay, yet offers views of the monument and sea cliffs. The beach is mostly rocky, but has plenty of sandy areas to access the water, which has great snorkeling.
You can see the beautiful lava formations in the water in the shot below from Kristina.
Another great shot, showing more of the bay and the rock outcroppings. This one was provided by blogger @veraportland.
Waikoloa Beach is in the resort-heavy area of Waikoloa Village on the northwest side of Hawaii. The beach is located just west of the Marriot resort. You can see part of the beach in the lovely image below from fitness model Sharon Katz.
Fairmont Orchid Hotel Beach
The Fairmont Orchid Hotel Beach is also located in the resort-heavy northwestern part of Hawaii. It is just a short distance north of Waikoloa Village. This is a beautiful beach set in a calm lagoon that is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The downside is it is a bit difficult to access if you are not staying at the hotel as there is not public parking nearby.
You can see the peaceful lagoon at sunset in the image below from Esther Li.
You can see the clear water that is perfect for snorkeling in the shot below from Katelyn.
Puako is another small town on the northwest side of Hawaii, a little north of Waikoloa Village. There are a number of small beautiful beaches in this town that are worth the visit. The best sandy beaches for swimming are north near the general store, but the beaches further south have more lava rock and feature some beautiful coastline, tide pools and lots of wildlife.
The image below from Jennifer Johnson features a beautiful sunset over the lava rock coast.
The waves crashing into the lava rocks are great for photography, as you can see in the image below from 雷神 Silva.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Punalu’u Beach is famous for its black sand which contrasts nicely with the green landscape and blue waters. It is located on the southern part of the island between South Point Park and Volcanoes National Park.
The beautiful shot below from Instagrammer @story_2life really shows off the beach’s beauty.
The shot below from Dasha shows off some of the lava flows around the beach.
Punalu’u Beach is also a great place to see turtles, even the endangered Hawksbill turtles. You can see a great shot of turtles in the image below from Noura.
Mahai’ula Beach is located on the west side of Hawaii, just a little north of Kailua-Kona. It is also the southernmost beach in Kekaha Kai State Park. The beach itself is a large and sandy crescent-shaped beach. In addition to the sandy beach and clear water, there are lava flows spread throughout the beach and lots of trees that make for great images, as you can see in the image below from travel photographer Céline Aubry.
Makalawena Beach is another beach located in Kekaha Kai State Park. The beautiful sand beach and clear waters make for a stunning location that is great for swimming, but there is no road access so you have to hike into Makalawena Beach from the north or the south.
The amazingly clear and beautiful waters at Makalawena Beach are on display in the image below from Instagrammer @debbieinthepark.
Papakolea Green Sand Beach
Papakolea Beach is famous for its greenish sand. It is located on the south tip of Hawaii, not far from South Point Park. You have to hike to Papakolea beach, but the trailhead is easy to find from the marked parking lot on South Point Road. The trail is a little over two miles long and features great view points and steps down to the beach, which fits picturesquely against really cool cliffs.
You can see the green sand beach and cliffs in the image below from photographer Marisa Goin.
The water is fine for swimming at Papokolea Beach, but the water can get a bit rough as you can kind of see in the shot below from Georgette.
Kohanaiki Beach is another Kailua-Kona beach located north of Pine Trees Surfing Beach. The highlight of Kohanaiki Beach for photographers are the cool trees you can find along the beach and in the water. You can see some of the trees in a beautiful sunset below from Yagi Hawaii.
Another great sunset photo featuring a tree growing from the rocky part of the beach was provided by photographer Nichi.
A second shot from Nichi highlights another tree that is beautiful in the sunset.
Lone Palm Beach
Lone Palm Beach is a secluded beach north of Kailua-Kona. To reach the beach, you have to park off Highway 19 and hike a path to Lone Palm Beach. This beach is sand and black lava rock with a single palm tree and some cool tide pools.
The shot below was provided by blogger @travelledbones. This image was made back in 2019 and @travelledbones said they enjoyed a few hours alone on the secluded beach.
This second shot isfrom Rocky Shorey and was taken more recently. Unfortunately, you can see the tree died after 2019. Hopefully it has been rejuvenated. If anyone knows the current status, please let us know!
Ke’ei Beach is located just south of Manini Beach, barely outside Kealakekua Bay. The beach is primarily lava rock with some black and white speckled sand/rocks. It is primarily a surfing and fishing beach, but it is also good for snorkeling and there is some area to swim.
The black rock contrasts nicely with the blue water in the image below from Eri Togawa.
Don’t let all the rocks keep you from swimming. You can see why this is a good area for snorkeling in the image below from photographer Nan.
The rocky beach can be fun to photograph and the rocks are great for posing for portraits, like the one below from Jessica Guerrero.
You can see the sandy area that makes for decent swimming in the shot below from Instagrammer @dimelomonkey.
Hapuna Beach is another resort type beach on the northwestern side of the Big Island. It runs from Hapuna Beach State Park north to the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. Hapuna Beach is the largest white sand beach on the Big Island and is great for swimming and snorkeling.
The picturesque beach with a fantastic sunset was provided by Adrian Reyes.
The northside of the beach heading to the resort can be seen in the image below from Alex Pawlak.
Kelly Fitzpatrick gave us another great shot of Hapuna Beach, which as you would expect is always teaming with people unlike many of the secluded beaches we have highlighted.
I get bored with plain sand beaches, but luckily, there are some rocks to be found at Hapuna Beach, as you can see in the shot below from Liv.
That is the last of our favorite spots on Hawaii’s Big Island. I am sure we missed plenty so please share some of your favorites with us and please Pin this to share with others or save to read later!