The 10 Best Places to Take Photos on Oahu
If you're heading to Oahu and wondering where the best places to shoot are - look no further! Here are my top 10 photo opp recommendations. The most beautiful places on Oahu:
The 10 Best Places to Take Photos on Oahu:
The Best Tools for Traveling
Before we get into the best photo spots on Oahu, let’s talk about planning tools! As a full time traveler with a LOT of experience planning trips, I have a handful of sites and tools that I cannot live without. They save me money, time, and frustration - all of which are very important for me and should be to you, too.
For flights, I use Skyscanner. Skyscanner is great because they find you the cheapest flights by comparing millions of options from airlines and travel agents. Click here to find the best flight deal!
For hotels I always use HotelsCombined, as you will notice in my recommendations. I love them because they compare all of the top travel sites in one spot - with no booking fee and no markup. Best price guarenteed! Click here to search HotelsCombined.
When I'm not staying at a hotel, I love Airbnb. When chosen right, it provides a more local experience and you can often get a lot more space for less money. Click here to get $40 off your first stay.
To get around while in city, I recommend walking, using public transit, or Uber. If you are new to Uber, use code "kbae3" to get your first ride for free. You can also use it on Uber Eats!
In larger cities or those where a rental car is needed, I recommend Avis. I personally have used nothing but Avis for the last 6+ years and have only had wonderful experiences with them. The best part? When you become a preferred member you don't even have to wait in line - you just walk off the plane and head directly to your rental car. I have also found their prices to be the best. Click here to reserve your rental.
For tours, museum tickets, and other activities, I recommend GetYourGuide. They are a trusted site and have lots of unique things to do along with all of the standard touristy activites. Booking everything individually can be a bit of nightmare to keep track of. With GetYourGuide you can create an account to book and manage all of your tickets in one central location. Click here to search GetYourGuide.
Want to stay connected while traveling? I recommend renting a pocket-sized personal WiFi hotspot from Tep! Click here to see the latest prices.
What to Pack for Hawaii
COMFORTABLE YET STYLISH SNEAKERS. If you plan on running around a bit this is very important! My very favorite are M. Gemi’s white leather sneakers. I literally never travel anywhere without them. Click here to see latest prices.
SANDALS. For the beach, of course! Click here for the ones I wear (I have numerous colors).
SUNGLASSES. Of course! Three timeless styles I’ve been wearing non-stop: click here for my favorite Quay aviators (I have both the black and the rose gold), click here for my round Ray-Bans, and click here for my all time favorite black on black Ray-Bans that are often hard to track down because they sell out consistently.
BIKINIS. If you haven’t tried Boys + Arrows yet - you must. Their seamless bottoms are by far the most comfortable I have EVER tried (and I own over 50 bikinis). Click here for my favorite bikinis! I also love this brand (I have black + gold and the navy colorful one), this brand, this brand, and this brand.
BEACH TOWEL. Do not forget towels! You will spend way more on them in Hawaii than you will if you buy them beforehand. Click here for my favorite quick drying colorful travel beach towels.
SUN HAT. To protect your face. Click here for the one I am loving.
SPF. Incredibly important, do NOT forget this. Click here for my favorite face SPF. I also always carry a mineral powder sunscreen brush with me at all times to put on top and lock in the SPF. Click here for the one I use and recommend.
SELF TANNER. I personally don’t love showing up in my bikini white as a ghost so I always self tan prior to arrival! Click here for my favorite bronzing mousse. If you don’t have a tanning mitt (you’ll need one to apply it), click here for my new favorite. For your face, I am loving these self-tanning drops that you mix into your moisturizer. Click here for those! I use the dark ones.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE. Traveling makes you dehydrated as does sunshine so please do not forget this (and PLEASE do not buy single-use plastic ones instead). Hydro Flask is the best because it keeps your drink cold (or warm). So worth the investment. Click here to see the latest prices.
For a full list of what to bring to Hawaii, click here for my Hawaii packing list.
One of the top Oahu Instagram spots without a doubt it Lanikai. Lanikai is my favorite beach in Hawai’i and I am certainly not the only one! It came in at #1 on TripAdvisor’s list of the world’s best beaches back in 2014 and #5 on National Geographic’s Top 10 Beaches list.
It’s about as picture-perfect (and Instagram-perfect) as a beach can get - white sand, low surf, turquoise water, and sunshine everywhere. The Lanikai weather is almost always fantastic, too!
The best photo opps will be early in the morning because, aside from the obvious (golden hour lighting), it will be less busy then. I often go for sunrise Oahu to shoot then go hike the pillboxes (worth it for the view alone) and return to lounge at the beach once that sun has fully come out. Learn more: A Guide to Hiking the Lanikai Pillbox Trail in Oahu, Hawaii.
FROM A DOORS OFF HELICOPTER
I’ve been to Hawai’i over 50 times and hands down my favorite photos of all time are from my doors off helicopter tour. If you want epic pictures of Oahu, this is the best way to get them. It certain provides the best views in Oahu ;)
If you’re scared, don’t be - I thought I would be and it ended up being more exciting than anything.
Kualoa Ranch & Private Nature Reserve is a beautiful ranch between Honolulu and the North Shore where many famous movies were filmed - Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Pearl Harbor to name a few.
They offer countless different tours and adventures, everything from horseback rides to ATV tours to their new treetop canopy zipline tour! I have done most and would highly recommend them all.
In addition to the Jurassic Park-like section of the ranch, they have something called Secret Island which is a gorgeous and remote (non-public!) beach. Although not free, buying a ticket gets you access to the beach and unlimited activities such as standup paddleboarding, kayaking, beach volleyball, etc. for 2.5 hours.
I would consider doing this in the morning and then taking a tour of the ranch in the afternoon. They have hammocks lining the beach and everything is just picture-perfect.
Pricing varies depending on age and season. Click here to see the latest prices and availability!
For more detailed information on Kualoa, click here for our guide to visiting Kualoa Ranch (Jurassic Park Hawaii).
THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN & THE MOANA SURFRIDER
The Royal Hawaiian and the Moana Surfrider are two iconic Waikiki hotels and two of the most beautiful places in Oahu. Even if you aren’t staying at one of them I would suggest walking around them both. They are beautiful and filled with photo opps.
The Royal Hawaiian is pink, as are most accents like their umbrellas, and I think the above photos speak for themselves.
The Moana is the oldest hotel in Waikiki, opened over 100 years ago, and is equally to die for with it's rocking chair-lined patios.
Photos via The Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider
Diamond Head is probably the most defining feature of Waikiki and maybe even all of Oahu. Of course you’ll want to take photos of it from Waikiki, but I also love the view of Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head. It’s one of those can’t miss pictures to take in Hawaii.
The hike is pretty mild, although very exposed so make sure to go early or late to avoid direct sunlight, and provides a rewarding view at the end. If you want pictures of Oahu Hawaii, or pictures of Waikiki Beach, this is a great place to do it.
Waimea Bay is a beautiful bay but the reason I recommend this is for the rock that people jump off. If you’re up for some adventure you can give it a go yourself, but if not it’s also great to shoot others jumping off of while you’re standing safely on the beach below :) Definitely one of the top Oahu Instagram spots.
THE NORTH SHORE
The entire North Shore of Oahu is one big photo opp, really. If you're heading there from Honolulu, keep an eye on your right side of the road because there's a lot of gorgeous places to pull off - ones with random hammocks on the beach, cute little huts you can buy fruit at, a palm tree to climb up, water to wade in, etc.
We always make Haleiwa our destination when we go and spend an hour or two just roaming around once we arrive. Get some shave ice from famous Matsumoto's, an acai bowl at the highly photogenic Haleiwa bowls, or grab a burger at Kua 'Aina.
Most spots I love to shoot at on the North Shore aren't a destination or landmark but are things I randomly stumble upon like the rainbow surfboards above. Definitely do some roaming! The Haleiwa weather is almost always delightful.
For more detailed information, click here for our local’s guide to visiting Oahu’s North Shore.
UNDERWATER, OF COURSE!
Under the sea is one of the most Instagrammable places in Oahu, of course!
A lot of tourists will go to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to snorkel and take underwater photos. I haven’t been since high school so I don’t have much feedback on that, but I do remember that even back then it was a bit too touristy for my liking. I skip it every time I go.
I do, however, strongly recommend that you swim in the wild with dolphins on the westside. The photo opps are like nothing else because you are in the wild truly swimming with them in their natural habitat. You’ll also likely run into some other creatures like turtles or octopus!
The company I do this with is called Dolphin Excursions. They are the absolute best. Click here to see the latest prices and reserve your spot (they sell out so do this now).
For more detailed information, click here for our post on how to swim with dolphins in the wild on Oahu.
HAIKU STAIRS (STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN Oahu)
Haiku Stairs, also known as the Hawaii Stairway to Heaven, is a dangerous but amazingly beautiful hike on Oahu. I’ve never been because there's a catch - it's illegal.
But people seem to often do the Stairway to Heaven hike anyway, so I'm including it! If you do find yourself with access, the views are like nothing I’ve ever seen. Bring a camera or five.
Note: I’m not suggesting you do anything illegal. Do this at your own risk and give it a quick Google search beforehand so you understand the risk. There have been more than one Stairway to Heaven deaths, unfortunately.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, do not spend all of your time in Waikiki! You will likely not enjoy your trip if you do that.
But I do recommend spending some time there, as there is lots to do and many beautiful places to take photos. Waikiki waves are very mellow, so if you want to give surfing a go, I'd recommend trying it there. It’s also one of the best places to get pictures of Diamond Head and one of the best Oahu photography spots!
Make sure to explore a bit at night as well as there are street performers and other interesting things to see.
FIND MORE DETAILED WAIKIKI RECOMMENDATIONS IN TOP 10 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU POST!
WHAT ABOUT BLACKPOINT POOL?
I've posted a lot of photos here which people seem to always be stumbling upon, resulting in a lot of questions. Let's clear those up! Blackpoint Pool is a private pool located inside the gated community of Blackpoint in Honolulu.
It is accessible only by key and there is a large amount of security stopping you from getting in (I promise). The odds of you being able to successfully sneak in I'd say are very, very low, so instead try to make friends with someone that lives there :P
If you need to rent any gear while you are on Oahu, check out Hawaii Camera. I've rented lenses from them before and it was a quick and painless experience! I highly recommend them.
Some more Oahu Instagram spots:
Tantalus Lookout — that’s where you can find the tree above overlooking Waikiki. It’s harder to climb up than it looks! Don’t wear slippers
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden — if you’ve been searching Instagram you’ve likely seeing this a ton. People love to drive here and take photos in the road with the mountains in the background but you technically aren’t allowed to (there are many signs saying photos aren’t allowed)
The Sunrise Shack — another overly Instagrammed spot :) It’s a photogenic yellow shack selling coffee, smoothie bowls, and superfoods. On the way to the North Shore at 59-158 Kam Highway
Haiku Garden — also home of my favorite restaurant in Hawaii. More info: A Local's Guide to The Best Places to Eat on Oahu Hawaii
The Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House — a pretty museum and the outside area full of sculptures is free if you’re eating at the restaurant!
Lanikai Pillboxes — a moderately easy hike with one of the most rewarding views on the island. More info: A Guide to Hiking the Lanikai Pillbox Trail in Oahu, Hawaii
The Byodo-In Temple — an amazing Japanese temple. Lots of koi fish there, too!
Crouching Lion — my favorite hike on Oahu! It has the best views and only takes 20-30 minutes. Click here for everything you need to know about Crouching Lion Hike.
If you are interested in a photo tour instead, click below to see the latest prices for four popular photo tours:
Where to Stay on Oahu
Geographically speaking, you should stay in Honolulu (including Waikiki), Kailua, the North Shore (including Haleiwa), or Ko Olina. Click here for where to stay on Oahu - a local's guide!
If you prefer a more local experience, click here for the 11 best Airbnb Oahu rentals in Waikiki, Kailua, and the North Shore.
Other Hawaii Information
If you will be visiting Oahu, we have everything you need to plan your trip!
FOR WHAT TO PACK… click here for our Hawaii packing list.
FOR WHERE TO EAT… click here for a local’s guide to the best places to eat.
FOR WHAT TO DO… click here for my top 10 recommendations. My number one recommendation is to swim with dolphins in the wild. Click here for a detailed post about how to do that!
FOR A GUIDE TO THE FAMOUS NORTH SHORE… click here.
FOR THE BEST PHOTO OPPS… click here!
Also, subscribe below to get our FREE downloadable guide and we’ll also send you some step-by-step help to plan the Hawaii trip of your dreams!