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:
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 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. You can find more specific info on their site.
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.
FIND MORE DETAILED NORTH SHORE RECOMMENDATIONS IN TOP 10 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU POST!
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).
FIND MORE DETAILED INFO IN MY HOW TO SWIM WITH DOLPHINS IN THE WILD ON OAHU POST.
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!
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.