Whenever you travel to a new location, being present and mindful of the beauty around you goes a long way in enhancing your experience of that location. One way of being present is by being very purposeful with your photography, of looking out first and finding the picture-worthy locations full of beauty you want to remember and then capturing it with a click of your camera. Later, maybe years later, you can look back at that photograph you took purposefully and really remember what it was like at that moment. Of course, such present-focusing, memory-inducing photography begins best when you first find the right setting. Luckily for you, the Big Island of Hawaii has gorgeous landscapes in spades.
This is a place that inspires photography sessions left and right, but let’s take a look at certainly some of the absolutely top picture-worthy locations this island has to offer:
1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
While you will need a camera with a serious telescopic lens for the absolute most stunning shots, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the few places in the country where guests can get pretty close to an active volcano. This is nature changing and reshaping the earth right in front of you!
If you are feeling really up for an adventure, go in the summer and check into one of the two campgrounds at this national park. Then, at night, enjoy heading to the landing where you will enjoy an incredible view of the Milky Way.
2. Puuhonua o Honaunau National Park
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Park is a great photography choice for those really interested in the cultural and archaeological aspects of Hawaii. That’s because this unique Big Island park features villages as they would have looked during pre-colonial eras. This site was specifically chosen for specialty reconstruction as it is home to an ancient and sacred burial ground.
3. Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is another Hawaiian location with a serious cultural history. Mauna Kea is a massive active volcano whose summit rises as the highest point on the island of Hawaii. However, visitors are requested not to tread atop its very peak as it is deeply revered in Hawaiian traditions and regarded as a very sacred spot.
That said, there are exceptional hiking trails that are permissible that take you across the almost otherworldly environment that is the top of Mauna Kea. It’s a unique and very special environment that offers a myriad of fantastic photography opportunities.
4. Kailua Bay
Kailua Bay doesn’t make many best-of lists as it is a small beach at the edge of a bustling village. But it’s just this juxtaposition of nature and Hawaiian architecture that gives the spot a special look and feel. Go there and grab a drink or food to go and enjoy some pictures that will capture at one moment both nature and human influences in a beautiful way.
5. Painted Church
You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the sublime beauty of St. Benedict’s Painted Church located in South Kona. Built high atop a hill near the coast, this gorgeous little church looks over a landscaped cemetery and forested hill and out to the ocean itself. It’s a pretty outdoor setting but what makes this location really unique is what’s inside. The interior of this gothic-style cathedral features hand-painted murals over every inch of its walls and ceilings — all of which can be perfectly memorialized in the snap of a camera.
While the Painted Church happily welcomes guests to come and view its beauty, it is important to note that this is an active church and so it’s a good idea to visit during the weekdays (except for Wednesdays).
6. Waipio Valley Lookout
The Waipio Valley Lookout is a must-visit for those looking for truly unforgettable nature photography. Located at the end of Highway 240, this scenic overlook landing is located atop an oceanside cliff and offers a special birds-eye view of the surrounding landscapes. From this one spot, you will see a verdant river valley, steep cliffs that drop into the sea, the gorgeous turquoise blue waters, and, on clear days, even some waterfalls in the far background of the river valleys and hills. After heavy rains, water will often also cascade off of nearby cliffs for an even better moment for a coastal picture.
7. Rainbow Falls
The Waipio Valley Lookout offers great views of waterfalls from far away, but what if you want to get close and personal? For pictures of a big and massive waterfall that is surrounded by tropical landscaping, you want Rainbow Falls at Wailuku River State Park.
Rainbow Falls gets its name from the very clear and distinctive rainbows that form after rainfall and on soft sunny days. When you look out at these falls, you won’t see any signs of human touch as this part of the park has been left wild and free. This also means, however, that you will need a good lens for the very best pictures because you cannot get close and personal with this Big Island waterfall.
8. Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls is another stunning waterfall that is definitely photo-worthy. This waterfall crashes down verdant cliffs a whopping 442 feet, making it a true giant of a waterfall even by Hawaiian standards. You will need to traverse a relatively short hiking trail to get to lookout points to capture your pictures of this natural landscape, but there are several spots along the trail to do so. In fact, the walk down this tropical trail is likely to inspire some photography sessions all on its own.
Find Out More About the Big Island
The above is a good look at the highlights of each location, but truly each has more to offer than what we’ve outlined here. Make sure to check out our more in-depth pages on the above locations to learn more about each that especially struck your fancy, You’ll also find great places to shop, dine, and be entertained — all of which offer their own unique photography possibilities.