The emerald jewel of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is one of the most beautiful locations in the world. A hotspot for professional and amateur photographers, the dozens of idyllic locations provide postcard-worthy and Instagrammable shots. No matter your skill level, these locations speak for themselves and offer incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, lush mountains, and architectural gems.
Hanalei Bay/taro fields
As the largest bay on the north shore, Hanalei offers two miles of beach surrounded by mountains. Famous for its postcard views, there isn’t an angle that doesn’t work in this location. Every sight is stunning and offers exceptional lighting at all hours of the day. While the bay is a great spot for photos, don’t forget to explore the taro fields for a gorgeous, sprawling shot of the bright green taro with views of the hazy mountains in the background.
One of the most photographed lookouts in all of Hawaii is located at the Hanalei Valley Lookout
, which features views of the taro fields, waterfalls, and the Namolokama Mountain in the distance. If you’re lucky and time your visit just right, you may catch a rainbow cascading over the taro fields!
Located in Poipu along Keoneloa Bay, Shipwreck Beach is a popular spot for surfers. The beach was named after an old wooden ship that was found half-buried in the sand from decades past. With its cerulean waters and sandstone cliffs in the distance, Shipwreck Beach is another ideal location for scenic photos.
Credit: Hawaii Travel Guide
The soft sand and gently crashing waves in the background serve as the perfect backdrop for portraits, making this a popular spot for wedding photos and special events, especially as the sun sets. If you’re looking to capture a shot of nature in its prime, visit this spot during the summer months when the waves are a bit choppier. The large, swirling tides crashing into the cliffs make for stunning landscape photographs.
The famous Wailua Falls can be found at the south end of the Wailua River, north of Lihue, the biggest city on Kauai. The 173-foot falls have been featured in the opening credits of the 1978 television show Fantasy Island
and are accessible from the road, making this an easy dream spot for getting the perfect shot. The double-tiered falls act as one of the magical visuals that represent the island of Kauai and, depending on the yearly precipitation, the falls transform into a single waterfall. Try to visit in the early hours to catch a rainbow along the base of the falls through the mist!
Credit: Kauai Calls - Tunnels Beach
A popular spot for snorkeling, Tunnels Beach on the North Shore is bursting with unique opportunities to capture the wonder of the ocean. Bring a waterproof camera to this spot for incredible photos of the intricate underwater world of coral reefs, colorful fish, sea turtles, moray eels, and, if you’re lucky, a glimpse of the Hawaiian state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a.
The underwater tunnels are home to a giant inner and outer coral reef in the shape of a hook. The inner reef is easy to navigate by snorkeling, while some explore the outer reef with scuba gear. To access this section of beach, park at Haena Beach Park and walk about a quarter-mile to Tunnels Beach. Rent your snorkel gear at Kayak Hanalei
, the closest shop to the beach and headquarters for all the gear you need to make the most of your Tunnels Beach experience.
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is located on the west side of Kauai and features immense, panoramic views of over 14 miles of natural beauty. 3,600 feet deep, this dramatic canyon is accessible by lookout points along the main road, Waimea Canyon Drive, and is open year-round for hiking, picnics, and, of course, the most epic photography experiences. Full of mesmerizing views, scenic waterfalls, and gorgeous foliage, there is no doubt you’ll leave with hundreds of stunning photographs.
Poipu Beach offers golden sands, dozens of wading pools teeming with marine life, and endless opportunities to explore the ocean waves for all skill levels. Take a surfing lesson here or bring your stand-up paddleboard to take in the views, but make sure your camera is waterproof! The waters here are generally calm and this beach serves as one of the most family-friendly destinations along the south shore and is home to Hawaii’s favorite monk seal. Make sure to take these pictures from afar, as the seals are notoriously loud and not a fan of humans. But they make great additions to any photo along
The Kilauea Lighthouse
is an easily accessible spot with incredible views. Perched on the edge of a rocky cliff, the lighthouse serves as either a dramatic backdrop, with photos taken from the beach, or a panoramic shot of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. The lighthouse is also a wildlife refuge center, so it’s possible to capture a few photos of the blue-footed booby, a Laysan albatross, and other protected Hawaiian creatures. Have your camera ready—you never know when they’ll turn up!
The Shops of Kapaa
Kapaa is a shopper’s paradise. Located north of Wailua on the east side of the island, Kapaa is a small town full of boutique shops and restaurants. On the first Saturday of the month, the town hosts live music and a farmers’ market with crafts, homemade goods, and local produce. The buildings in this area are beautiful and colorful—a striking contrast to the lush green backgrounds of the town. Photos taken in this spot add an old-school feel and offer a unique glimpse into the traditional island lifestyle.
Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden
Located in the heart of Wailua along the east side of Kauai, the 30-acre garden park is a one-of-a-kind experience. Minutes from the main highway, Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden
is home to a quiet sanctuary for peacocks, fruit orchards, hundreds of flowers and plants, and replicas of traditional Polynesian and Filipino huts. A popular spot for weddings, Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden is the perfect location for oasis-like backdrops with massive, leafy greens and enchanting flower gardens.
Polihale State Park
Credit: Hawaii Travel Blog
Located on the west shore of Kauai, Polihale State Park offers private views along the largest stretch of beach in Hawaii. Due to the rough terrain, the area is usually private (you’ll need four-wheel-drive to reach this spot) and offers gorgeous sunsets with the Napali Coast as your backdrop. If you can manage the five-mile journey, the views of the expansive mountains as your backdrop are unbeatable.
The roads along Anahola
Take a drive along Highway 56 from Kealia Road to Anahola. The trip is just over three miles but offers beautiful views of cane fields, pine trees, verdant mountains, and even a few grazing cows. The open road is a perfect spot to add diversity to your photos by focusing on the mountains and rural views of Kauai.
This gorgeous stretch of golden beach is located at the end of Poipu Road along the southeastern side of Kauai. This beach is a popular destination for snorkeling and surfing and is one of the last remaining undeveloped spots on the island, making it a private location for photographs. With stunning seaside cliffs dotting the coastline, photographers flock to this spot for a jaw-dropping backdrop!
From the air
If you’re able to take advantage of a helicopter ride around the island, it’s an absolutely unbelievable experience. There are dozens of tour agencies throughout the island that provide this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the views speak for themselves. Remember the scene in the 1993 film Jurassic Park
when the cast gets their first glimpse of the dinosaur-inhabited island? This iconic destination is located along the Napali Coast
, one of the longest stretches of beach in Hawaii, and makes for an unforgettable view from above!
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