After you’ve decided to get your pictures done, the next big step is to decide where! There are a lot of great choices for locations on Oahu for your upcoming photo shoot, but here are my favorites.
Keep in mind, lighting makes all the difference between a good photo and a great photo. Timing your photo session around sunset and sunrise will you give you the very best lighting, and consequently, the best photos.
My job, as the photographer, is to try and steer you in the right direction so we can get the best light and location for your shoot. The sun rises on the windward side and sets on the leeward side, so that may influence your decision when trying to decide where to go.
If you’re looking for a location near Honolulu, and Waikiki, I have some great options for you! The sun does tend to be harsher on this side of the island, so I would only recommend evenings near sunset.
KO’ OLINA RESORT
This location is a great choice for anyone who wants epic sunset photos. Ko’Olina is outside Kapolei on the western side of the island. I love the resort for photos because they’ve designed the location to make it pleasing to the eye. All of the lagoons are surrounded by soft sand and palm trees, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see some large waves hitting the wave breaks.
The down side is that it tends to be morecrowded. You will have to work around people and pay for parking if this is the location you choose.
Waikiki is a great choice if you’re already staying in downtown Honolulu and you would like to stick close to the hotel. The sun sets on this side of the island, so you will get great sunset photos in the evening. It’s less crowded to do pictures in the morning here, but the lighting isn’t quite as nice.
Hickam AFB/ Dog Beach
This is a great choice if you are military and are easily able to get on base. The water here is very calm and shallow. In fact, you could walk out probably half a mile and it would still only be up to your knees. I recommend this location if you are not wanting to get wet. Kids tend to run straight into the waves during sessions, and at least this way, only their legs are getting wet. Dog beach is not usually crowded and is a great option for sunset photos.
Again, if you’re military, this is a great option for you. There is no beach to take pictures on, but you can see the USS Arizona memorial from the island, as well as the USS Missouri, and a giant banyan tree. If you’re looking for something unique and not a beach, this is the place for you. This would be best in the early morning or evening.
Wa’ahila Ridge State Park
I adore Wa’ahila ridge state park. If you want something completely different from the beach, this is your place! I love the enormous norfolk pine trees. Look how big around they are! These trees make me laugh because the branches don’t even start until well over your head, so you’re looking at bare trunks. I love it. This is great for a more Christmas-y feel for those non beach people.
Sharks Cove is a really fun place to go if you want to see the north shore. I love these cool rock formations, as well as the trees, and soft sand beaches. Sunset is your best option here, but be aware of the time of year. If you’re here during peak tourist season, it will be difficult to find parking, and it will probably be crowded with people. You shouldn’t need to worry about the waves getting too high, however, because the rocks act as a wave break. Another great option is turtle beach.
There are a lot of great beaches by Haleiwa town on the North shore. All of them tend to be a bit crowded, so you’ll need to be creative with parking. This is great in the evenings around sunset, and it’s great if you want some greenery with your beach.
My absolute favorite for pictures is the windward side. The water is turquoise, the waves are mostly mild, and the light is diffused and beautiful. This side of the island is great in the morning and the evening. You could even go early evening because the light gets diffused through the clouds and the mountains.
Kailua Beach Park
Kailua is probably my favorite town on the island, and the beach does not disappoint. The views are spectacular, and there is a lot to choose from because the scenery is varied. If you want palm trees, water, and fun rock formations, this is your beach. As an added bonus, if you come here in the evening, you may get to meet the Kailua bird man. He’s amazing. He was actually out with his birds during this particular session, so I got to add a couple photos of this mother and daughter duo holding pigeons. Kailua beach park also has a parking lot, which is a huge win in my book.
Kualoa Beach Park
I try not to pick favorites, but Kualoa beach is probably my favorite. If you’re looking for Jurassic park mountains, turquoise water, and small islands, this is your place. There is a secret island attached to Kualoa beach park that is also a lot of fun for pictures, but it’s a bit of a walk out there. If you’re feeling adventurous, I would highly recommend! Kualoa beach isn’t open until 7am, so evenings are the best time for photos here. There are several parking lots, and I’ve never seen it crowded, so if crowds are not your thing, I would choose Kualoa.
Waimanalo Beach Park
I changed my mind. Maybe Waimanalo is my favorite beach to shoot. I love it here so much. It’s almost never crowded, and it’s spectacular in the morning and the evening. Plus, there’s a parking lot! If you’re willing to wake up early and get sunrise pictures, I could not recommend Waimanalo enough. This is also a great option in the evenings because the light is even and diffused, which guarantees great skin tones. Waimanalo has turquoise water, some mountains, trees, and soft sand. The waves can get a little forceful, so be aware!
Bellows AFB Beach
Bellows AFB is right next to Waimanalo and is a great option if you’re military. It tends to be less crowded than public beaches, and you still get all that lovely scenery. Turquoise waters, diffused light, mountains, and soft sand all make this beach a great option. Watch out for jellyfish though! Make sure to check the jellyfish and wave advisory online before you go.
Lanikai is right next to Kailua, so the scenery is almost the same. This tends to be a favorite among locals and the waves are smaller than Kailua. Parking is a challenge and you may need to walk quite a bit before you get to the beach, but it’s worth it! As with all the beaches on the windward side, this is great for sunrise and evening photos. If you’re planning on coming here in the evening, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to find parking and walk.
Kalae’o’io Beach Park
I actually stumbled onto this beach by accident. When my friend, Doorly, and her family were here visiting, they wanted sunrise photos at Kualoa. This is actually how I now know that they don’t open Kualoa beach park until 7am. Once I saw the gate was closed, I drove on for a couple more miles and found this seriously cute beach on the side of the road. Parking is a challenge, and it’s right off Kamehameha highway, so be careful. I loved how many different scenery options we had, and I loved that there was no one else around. If you are an adventurous person and looking for something unique, here is a great option for you. Sunrise photos are probably your best bet at this location because of traffic.
What do you think? Was this helpful and should I do more informational blog posts like these in the future? What locations am I missing that you would recommend?