Sit back, close your eyes and imagine being on one of the most beautiful islands in Hawaii.
What do you see? Waves crashing into the soft white sand that your toes are submerged in? Maybe you are on a trail with wind blowing in your hair as you stare at the enchanting rugged mountains off in the distance?
Now just imagine if this visual was an image hanging on your wall allowing you to reminisce about the beauty for a lifetime.
Countless travelers head to the Hawaiian Islands for the relaxation, hiking opportunities, ocean adventures and even golf outings, but there are many that travel just to surround themselves with the beauty of nature and capture each piece of perfection with a photograph.
I will touch on 5 of my favorite photo spots on the island of Kauai, in no particular order.
Don’t be fooled though because around every corner there is another photo opportunity just waiting for you, so these 5 spots are meant to help get your creative juices flowing.
As you read on, I used the town of Lihue as a reference point when finding these amazing spots since it is centrally located, but Kauai really only has one main highway, so you just have to know your North from your South and you should be good to go.
Waimea Canyon is located on the West side of Kauai and packed full of color and depth making the the perfect combo for an outstanding photo! According to Hawaii State Parks, the canyon, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is about 10 miles long and 3,600 miles deep. Formed by erosion from the Waimea River, the canyon boasts a colorful array of red, brown and green hues which are complimented by waterfalls and frequent rainbows.
There are numerous trails to hike, but if you are more interested in staying close to your car and still getting views of a lifetime, head to the lookout points along Route 550. There are several official lookouts for some spectacular photos, the first one being the Waimea Canyon Lookout (near mile marker 10).
You will also come across Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout (near mile marker 13) and Pu’u Hinahina Lookout (near mile marker 13.5) all of which give you a different perspective of this incredible masterpiece.
Kalalau Lookout (mile marker 18) is overlooking the Kalalau Valley, which I highly recommend you checking out. On a clear day, the views are absolutely breathtaking.
As a side note, be sure your gas tank is more than half full and take a bathroom break before heading up Route 550. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience but pit stops are few and far between.
Also, remember you are gaining over 3,500 feet in elevation, so you may want to bring a light jacket just to be on the safe side.
How to get to Get There:
From Lihue, take HI-56 S that turns into HI-50 W. Continue for approximately 23 miles and then turn right on Waimea Canyon Drive (Route 550). Waimea Canyon Drive merges into Koke'e Road (which is still considered Route 550).
Mile markers 10, 13 and 18 will be the lookouts I mentioned above.
The Kilauea Lighthouse is located in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore. It stands at 52 feet tall on a peninsula 180 feet above the Pacific Ocean.
Not only does the deep blue ocean provide a stunning back drop for your photo while standing from afar (Kilauea Viewpoint), but during the winter months (December to February) you have the opportunity to see humpback whales use the Hawaiian warm waters as their playground.
If you decide you want a closer look at the lighthouse (which I 100% recommend) there is a $5 entrance fee for adults 16 and older and a 200 yard walk that leads you to pure bliss.
Not only are you closer to the lighthouse, but you have a panoramic view of the rugged bluffs that line the coast.
The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is also a sanctuary for seabirds. Signage around the refuge will help you distinguish between the different bird species.
Get your cameras ready as you may catch a glimpse of them soaring in the sky or even landing on the small island visible from the peninsula.
Hours of Operation: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm
Price: $5 for Adults 16 and older
Tours: Tours are offered Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:30 and 11:30 am and 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 pm pending availability of staff or volunteers. Call 808-828-1413 in advance to make sure the tours are taking place. Information provided by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
How to Get There:
From Lihue, drive north on Kuhio Highway for approximately 23 miles to the town of Kilauea, turn right on Kolo Road, then left on Kilauea Road and drive 2 miles to the refuge entrance.
All visitors are required to drive down into the refuge parking area.
Wailua Falls, on the East side of the island, is a double cascading waterfall dropping 80 feet below that flows into the Wailua River.
Unlike other waterfalls on Kauai, Wailua Falls is easily accessible by car and does not require any strenuous hiking to get to your enchanting destination.
If you arrive early enough in the morning when the sun hits the mist coming from the falls, you may be lucky enough to see a rainbow, adding to your picturesque view.
How to Get There:
From Lihue, take HI-56 N (Kuhio Highway) until you reach State Hwy 583. Turn left and continue approximately 4 miles until the road dead ends into a parking lot, you have arrived!
Hanalei Bay is located on the North Shore of Kauai surrounded by lush green rugged mountains. The bay is lined with about 2 miles of beaches and shaped like a crescent moon.
During the summer you can capture the water as smooth as silk or you can visit during the winter and see surfers flocking from all areas of the island to ride the large waves (sometimes up to 20 feet).
Make sure to take some shots of the Hanalei Bay Pier as it helps provide perspective and depth depending on which angle you use.
There is a lookout point as you head to Hanalei Bay (in Princeville) that allows you to see the rugged mountains, Hanalei River and fields of taro from a distance. Depending on the time of day you visit, the shades of green will be different colors and the clouds will cast shadows in areas almost purposely to highlight all the details your eyes might not see at first glance.
How to Get There:
From Lihue, take HI-56 N (Kuhio Highway) for approximately 31 miles. Use caution as you will be crossing a “one way” bridge as you get closer to Hanalei Bay. Take a right on Aku Rd and that will lead you to Weke Rd., which you can either take a right to go to Hanalei Bay Pier or you can drive along Weke Rd to find parking for the beach.
Hanalei lookout is located off HI-56 N in Princeville and will be on your left as you are heading to Hanalei.
Smith's Tropical Paradise Garden
Smith’s Tropical Paradise Garden, located on the East side of Kauai, is a 30-acre tropical oasis full of tropical flowers just waiting to be photographed.
If you are anything like me, I love taking photos of flowers. The gardens are also home to numerous fruit plants and bamboo forests with intertwining pathways allowing you to explore until your heart is content.
While exploring the lush grounds, make sure to look for the different bird species that call Smith's Garden home, including the peacocks.
If you just can't get enough of the area, you may want to stick around and attend one of their famous luaus. There is an added cost, but it is a lot of fun and helps you learn about the Hawaiian traditions.
Hours of Operation: Daily, 8:30 am to 4 pm
Price: $6 for Adults, $3 for Children 3 to 12 (Luau is extra)
How to Get There:
From Lihue, take HI-56 N (Kuhio Highway). A mile after the Wailua Golf Course, watch for Marina signs and the beach on the right. Just before crossing the Wailua River bridge, take a left in the Wailua Marina State Park.
Wrapping It Up...
I hope my top 5 favorite photo spots has inspired you enough to plan for an amazing trip to capture all Kauai has to offer. I am pretty confident you will not only find these locations breathtaking, but you will fall in love with the entire island and will be planning your next flight before you even get back home.
Have you been to Kauai? If so, comment below with your favorite spots to take photos.
We will definitely be visiting again and always looking for new places to check out!