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Travel Bucket List Ideas: 14 Must-See Photo Spots in Hawaii

Whether you're an iPhone amateur or a travel photo pro, you'll capture some of the best travel photos with this list

The Vacationeer

Editor’s Note

These are unusual times, with some of our properties currently closed. No matter what you do, practice safe travels, remain aware of current hot spots and rest assured we’re working around the clock to keep you safe.


On an average day in the Hawaiian Islands, just over 249,000 travelers explore the remarkable biodiversity that makes the Hawaiian Islands a top travel bucket list destination. The islands, home to lush rain forests, idyllic coastlines, rugged volcanic peaks and breathtaking cityscapes, unsurprisingly, draw the attention of shutterbugs the world over. 

With nine (soon to b10) Hilton Grand Vacations Hawaiian properties, we've had the chance to scope out the 14 must-see travel photo spots this side of the Pacific. 


Kualoa Ranch

Arguably the ultimate photo spot on Oahu, Kualoa Ranch, may look familiar. And rightfully so, it was the film location for a number of major motion pictures, including Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbor. Come here for shots of lush greenery and soaring mountain peaks. While you're there, enjoy an ATV tour or horseback ride through the valley.

Travel photo pro-tip: Visit Secret Island, a remote beach where you can capture the perfect snap of yourself lounging in a hammock. 

Lanikai Beach

Ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Lanikai, meaning heavenly sea, is a half-mile strip of beach you won't want to miss. Two islands sit offshore, providing the perfect backdrop for photos.

Travel photo pro-tip: Lighting is everything. Aim to capture this area at sunrise or sunset.

Diamond Head Crater

Whoever coined the phrase "it's all about the journey,” never embarked on the short, but rigorous, hike up the Diamond Head volcanic cone.

Make it to the edge of this 300,000-year-old crater, and you'll understand why. Strike a pose 762 feet above sea-level with Waikiki's pulsing streets and pristine shoreline in the background.

Hanauma Bay

People come from far and wide to snorkel Hanauma Bay, an underwater park and protected marine conservation area.

It's also a great place to capture the painted skies at sunrise. The colors and reflection on the water are nothing short of spectacular.

Travel photo pro-tip: Break out your waterproof camera and take a selfie with sea life.

Haleiwa, North Shore

Historic Haleiwa Town on the North Shore has it all when it comes to planning the perfect photo session. Come here for great shots of the crashing waves and surfers at dawn. Bonus: You'll likely spot a few green sea turtles on the sand.

If lifestyle photography is more your thing, stay for lunch, and to stroll down the quaint shop-lined streets of this historic surf town. As a cultural center on the island, the Haleiwa offers Hawaiian ambiance and regional style mixed with plantation-era architecture to give your travel photos an authentic Hawaiian touch.   

Travel photo pro-tip: Take time for a cup of authentic shave ice at Matsumoto's, who's colorful concoctions are more than worthy of your Instagram feed.

The West Shore

Ready your camera for the wild dolphins who call Oahu's West Shore home. You can often find them jumping and spinning over the horizon line.

Travel photo pro-tip: Capture their acrobatics on burst mode, then don your goggles to venture below the surface to photograph the colorful reef fish.

Fireworks Over Waikiki Beach

Every Friday night (weather permitting), Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort organizes a free fireworks display on the beach. It's worth documenting. The colorful spectacle is beautiful in its own right. But combined with the illuminated shoreline, dotted with glittering resorts, tiki torch-lit beaches, and, of course, Diamond Head in the distance, it's a vision you won't want to forget. 

Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii's lava-laden landscape is a sight to behold. Covering 523 miles from the summit of Mauna Loa to the shoreline,  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two volcanoes, including the world's most active volcano Mount Kilauea.

With 150 miles rain forests, volcanic craters and scalded terrain, the perfect shot won't be hard to get. 

Travel photo-op idea: Take a photo of the steaming vents and smoking caldera, and the black rock-lined beaches at the bottom of its peaks.

Manta Rays at Night

Dive into a once in a lifetime experience that travelers can only find on the Kona Coast. Just after dusk giant manta rays join together in a peaceful Pacific Ocean dance while they feed. Grab your underwater camera gear and join along with a guided tour — you'll need the photographic evidence for others to believe this travel tale. 

Helicopter Tours

Chronicle your adventures of the Big Island from a bird's-eye view aboard a doors-off helicopter ride. Many of the area's helicopter tour companies will fly you by breathtaking waterfalls, verdant valleys and above the island's impressive volcanoes and mountains. It's not if  you get the perfect shot, but how many.   

Umauma Falls

Head over to Hilo on the west side of the island to get an up-close look at Umauma Falls in all its triple-tiered beauty. If you're feeling adventurous, hitch a ride on a zip line or take a canyoning tour for angles any daredevil photographer would appreciate.

Waipi'o Valley

Enjoy the scenic drive to along Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive to Waipi'o Valley overlook. Take one look at the uninterrupted view of the coast, and it's easy to see why it's one of the most popular travel photo spots on the Big Island.

Travel photo pro-tip: Make you get the tropical flora and greenery in the frame, too. 

Pololu Valley

If you're an early bird, don't miss your chance to visit Pololu Valley for the opportunity to capture the stunning glow of sunrise. Whether you decide to take pictures at the lookout or hike down to the rich black-sand beach, Pololu Valley is, undoubtedly, one of the best photo ops in Hawaii.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

The Big Island's volcanic past is still very much alive on Punalu'u Beach. Dusted with jet-black sand and lined with coconut palms, it's a great place to take photos that pop.

Travel photo pro-tip: Consider your backdrop when deciding what to wear. Wear your brightest digs to highlight the black-sand, which Punalu'u Beach is so well-known.

The Lagoon at Hilton Waikoloa Village

The Hilton Waikoloa Village offers more than just wanderlust-worthy accommodations. The sprawling 62-acre playground on the Big Island's Kohala Coast is also just the place to capture your favorite travel memories.

Travel photo ideas: Never underestimate the power of a good candid shot. Get photos of loved ones enjoying the giant ocean-fed lagoon, paddle boards, water bikes or sneaking a nap in the comfort of a cabana.

Make sure you get in the frame, too. Snap a selfie during a dolphin encounter at Dolphin Quest, or with the Buddha statue at Buddha Point. 


The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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