A photographer friend who purchased my Oregon and Washington guidebooks, and who knew that I lived in Hawaii for many years, recently asked for recommendations on the best places on the islands of Maui and Hawaii for landscape photography. Like most photographers visiting the Hawaiian Islands, my friend has a limited number of days for his vacation and won’t have time to run around the islands to all the locations shown in general interest visitor guides. Here are my suggestions for where to go on Maui for great scenic and nature photography. I’ll follow this up with separate post on my recommendations for the Big Island.
1. Wailua Falls – The whole Hana Coast is a nature and travel photographer’s tropical paradise with dramatic coast views and numerous waterfalls tumbling over lava cliffs in verdant rainforest. This favorite photo spot is right next to the Hana Highway in the Kipahulu District, between Hana town and the ‘Oheo Gulch area of Haleakala National Park. Visit here in the afternoon when you’re more likely to find soft, overcast light.
2. Koki Beach Park – Heading south from Hana town, turn makai (towards the coast) on Haneo’o Road, which also goes to Hamoa Beach. ‘Alau Island sits just offshore, and the jagged lava boulders along the shore make great subjects for long exposures with water flowing around them. This is a superb location for sunrise.
3. Pipiwai Trail – After visiting the pools and waterfalls at the ‘Ohe’o Gulch area of Haleakala National Park, leave your car at the Kipahulu Visitor Center and walk across the road to the trailhead. On the way to Waimoku Falls, this easy, 4-mile round-trip hike passes through a dense forest of tall bamboo. Bring your bathing suit for a dip in the pool at the base of the waterfall, and mosquito repellent for the hike through the forest. Plenty to keep you busy here for at least a whole afternoon.
4. Haleakala Summit – Yes, there is going to be a crowd at the summit overlook – experiencing sunrise from the top of Haleakala is practically required of all visitors to Maui. Most people stay right at the main official viewpoint but if you walk down Sliding Sands Trail even a few hundred yards you’ll probably be all by yourself and have the option of a much different photograph than the usual summit view.
5. Kalahaku Overlook, Haleakala National Park – Drive to the summit parking lot at Haleakala then turn around and head back down the road for about a mile to the turn off for Kalahaku. This is a great alternative for sunrise, with far fewer visitors, and it also puts you in great position to photograph the pu’u (cinder cones) in the crater with dramatic early morning light.
6. ‘Iao Valley – With good reason, a visit to ‘Iao Valley has long been a staple of Maui tourism. The main attraction is ‘Iao Needle, a volcanic remnant that abruptly rises 1200′ above a stream bed. The state park here is also an important cultural site and contains a botanical garden. Overcast skies won’t work for ‘Iao Needle, so go for a sunny day or dramatic clouds; nearby mountains keep the needle in shadow early in the morning.
7. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens – Not far from the aiport at Kahului, Maui Nui Botanical Garden works to preserve and showcase Maui’s native and culturally significant plants. This is a great place to learn about and photograph species that are unique to Hawaii, as well as those that were introduced by early Polynesian settlers of the islands.
8. Kula Botanical Gardens – There is no shortage of good photo ops in Upcountry Maui, the local term for the west-facing slopes of Haleakala. Little towns and settlements are scattered across a broad area of ranches, farms, and forest. Tropical flowers like anthuriums, protea, plumeria, heliconias and orchids are grown commerically, and some of the operations welcome visitors. Kula Botanical Garden is especially photographer friendly and features several acres of exotic and native Hawaiian flora. You’ll probably also want to point your lenses at the koi pond and the resident Nene geese.
9. Ka’anapali Beach – The narrow strip of beach right in front of the Hyatt Regency Kaanapali Resort is one of my favorite locations for Maui sunsets. Nothing says the tropics like coconut palm trees hanging over a sandy beach, and mother nature puts on a show here most every night. With a wide composition, you can include Lanai Island on the horizon. Sunset not really happening tonight? Grab a mai tai at the beach bar and stick around for the twilight glow.
10. Kihei, Wailea & Makena Beaches – Just about any beach on the west side of Maui can be good for fiery sunsets. The quiet dawn light can also work very well here. The beaches on this part of the island, with the exception of Big Beach at Makena, are generally small sandy areas between ancient lava flows. Cocopalm trees have been planted along most of this coast, so it’s fairly easy to find a good composition with the palms either the main subject of your photo or used to frame the scene.
If you’ve been to Maui, you’re probably thinking, hey, what about this beach, and what about that waterfall? Let me know your favorites by leaving a Comment.
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