Best places to take pictures in Kona, Hawaii

Adventure awaits on the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. From the dry and dependably sunny east side, to the lush and rainbow-filled west side, to the erupting volcanoes to the south, a private slice of paradise is easily found for every visitor. We’ve rounded up the 10 best photo spots on the Big Island of Hawaii 📸

1. Waikoloa Beach

For stunning sunsets, shallow waters perfect for snorkeling, and historic fishponds, head to Waikoloa Beach. The expansive neighbouring resorts, such as the Hilton Waikoloa Village, are the perfect home base for travellers looking to relax and enjoy the Hawaiian sunshine, ocean breeze and aloha spirit. The white sands and calm waters make it especially photogenic for watching the sunset underneath the palm trees. 🏝

2. Puako Hidden Beaches

These hidden beaches with lava rock are a secret escape for a quiet shoot with no one else around but green sea turtles! 🐢  Puako was once a small fishing village, and while it has become a popular spot for beachfront vacation homes in recent years, it still retains an old Hawaii charm with tide pools, exposed rock shoreline and plenty of serenity.

(Please note that discovering the beauty of these hidden beaches for a shoot requires careful walking and is not easily accessible for anyone with mobility issues or young children.)

3. Old Kona Airport

Picturesque trees and lava rocks line the shore of this beautiful sandy beach at the site of the Old Kona Airport on the Kohala Coast. ✈️  This expansive beach park is one of the most picturesque beaches on the Kona side of the island, and you could easily spend a full day relaxing, snorkeling and exploring. The southern point of the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area is called Keiki (meaning”child” in Hawaiian) Ponds. The lava rocks create a natural barrier, creating a calm oasis for young kids to splash, play and explore the shallow tide pools. 🦀

4. Mahai’ula Beach & Makalawena Beach

Brave the cratered, bumpy lava road leading to Mahai’ula Beach and you’ll be rewarded with one of Kona’s most beautiful landscapes. While the rocky drive feels desolate, it makes the arrival onto one of Big Island’s most beautiful beaches that much more picturesque. Don’t be surprised when you see a sea turtle’s head pop up out of the water as you snorkel among the protected coral reefs and stunningly clear waters. 🥽

For a truly off-the-beaten-path experience, Makalawena Beach is primarily accessed by foot via a one-mile hike, unless you have a vehicle able to navigate the jagged black lava rock. The logistical challenges of reaching this beach means you’re rewarded with a near-private beach certainly worth the work and sweat.

5. Ke’ei Beach

This hidden gem is a favourite among locals at the bottom of Kealakekua Bay and is bursting with colour from the lush vegetation on its shore. While much of the beach is rocky and shallow, there is a small stretch of sand that invites you for a quick dip. It’s also a perfect spot to bring a picnic lunch and watch the surfers ride some of the longest waves in Kona. 🏄‍♀️

You can easily enjoy a full day of adventures in this area. The Captain Cook Monument is nearby and marks some of the best snorkeling on the island. It’s located in Kealakekua Bay, a protected marine life conservation district maintaining the health of the reef and underwater residents. 🐟  However, this spot is inaccessible by car, so you’ll have to hike, take a boat tour or kayak. 

Need a pick-me-up? Swing by the Kona Coffee Farm to learn all about the meticulous harvesting process that creates the delicious but rare 100% pure Kona coffee, exclusively grown in north and south Kona. 


6. Kailua-Kona

Uncover the magical beauty of Hawaii in Kailua, a charming town with breathtaking views and, of course, famous shave ice. The weather is nearly always sunny and dry, ☀️ and white sand beaches are only a short drive away at all times. It’s a great bustling home base for exploring the western side of the island. Enjoy local farmers’ markets, eat freshly caught ahi (tuna), and beat the jet-lag with a freshly brewed cup of Kona coffee. ☕️  Ali’i drive is the main thoroughfare for shopping, strolling and dining, and the sunsets are always worth watching here. 

7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The powerful volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai and of course, the Big Island, are certainly a sight to behold. 🌋  The park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes — Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Kilauea Volcano is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, and her history of eruptions are told through chants and oral traditions of the Native Hawaiians. Explore the expansive park through scenic drives, short walks or if you’re feeling adventurous, a helicopter tour from above. 🚁  Seeing the lava field and lava flows will leave you in awe of the geological power and beauty of our earth. 

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8. Hilo

While the east side of the island is known for its dependable sunny and dry days, the western side of the island is full of lush rainforests, waterfalls and of course, rain. The town of Hilo was along inside the crescent-shaped Hilo Bay, which is partly protected by the Hilo Breakwater. Conveniently located within Hilo, the Rainbow Falls are a waterfall in the Wailuku river that crashes into the pool below. 🌈  As one of the most easily accessible falls on the island, your trip isn’t complete without a stop here. 

9. ‘Akaka Falls State Park

Located about 20-30 minutes outside of Hilo, you can continue to chase waterfalls at ‘Akaka Falls State Park. Meander winding paved trails through lush vegetation, including wild orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns. In less than an hour roundtrip, you can enjoy views from two scenic vista points that overlook the cascading 100-foot Kahuna Falls and the towering 442-foot ‘Akaka Falls. 🌺

10. Pololu Valley

As one of 7 valleys carved by time and erosion into the side of the now-extinct Kohala Volcano, the Pololu Valley is the northernmost valley with plenty to explore. The lookout offers stunning, panoramic views of the ocean, majestic sea cliffs and even the chance to spot humpback whales in the wintertime. However the real attraction is the steep trail down into the valley, referred to as both the Pololū Trail and the ʻĀwini trail. As you make your way (slowly and carefully!) down to the black sand beach on the valley floor, you’re rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding valley and a refreshing dip in the ocean. 🌊

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