Hawaii - Big Island and Oahu

Related article: Maui and Kauai

Big Island 

Big Island, as the name suggests, is the largest island in Hawaii. In fact, it's so big that you will find yourself spending a fair amount of time just driving around the island. There are many attractions on the island, and most of them are incredibly photographic, from giant volcano craters,  cliffs towering above crashing waves, black sand beaches with beautiful waterfalls. And more importantly, you can find endangered green turtles on this island!!

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This national park is the probably the most famous attraction on this island. Watching volcanic activity in Halema'uma'u crater was definitely a highlight of our visit. There are two overlooks where you can see the crater. One is located next to the Jagger Museum, which is usually very crowded even after sunset, and another one called Kilauea Overlook, which is generally much less crowded. I highly recommend the later one. Note that visitors should not expect to see gorgeous lava flows unless taking helicopter or boat tours. Before dark, too many visitors, it's probably just a smoking caldera with no visible lava at all. But I strongly recommend staying at least one hour after sunset, to experience how the crater is lit up by underlying lava under the dark sky!

Milky Way over the Halema'uma'u crater, taken at Kilauea Overlook. Due to time limits, I didn't use a star tracker. Instead, I used high ISO and only exposed the image for 20 seconds. Because the the crater is much brighter than the dark sky, I used a 3-stop ND filter to darken the lower part of the image. By the time when the Milky Way is visible, it's already pretty high up in the sky, and I didn't have a wider lens to cover the whole core, unfortunately.

Twilight at Halema'uma'u crater. This is a typical view you can see before sunset. A smoking crater :).

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

This is perhaps the most famous black sand beach in Hawaii. Besides the black sands, a more important reason for its fame is having good chances to see endangered green turtles basking in the sun on the beach. Of course, you can swim and snorkel there as well. There is a protected area surrounded by stones to keep distances from visitors. You need to visit there when there is still warm sunlight to see these creatures.

The beach has plenty of parking space, a picnic area, and restroom facilities. Next to the picnic area, there is a large open rocky space providing an expansive view of the ocean.

It was a joy to watch these slow-moving green turtles climb out of the water. 

Anaehoomalu Bay

Anaehoomalu Bay (also called A bay) is possibly the most popular place to watch the sunset. It's featured in many photographs by its beautiful palm trees and calm sunset colors. Given its popularity, and the fact that the parking space is a bit tricky to find, arrive early to find a good spot and wait for epic sunsets.

Sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay

Akaka Falls State Park

A 0.4-mile loop trail within the park leads to the beautiful Akaka Falls. There was a one dollar entrance fee of the trail per person when we visited there. The 440-feet falls, surrounded by lush plants, is spectacular.

Akaka Falls

Wawaloli Beach

Wawaloli beach is a family-friendly beach with a tide pool protected from the open ocean. The depth and size of the tide pool are perfect for kids to play. The water in the pool is also warmer than the open ocean as it's heated by the sun and rocks surrounding it. Photography wise, black lava rocks, the pool, and living colorful plants near the shoreline are perfect subjects.

Sunrise at Wawaloli Beach
Rainbow at Wawaloli Beach during sunrise. Rainbow can frequently be seen in Hawaii due to its often cloudy and unpredictable weather.

Pololū Trail

Pololu trail is a moderate 0.9-mile loop trail located near Kapaau. At the beginning of the trail, there is a lookout provides an expansive view of the coastline. The hike took about half an hour to walk down to the valley, but it's kinda steep.

Lookout at the Trailhead

Beautiful Coast with a Rainbow

Laupãhoehoe Beach Park

Laupãhoehoe Beach Park is another family-friendly park situated on a peninsula of lava. The current is very strong here, making waves splashing on lava rocks hard.

Waves hitting lava rocks
A version with longer exposure
The view from the picnic area
The view from the picnic area

A Few More Pictures on the Big Island

Hawaii Islands are full of scenes to take pictures like this with lava rocks. 
Double Rainbow. I wish I had a lens with wider angle!
Rainbow Falls. The falls are beautiful, but when we got there it was cloudy, unfortunately.


O'ahu is the most populated island in Hawaii. Similar to all other islands, there are many beaches to spend your time on the island. The most famous area is probably the Waikiki Beach area in Honolulu, where you see all the resorts and shops. 

Honolulu city view at dusk
Sunset at Waikiki Beach. 
Sunset at Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach


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