From the laid back surf towns in the north, to the bustling Waikiki in the south, and the beautiful mountain ranges in the East, Oahu really has it all. It is a beautiful place and we have put together a list of the most scenic points in Oahu.
The scenic beauty of Oahu really blew us away when we visited. Around every corner was another incredible view. For us, photography is clearly a huge part of traveling. We are always on a mission to find a new location to shoot. And as an added perk, looking for new, beautiful places to capture not only leads us to explore the region, but it is often a free or cheap activity. We travel on a fairly strict backpacker budget, so finding beautiful landscapes and free activities is a win-win in our books.
Based on our experience exploring Oahu we put together this list identifying our favourite, most scenic points around the island. Whether you are a lover of travel photography like us, or just want to explore gorgeous landscapes, these are 5 picturesque spots you won’t want to miss.
Most Scenic Points in Oahu
1. Kualoa Regional Park
Kualoa is a place that you’ve probably never heard of, but have most likely seen before. It is famous for being featured in the original Jurassic Park films, providing a prehistoric looking landscape for the dinosaurs to call home. Its stunning, natural beauty, combined with the draw of movie fame makes this a very popular tourist spot.
The Kualoa Regional Park is located at the northern end of Kaneohe Bay, on the east side of the island. Across the road from the regional park is a beautiful beach where you can park your car and take in the view. Don’t get confused with Kualoa Ranch and Zipline which is just next door, and also offers incredible views and activities, but charges a fee to enter.
Just a few hundred metres off shore is the tiny island of Mokoli’I, which is locally known as Chinaman’s Hat. It is a fairly easy paddle across the channel to go and explore the island, or you can do what we did and let the drone do all the hard work for you.
This location offers stunning 360 degree views and will be easily recognisable to all your friends who have watched Jurassic Park. And those who don’t recognise it shouldn’t be your friends anyway. Who hasn’t seen Jurassic Park?!
2. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens have recently shot to Instagram fame. In the months leading up to our trip to Oahu we started to see more and more pictures of this beautiful place. The palm tree lined road at the entry to the gardens has an epic mountain backdrop.
Unfortunately, the recent rise to fame has seen too many people wandering into the middle of the road to take pictures. They now have ‘No Photography’ signs at the entrance and along the road itself, as well as a security guard to enforce this. The road is fairly busy with traffic entering and leaving the park so this definitely makes sense.
Although we went during the middle of the day, we have heard you can arrive before or after opening hours to snap the perfect picture in the middle of the road. There is a small gate located just off the side of the road where you can enter outside of the opening hours (9am – 4pm).
3. Lanikai Beach
Want to visit the top rated beach on Oahu? Then look no further. Lanikai Beach is also rated amongst the world’s best beaches and it’s not hard to see why. Fine white sand, palm trees and crystal clear blue water all add up to make this a must-see beach.
The beach is lined with houses so access is gained through small pedestrian alleys located at various points along the beach. It can get very busy here, and parking is at a premium so be prepared to drive around a bit to find a spot.
The Mokalua Islands are located just a few hundred metres from shore and are also accessible by kayak. If you don’t want to just chill out at the beach another active way to see the best of Lanikai is to do the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as the Ka’iwa Ridge Trail. It is fairly short and easy, so a great hike to do if you don’t have too much time on the island. The roundtrip is 1.6km and should take around 1 hour to do.
4. Waimea Bay
We loved this spot as it is great to visit year round, but for very different reasons. It is located on the North Shore of Oahu, near the town of Haleiwa. In the winter, huge waves of over 25ft break here and it is a great place to come and watch the locals risk their lives for the ultimate thrill.
In summer, the waters remain calm and it is the perfect spot to swim, snorkel and dive at. There is also Jump Rock, which is an awesome place to cliff jump and get some adrenaline pumping. We had heard a lot about Waimea before visiting Oahu and its golden sandy beaches and brilliant blue waters didn’t disappoint.
5. Kaneohe Sandbar
The Kaneohe Sandbar and surrounding reefs are perfect for swimming and snorkelling. The sandbar is located in Kaneohe Bay, about 1.6 km offshore. The bay is protected by an outer reef making it well sheltered year round, regardless of the ocean swells.
Depending on the tide, the sandbar can be covered in waist-deep water, or it can be completely exposed. Regardless of the tide, the sandbar is a spectacular display of natural beauty. It also has the added bonus of having the Kualoa Regional Park as the view when looking back to shore. While seeing the Kualoa Park up close and personal is a must, we thought that seeing it from the sandbar was just as good.
We always do a bit of research before we head out on a trip, and as photographers, we often turn to Instagram to find the most epic locations. We had earmarked loads of places to go and visit while we were in Oahu. While almost every place we saw gave us an awesome view, we thought that these were the most scenic points. If you are making a trip over to Oahu, make sure to take time to visit these spots and get some amazing photos of your own.