When on Maui, you’ll no doubt marvel at the beauty around every corner, and most of you will be taking photos in one way or another. Whether with a smartphone or a professional camera, chances are you’re bound to capture some stunning photos here.
The Hawaiian Islands as a whole are home to 10 of the world’s 14 different climate zones, 6 of which are located just on Maui. With so many exceptional landscapes and microclimates to explore, the hardest part about taking high calibre photos is narrowing down your options of where exactly to go.
Top Maui Activities for Great Photos
While you can’t go wrong standing on one of the 80+ beaches, in front of one of the many jungle waterfalls, or on the slopes of Upcountry’s rolling hills and pointing your camera somewhat aimlessly outward, we recommend the following locations and activities for the best photo opportunities on The Valley Isle.
Haleakala Eco Tours
Meaning ‘House of the Sun,’ Haleakala Volcano is Maui’s largest landmark, the world’s largest dormant volcano, and also one of the quietest places on earth when standing in its massive crater. Rising 10,023 feet above sea level, Haleakala absolutely a must-visit for any professional or amateur photographer, thanks to its barren landscape, unique plant and animal life, and stunning views of the surrounding island and sky.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Without a doubt, a helicopter tour of Maui provides some of the most breathtaking views of the island possible. From flying through the jagged, green mountaintops of the West Maui Mountains to seeing the cascading waterfalls of Hana in areas you can’t reach by foot or car, each and every aerial view of Maui offers something totally unique.
Choose from Blue Hawaiian Helicopters 5 Maui tour options, including the option to fly in the classic A-Star or modern Eco-Star helicopter options, and let Maui’s natural beauty wow you from above.
For a less immersive and lengthy jungle hike, we highly recommend visiting Iao Valley State Park, located conveniently in Wailuku only minutes from the popular Market Street. With rich cultural and geological importance, hiking trails, a botanical garden, and the occasional treat of freshly fallen fruit, Iao Valley is a photographer’s dream come true.
Take a picnic, hammock and a swimsuit for a refreshing afternoon along ‘Iao Stream, and heed any warnings for flash flooding in the area. Marvel at the massive boulders and surrounding greenery growing on the steep mountains around you, and enjoy the sounds and sites of nature in this serene Maui location.
Maui Tropical Plantation
Only a few minutes’ drive from Iao Valley, Maui Tropical Plantation is like a Willy Wonka creation if Willy had loved the outdoors more than chocolate. With amazing gardens, a tropical lagoon, direct views of the West Maui Mountains, and onsite activities like plantation tours and ziplining, there’s plenty of views worth remembering at this centrally-located Maui staple. You'll spend hours taking macro shots of their rare Hawaiian flowers, marveling at what many believe to be the best non-ocean view on Maui, and there's even a Selfie Scavanger Hunt for you and your family. The scavenger hunt guides guests to the best places to take a photo and if they tag @millhousemaui at 3 of them they get a complimentary dessert.
For those interested in the local culinary offerings, there’s also an onsite coffee roasting company, as well as a farm-to-table restaurant with weekly 9-course Chef’s Table events. If there were anywhere you could be forgiven for taking photos of your food (and the view just beyond it), this place is it.
And, of course, come by and see some of our artwork and products here at Soley Aloha.
Kai Kanani Sunset Sail
Whether you plan to visit Maui during its annual whale season (November to April) or any other time of year, a sunset sail is one of the most scenic and relaxing activities available, and one of the best ways to enjoy the ocean while not doing any of the work to scuba, snorkel, or paddle yourself around in it.
Though there are many options to choose from, we love the informal yet classy Kai Kanani Sunset Sailing Tour, available 3 days per week and one of the only tours to depart from the beach instead of a harbor. Roll up your pant legs and take in an evening of live ukulele, a celebratory champagne toast, cocktails, beers, and a full menu of island-inspired cuisine, while capturing photos of the scenic sunset and Maui shoreline.
Hawaiian Paddle Sports Outrigger Canoe
Once the primary form of transportation to and within the Hawaiian Island chain, outrigger canoes have a long and fascinating history in local Hawaiian culture. Today, locals and visitors are encouraged to take a modern-day outrigger canoeing tour with the certified Marine Naturalist guides at Hawaiian Paddle Sports.
After a quick beach clean-up and land lesson, guests climb aboard the outrigger for a morning of whale watching (when in season) or snorkeling at one of Maui’s best snorkel areas. Hearing a whale sing from the canoe or catching a glimpse of a passing pod of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins is an experience like no other, and the nearly on-level ocean views from the canoe create the perfect photo opportunities. For the more adventurous travelers, we also recommend their outrigger canoe surfing tours, though you’ll want a waterproof camera for that one!
Pe’ahi Big Wave Surfing
Unless you’re a professional big wave surfer, chances are you’ll never step foot anywhere near the water at Pe’ahi, also known as Jaws, Maui’s biggest surf break. Also, unless your trip is incredibly well-timed and you happen to be in the vicinity on a day when the waves are set to be 20+ feet (usually an occasional day in January or February) and the weather is cooperating, chances are you’ll never get to witness Pe’ahi in all its surfing glory.
That being said, if you find yourself in the Paia or Haiku area on one of these aforementioned (rare) days, you’re in for a real treat, especially if you happen to have a long lens that can capture the professional surfers in action. One more piece of advice: the road to get to the viewing spot is incredibly muddy and rough, so don’t plan on taking your rental car! Here’s to making friends with locals, and being in the right place at the right time.
Undoubtedly one of the most photographed places on Maui, Pipiwai Trail is still well worth the effort it takes to get there, thanks in large part to its abundance of scenic views, stopping points, and natural wonders. Beginning at Kipahulu’s ‘Ohe’o Gulch, also commonly referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools, the 4 mile roundtrip hike winds through a guided trail on the back side of Haleakala National Park.
Passing by a giant banyan tree, Makahiku Falls, and through Maui’s most picturesque bamboo forest, the trail ends at Waimoku Falls, a 200 foot cascading waterfall that’s perfect for a mid-hike pit stop with a view. For photography bonus points, try camping at the nearby Kipahulu campground and capturing the moonrise or sunrise for a different - and equally stunning - Maui viewpoint.
Big Beach & Little Beach
One of the most popular beaches on Maui, the giant, golden sand wonder of Big Beach is well known for a reason. With shore break conditions that go from nearly nonexistent to downright scary, it’s wise to stand on the shore and watch for a few minutes to determine whether or not it’s worth going in. That being said, the perfect sand, bright turquoise water, and panoramic views from the hill located on the far right of the beach make it a beach worth braving, if only for the photos you’ll capture.
Alternately, Little Beach, located just over that same hill, offers a whole different set of photo opportunities on its own. Well known as one of the few local nude beaches on Maui, Sundays at Little Beach are host to a weekly beach party that includes drum circles, dancing, body surfing, and fire spinning. Just beware you may capture more than just the sunset in the backgrounds of your photos.
A local favorite for surfing and snorkeling depending on the season, Honolua Bay is located on the northwest side of Maui past the towns of Napili and Kapalua. Once primarily used for fishing and farming, and then later as the site for a pineapple plantation, the area of Honolua Bay is now protected as part of a Marine Life Conservation District.
Park nearby and take a walk through the stunning, lush jungle area to reach the rocky beach, stopping to snap a few photos along the way to appreciate the change in scenery compared to the Cook Pine trees of Kapalua only a few miles before. Bring your snorkel gear in summer months, and be aware that guests are prohibited from touching coral and wearing sunscreen, as it causes damage to the reef.
Located only a short drive past Honolua Bay, Nakalele Blowhole is a wonderful spot to capture the ferocity of Maui’s waves and surrounding cliff line. Take the 10 to 15 minute hike down the rocky path to reach the blowhole, but be sure to stay on dry ground, as more than a few visitors have gotten sucked in from standing too close.
Just a few steps away, be sure to snap a shot of the naturally-formed heart-shaped rock and admire the gorgeous views of the ocean around you. The dramatic sprays of ocean water through the blowhole paired with the sweetness of the heart are a photo twofer we just can’t pass up.
Lahaina Banyan Tree Park
Standing over 60 feet tall and covering more than a block, Maui’s most photographed banyan tree is located in the heart of West Maui’s Lahaina Town. Not native to Hawaii, the tree was planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in the town.
Today, Banyan Tree Park is home to a number of events, including art fairs, festival events, holiday celebrations and more. Grab some picnic ingredients from one of the many ono restaurants in the area and set up camp under the drooping branches for a cozy and romantic photo op.
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
One of the most stunning areas of Maui, the Upcountry town of Kula is full of charming cafes, a winery, gardens, fruit stands, local farms and more. Perhaps the best smelling stop, Ali’i Kula Lavender also has some pretty impressive panoramic views and landscaping, packed full of succulents, statues, and plenty of areas to stop and relax.
General admission is $3, and they also offer daily walking tours, cart tours, a gourmet picnic lunch, and occasional onsite events throughout the month. Located at 4,000 feet of elevation and with 55,000 lavender plants, the farm is a great place to stock up on local souvenirs and take in the small-town way of life in Kula.
La Perouse Bay
Dubbed as Maui’s ‘Forbidden Coast,’ La Perouse Bay was named for the French Admiral, Jean-Francois de Galaup Comte de Laperouse, after he landed on the shores of Maui’s remote shoreline in 1786. A few years later, Haleakala Volcano erupted, covering the area in sharp black lava rock which remains today.
Visitors must drive south past Big Beach and Paako Cove to reach La Perouse, where they can then take the rugged hike along the coastline to Kanai’o Beach or simply stop to watch the sunset, taking time to explore the area’s many ancient archaeological sites and colorful tide pools.
Wai'anapanapa State Park
Our must-visit Maui photo destination list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our last spot, Wai’anapanapa State Park. Located at Mile Marker #32 on the Road to Hana, this park is crammed full of otherworldly photo locations, including the black sand Pa’iloa Beach, freshwater caves, several historic sites, hala trees, hiking trails, and perhaps coolest of all, a walkable lava tube with an opening to the ocean.
Visitors can choose to stop in on their way to Hana Town, or if you’re seeking more of a local experience, stay the night in one of their onsite cabins or adjacent campground. Watching the sunrise from the cliffs is a Maui experience like no other.
Shoot with me!
Mahalo for taking the time to read my list of recommended Maui photo locations, and here’s hoping you capture some jaw-dropping shots on your next trip to our tropical paradise. And don’t forget to book your family portraits or maternity shoot with Soley Photography! Call me at (808) 280-9034 to book a time.