Maui’s Top 10 Photographic Adventures

Hawaii season is upon us! While the continental USA gets colder, more of us seek the tropical warmth of Hawaii. Many people go in order to relax at the resort spas and beautiful beaches, but for those who are wanting more of an adventure, I have put together a list of my top 10 spots on Maui to explore! All the spots I have listed below are ones that I have been to myself. There are many others great locations, but in the short time I was on the island, I couldn’t visit all the places I would have wanted.

Are you new to photography and uncertain when the best time is to photograph a certain location? For each place, I have provided the best time of day to get the best photos. I always find it time-consuming and tedious trying to figure out whether a scene will work best for sunset or sunrise. While I provided this info, don’t rely solely on it due to the fact that the sunrise’s and sunset’s exact cardinal directions change throughout the year. If you are also interested in learning how to improve upon your skills by mastering composition, be sure to check out my blog all about it.

ADVISORY: Some of the trails mentioned in the list, mainly the ones with waterfalls, can be dangerous due to flash flooding. This is a very common event in Hawaii, especially during the rainy season. Keep an eye on the weather and be very cautious when crossing any bodies of water! Being stranded, injured, drowning, and death are all possible at any time on many trials, and the chances increase during heavy rains and flash floods.

The Road to Hana (Sunrise to Sunset)

Road to Hana Waterfall
This waterfall is right off the Road to Hana closer to the town itself. There are restrooms and picnic tables here.

If there was one thing to do while on Maui, driving the Road to Hana would be it. This drive is for sure one of the most beautiful highways you can ever cruise. The best part of this drive is all the stops along the way! I have pointed out a few of my favorite stops in the remaining list below. Catch a great sunrise, sunset, and tons of waterfalls on this route.

Things to note about the Road to Hana.

  1. Most people drive the road starting in Kahului, which is centrally located on Maui. So start your day early, possible before sunrise. This will give you ample time to get to most locations without all the crowds and avoid most traffic.
  2. Plan on a full day’s trip. It takes about 2 hours, with no stops, to get all the way to Hana depending on where you start.
  3. Going all the way to Hana and back can be done on a single tank of gas! While there is a gas station in Hana, there are none between Hana and Paia. I thought this would be an issue for me since the only gas station in Hana was closed down when I was there due to remodeling or something.
  4. Bring some snacks, drinks, rain jacket, bug spray, sunscreen, and cash for the little food stops along the way!
  5. Do some more research about this drive for more in-depth planning.

Olivine Pools (Sunrise)

Olivine Pools
This is a drone shot of Olivine Pools. While you probably can’t identify the pools from this high up, you might be able to find me hidden among the rocks.

This location was by far my favorite place sunrise and I left with some lasting memories, good and bad. It is located on the central west side of the island along the Kahekili Hwy, which is just as beautiful as the Hana Hwy in its own way.

Catching sunrise along this lava rock coastline was nothing short of magical! Seeing the sunrise as the first morning light began to illuminate the rocky mountainous coastline was something special, and better yet, I had it all to myself. This location is great for drone photography. Just be careful of high winds and keep an eye on that battery! I almost completely lost my drone as it had to make an emergency landing about a half mile away from where it took off. Luckily, DJI has a great GPS system, and somehow it didn’t make an emergency landing into a crater of rocks or one of the many coastal pools.

If you go to this location, consider staying around after sunrise to take a dip in the pools themselves. Be sure to use commons sense, beware of tide patterns, and do NOT go swimming alone.

Waianapanapa State Park (Sunrise)

One of the first views you come to after a short walk from the parking lot.

Have you seen those amazing pictures of black sand beaches and wondered, “where in the world are those?” Waianapanapa State Park is your must-visit destination for a black sand beach. It is located just a few miles away from Hana along the Road to Hana.

This State Park has some of the best black lava rock cliffs and black sandy beaches mixed with the vibrant green vegetation. It is hard not to get a good photo here!

Don’t forget to explore the lava cave just to the right as you descend the stairs leading to the black sand beach. If you catch the right light during sunrise, the photos can turn out even better.

Iao Valley (Any time)

The main attraction of this park is the Iao Needle, but honestly, I found it hard finding a good unique composition of it. To make the photo pop, you would want either some low hanging sunlight hitting the peak or some light peeking through the clouds lighting up the sky with rays of wonder.

My favorite photos from this park were from the river bed, photographed above. Nothing beats a long exposure of rushing water with beautiful green vegetation covering mountain peaks shrouded in low hanging clouds. The road leading to the park itself has some nice bends begging to be photographed!

Ke’anae Village (Sunrise or Sunset)

Want a taste of the simpler Hawaiian farming village? This is your place. This very small village is right off the Road to Hana a few miles before you reach Halfway to Hana, a great place to stop and get some snacks.

The things that will attract you to this village are the beautiful rocky beaches and huge waves that crash against the cliff walls. I hear this is a good place for fishing, but you will absolutely not want to swim here! Very deadly waves and tides, not to mention the entire coast is lava rock!

Upper Waikani Falls (Any time)

Aerial photo taken from atop the bridge.

Do you like waterfalls? Well, you’ll surely love this one! This is hands down my favorite waterfall I visited on Maui. It is on the Road to Hana a few miles past Halfway to Hana if you are driving towards Hana (Mile Marker #19). You will see this waterfall as you cross a bridge along the highway.

You are not allowed to park right next to the bridge, but there is a pull-off a short walk along the road on either side of it. To get to the base of the waterfall, you take a very short hike down to the bottom. To find where this hike begins isn’t easy. You just may have to look around the ends of the bridge to find where it is. Once you see it, it will be quite obvious you have found it. Avoid going to the base when flash floods are present or possible during heavy rains. The view from the bridge is awesome in its own right. The photo above was shot from the bridge.

While any time of day will work for this waterfall, it is best photographed with overcast skies! Consider bringing a tripod and practicing some long exposures to get that silky water look.

Twin Falls (Early Morning)

This is the last waterfall along the hike. Although, you may want it to be the first one you visit if you want it more to yourself.

What is better than visiting a waterfall? Visiting multiple waterfalls! Being one of your first stops while driving the Road to Hana (Mile Marker #2), Twin Falls is a great way to start your day and going first thing in the morning is just about the only time you can truly enjoy this majestic waterfall without too many people swimming in the magical teal pool of water.

If you want this waterfall mostly to yourself or if you want to capture some good photos, make sure to skip the first few waterfalls and hike straight to the last waterfall on the hike. To access the last waterfall, you will pass through a big gate and eventually cross a stream. The waterfall is a short walk after the stream crossing. Be advised that the water levels of this stream crossing are often affected by flash floods. Just as I was making my way back from the waterfall and crossed the stream, a lady on an ATV closed off the crossing due to increasing water levels.

I’m not sure if the last waterfall is called Twin Falls since there is only one stream flow. I think the first waterfall along the hike is the actual Twin Falls, but the last is by far the best! Visit the other ones on the hike back, as those won’t be ruined as much with a crowd.

Bamboo Forest/Falls (Any time)

This is the first waterfall you will come to after you cross the steam.

If after visiting Twin Falls you still need more waterfalls, a few more miles down the Road to Hana you will find yourself driving through a bamboo forest (Mile Marker #6). If you see a ton of cars parked on the side of the road, you have found the right bamboo forest. You may have to park further up the road and hike back along the road to the bamboo area. There is a pretty obvious opening in the bamboo that begins the trail.

Walking through a forest full of bamboo trees is something else. To make the hike even better, there are 3-4 waterfalls along the hike. I only saw the first 3 waterfalls since I was short on time, but I was told there was a 4th. I visited this trail twice during my stay. The first time the sun was high in the sky with no clouds in site and the second it started pouring rain, so I couldn’t get too many photos. I’m picky like that! This hike is completely worth the exploration even if you can’t capture the best photos.

The hike itself can be somewhat difficult depending on the conditions. It can be very slippery, you must cross a stream, and after the second waterfall, things get more difficult. Due to the stream crossing, flash flooding is a real threat. Stay up to date with the weather and if it starts raining when on the other side of the stream, you may want to start making your way back just in case flooding occurs and you get stranded. Crossing the stream can be done without getting wet by walking across the rock if the water level is low enough.

Ho’okipa Beach (Sunset)

Dude! Where are all the awesome sand beaches? Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of sand, especially when it comes to taking photos at popular locations where there are people and footprints everywhere. With all of those awesome tropical rainforests, lava rock coastlines, etc., sand beaches aren’t my first choice for photography, but I did visit two different “normal” beaches.

Ho’okipa Beach is where I probably spent a few too many sunsets! It was located only 15 minutes from my rental house, so it was super convenient for sunset. With all the pre-dawn mornings to catch a sunrise, I didn’t want to travel too far away to try to catch a sunset only to have to travel an hour or more back to my rental, giving me even less sleep for fuel.

The three things this beach has going for it are beautiful sunsets, tons of surfers, and sea turtles! The sea turtles are best viewed first thing in the morning when the parking lot opens. Surfers can be seen most likely all day, but the best shots are early morning and just before sunset. Make sure to stick around to catch some amazing sunsets. Although, you’ll have to search for the perfect composition within all the rocks.

Makena Beach (Sunrise or Sunset)

This particular location is a very small cove, that can be ruined if visited/photographed with a lot of people. Sunrise is your best bet for getting it almost all to yourself. There is no doubt in my mind that it is very crowded during the day and at sunset.

Just a note for you photographers. I did find it quite hard finding a composition that worked well enough to satisfy me. Make sure to bring a wide-angle lens if you want those palm trees and the rocks in your composition.

One Bonus Adventure (Sunrise or Sunset)

As I conclude this list, I would like to suggest one last place to adventure with the promise of incredible photos. That place is Haleakalā National Park! While I didn’t visit due to the fact that I didn’t know about the sunrise reservation policy, I am giving you fair warning. If you wish to visit the park to see a glorious sunrise above the clouds, make sure you make your reservations ahead of time. Follow this link here for all info on how to get a reservation.

If you thought this was of help to you, please consider sharing with your friends on social media or email through the links below. Subscribe for more adventure suggestions and photography tips in the future! Looking for awesome adventures to be had on the Big Island of Hawaii? That will be coming out shortly as well, so be sure to subscribe to be notified when it does. Have any questions about Maui? Leave a comment below and I will help as best I can.

GIVEAWAY ALERT!

As Christmas is upon us and the year comes to a close, many of us are frantically looking for gifts to give loved ones. Here is your chance to win a gift to either keep or give. I have one of my 2019 calendar saved for one lucky winner! Yes, I put together my first ever calendar. While you have lost your chance to buy one this year, you still have a chance of winning one! Here’s how.

  1. Make sure you are following me on Instagram @natebowery.
  2. Leave a comment tagging 3 people on my photo explaining the giveaway. View that photo here!
  3. Every 3 people you tag gives you 1 additional entry.
  4. Ends on December 1st, 2018

Holiday Prints Discount! (Limited to 10 People)

For ONE WEEK ONLY, I will have all my prints on sale! That includes luster paper, framed, canvas, and metal prints. Some of the prints you see in this blog are available as prints. Just click the photo and it will send you to the print store if it is available. Follow the link here for all other prints I currently have!

Use code: “10give30” for your 30% off. Please contact me with any questions or problems. Offer is limited to the first 10 people and ends December 5th, 2018.

If you miss your chance, you can still get 20% off prints when you subscribe to my newsletter. Offer code is given in the first welcome email after you subscribe. Make sure to check your spam folder if you don’t see it.

Nate Bowery

View posts by Nate Bowery
I’m Nate Bowery, a photographer from the Southeast US. I have a passion for landscape and adventure photography that takes me all over the Southeast US and occasionally the west.

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