The Coolest Spots on O‘ahu for Scenic Holiday and Instagram Shots

Professional photographers share 12 great backdrops, because your same-old staircase is so last year.


The holidays are here, and that means the countdown for getting this year’s holiday photos done has already begun. Eep!


If you find yourself racking your brain every year for cool new backdrops for your photo card or annual Instagram post, not to fret. We’re here to help with a list of fresh locales (your house’s staircase is so last year!), courtesy of some of our favorite professional shutterbugs.



Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden & Nu‘uanu Valley Park


“Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden (below) offers a few different background options and beautiful views of the Ko‘olau Mountains, and has tons of seasonal flowering plants. It also has good mature tree growth so you’re not dealing with harsh overhead sunlight. You can shoot there any time of day and not worry about it. One big tip: please don’t take your photo on any of the roads in the park.


Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden Credit Aaron K Yoshino

Ho‘omaluhia Botanical Garden / Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


I’ve also shot a good number of portraits and covers at Nu‘uanu Valley Park (below left). There’s a beautiful clearing at the back of the park that’s pretty magical. It’s a nice place to get good photos and the lighting is forgiving there.”—Aaron K. Yoshino, @honozooloo



Nuuanu Valley Park Credit Aaron K Yoshino Kahala Beach Credit Ijfke Ridgley

Nu‘uanu Valley Park / Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino; Kāhala Beach / Photo: IJfke Ridgley


Kāhala Beach


“My favorite place for family photos is Kāhala Beach (above right) close to the Kāhala Hotel. It’s one of the only spots on the island that’s always sunny. Even if it’s raining everywhere else on the island, it seems to be sunny there. It gets beautiful light in both the morning and late afternoon from both sides. It’s very photogenic because of all of the shorter palm trees. And if you have kids there’s lots of things they can interact with and get excited about.”—IJfke Ridgley, @ifjkeridgley




Downtown Honolulu & Wa‘ahila State Recreation Area 


“I like the Merchant Street area (below) in downtown Honolulu. A lot of the buildings there are older and historical and have that kind of architecture. And the street has a curve to it which makes for a more visually interesting background.


Merchant Street Credit Tommy Shih

Downtown Honolulu / Photos: Tommy Shih



I also really like the forested area of Wa‘ahila Ridge State Recreation Area (below) up at the top of St. Louis Heights. It feels like the Pacific Northwest but it’s not hard to get to.”—Tommy Shih, @tommyshih 


Waahila Ridge Recreation Area Credit Brie Thalmann

Wa‘ahila Ridge State Recreation Area / Photo: Brie Thalmann



Kuli‘ou‘ou Beach Park & Kapi‘olani Park


Kuli‘ou‘ou Beach Park in Hawai‘i Kai is great when the tide is out, so you can walk out and feel like you’re far from shore. It’s quiet and serene. Kapi‘olani Park (below) near the mountainside tennis courts and the fountain, when it’s on, can be interesting. It has wonderful banyan trees for texture.”—Steve Czerniak, @steve_czerniak_photo


Picnic Table In Kapiolani Park At During Day

Kapi‘olani Park / Photos: Getty Images




Koko Crater Botanical Garden & Spitting Caves


Koko Crater Botanical Garden (below) is free, easy to access and has tons of trees and plants.


Koko Crater Botanical Garden 3 Credit Brie Thalmann

Koko Crater Botanical Garden / Photos: Brie Thalmann


And Spitting Caves (below) in Portlock is a bit of a small hike but it’s worth the effort as it has wide, unobstructed views of the ocean.”—Olivier Koning, @olivier.koning


Screaming Caves Credit Olivier Koning

Spitting Caves in Portlock / Photo: Olivier Koning




Kualoa Regional Park 

Kualoa Regional Park (below) gives you the beautiful Ko‘olau Mountains as one setting and the beach as another.”—Kristen Reyno, @kristenhookphotography


Mokoli’i Island

Kualoa Regional Park / Photos: Getty Images




Barbers Point Lighthouse & Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Park


“The Barbers Point Lighthouse area (below) in Kapolei is rustic yet beautiful.


Barbers Point Lighthouse Credit David Croxford

Barbers Point Lighthouse / Photo: David Croxford


And Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Park (below) up at the top of Tantalus Drive offers awesome views of Waikīkī and Honolulu.”—David Croxford, @magphotoguy


Tantalus Lookout Puu Ualakaa State Park

Pu‘u ‘U‘alaka‘a State Park / Photo: Getty Images