Makapu'u Lookout, O'ahu, Hawai', USA
This lookout is next to the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail on O'ahu which is a lovely little walk along the coast line. You can even see humpback whales during season. When taking this panoramic picture I saw a school class looking at the volcanic ash crater in the back to the right. The teacher explained the differences between volcanoes erupting below and above surface. When Hawai'i is your classroom you have to love geology and volcanoes!
Na Pali Coast Lookout, Kaua'i, Hawai'i, USA
Kaua'i is the northwesternmost of the big Hawaiian islands. Volcanism is still active in the southeast of the islands, mainly on Hawai'i Island. So on Kaua'i wind, rain and the weather in general had some time to shape the island to its liking. Kaua'i is also amongst the places with the most rainfall on earth. Standing at the Na Pali Coast lookout you have to take this into the equation when asking how on earth could a place so beautiful come to being? The Na Pali Coast was one of my absolute favorites looking forward to when visiting Hawai'i and quickly became one of the most impressive landscapes that I have ever seen.
Hanalei Valley Lookout on Kaua'i, Hawai'i, USA
This is one of the most photographed lookouts in all of the Hawaiian islands: The Hanalei Valley Lookout. Before driving down the windy streets to the small surfer village Hanalei on the North Shore of Kaua'i take your chance and see the taro fields from above. They are beautifully framed with palm trees in the front, rain forests in the back, some clouds and lots of shapes of green. These taro fields are where the majority of the Hawaii's poi comes from. It is pounded from the roots and belongs to the earliest plants to be cultivated throughout the Pacific.
Aerial of Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawai'i, USA
Hawai'i is a chain of eight major islands that are of volcanic origin. Kaua'i is almost at the oldest end of it - opposite to the youngest end being Hawai'i Island (or Big Island). Therefore, rain, wind and weather formed this island for millions of years after its initial formation. 70 % of Kaua'i is not accessible by road. There is basically only a ring road going around three quarters of the island. You can't reach big parts of the Northern tip of Kaua'i by road. But you can by air or sea. I wanted to do a heli ride and got a recommendation from a fellow photographer via social media for Mauna Loa Helicopters. If you are thinking about going to Kaua'i - which I highly, highly recommend, don't save your hard earned money, but spent it on a tour like this. You will not regret it! We did a full hour heli ride doors off and toured the whole island. My highlight was the Na Pali Coast which is at the very Northern tip of the island that offers huge drops down to the Pacific. There is a trail to walk (the Kalalau trail) once you take care of a permit months in advance or you can see this stretch of coast by boat. But the heli ride over the island was something I will not forget for the rest of my life! Although the light that day was far from spectacular the landscape compensated big time. This is one of the most beautiful landscapes that I have seen in my whole life - period.
Access road to Mauna Loa, Hawai'i Island, Hawai'i
There are few places on earth where you can enjoy some water sports at sea level during the day and afterwards jump in your car and drive up on top of a volcano to more than 4.000 m of height. Hawai'i Island offers two of these spots with Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world (by size from the sea bed to top), and Mauna Kea (which was not accessible for large parts of 2019 and 2020 due to protests). This is the access road of Mauna Loa after sunset giving a very minimalist frame following a leading line. We made it until 2.800 m that night and turned around due to the thin air up there. You could easily go all the way until 4.200 m and I highly recommend to not miss the opportunity of this landscape once you are around! (We made it to the top of Maui with the Haleakala volcano at 3.055 m height a few days later though - see picture down below.)
Waipi'o Valley Lookout, Hawai'i Island, Hawai'i
The Waipi'o Valley is one of the very few undeveloped valleys in the state of Hawai'i. This shot was taken at the Waipi'o Valley Lookout in the northeast of the island. If you want to visit the valley you have three options: walk the very steep and narrow road for a good half an hour each way, pay the locals to get you a ride on the back of a pick-up truck or go with your own 4x4. The guards will check on whether you have a proper 4x4 with low range gears or just a knockoff wannabe 4x4. We got upgraded to a proper Jeep Wrangler on the island and were good to go except that my last 4x4 experience was already three years ago on Iceland. It was good fun to drive down the single lane road and the muddy "streets" in the valley. The roughly 100 residents of the valley are shielded by walls more than 600 m of height. A few taro farms are down in the valley and within the recent years there is rising tension between the ever growing number of visitors and the traditional way of living in the valley.
Pe'ahi (Jaws Hawai'i), Maui, Hawai'i, USA
One morning I saw on Instagram that the big wave contest at Jaws Hawai'i was a go for the day. I didn't really know much about this place before but we took our chance for a big wave contest. Pe'ahi is located at the North Shore of Maui and better known as Jaws Hawai'i. Most visitors of this surf spectacle had to park on the Hana highway and walk for 45 minutes down to the cliffs. Some visitors drove the very basic "road" down and parked their cars in the fields. We never saw a big wave contest nor big waves of about 10 to 15 m before. We got so lucky that day with lots of sun, really big waves and a spectacular paddle-in contest. This photo was taken with a 200 m lens and is heavily cropped afterwards. The cliffs are about 500 to 700 m away from the action and it is only by the surfers and the jetski drivers that you get an idea of size of the waves. It is not possible to schedule any competition at Pe'ahi. The big waves are depending on previous storms in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Hawai'i. I understood that this contest was announced only 48 hours beforehand. Before this the surfer only get a very rough estimate of the competition taking place between mid December 2019 and February 2020. Check here for 40 interesting facts on Jaws Hawai'i. The 2019 champions and some spectacular video footage can be seen here.
Waiʻanapanapa State Park, Maui, Hawai'i, USA
Every tourist on Maui knows about the Road to Hana and most of them drive this very nice and long road from somewhere in the west of the island to the very east to the town of Hana. Eventually you will also pass by the Waiʻanapanapa State Park in the northeast of the island. This park features stunning black lava beaches, sea arches, palm trees and is a spot you will never forget. The greens of the plants in this park are so rich that every image looks like a photoshop accident. They give a very intense contrast to the deep blacks of the lava rocks on the beach. So if Waiʻanapanapa State Park wasn't a stop on your Road to Hana list before, do yourself a favour and put it on.
Humpback whale diving at Molokini Crater, Maui, Hawai'i, USA
We spent a good part of December in Hawai'i and the last of four islands was Maui. I read about the start of the humpback whale season that week and since we had a blast with the humpbacks at Hervey Bay, Australia, we gave it another try for Maui. For Australia it was the very end of season before the whales were going south to Antarctica for summer, on Maui it was the very beginning of season with the humpbacks slowly coming down from the west coast of the States, Canada and Russia for winter on the northern hemisphere. We went with Pacific Whale Foundation that day and I can really recommend them for their knowledge on these marine mammals and the conservation effort they make. We didn't see too many whales and none of them up close but I managed to get this shot of a humpback whale showing its fluke before diving in front of the Molokini volcanic crater next to Maui, a famous diving and snorkeling spot in the area. I like the minimalist look and the rule of third with this image.
Haleakala Observatory, Maui, Hawai'i, USA
After not summiting Mauna Loa we tried again on Maui with its local giant volcano Haleakala. You can also drive up a very nice two lane road until the top and end at the Haleakala Observatory which is one of the best places on earth for ground-based telescopes. Most of the tourists come for sunrise and you need a permit for that in advance. We came for a very less crowded sunset instead. Being on top of this volcano was another Hawaiian moment that I will not forget for the rest of my life. Standing at 3.055 m above sea level, watching the sun go down, see people enjoying themselves and experiencing the really cold and strong winds was just magical. Make sure to have some extra layers of clothes (7 °C on top with heavy wind chill compared to 27 °C at sea level), have a full tank and use the engine break when going down (thank me later).
If you enjoyed my Top Ten Hawai'i make sure to also check my Hawai'i gallery.