Where to find the best sunsets and sunrise around Hawaii (updated 2021)
Are you looking for those perfect Hawaiian Sunsets and Sunrise located around the islands for inspiration?
Check out these fantastic spots shared by travel writers and bloggers on their favorite Hawaiian Sunsets and Sunrise spots worth visiting on the islands and what makes them special.
You’ll want to experience the best of these perfect Hawaiian sunsets and sunrise spots when you visit any of the islands in Hawaii.
Best places for a Hawaiian Sunset or Sunrise
In no particular order
Take a sunset cruise in Hawaii
When visiting Hawaii, a must-do activity that should be on your bucket list is a sunset cruise. With a variety of companies and boats to choose from, doing a little research on the subject is always advisable. They range from small catamarans with a limited amount of people to big ones that turn to a big party. Also, the amount of time, food choice, and assortment of drinks can vary and help make your decision easier or harder. Most of the cruises are all you can drink package with choices like beer, wine, soft drinks, water, and what they call a captain’s cocktail, usually mai tais. As far as food, it’s going to depend on the company you are using, some have kalua pork sandwiches, regular ham-cheese sandwich or some charcuterie plater. Another feature for you to consider is if the cruise is family-friendly or not, companies differ in that regard as well. Your location can also help you decide on which charter to go with, with you are staying in Wailea or Kohala, some of the companies offer shuttles from the major hotels. It’s suggested that you wear comfortable clothing as you may have to get knee-deep in the water to get on the boat, and don’t forget the camera as the photo opportunities are breathtaking. If you are lucky and mother nature cooperates you get to see the “green flash”.
Check out Patricia’s post on the top 10 things you must do while visiting Hawaii
Best Oahu sunset or sunrise experiences on the island
Spitting Caves in Oahu
There is no better way to enjoy an aloha moment in Hawaii than to sit and watch the sunset at Spitting Caves on the island of Oahu. Spitting Caves is a popular dive spot for extreme divers, but it is also a great place to sit and watch the waves crash against the cliffs as the sun goes down. If staying in Waikiki or Honolulu, this lookout point is conveniently located, although it can be difficult to find. It is definitely worth the effort though if you have at least 3 or 4 days in Oahu.
Spitting Caves is considered more of a locals’ hangout rather than a tourist stop so its location may seem a bit obscure. Getting to this lookout area requires parking in the adjacent neighborhood off Lumahai Street. If visiting Spitting Caves, be mindful of areas where parking is prohibited and make sure to respect those who live in the neighborhood. From Lumahai Street, there is a short, nondescript alleyway that leads to the rocky perch. Depending on the weather, you may want to bring a lightweight jacket or sweater with you because the ocean breeze can feel cool, especially once the sun sets. There are no bathrooms or restaurants at Spitting Caves. It is simply a scenic lookout point, so make sure to bring something to drink or a snack in a small backpack if you want refreshments while you watch the sun set.
Melissa with Parenthood and Passports
Sunset on Waikiki Beach
Ending your day on Waikiki Beach to witness a picture perfect sunset is one of the best things to enjoy on the beach. With a gorgeous coastline and filled with sailboats and cruisers, you’ll enjoy all the water craft as the sun just starts to set in the horizon. Walking along the beach, grabbing a drink at a seafront bar or cafe or just sitting on the beach and enjoying the end of day is a wonderful way to end the day here in Waikiki. Follow it by strolling the fashionable shops on Kalakaua or checking out some dinner venues and you have more fun to do on Waikiki later at night. Check out my post on the top things to do in Honolulu here for more inspiration to visiting this fabulous part of Oahu.
Lanikai on Windward Oahu
Lanikai is a residential spot in the Kailua region of Oahu’s windward side. The direct translation of “Lanikai” means “heavenly ocean.” With one look at the white sand beach and clear blue water, you’ll understand how it got its name. Lanikai Beach might not be the longest, but it is considered one of the most beautiful in Hawaii. Amazingly, it never gets terribly crowded compared to the nearby Kailua Beach Park. At sunrise you’ll have the beach practically to yourself other than locals going on their morning stroll. Since the beach is surrounded by residences instead of hotels, few tourists converge on the area at sunrise.
With the Mokulua Islands as your foreground, this is a stunning and quiet
location to watch the sun rise over the ocean. Its location on the windward side of the island does mean it can get quite windy, so don’t forget an extra layer. There are a handful of public beach access points that aren’t well marked and you’ll need to walk between houses to get there. Parking is on the roadside off of Mokulua Drive, running parallel to the beach. For a different vantage point, hike up the nearby Pillbox trail, an fairly steady uphill 20-minute walk, to get some great views of the whole area.
Check out Christa’s post on the Mokulua islands
Koko Head at Sunrise
At times, in order to reach the best sunrise spot you have to work for it and in this case it involves one of the most rewarding hikes on Oahu – Koko Head Stairs. Located on the eastern side of Maunalua Bay, it is one of the most popular sunrise spots on the island but you will need to work up a little sweat in order to reach it. The “stairs” are in fact an old railroad, which was used by the military to run supplies to the summit during World War ll. In total, there are 1050 steps to climb but each strenuous step is worth it as you will be rewarded with the most unforgettable sunrise at the top. In total it takes around 1 hour to hike Koko Head which means you will need to begin your hike when it is still dark.
It is advised to bring a head torch, in order to light your way – do not be tempted to use your phone torch as you’ll need the battery for those sunrise selfies! Starting your hike in the dark may sound dangerous, but it makes the hike much easier due to the cooler temperatures. It also means you will reach the summit in time to watch the sun rise over Hanauma Bay and capture stunning panoramic views of Sandy Beach and Koko Marina. Following a few photos and a well deserved break, it is then time to make the descent…which is where the real challenge is!
Lauren’s with Faramagan.com
Kualoa Beach Park
Kualoa Beach Park is situated in Kane’ohe Bay on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is a beautiful palm-lined park featured with a white sand beach in front. Though the beach is narrow but the greenery part is wide enough. It’s a good place to relax as it never gets too crowded. You do not have to pay any entry charges. The park is open every day from 7 am to 8 pm. From here take a view of few wetlands birds like White-rumped shama, Common myna, Black noddy and many others. Never miss the elegant sight of Chinaman’s Hat.
It is one of the best spots for viewing sunset and sunrise. Also a good place for a full day picnic. Travel over the grassy area and take a sunbathe on the beach. Have your lunch in the recreation area of the park while having the ocean view. May opt for a buffet lunch from Kualoa Ranch Restaurant also. Take a horse or a jeep or a boat ride to go around the paradise land. Mountains of Kualoa in the background make the look of the park more elegant.
At the south end of the Park, you can enjoy safe swimming. Staying a night in a camp is also permitted here and believe me it is really adventurous. For a smooth trip book your tour earlier. Few blockbuster Hollywood movies like Jurassic World, Godzilla, 50 first Dates were filmed here. So when you planning to visit this great place?
Ruma with The Holiday Story
Lanikai Pillbox views
The Lanikai Pillbox hike is one of the top spots on the island of Oahu to catch the sunrise. It’s a perfect little trail for sunrise as the pillbox at the summit faces directly out over the ocean where the sun will rise over the two islets called Na Mokulua.
The trail can be found on the east coast of Oahu above the picturesque, coastal town of Lanikai. The short hike takes about 40-minutes, which makes it perfect for a sunrise adventure. Although it’s a short hike, the trail is a bit rough so it’s important to bring a head torch if you are hiking up before the sun has risen.
The sun will rise over the Mokuluas (known as the ‘Mokes’, which lights up the ocean and beachside suburb of Lanikai with intense colors if you are lucky. At the summit, you can sit and enjoy the show while on top of a pillbox, a piece of military history, 600 feet above the town of Lanikai.
The trail-head is easy to find as it is directly across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club parking lot. Unlike many hikes on the island, there is a Lanikai Pillbox Hike sign to signal the start of the trail so you can easily enjoy one of the best sunrise spots on the island.
Check out Jackson’s post on the Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Best Maui sunset or sunrise experience
Secret Cove Beach for sunset
Secret Cove Beach, also commonly referred to as Makena Cove or Paako Cove, is a spectacular small white sand beach on Maui. Just south of the Big Beach 3rd entrance is a favourite sunset location in Hawaii for photographers, locals and tourists alike. Despite its name, Secret Cove Beach is no longer that much of a secret, you’ll even find it on Google maps! This small beach provides an intimate setting to watch the daylight fade to an explosion of colour
It is one of the best Instagram spots on Maui and one of the most photographed locations, and with good reason. Surrounded by swaying palm trees and with a generous sprinkling of lava rock amidst pale sand, it has a true feeling of a tropical paradise. In fact, it has graced many a Hawaiian postcard.
Facing west, this idyllic crescent beach provides the perfect spot to relax and enjoy nature’s evening show. Kick back on the sand and enjoy the views of Kaho‘olawe in the distance while tumbling waves caress the shore and the sky comes alive with oranges, pink and purple hues.
Its secluded nature makes Secret Cove Beach a popular beach wedding destination, and you couldn’t really ask for a more romantic location. There are no restaurants or bars within walking distance, so pack your own picnic.
Sophie with We Dream of Travel
Sunrise experience on Haleakala
Haleakala is the enormous volcano on the eastern half of Maui, known for the awesome road that encircles the volcano, the Hana Highway, and for the most epic sunrise on the island. This sunrise requires some planning and execution, however it will be SO worth it, the view is unparalleled and incredible unique.
The Haleakala sunrise is so popular that a permit is required, the small parking lot at the summit cannot accommodate many people, so only a limited number can visit per day. The permits are $1 each, so they sure won’t break the bank, but they can be tough to get. You have to get the permit 2 days before, logging on to the National Park website right when they go on sale, ensuring you are one of the first to apply for the day.
On the day you do have a permit, wake up a few hours before sunrise, allowing enough time to drive the entire length of the summit of Haleakala. As you are driving through the dark, you will be switching back and forth up the mountain, climbing over 10,000 feet from ground level. As you reach the top, find a good place to park, bundle up in some warm clothes, and head out to find a spot looking East.
If there are clouds at Haleakala, which there often are, the sun will likely burn most of them off as it rises and heats the air. The remaining clouds act as the horizon, a sea of puffy white clouds all the way to the ends of the earth, where the sun is painting the sky a watercolor of reds, blues, purples, and pinks. The view is disorienting, as the clouds make the floor of the view, while the wide open sky is above you, no land in view at all. The view is truly special, and will most definitely be the most unique sunrise you see in Hawaii. Enjoy!
Zach and Julie with Ruhls of the Road
Makena’s Little or Big beach
On the western side of Maui’s sunny coastal areas at Makena, both Big Beach and Little Beach are spectacular spots to enjoy the day and a magical sunset experience. Big beach is expansive and gives you ample room to spread out and find a nice spot away from all the crowds and enjoy sunset on this expansive beach. If you’re looking for more alternative, check out Little Beach where end of Sunday is really a carnival experience with drummers, dancers and a total free for all experience with end of day is celebrated on the beach here at Makena.
Check out Noel’s post on free things you can do in Maui
Kaanapali Beach sunset
My favorite sunset location in Hawaii is at Kaanapali Beach on Maui’s west shore. This is a popular destination for cliff diving, snorkeling and swimming, so the beach is usually quite busy during the day. However, come sunset this beach quiets down and is the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful Hawaiian sunset.
The best vantage point for watching the sunset from Kaanapali Beach will either be from the balcony of your room at any of the surrounding resorts, or from the beach bar located just steps from the sand.
If you’re at the beach bar, I suggest ordering something tropical like a Pina Colada or Mai Tai to enjoy while waiting for the sunset. You can never go wrong with rum while on an island vacation.
If you prefer to watch the sunset from your balcony, the best thing to do is to make your own drinks. All you will need is some quality rum, pineapple juice, and cream of coconut. This way, you’ll be stocked up with fruity cocktails for the duration of your time on Maui.
What’s unique about this sunset spot is that you can often see Humpback whales breaching just off shore. The best time to see the whales is during their annual winter migration between November and May. It’s a spectacular sight to see and often draws cheers from anyone watching along the shore.
Eden with Rock a Little Travel
Best Big Island sunset or sunrise experience
Mauna Kea Summit for sunrise on the Big Island
A sunrise atop Mauna Kea is more than just witnessing a beautiful landscape at the beginning of a new day – it is an epic adventure. It is the highest peak across all the Hawaiian Islands, and if measured from top to bottom – to the seafloor – it is actually the tallest mountain in the world, measuring over 33,000 ft. And what makes it even cooler, you can also drive all the way to the summit – very uncommon among peaks this high.
Your sunrise journey is best started by staying in Hilo the night before – the Big Island’s big eastern city, and the rainiest region in the entire country. Get a good night’s sleep, and drink plenty of water because a 4 am start is required to make it to the summit in time. Starting at sea-level, the hour-long uphill drive in the dark to the Visitor Center breeds an air of nervousness and excitement. Once at the Visitor Center, an altitude of 9,200 ft, it is recommended to sit in your car for at least 30 minutes to allow your body to acclimate.
After a short break, head up the final leg of your journey. The road makes way for loose gravel, and it is highly suggested to have a 4×4 car to make the climb, however, many people do it without. Many rental car companies don’t allow you to drive up the summit, so check that before you book, or just break the rules.
30-minutes later you are parked on the summit, surrounded by weather station radars, freezing and anxiously awaiting a new start to the day in paradise. It is truly a jaw-dropping moment being above the clouds while the soft red glow of the sun welcomes you.
Ryan with The Nutty Trekkers
Hapuna Beach Sunset
Not only is Hapuna Beach on of the most popular and most loved beaches in all of Hawaii, but the sunsets here are really amazing. When most of the day trippers leave the beach late in the afternoon, Hapuna goes back to the locals to enjoy and maybe some visitors from the Hapuna hotel resort next door. You’ll enjoy walking the beach and seeing the sun set on the lovely coastline and beach here and eventually see all the stunning stars brilliantly lit against a dark sky at Hapuna.
Noel with Travel Photo Discovery
Best Kauai sunset or sunrise experience
Tunnels beach on the north side
Tunnels Beach is by far my favorite sunset spot in Kauai, and undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous sunset spots in Hawaii. This crescent shaped beach has a dramatic backdrop of mountains and lush jungle, fringed by palm trees. It is the most picture perfect spot to watch a Kauai sunset on the North of the island.
What makes this spot so special is that there is virtually no parking available for non locals. To access the beach, you need to park your car on a side street about a mile away and walk a path to Tunnels Beach. We were virtually alone on this gorgeous beach at sunset time, making for an incredible experience.
Tunnels Beach is a great spot to spot turtles and if you’re lucky Hawaiian monk seals. It is a wild beach so don’t expect any shops around. Bring a towel and a picnic and soak in the most gorgeous Hawaiian sunset over the Na Pali Coast.
Julie with Wandering Sunsets
with the stricking Na Pali coastal ranges in the background and the famous boat dock at Hanalei in the front, the sunset here at the beach in Hanalei are spectacular. With an expansive and long sandy beach to wander and find the perfect spot, sunsets are a spectacular time to enjoy the beach and probably not as crowded in the North Shore during the magical hour and into the blue hour of night and when you’ll get a brilliant light show of all the amazing stars that light up in the dark black skies at Hanalei.
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