A Hawaiian sunrise is one thing you have to see before leaving! The coming of a new day is always special. Don’t forget to check the time of sunrise! The times change throughout the year, by a couple of hours.
We check this whenever we plan to see a sunrise or sunset.
Tip: It’s best to get to your viewing point 30-45 minutes before the listed sunrise time.
Being early will help ensure you get the best seat in the house. As a photographer, getting to wherever you need to be at the earliest, enables us to capture the in-between moments of sunrise. Sometimes, those are the best times of the day! Beautiful colors can peer through the clouds just before the sun hits Earth’s horizon and immediately lose the beautiful tones due to heavy cloud cover.
In other cases, you may start packing up your things only for the sun to pierce the veil lighting up the overcast clouds for a beautiful pink/purple/orange sunrise. It all happens very quickly, within minutes, so it’s always best to be early and ready with a finger on your camera.
The Sun rises in the East and Sets in the West so being in East Oahu is the side you want to be on to witness epic sunrises. Here are places we love to photograph:
The best way to experience a sunrise would be through kayak. Start paddling just as the first light hits the horizon, while the sun is still hiding. Depending on the speed of your paddling, the real sunrise colors may enfold midway. However, watching the sunrise, without building up a sweat or getting wet, from the beach is also desirable.
The coast of Kailua and Lanikai are family friendly and ocean safe compared to most beaches. All around best spot to watch sunrise if you can make the 30-45 minute drive out to the East Side coming from Waikiki.
Tip: Make it a day
Start with a sunrise hike up the Lanikai Pillbox hike, hang out at the beach, and kayak later in the day. Or, switch it up entirely with a kayak to the mokes first, hang out at Lanikai beach after coming back and end the day with a sunset hike – The sun will be setting behind the pillboxes, over the Ko’olau Mountain Range.
2) Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike/ Makapu’u Beach Park
Known as a bodyboarders paradise, Makapu’u Beach Park is a vast sandy beach where, in the distance, lies Rabbit Island. If you’re feeling ambitious, head up the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail! It’s newly paved and an easy trek up to a rewarding view that’s great for young and old. Just over the view of the famous lighthouse, whales can be spotted during the winter months. Beautiful place to welcome the day.
3) Sandy Beach Park
Sandy beach: where broken necks, lost fins, and massive shore breaks are expected. Luckily, there’s no need to risk body and limb: Parking is relatively open during the early hours of dawn. Pull up to oceanfront parking, sip your coffee and watch bodyboarders get pummeled as the sun shines through epic waves revealing lost fins of yesterday. Better yet, take out that waterproof camera and join the dawn patrol action!
If you’re looking for a challenge, hiking this monster of a trail is the creme of the crop. At the peak, the 360-degree view displays Waikiki, Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, the aforementioned Sandys down to Makapuu Ridge can be seen, all from the top of Koko head bunker but be advised, IT IS TOUGH!
Tip: Bring flashlights for sunrise and be sure to stay hydrated!
With 4 other top locations to view the sunrise in Hawaii, our last location is a popular one: Waikiki. If you can’t make it out to any of the previously mentioned locations, anywhere in Waikiki offers decent spots to set up a sunrise moment.
Waikiki is the best alternative to hiking or driving anywhere to enjoy the sunrise. If you’re staying in Waikiki, no problem! A short walk to Waikiki Beach or even Ala Moana (albeit quite far from downtown Waikiki) are pleasant places to view the sunrise. If you had to choose to watch the sunset or sunrise in Waikiki, I would recommend the latter as the majority of the crowds are still sleeping in. During sunset, the beaches can get crowded.
There you have it! Our favorite places to watch a Hawaiian Sunrise. Taking the moment with little to no crowds around you can be found in the early moments of the day like before sunrise which is why we enjoy it more often than a sunset. However, Sunsets are usually the ones that display all types of colors!
*Something to keep in mind for sunrise hikes: You have to hike up in the dark, so you will need a flashlight.
What’s your favorite sunrise location? Did we miss something? Let us know in a comment below or email us! Mahalo for reading!