Best Places to Watch and Photograph a Sunrise on Oahu | All You Must Know

March 14, 2024

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Looking for the best spots on Oahu to watch or photograph a sunrise? We’ve got the top 7 right here!

Hawaii’s third-largest island, Oahu, is a tropical paradise bursting with stunning landscapes and breathtaking scenic spots.

After 20+ trips to Hawaii and living here as locals, we let us break down the top sunrise spots that promise not only a visual feast but an unforgettable experience. Grab your camera, set your alarm, and let’s explore the best places to witness the magical sunrises in Oahu!

Planning a trip to Hawaii? Grab our ultimate packing list and read abut 10 ways to be a responsible visitor.

Here are the top 5 best places to watch a sunrise on Oahu

1. Lanikai Beach Sunrise | A Beachside Canvas for Sunrise Splendor

Nestled on the windward side of Oahu, Lanikai Beach paints a picturesque canvas for the first light of the day, and is one of Oahu’s most beautiful places. Imagine soft sands beneath your feet, gentle waves lapping at the shore, and the Mokulua Islands (locals call it the Mokes) silhouetted against the dawn sky. Lanikai Beach offers a tranquil escape for early risers seeking a serene sunrise experience.

Lanikai Beach is our absolute favorite sunrise spot, and we’re blessed to have seen the sunrise from here over 30+ times. We love putting a beach blanket out as we see the sky change colors. It looks stunning and different every single time! It’s named as a top beach in the world in countless lists for a reason!

2. Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise Hike | Sunrise Revelation in the Heavens

For those craving a bit of adventure, the Lanikai Pillboxes hike is a must-try. The trail leads you to historic World War II bunkers perched on the ridge, providing an elevated vantage point for sunrise enthusiasts. As the sun emerges over the horizon, it paints the sky in a kaleidoscope of colors, and you’ll witness the island awakening beneath you.

The views are similar to Lanikai beach but also very different since you’re perched up on a mountain. The sunrise hues and colors look unique and breathtaking every time! Check out our recommended gear and parking map below to prepare for this hike.

Miles: 1.7 mi total | Elevation Gain: 626 ft | Expected Time to the Top: 35 minutes

3. Diamond Head Sunrise Hike | Rise Above the Ordinary

An iconic volcanic crater, Diamond Head Summit is one of Oahu’s best sunrise hikes and scenic attractions. It offers a unique perspective on Oahu’s sunrise panorama from a crater!

The moderately challenging hike to the summit is rewarded with sweeping views of Waikiki, Honolulu, and the vast Pacific Ocean. Watch as the sun bathes the island in warmth, casting long shadows and revealing the beauty of Diamond Head in the early morning light.

This is the only sunrise spot on this list that requires a reservation. Make your Diamond Head reservation before your trip. Hawaii residents can visit for free.

Miles: 1.9 mi total | Elevation Gain: 524 ft | Expected Time to the Top: 20-30 minutes

4. Koko Head Crater Sunrise Hike | Conquer the Crater for Sunrise Triumph

For the adventurous souls, Koko Head Crater promises a sunrise triumph like no other. This is one of the best places to watch the sunrise as there are so many sitting viewpoints on the way to the top, and at the top!

Ascend the challenging railway stairs to the summit and be greeted by breathtaking 360-degree views. The reward is worth the effort as the sunrise transforms the rugged terrain into a golden spectacle, casting a spellbinding glow over Hanauma Bay and the surrounding landscapes. You might even spot a whale from up there!

Miles: 1.6 mi total | Elevation Gain: 885 ft | Expected Time to the Top: 30-45 minutes

5. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail Sunrise | Where the Sea Meets the Sun

Makapu’u Point light house and the Makapu’ulookout, perched on Oahu’s southeastern tip, offers a dramatic coastal sunrise experience. Overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean, the viewpoint provides an unobstructed spectacle as the sun emerges from the water.

The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse adds a touch of history to this majestic sunrise spot, creating a perfect blend of nature and human heritage. You can spot many humpback whales between December throughout April when humpbacks migrate from Alaska to Hawaii.

Miles: 2.5 mi total | Elevation Gain: 505 ft | Expected Time to the Top: 45 minutes

6. Sunrise Sandy Beach Oahu

Sandy Beach is one of the best sunrise spots to photograph and surf (experienced surfers only) on Oahu, regardless of the time! The best spot to photograph a sunrise at Sandy’s Beach is from the right side. Head all the way down the beach until you hit rocks. There are tide pools, reflections, and crashing waves all over, providing a dramatic view.

7. Waikiki Sunrise

Staying in Waikiki and don’t want to travel far for sunrise? Luckily, Waikiki is one of the best scenic spots on Oahu to see the sunrise. There are multiple angles you can witness while the sun is rising. Start at the rock jetty and capture that line of sight which points directly to Diamond Head. Then move to the far side of a manmade lagoon behind the Hilton Hawaiian Village to create a dynamic foreground with Diamond Head in your background.

Hawaii Sunrise Times by Month

What time should you start your sunrise hike or adventure? Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time, unlike several other regions of the world and the mainland United States, the timings of sunset and sunrise are more consistent, making sunrise viewing easier. Over the course of the year, Hawaii’s sunrises normally occur between 5:50 and 7:15 a.m. In terms of sunsets, the earliest one in Hawaii usually occurs at 5:30 p.m. and the latest at 7:15 p.m.

Check out the sunrise schedule below for each month in Hawaii. Our advice? Aim to arrive at your chosen spot at least 30-45 minutes prior to sunrise to secure the perfect viewpoint.

This allows ample time for parking, gathering your gear, and finding the ideal viewing spot. Plus, the magic begins about 20 minutes before the sun rises, with the sky painting itself in breathtaking hues and colors. Don’t miss out on these mesmerizing sunrise moments!

Oahu Best Sunrise Spots Map (and where to park for free!)

Discover the beauty of Oahu’s sunrise vistas hassle-free with our curated Google Map. Easily navigate to picturesque locations, each equipped with convenient parking spots. Embrace the serenity of Lanikai Beach, Lanikai Pillbox, Diamond Head Summit, Koko Head Crater Trail and Makapu’u Point Lookout. Make the most of your sunrise adventure without the stress of finding parking – your perfect Oahu sunrise awaits

What to Pack for Oahu Sunrise | Must-Have Gears

  1. Backpack: Opt for a versatile, comfortable and water-resistant backpack to carry your essentials on. From sunscreen to water, having a reliable backpack ensures you’re well-prepared for any adventure that comes your way. Our favorite womens backpack and mens backpack.
  1. Proper footwear: One of the most important additions that significantly enhanced our Hawaii experiences, is the Chacos hiking sandals. Whether you’re hitting the beach, tackling a challenging hike, or embarking on a day of local exploration, these shoes have got you covered. Any beach or hike we’ve listed here, we’ve done in these hiking sandals, and they last for years! Best women’s hiking sandals and mens hiking sandals.

3. Water bottle: Hydration is key, especially in the tropical Hawaiian climate. Bring a durable, reusable water bottle to stay refreshed whether you’re chasing sunrise at the beach or hiking trails. Best water bottle for vacations.

4. Sitting Mat / Beach Blankets: Once you find your perfect spot, you’re going to want to sit down and relax as you soak in the sunrise. These sitting mats are versatile, lightweight, and sand-resistant. We bring these everywhere because they’ve so lightweight, and pack easily into a backpack.

5. Tripod – If you want to take photographs of the sunrise (of course you do!), bring a tripod! That way you can enjoy the sunrise, capture a time-lapse, all without holding your camera or phone. Best phone tripod.

Best Hawaii Weather App to check Sunrise conditions

For travelers heading to Oahu, Windy app is the ultimate app for checking weather conditions, especially if you’re planning outdoor activities like watching the sunrise, hiking, kayaking, surfing, or paddling. We recommend to check the wind conditions especially if you’re traveling during the winter season from January to March.

With Windy, you can easily access detailed wind forecasts and examine wind and rain patterns on an interactive weather map. Keep an eye out for wind speeds exceeding 17+ knots, indicating a breezy day where you might want to bundle up with a thick jacket. Anything under that, you won’t need a jacket.

The app’s comprehensive data allows you to make informed decisions about whether to relocate your sunrise spot for a more comfortable experience.

Don’t worry if you see rain in the forecast; in Hawaii, passing rain clouds are common, and the weather can change to sunny swiftly. And who knows! you might even see a rainbow!

Be With Windy, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate Oahu’s ever-changing weather conditions and make the most of your island adventures.

Important Tips for Oahu Sunrise Hikers | Things to Know

Here are things we always do before a sunrise hike or sunrise beach adventure in Oahu.

  • Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat for sun protection, as there’s little shade on the beaches and trail.
  • Opt for sturdy hiking sandals with good traction to navigate slippery and uneven terrain, especially on downhill sections. Here are our recommended best women’s hiking sandals and mens hiking sandals.
  • Pack ample water and snacks due to the lack of facilities or shops along most hikes and beaches.
  • Your phone’s flashlight is enough for these sunrise hikes and beach spots, though if you’d like, you can pack a flashlight or headlight for safety and visibility in dark conditions.
  • Pack a light jacket. Dress warmly for chilly temperatures before sunrise and windy conditions on some hikes.
  • Keep your cell phone fully charged and use the Windy app (best hawaii weather app) to check sunrise weather conditions.
  • Download Google offline maps or AllTrails app for maps, as cell reception may be unreliable on the trails.
  • Arrive early during peak seasons to secure parking and avoid crowds, as most trails in Oahu tend to be busy. Some trailheads are accessible by bus, however since time is crucial, we recommend Uber or getting a car rental instead.
  • Respect local residents by avoiding blocking driveways when parking in residential areas.

Sunrise Hikes in Oahu: FAQ

Where is the best place to watch the sunrise on Oahu?

The best place to watch the sunrise at Lanikai Beach and the second is Sandy Beach. The sunrise views are spectacular and breathtaking!

What is the best place for sunrise hike on Oahu?

The best sunrise hike in Hawaii is Diamond Head, followed by Koko Head Crater Hike, and Lanikai Pillbox Hike. These hikes are all short, family-friendly hikes.

Diamond head will be the most crowded since tons of tour buses from Waikiki go there, though it’s still absolutely stunning. Koko Head Crater Hike is very enjoyable because there are so many viewpoints on the way up and at the top, so you never feel it’s too crowded.

What is the best place for sunrise on Oahu (without hiking)?

The best places to watch the sunrise without hiking in Hawaii is at Lanikai Beach and Sandy Beach.

Is it safe to hike before sunrise on Oahu?

For the most part, hiking in Oahu is safe. Since pre-dawn hikes are in the dark, be sure to have your cell phones fully charged so you can use the flashlight. You can also opt to have a headlamp or flashlight.

Final Thoughts: Discover the Top Sunrise Spots in Oahu

We hope this article has helped you discover the best best sunrise spots in Hawaii. These tips will help you find the perfect spot to watch the sunrise and photograph it! You can watch the Hawaii sunrises with or without hiking!

Best Places to Watch the Sunrise on Oahu and Photograph

#1 Lanikai Beach Sunrise
#2 Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise Hike
#3 Diamond Head Sunrise Hike
#4 Koko Head Crater Sunrise Hike
#5 Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail Sunrise
#6 Sunrise Sandy Beach Oahu
#7 Waikiki Sunrise

Remember, to pack well for your Hawaii trip so you can enjoy all of Oahu and Honolulu’s best attractions and read our tips on ways to be a responsible visitor in Hawaii.

If you’ve spent time in Hawaii, we’re curious about your favorite island and why. Let us know in the comments.

Our Top Hawaii Recommendations
Before you visit Hawaii, here are a few things you can’t miss on your trip to Hawaii!

🐢Swimming With Hawaiian Sea Turtles: Hawaii is one of the best places to swim, snorkel, and dive with Hawaiian sea turtles. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Best turtle snorkel tour.

🚤Nighttime Swimming with Manta Rays: Hawaii’s Kailua-Kona is only place in the world to have a resident of Manta Rays that stay there year round. It is one of the best places to swim with huge Manta Rays, beautiful gentle creatures. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  Best Manta Ray Cruise (only on Big Island).

🚌Oahu Island Circle Tour: Experience the top sightseeing bus tour on Oahu with this island day trip. Explore Oahu’s natural wonders, cultural sites, surfing spots, and shopping meccas on this full-day tour. Exceptional Oahu Circle Island tour.

🚌Luau and Polynesian Cultural Center: The Ha Breath of Life Luau at Polynesian Cultural Center is the best luau in Hawaii. The interactive activities at the center is one of the best family and couples activity to learn about Hawaiian culture. Best Luau and cultural excursion.

🌴Lanikai Beach: Called Hawaii’s most beautiful beach, Lanikai beach is a 30 minutes north of Honolulu and is a must-visit spot during sunrise!

🐋Whale Watching Boat Tour: Embark of a whale exploration for the day. Whale season starts in December and lasts until mid-April. Whales arrive yearly in the Hawaiian Islands after a 3,000 mile journey. If you are visiting Hawaii during this time, don’t miss out and reserve your seat to see these magnificent creatures.

🦖Jurassic Valley Zipline Tour: Zipline through world-famous Kualoa Ranch and soar over Jurassic Valley on over a quarter mile of the world famous moutains. Get a bird’s eye view of famous iconic scenery from Jurassic Park, Jurassic World. Best zipline tour.

🏨Where to Stay: An ocean view suite with boho luxury vibes at the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, a gorgeous modern suite with a ocean front view near the beautiful Ala Moana Beach and the world-famous Waikiki Beach, at Prince Waikiki, or a downtown friendly suite outside of town near the Hawaii State Art Museum at Aston at the Exceutive Centre Hotel,

  1. Sunset pics are just amazing ,keep going

  2. Steph says:

    Those sunsets are absolutely stunning, especially the candy cane colors at Waikiki! Definitely saving for when I ever end up in Hawaii!

  3. Sonia says:

    It’s hard to pick the nicest spot for sunrise from these. I’d have to go with the crater as a first choice, but better to visit a few of them for sunrise.

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