Hawaii aerial

Hawaiian Islands by Drone: Kauai

Most Americans are aware of the beauty of Hawaii and can imagine the 50th state as one of the country’s best destinations for aerial photography.  However, most photographers are probably undecided on exactly where in Hawaii they can go to capture breathtaking drone footage and aerial photos.  We hope to make that decision easier.  The answer, in our humble opinion, is Kauai. 

Getting There

Kauai is the most northern island of all the Hawaiian islands. Unlike other Hawaiian islands, Kauai is pretty small compared to other islands like Oahu or the Big Island of Hawaii. In order to get there, you can only fly to LIH (Lihue airport). There’s only one main u-shaped highway connecting the whole island together. However, in order to get to one side to another side of the island it might take up to 2 hours. Therefore, renting a car is very essential to travel in Kauai.

Other people might know Kauai as a filming location for Jurassic park, which the exact location is called Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park located in the northern part of the island where it has the most unique mountain terrain unlike anywhere else in the world. Because Nāpali Coast is within the state park area, therefore, you are not allowed to fly drone in the area. Another alternative to get an aerial view of this beautiful landscape is to take a helicopter tour that would take your around the island. This method is quite famous for most tourists in all of the Hawaiian islands as some areas can only be accessed by foot.

Tropical Weather

Just like any other tropical climate locations, you will encounter rain from time to time so don’t forget to check the forecast and plan your trip accordingly. However, when it rains, it comes and goes pretty quickly. Another magical thing about Hawaii is that after the rain, there will always be a rainbow, which reminds me of a song called, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay is located in the northern part of the island all the way to the end of Kuhilo Highway. This beach is a dream location for surfers especially in the morning where the wave is much calmer than during the day or at dawn. This part of the island you will also get to see the eastern side of Nāpali Coast. There are hiking trails that would lead you through a hidden beach but prepare to get wet as the trail is now under water due to hurricane Olivia back in 2018. Planning to go to Hanalei Bay at sunrise is a good idea as there are less people and the sun rays will shine through the mountain making your picture looks more stunning than during sunset.

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Polihale Beach

Unlike any other beach, Polihale probably has the strongest waves and currents. This is not a beach for swimming but rather for surfers. However, it is extremely difficult to get there because of the seemingly never-ending dirt road one must take to get there. If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you are risking a chance of popping your tire. At this location you will get to see another unique beautiful sight of the west side of Puu Ka pele Forest reserve from afar. The wind at Polihale is also very strong. Please fly with caution and don’t fly too high and far away as this is a route for Helicopters that will take tourists to Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park. The beach also has a steep slope so prepare a platform for taking off and landing is suggested.

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Waimea Canyon

Before you enter Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park, you will enter Waimea Canyon state park first. There’s a spot in the beginning of Highway 550 before approaching the state park that you can pull over and fly your drone. Even though, the view is nothing like what lays ahead but this will give a good introduction of the amazing landscape of Kauai. Waimea Canyon also goes by another name which is “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The best time to fly at this location is during noon where the sun angle is at 90 degrees. This is because at this particular spot, the Canyon is deep below the surface and there will be a huge shadow if the sun isn’t at a perfect angle. I don’t recommend spending too much time at this location as the real adventure is awaiting.



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About the Author

Sartita Vongpradhip

Tita is a professional design strategist, an avid traveler, and a landscape photographer from Bangkok, Thailand and currently lives in New York City. She enjoys her time traveling through different places and capturing the moment through her drone. She's an outdoor enthusiast who loves being in nature. Connect with her at www.sartita.com and LinkedIn