• Activities:

    Chillin, Fishing, Photography

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby

Rare black sand beach. Remote. Beautiful sunsets. Great view of Niihau (the Forbidden Isle).

Among all of the places in the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is my favorite. It's what you imagine when you think of Hawaii. It's still relatively undeveloped and there are no freeways on the island. Waimea Pier, which is located at Waimea Beach, epitomizes the old feel of Kauai.

Located on the west side of the island, Waimea Beach (and the surrounding area) is fairly arid. If the North Shore, where Princeville is located, is considered the wettest part of the island, then the west side should be considered its counterpart. Still, don't let that dissuade you. Even though this part of the island isn't as well developed, and even though this part of the island doesn't offer as many amenities as other parts of the island, Waimea Beach still offers plenty, especially to those who like remote beach areas with relatively few people around.

Because I was there as a photographer, let's get into photography-specific recommendations at this point. First, because the sand is dark, the water quality can be a bit dark and cloudy. When photographing this kind of environment, it's important to minimize the amount of brown in the water. You can do that by lengthening your exposures. The image I captured from under the pier was a 46-second exposure. I shot it fairly wide at 24 mm and used a 10-stop filter (Lee Big Stopper). This did several things: one, it removed the waves from the scene. Two, it made the water look "foggy." Three, it gave the water a more bluish look because the reflection from the sky was exposed for 46 seconds.

Similarly, the black and white image was captured at 26 mm at 10 seconds. Again, I employed a Lee Big Stopper, which gave the water a more white appearance. And it gave the sand a more rich, dark appearance.

From atop the pier, I exposed the image for 15 seconds using a Lee Big Stopper filter. I also shot that at 26 mm. Again, I wanted to minimize the dark color from the ocean waves, so extending my exposure allowed me to do that.

My basic recommendations can be summed up thusly: shoot with a wide-angle lens, use filters if you have them, use a circular polarizer (if you do not have use filters), and try to lengthen your exposure times. During sunset, meanwhile, you can stick to more traditional exposure techniques, especially when you're shooting from the top of the pier and you're trying to capture an epic burn.

At sunset, if you're not there to capture images, you should definitely take a stroll onto the Waimea Pier. The structure isn't the original pier, but it's a reminder of times past -- when the Waimea Landing was an important location for whaling ships that came into port during the 19th century. Today, people still use the pier for fishing and crabbing. Without question, the pier has a throw-back feel to it.

Black-sand beaches are rare in Kauai but you'll find black sand here. Remember, though, that the sun beats on the sand all day long, heating it up to temperatures that can be extremely uncomfortable if you're not wearing shoes (which is why I advise people to pack shoes). Additionally, there is quite a bit of driftwood along the shore, which is yet another reason to pack shoes.

Finally, Waimea Beach is located in the old town of Waimea. After strolling around the beach for a few hours, you'll be able to go into town and buy food and drink. There are several restaurants and stores that cater to locals and tourists alike. The beach, meanwhile, is located right next to the Waimea Pier State Park, so bathrooms are readily accessible nearby.

Pack List

  • Shoes
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
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    Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

    Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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    Mark Handy

    I am a landscape photographer who travels the world looking for inspiring images. Though based in San Diego, California, I am rarely home. If you'd like to follow my work and travels on a daily basis, I chronicle them on Instagram. Click the Instagram icon and follow me

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