Hanalei Pier on Kauai – a local favorite

Hanalei Pier on Kauai – a local favorite

If you are lucky enough to have visited Kauai, you are almost certain to have visited the small town of Hanalei with its gorgeous bay and small concrete pier. Over the years, I have visited it many times, always looking for that different view or treatment to show the magical nature of that part of the island.

We normally stay in the Wyndham timeshare resort of Bali Hai, which is in Princeville and a short 5-minute drive from Hanalei. That, coupled with the change in time zone which always has us waking up at 4am, means that sunrise is a common subject early in our visit to Kauai. Most mornings, I’m up and down at the beach before the sun actually rises to get the best of the changing light at that time of day. In this article, I’ll pull my favorite images of Hanalei Pier together and perhaps persuade you that a visit to the North part of the island could be on your bucket list!

Red and yellow Hawaiian canoe with outrigger on the beach at Hanalei pier at sunrise. Prints available in my online store
Red and yellow Hawaiian canoe with outrigger on the beach at Hanalei pier at sunrise. Prints available in my online store

This first one is a favorite, and also one of the earliest images in my portfolio. Taken back in January 2014, I thought the juxtaposition of the traditional Hawaiian canoe with the pier and the early sunlight illuminating the mountains in the background was a perfect scene for Kauai. I’m also a stock photographer offering images for magazines and publishers and this image has been licensed over 400 times. In fact, in the usual “update” that timeshare companies offer to their visitors, I noticed that in their book of properties around the world, this image was used to illustrate the Kauai destination! The canoe is still there but is now dragged further away from the beach after a big flood in April 2018 that destroyed several homes here and is in sorry state.

Two beach homes sinking into sink hole after the massive rain storms of April 2018 on Kauai
Two beach homes sinking into sink hole after the massive rainstorms of April 2018 on Kauai
Rising sun illuminates the peaks of Na Pali mountains over the calm bay and Hanalei Pier in long exposure photo. Prints available in my online store
Rising sun illuminates the peaks of Na Pali mountains over the calm bay and Hanalei Pier in long exposure photo. Prints available in my online store

I’m very partial to a long duration exposure here by the pier. This particular one had an exposure of 8 seconds (you need to find a solid bit of sand to avoid the tripod legs sinking into the beach!). I like the very calm early morning feel of it with the waves and surf dissolving into a nice misty appearance.

I have an alternative view taken shortly afterwards with a shutter speed of about 3 seconds. It was very nice of that swimmer to stand still during that time – perhaps he was watching me watching him! The presence of a human figure gives a different feeling to the image – without it, your eye probably goes to the sunlit building on the pier, but we are trained to always look at a human shape however small in a scene.

Swimmer stands in the ocean as the rising sun illuminates the Na Pali mountains over Hanalei Pier. Prints in my store
Swimmer stands in the ocean as the rising sun illuminates the Na Pali mountains over Hanalei Pier. Prints in my store

During that same vacation, I visited again a couple of days later and captured this scene.

Tourists and sightseers watch sunrise from Hanalei Pier in Kauai Hawaii with long exposure blurred motion ocean waves. Prints in my store
Tourists and sightseers watch sunrise from Hanalei Pier in Kauai Hawaii with long exposure blurred motion ocean waves. Prints in my store

This is one that I have printed and have on my own wall. You can gaze at it and be reminded of the peace in this spot. The exposure here was 8 seconds and, amazingly, the people didn’t move much in that time. They were entranced by the sunrise colors, and you can wonder what they are all doing and thinking. The person on the bike decided to stop just there and watch the slowly changing scene, I’m guessing. Perfect! I also have a much wider panoramic view of the same scene in my online store if you would prefer that.

In 2015 I tried something different in this location, and although strictly speaking it is not a photo of the pier, I think it deserves a place here. This one uses a technique to have a short 0.5 second exposure but deliberately move the camera sideways through the exposure. This blurs things in a side-to-side manner and blends all the color together.

Sideways panning across the ocean reflecting the soft light of sunrise in Hawaii at Hanelei Bay. Prints in my online store
Sideways panning across the ocean reflecting the soft light of sunrise in Hawaii at Hanelei Bay. Prints in my online store

I think this would look lovely as a canvas print in a home by the beach somewhere!

Not every morning is calm and peaceful, of course. This particular image had an exposure of 8 seconds, but it was windy, and the clouds moved considerably in that time giving this stormy feeling:

Sunrise lights the dawn sky above Hanalei Pier with long duration exposure to blur waves near Hanalei, Kauai. Prints in my online store
Sunrise lights the dawn sky above Hanalei Pier with long duration exposure to blur waves near Hanalei, Kauai. Prints in my online store

My drone paid its first visit to Kauai in the February before we were all locked down in 2020 and I’m glad I was able to get it up in the air in such a delightful spot. This image of the sunrise over the bay is really enhanced by the man with his very long shadow mirroring the shape of the pier.

Aerial image at sunrise off the coast over Hanalei Bay and pier on Hawaiian island of Kauai with a man standing alone on the beach. Prints here
Aerial image at sunrise off the coast over Hanalei Bay and pier on Hawaiian island of Kauai with a man standing alone on the beach. Prints here

Just going through my many photographs of this area before writing this article reminds me of a key lesson for photographers (and visitors). You will always see something different on every visit to a place and sometimes the light will make something magical!

Finally, perhaps the pier itself should be the final image in the series. And where better than to stand underneath it and get a nice view of the waves gently lapping the sand at my feet!

Long exposure blurs ocean and waves underneath Hanalei Pier in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii. Prints with free shipping available in my store
Long exposure blurs ocean and waves underneath Hanalei Pier in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii. Prints with free shipping available in my store

If you would like to see more of my Kauai artwork, you can see all of my best images here in my store. Prints come with a 30-day money back guarantee and also are shipped free of charge in North America. You can also get a discount coupon for prints by subscribing to this site here.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Beautiful images of Kauai, I’m particularly like the long exposure and panning ones. Sad to see the sinking houses though. They look like mansions to me. This is a place I have never been to. Your photos made me wish one day I can visit it

    1. Thanks Alessandra. I haven’t done many panning shots – a few vertical ones and these ones of the ocean. I should try some more! Yes, those houses were beyond recovery. They have routed the river back to its original channel and reinforced a lot of the banks that caused this flood, but I’m pretty sure these houses are gone now. They were right on the edge of the beach as well with views over the water to the mountains. Add this place to your bucket list!

  2. Hanalei is definitely in my bucket list after reading your post. The light in your third photo is amazing. Love the aerial photo as well!

    1. It is a long flight from Greece! But definitely a place to visit, especially if you like difficult but rewarding hikes! Thanks for the kind comments on the photos – I got quite a lot of drone photos there, and on Oahu as well, so perhaps that could be a new post!

  3. Beautiful photographs. I particularly like your long exposures and also the one with the intentional camera movement. That one really stands out!

    1. Thanks Jim – yes, I think long exposures work very well at this location. I do need to try more of those intentional camera movement images. I do seem to get more unintentional camera movement photos these days with the advancing years!

  4. Thanks for the excellent long exposure examples – I need to add that idea to my toolbox.

    1. Thanks, Jim! I use a variable ND filter for these

  5. I forgot to leave you a note expressing my admiration of the sunrise colors in these!

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