As we rapidly enter the rainy season here on Oahu we will begin to see more rainbows. This can be exciting times for visitors who rarely see, or have never seen, a true Hawaiian rainbow.

Rainbow from Pearl Harbor

Photo by Pryla on CC

We sat down with our expert guide, Alex from Oahu Photography Tours, who provides us the top 10 best places to see rainbows and his 5 tips for a perfect shot.

Alex: Although there are many different types of rainbows I want to talk about the ones we are familiar with. These rainbows have unique characteristics that an average storm chaser may not be aware of.

Best spot for a rainbow on Oahu

Photo by Vlc15 CC

3 things you need for a rainbow.

Light Source: I say light source because you can get a rainbow with the sun, moon or even car lights in certain situations. Sunlight peeking through the clouds is a key indicator that a rainbow should be in the distance.

Water Source: The water source can be rain, fog, a waterfall, or an at home sprinkler shooting water over your yard.

Eye Vision: The most important part of seeing a rainbow is that your eyes must be looking in a slightly opposite direction of the light source.

A rainbow will always circle the head of your shadow and is considered an optical illusion. It can only be seen by you. Nobody else will see the same rainbow since its all perspective.

5 tips on how you can capture the perfect rainbow shot.

#1 Patience.

Be patient but be ready. The rainbow can come and go before you know it (or if you’re lucky it could last for 20 minutes). So don’t dily-daly with changing lenses and setting up a tripod. Keep your camera ready!

Get those first few shots and then set up a tripod if not already done. Paying attention to weather patterns will really help you get ahead of the game for this. Hawaii is a very easy place to predict rainbows.

#2 Underexpose.

Your camera will want to expose for the dark rain behind the rainbow and this will result in a loss of bright vibrant colors. You will want to subtract a little light by adjusting your exposure settings.

#3 Use a circular polarizer.

A polarizing filter is key. The rainbow is a re-fraction of light, it is bending light as it passes through the water. A polarizer will intensify the rainbow if set properly or it could make the whole thing disappear. Just spin that filter around until you get the desired look.

#4 Aperture Priority.

You will want to be in the Aperture priority (AV) mode. Unless you are quick with your fingers I would suggest not using Manual (or auto) simply for the fact you don’t want to over or under expose to much without realizing it.

Tip: A higher number F-stop will provide more depth and have a nice look since most rainbows happen in a large areas.

#5 Shoot in RAW.

You will want to shoot in RAW for this so you can really take advantage of the editing. Play around with the highlights, shadows, whites, contrast, and saturation for an even more vibrant rainbow photo.


Photo by Chris

Top 10 places to see a rainbow on Oahu.


Photo by Edmund on CC

#1 Kaneohe Bay observation points before the Kaneohe Marine Corp Base off the H-3 freeway in the morning.

#2 Kaka’ako Beach Park looking towards Diamond Head in the late afternoon.

#3 Driving from Ewa to town on the H-1 freeway in the late afternoon.

#4 Koko Crater in the morning.

#5 China Walls looking towards Diamond Head in the morning.

#6 Wailua Beach looking towards Waimea in the late afternoon.

#7 Manoa Valley (AKA: Valley of the Rainbows) anytime of the day.

#8 Makapu’u Lookout Point looking towards the islands anytime of the day.

#9 Top of Diamond Head looking towards the Waikiki area in the morning.

#10 Kamehameha Hwy passing Oahu’s Dole Plantation on the way to the North Shore anytime of day.

Hope this helps everyone with capturing some great shots. If you have additional tips for taking pictures of rainbows please share in the comments below.

Question: Why is the area in-between double rainbows so dark?

Do you have a Hawaiian rainbow shot worth sharing? Please send your pics over to our Facebook page, we would love to see!



Chris Rose
My name is Chris and this is my super cool job. We set-up & facilitate photography tours, workshops, and free photo walks for residents and visitors to Hawaii.
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