Can You Fly a Drone in Oahu?
A Hawaiian getaway is calling your name – can you hear it?
You dream of strolling the sandy shores of Oahu and feeling the sun on your back, and you want to bring your drone with you to capture every magnificent moment.
Can you use a drone in Oahu?
You can fly a drone in Oahu, but you’re prohibited from flying in any state park or near any airports in the area. Some of the best spots for using a drone in Oahu are Sandy Beach State Park and Waimea Waterfall.
In today’s article, we’ll further explain the rules for using a drone in Oahu, recommend some must-see flight destinations, and offer tips and pointers for a safe flight.
Make sure you don’t miss it!
Can you fly a drone in Oahu?
Under the jurisdiction of the FAA, you can use a drone throughout Hawaii, including the small island of Oahu.
» MORE: Drone Laws in Hawaii
Oahu contains the state capital of Honolulu, making it a premier destination for drone pilots lucky enough to take a vacation or business trip to this part of the United States.
The island also features nightlife, beaches, shopping, arts and history, and fine dining.
Do keep in mind that certain flight restrictions apply. For instance, drone pilots cannot fly within five miles of an airport.
Oahu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is the biggest one in Hawaii, making navigating around it difficult, especially if your drone flight plans involve exploring Honolulu.
Pilots also cannot operate a drone within five miles of a military airbase. There’s one located near the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport: the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam base.
Under the Division of State Parks and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, drones cannot fly in any state park in Hawaii.
That means foregoing any plans of visiting the Malaekahana State Recreation Area or the Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park with your UAV while in Oahu.
We always suggest using a drone app to download map information in real time.
If you happen to see restricted airspace on your travels outside of airports, national parks, or military bases, do not use your drone.
Keep in mind that temporary flight restrictions could appear at any point that will keep you out of usually allowable places throughout Oahu.
The 10 best places to fly a drone in Oahu
Oahu is a rich wonderland for drone pilots looking to explore lush landscapes and pristine beaches.
Without further ado, let’s jump into 10 of the best places to use your drone throughout Oahu.
1. Kaiaka Bay Beach Park
Right on Haleiwa’s edge, you’ll find the 53-acre Kaiaka Bay Beach Park.
This park combines a gorgeous shoreline with grassy knolls, fascinating rock formations, and tide pools. Nearby picnic tables give you a spot to rest and review your drone footage.
The park opens daily from 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Crowds can congregate, so plan an optimal time to fly, ideally when it’s less crowded!
2. Waimea Waterfall
Experience one of the top hiking trails in Oahu as you visit Waimea Waterfall with your drone.
You’ll have to walk for a mile, but it’s at a leisurely pace. Along the way, you’ll pass botanical gardens showcasing the ripest of Hawaii’s floral beauty.
You can sometimes shuttle your way to Waimea Waterfall, which stands a majestic 45 feet tall. Just don’t get too close to the waterfall with your drone so it doesn’t get soaked or submerged!
3. Hanauma Bay
The embayment known as Hanauma Bay on Oahu’s southeastern coast attracts huge crowds, and rightfully so!
The bay developed from the Koko Head craters, dividing the area into an inner and outer bay that’s truly fascinating.
Like we recommended getting to Waimea Waterfall earlier or later in the day, it would behoove you to do the same when traveling to Hanauma Bay with your drone to avoid crowds.
4. Sandy Beach
Honolulu’s Sandy Beach on Oahu’s South Shore is undoubtedly one of the top spots on the island.
The overarching waves that crest and crash here attract many surfers, and the food trucks in the parking lots lure in throngs of hungry beachgoers.
To avoid the crowds, get to Sandy Beach early in the morning.
The neon sunrise will make it worth your while, as you’ll get some truly exquisite drone footage. Expect the surfers to be out, but not all the families and tourists.
5. Lanikai Beach
Ka-ohao Beach or Lanikai Beach is a tiny beach that’s only a half mile long.
Despite its diminutive size, it has a reputation for being one of the best, so it’s unlikely to be empty unless you take your drone outside of peak hours.
Try to plan your drone flight during a weekday if you can!
6. Sunset Beach Park
On Oahu’s North Shore is Sunset Beach Park or Paumalu. Much bigger than Lanikai Beach, Sunset Beach stretches on for two miles.
The white sand and clear, warm waters bring in tourists all year long, and surfers love this beach during the winter for the taller waves.
Due to the size of the beach, you shouldn’t struggle to find a good place to set up your drone equipment and fly, even if you show up a little later in the day.
7. Kawela Bay Beach Park
Next, we have Kawela Bay Beach Park, a secluded spot in Oahu not too far from Turtle Bay Resort.
This North Shore beach has ironwood trees, coconut palms, and a curvaceous bay perfect for dipping your toes in.
In the winter months, the surf rises far further ashore. Trees lining the bay make for a picturesque backdrop whether you’re filming on your drone or taking photos.
8. Waimanalo Beach Park
Add a trip to Waimanalo Beach Park to your itinerary when flying your drone in Oahu.
This lengthy beach features a tame surf, ironwood trees as far as the eye can see, and powdery sand that’s soft under your feet.
Since campsites are available, you might struggle to avoid the crowds entirely. If you keep a reasonable distance from others, you should be fine to use your drone.
9. Koko Head Neighborhood Park
For the drone pilot seeking some greenery, Koko Head Neighborhood Park won’t disappoint. This small community park in Honolulu features rolling green hills and a picturesque blue sky.
The area won’t quite be as crowded as your average Oahu beach but will certainly have people milling about. As always, respect the privacy of others when using your drone.
10. Kapiolani Regional Park
Another stretch of greenspace to add to your travel itinerary is Kapiolani Regional Park in Honolulu.
This public park is Hawaii’s second oldest and not too far from Kuhio Beach Park in Waikiki (if you’re up for some park hopping).
Kapiolani Regional Park features the outdoor entertainment venue the Waikiki Shell and Honolulu Zoo, so don’t take your drone near those attractions.
Oahu drone laws to know before you go
Now that you’ve added some truly incredible spaces to your travel plans, it’s time to brush up on drone flight rules so you can fly safely and responsibly.
- All drone pilots must be licensed to use a drone in Oahu and greater Hawaii. Hobbyists must have a TRUST certificate, and commercial pilots need a Remote Pilot Certificate. The FAA issues both licenses after passing an exam on its guidelines.
- Commercial pilots must register their drones.
- Recreational pilots must register a drone that weighs 0.55 pounds or over.
- Only operate your drone 400 feet from the ground.
- When Oahu gets a stretch of not-so-great weather, ground your drone until it passes.
- Keep your eyes on your drone the entire time it’s in the sky. You can bring an observer with you to help with this.
- Do not launch a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds.
- Hawaii prohibits drones from all state parks, not only those in Oahu.
- Do not fly closer than five miles to an airport or military airbase. If you come across a manned aircraft, always give them the right of way.
Oahu is one of the most majestic Hawaiian islands, and it’s also home to many of the top parks, beaches, and beautiful spots for using a drone.
Remember to adhere to FAA guidelines and state rules when operating your drone. Have fun!