Having a Hawaii elopement will guarantee a unique adventure of a lifetime. What better way to celebrate the beginning of your marriage than starting your life together in paradise?! We’d like to start by saying that we eloped in Hawaii ourselves! We remember how overwhelming the process felt when we were planning our destination wedding from thousands of miles away. At the time, I had only visited Hawaii once and wasn’t sure of locations and other important information that would help us with planning. However, it is possible and we hope that this guide helps you create the day you two are dreaming of. This complete Hawaii elopement guide tells you important information on which island is right for you, a list of the best places to elope in Hawaii by island, and how to elope in Hawaii.
Please research appropriate permits and access before scheduling your Hawaii elopement. Remember to always practice “Leave No Trace Principals” and leave the environment better than how you found it! Respecting the trails preserves the land around it and also shows respect to the locals who call Hawaii home. Only take memories with you (and we’ll take the photos!).
Hawaii is made up of eight major islands, six of which you can visit: Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii (Big Island), Molokai, and Lanai. Each island has a variety of geographical features and natural beauty. Here is a quick breakdown of the islands’ top features that we’ll dive into further below:
A lot of tourists island hop when visiting Hawaii! Many people do this to experience the very different feel that each island provides. We highly recommend that if you plan on island hopping and want to visit a busier island (Maui or Oahu), you should also visit an island that is slower (Big Island, Molokai, Lanai, or Kauai). That way, you can experience the full range of Hawaii’s natural beauty and culture.
Island hopping is fairly inexpensive, ranging from approximately $40 to $100 for a one-way trip between islands. The current interisland airlines are: Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Mokulele Airlines.
It depends on what you’re looking for! The summer months bring more sunshine, calmer waters for snorkeling, more tourists and traffic, and usually more frequent sea turtle sightings. The winter months have more rain and clouds, rough surf (awesome for experienced surfers or those who want to admire the huge waves from the shore), humpback whales, and fewer tourists. There are perks for either season, it just depends on what you want to see and do.
We personally recommend eloping in Hawaii between the months of September to October, February (for the whales!), or April to May.
The weather throughout the year usually ranges from the mid 70’s to high 80’s Fahrenheit. In the winter months, there is often heavy rainfall and overcast skies.
Keep in mind that if you want to hike to your elopement location, rainfall may affect the ability to get to your location safely. Have a nearby backup spot in mind, just in case! Some hikes that aren’t even that steep can easily become dangerous after just a day’s rain.
It is also important to note that the rainfall throughout each island varies. For example: On Oahu, it rains frequently on the Windward Coast of the island but it is almost always sunny in Waikiki.
Charts from Google.
Prepare yourself for hiking in Hawaii by having adequate food and water, proper equipment, and being physically ready for steep inclines. If there has been heavy rain or there are high winds, it is probably not safe to hike. Hiking early in the morning (starting before 8 AM) is best to avoid extreme heat.
This goes for anywhere in the world where there is a lot of tourism: never leave any valuables in your car. Even if you are only leaving your car for a short period of time! Break-ins can be common for cars parked near trailheads. So don’t leave anything in your car!
When it comes to finding someone to capture your adventure elopement, you will want to feel a connection with their work and how they capture elopements but also understand their process of how they help you guide and plan your elopement day. Elopement photographers are typically different from traditional wedding photographers because they know you have fewer people involved in your day, so it is our goal to make you relax and enjoy every moment while we help with vendor recommendations, permit information, officiant services (Sydney is ordained!), location selection, and more.
We highly recommend choosing a photographer and videographer who lives or has lived in Hawaii and has good knowledge of the islands. Hawaii is such a unique and special place to get married and someone with experience living or photographing here will be a huge benefit to your planning! We would love to be considered in capturing your day, whether it’s photography, videography, or both. Ryan and I eloped in Hawaii ourselves, so it is incredibly fulfilling to help craft and capture other couples’ weddings in the islands.
Click here to contact us for a free consultation so we can discover your dreams for your perfect Hawaii elopement!
The marriage license fee is $60.00 (plus $5.00 portal administrative cost). The fee may be paid online or in-person at the time the application is submitted to a marriage license agent. The marriage license expires 30 days from and including the date of issuance, after which it automatically becomes null and void. There is no waiting period once the license is approved. Another thing that makes eloping in Hawaii easy: no witnesses are required! If this is too much to worry about, we always suggest to our couples that they can go to the courthouse to take care of the legal paperwork beforehand so there’s less stress on your elopement adventure. Your wedding day is the day you celebrate it, anyhow!
Unsure of how you’ll convince an officiant to hike with you on your elopement day? Don’t worry! I am ordained and would be happy to make things official.
County clerk offices:
For more details, click here.
Basically, anywhere you’d like to elope in Hawaii that isn’t at a venue will require a permit. It is common for your officiant to take care of this, which will cover your wedding itself and the photography for your ceremony. However, some locations, such as state and national parks, may require your photographer and videographer to obtain a separate standard film or commercial permit.
Permits are regulated both through the county/city as well as the state, so depending on where you want to elope will change who you need to submit your application to:
There are some locations in the islands that do not allow ceremonies or commercial activity at all and can change often. Be sure to review the list of open and accessible locations with your photographer to make sure you are up to date on where you can go!
Having a Big Island elopement always calls for extra adventure! The Big Island is technically the island of Hawaii, but it is the largest island, hence its nickname. There is so much to see and do here. There are only a few main highways, so going from that one location to the next can take an hour or multiple hours! It is an island for those who like road trips. You absolutely need to rent a car.
When deciding on lodging, consider if you should stay Kona side (west coast) or Hilo side (east coast). If there is more you want to see and do on either side, plan to book your hotel or Airbnb there. Or, spend nights on both sides of the island!
Snorkel with Manta Rays at Night (or Scuba!)
This is one of my all-time favorite experiences in Hawaii and is the number one thing I recommend doing if you visit the Big Island. I (Sydney) went on a Manta Ray snorkel tour in Kona. The boat tour started just before sunset so once we were out on the water, I saw one of the most incredible Hawaiian sunsets I’ve ever seen. Then, we geared up and got in the water once it was dark. There were long, rectangle foam noodles for us to hold onto and float while we looked down into the water. The tour guides used lights to attract plankton which drew in the Manta Rays, who eat the plankton!
Manta Rays are magnificent, gentle creatures. They swam right up along the foam noodles like it was their runway and would even brush up against your hands! Please do not touch the Manta Rays. We went on a great tour that respected these wild creatures. While we are there to admire them, do not disturb them. It was an unforgettable experience. If you get cold easily, wear a swim shirt!
Bike or Hike to active Lava Flow
On the east side of the island is approximately a 6-mile gravel trail that leads you to an epic view of lava flowing into the ocean. It is nothing short of amazing to witness new earth being made before your eyes. You can also walk, but renting a bike is much faster. We recommend going at night so you can see the lava glow and avoid the hot temperatures of the day.
Note: Because there are active volcanoes on island, the island is constantly changing. Lava flow can impact road closures and access to certain locations. You can read here about recent alerts in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and how Kilauea’s 2018 eruption changed the island. Check out this link to view volcano updates and alerts.
There are several great locations to stargaze in Hawaii, but Mauna Kea has the most incredible night sky I have ever seen. It is the tallest mountain in the world (yes, taller than Everest, most of it is under the ocean). With its high elevation and low light pollution, you are in for an epic view of the milky way. There is a visitor center that hosts nightly stargazing events. You can drink hot chocolate and watch volunteers show you constellations with laser pointers. It is an unforgettable experience.
There are also tour companies that drive you up the steep hill to the summit where the observatories are. I recommend contacting the observatory gift shop to confirm their operating hours due to conflicts between a new telescope project and the people of Hawaii which resulted in demonstrations blocking the roads. You can read more about this here to learn about the situation and cultural impact.
This national park often has active lava flow and lava rock formations as far as the eye can see. There is plenty to explore here and it makes for an amazing place to elope. Keep in mind that you may want to bring some warm layers because it can be chilly due to the elevation.
The park’s website says “ceremonies may be held anywhere that is easily accessible with the exception of Halema’uma’u Crater and the hula platform near the Kīlauea Visitor Center. Most couples choose overlooks with a view into Kīlauea Caldera or Kīlauea Iki Crater, or forested areas like Kīpukapuaulu. There is a non-refundable $150.00 application fee for the wedding permit.” You can apply for a permit here.
PRO TIP: Keep in mind that you should stay on the Hilo side (east coast), which is only an hour drive from the park. If you were to stay in the Kona region along the west coast of the island, it would be approximately a 2.5 hour drive to the park. That may not be a drive you want to worry about if you decide to elope at sunrise!
Kona has several beach state parks along the coast that would make for a great location to elope in Hawaii. Kiholo Bay is a state park along the west coast (Kona side) of the Big Island. During our visits, it was fairly quiet. There is plenty of beautiful lava rock formations and a black sand beach that spans the entire bay. You can often find sea turtles lounging in the sand.
Please note that you (or the wedding officiant) must apply for a permit to have the ceremony at any beach state park. If you want to have your elopement in the summer months when the sunset is close to that time, keep in mind that the gate to the state park closes at 7 PM. The permit allows state park employees to be aware of your elopement so they do not lock you in overnight.
Waipio Valley is a lush valley on the north shore that offers black sand beaches and waterfalls. You can park at the scenic Waipio Valley lookout and hike down to the black sand beach for your elopement. The hike is one steep mile down. It is definitely worth the view of the cliffs once you are on the beach!
Kauai is our [tied for] favorite island because it has so much to offer while having a much smaller population compared to the other islands. It is known as the garden isle for good reason! It can be super rainy, but with that, extremely lush. Even the little things here (like driving through the tunnel of trees) make this island magical.
Boat tour of the Na Pali coast
We HANDS DOWN recommend Blue Ocean Adventure Tours. We took their zodiac boat tour and spent the entire morning exploring caves, watching the dolphins play, and taking in the view.
Kauai Back Country Adventures has an extremely fun tour where you ride on tubes through the old sugar mill tunnels! It is a blast and we highly recommend it.
We can’t make this list without suggesting one of the most breathtaking locations (and one of the rainiest) in the world. The luminous, turquoise caves and epic, tall, green mountains that stand along the shore create one of the most beautiful places in Hawaii. Whether you exchange vows on a boat tour that cruises along the coast and caves, elope near the trailhead, or make an adventure of hiking into the trail for a unique and quiet spot, the options are endless.
If you want an epic Kauai elopement, we highly recommend reaching out to Blue Ocean Adventure Tours. They offer private tours and specifically mention getting married on the boat with the Na Pali coast in view!
PRO TIP: There is often a fog that hides the view of some of the best views of the Na Pali coast mountains. For your best chances at avoiding this, elope at sunrise! That, or stick around for a little bit to see if the clouds pass!
Get your four-wheel drive vehicle ready, because Lanai is one of the last “untouched” Hawaiian islands. The contrast of dirt roads and luxury resorts makes this island (that is 97% privately owned) a wonder. It’s extremely likely that many of the places you explore and visit here will have few people. This island is for the eloping couple who wants a little luxury and/or to truly get away. This is a smaller island and you can explore the majority of it in a couple of days, so this is the best fit for a trip that includes some island hopping. We 100% recommend renting a Jeep for this island!
Kaiolohia (Shipwreck) Beach
Make sure you screenshot a map of the location of this beach, because phone service or GPS may not help you get out to this spot! But it is worth it nonetheless. Shipwreck Beach is approximately a 30-minute, four-wheel-drive out from Lanai City. The beach is an 8-mile stretch that has multiple wrecked ships in view, including a WWII oil tanker. The beach also has views of Molokai and Maui.
Lanai Cat Sanctuary
The Lanai Cat Sanctuary is a nonprofit that offers a fun way to hang out with cats and kittens while supporting local efforts to save the cats and protect the birds!
Pu’u Pehe, also recognized as Sweetheart Rock, has a rather tragic story in Hawaiian folklore but is a stunning spot nonetheless. It is approximately a 15 to 20-minute hike up to have a view of the landmark that overlooks Hulupoe Bay. You may also have the chance to see wild pods of spinner dolphins!
Maui is for the eloping couple who doesn’t mind some tourism and crowds but can also find escape in the natural beauty this island provides. It is regarded as the number one island for viewing the humpback whales in the winter months. Many recognize Maui as the island for honeymooners, which makes it a great place to tie the knot and then relax in paradise!
Maui is known as the best island to see the humpback whales! Prime season for seeing these beautiful creatures is in late January to early March. If you’re planning on getting married in Hawaii in these months, taking a boat tour to whale watch is an absolute must.
There are many locations in the park that would make for an incredible spot for your ceremony. Our top recommendation would be eloping at Haleakala summit at sunrise or sunset. It is an incredibly peaceful place with mind-blowing views. The one hour drive up on the Haleakala summit side of the park is a long, winding road. You pass evergreens, grazing cattle, and daring cyclists. The further you drive up, the air is cooler and there is a mystical fog that takes over the land. This is a great option for those who want something different than the beach. The best part is that you can elope up near the summit and finish off your honeymoon in tropical Maui paradise.
You have to reserve tickets if you want to elope on Haleakala summit at sunrise. You can do that here. No reservations are required at this time for sunset. Arrive early to allow for plenty of time to drive up and park if you elope at sunrise. Make sure to bring plenty of warm layers because it is windy and cold! Because it is a national park, you must pay a $150.00 permit fee and submit an application. You can apply here!
Makaluapuna Point is a beautiful spot on Maui for sunset. The lookout features unique lava rock formations that literally look like dragon teeth. Just west of Dragon’s Teeth is Oneloa Beach, also known as Ironwood Beach. Crashing waves, lava rock, and a beautiful view sunset view await you.
There are several beautiful lookouts that would make for an incredible elopement spot. Keep in mind that parking can be limited depending on where you decide!
Molokai is recognized as the friendly island where the population is small and the views are grand. It is considered to be another untouched island where you can enjoy the raw beauty of Hawaii and experience hospitality and a sense of community from the locals. It is considered the least touristy island, with Lanai coming in at second place.
Kalaupapa Historical National Park
In the late 1800’s, King Kamehameha V passed a law that quarantined all people of Hawaii who had leprosy to a remote Molokai peninsula to live in a colony. The site has now become a sacred and historical site where Native Hawaiians go to show their respect to their ancestors. It is now recognized as a historical national park where visitors can learn about the history of this colony. The peninsula is tucked along the base of the tallest sea cliffs in the world.
You have to apply for a permit to gain access to the park. People under 16 years are not permitted into the park. You can access the park by flying, hiking, or mule ride. Mokulele or Makani Kai airlines fly into the park. Overnight accommodations are only provided to guests of residents.
Note: The trail to hike or ride a mule into the park is currently closed due to a landslide. You can only access the park via aircraft at this time. You can check for updates here.
A beautiful, winding road will take you to Halawa Valley, one of Molokai’s natural gems. The raw beauty along the east coast of the island is unreal. The winding drive is absolutely worth the views. There are several spots you can say “I do” that have few visitors around. Definitely consider planning a hike to the waterfalls in the valley!
Oahu is the busiest island and has the largest population of almost 1 million people. Not to mention most tourists! But don’t let this scare you away, especially if you know you want to check out the surfers at the famous North Shore and visit Pearl Harbor. We recommend that if you do decide on an Oahu elopement, book your lodging on the North Shore or Windward side of the island where things are a little more laidback compared to Waikiki and Honolulu.
The best times to visit to avoid large crowds would be late April to early June and mid-September to early December. If you want to see the whales, come in February!
Visit the North Shore
The North Shore is famous for shave ice (shave, not shaved in Hawaii!), Banzai Pipeline, and lounging sea turtles. We highly recommend staying in an Airbnb along the North Shore compared to staying in town (Honolulu/Waikiki). This part of the island has a laidback vibe that truly represents the aloha spirit. You will feel so much more relaxed and get to enjoy Hawaii for its paradise, along with great views of the sunset. Also, the Sunrise Shack is an absolute must-visit.
Have some Malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery
You can’t come to Oahu and not try our favorite dessert in Hawaii! Malasadas are Portuguese donuts and are absolutely delicious. Grab some at the cute original Leonard’s Bakery in town or stop at one of their many food truck locations!
Drive along the Coast
Oahu is the most visited island in Hawaii, so you’d be surprised by how many people who only stay in Waikiki and at most visit the Dole Plantation or Pearl Harbor during their trip. We 1000% recommend driving along the entire coast! For such a busy island, you’d be amazed how peaceful the drive up along the Windward coast (east side) and up toward Waianae (west side) can be. It takes a good deal of time to drive it all but it is so worth it. The Kailua to North shore drive is a good day trip with stops at food trucks for lunch along the way. Then save the west coast for another day and watch the sunset there!
For the couples out there who desire a gorgeous view for their photos and are willing to hike for it, the Crouching Lion hike is one of our favorite spots on island. It is a hike along the Windward coast that is incredible for sunset or a cloudy day (which happens often because there is quite a bit of rain on this side). You’ll get all the magic with this location—ocean, cliffs, and mountains.
To be prepared, bring shoes with good traction, a change of clothes, hairbrushes and touchup makeup, wipes or a small towel for sweat, and a backpack to hold your wedding attire!
PRO TIP: Because this hike is steep, it is very dangerous to climb after rainfall. Have a backup location in mind in case the rainfall makes the trail too slippery and muddy to climb!
Kaena Point Trail leads to the lookout that is the very northwestern tip of Oahu. You can find parking on the North Shore to reach the lookout or the west side of the island in Waianae. This is a beautiful spot for an engagement session or elopement on Oahu. It is one of the best spots on island for the sunset and golden hour and is a great park to getaway from the busy streets of Waikiki. Also, the corner of Kaena Point is the best place on island to see the stars!
PRO TIP: If you decide to walk out far on the trail, bring headlamps for the walk back. For the ladies, bring a change of comfortable shoes to walk in until you reach the spot where you will be taking photos. The terrain is uneven and wouldn’t be the most comfortable if you are wearing heels.
The Makapu’u lighthouse area offers many beautiful spots for your Hawaii elopement. The Makapuu lighthouse trail is paved, a moderate incline, and two miles in distance (round trip). It typically takes 30-45 minutes to hike to the top. There are plenty of locations along the way up that would offer beautiful spots to say “I do.”
This trail has one of the best views of the sunrise on the island. The gate to the parking lot doesn’t open until 7 AM so you will have to park alongside the road outside of the gate if you want a sunrise elopement If you aren’t in the mood for a hike, there are some great spots at the base of the mountain.
The lookout can be busy, so we recommend having your elopement on a weekday (check out this elopement at Makapuu Lighthouse Lookout here!). You cant go wrong with this location and the scenic drive to this spot!
We hope you enjoyed this guide for the best places to elope in Hawaii! As far as planning goes, keep your mind open to possibilities and explore all of your options! We would love to be a part of your day as your elopement photographer and videographer team, so reach out to us and tell us about the elopement adventure you’re dreaming of and let’s get planning!
We are Sydney and Ryan Kroll, a husband and wife adventure elopement photographer and videographer team. We are currently based in Joshua Tree, California, but travel for work and leisure throughout the US and beyond. Our work is best described as candid, true to color, storytelling that blends images of love and natural beauty in the great outdoors.