Kauai is one of my favorite places to shoot elopements and weddings. For Jennifer and Steven’s elopement in Kauai, they opted for dramatic cliffsides near Poipu.
Poipu is on the south side of Kauai, with a resort-like feel. Because it is the southern part of the island, it is usually drier here. But that was not the case for their elopement! It happened to be pouring the entire week leading up to Jennifer and Steven’s wedding, but that’s okay because everything worked out and rain is known as a “good luck” omen for weddings.
I picked Jennifer up after she had gotten ready, and we headed to the beach to meet Steven for their first look. With my eye on the Doppler radar, we were waiting for the perfect time! While the rain didn’t completely clear, it let up just enough for the two of them to have their first look together. After they had that special moment just the two of them, we wandered along the cliffs and forests for photos.
Family members soon joined us on the beach for their Kauai elopement ceremony, with Jennifer’s sister officiating. Once the ceremony finished, we snapped some family shots! And of course, right after the last few group photos of the day, it started pouring again.
I love the Poipu area of Kauai for elopements because you are never more than five minutes away from someplace epic! Read on for more of my Kauai elopement tips and info!
Hair/Makeup Company: Artists Co.
Hair/Makeup Artist: Mia Moriguchu
Florals: Blue Orchid Kauai
YOUR GUIDE TO ELOPING IN KAUAI
South Side of Kauai
In general, the south side of the island can be more resort-like and attracts the most tourists! Towns like Poipu, where you’ll find cute spots such as Living Foods– where you can grab some light bites & drinks. It’s super cute and has some unique grocery items inside along with an incredible brunch on the weekends! Want to grab dinner somewhere upscale? Try Beachhouse, which is great for a celebratory meal!
If you’re a Lilo and Stitch fan, this one is for you. The town of Hanapepe was the inspiration for the town in the movie! It can be a cute stop while you’re in the area. And before checking out some of south Kauai’s natural wonders, head to Warehouse 3540 in Lawai. It’s a fun little marketplace with shops and food trucks!
Things to Do on the South and West Side of Kauai
Kōkeʻe State Park/Waimea Canyon are amazing places to see. It’s like a smaller Grand Canyon in the middle of an island! You can drive through the whole thing, and stop to soak up the sights and various lookouts. Keep in mind that if it’s too cloudy, you won’t be able to see too far so keep an eye on the weather! Camping is a blast here, so don’t forget layers because it can get chilly at night! Usually it is drier and warmer and the beginning of the canyon, and wetter near the end (remember to bring your rain jacket!).
If you want to see the incredible mountains that make up this canyon from the shoreline, I highly recommend doing a boat tour. This is probably the most unique and incredible activity you can do while you are in Kauai and you won’t regret the breathtaking views. They are many different tours…from sunset catamaran tours that include a meal, snorkeling tours, or smaller boats that go into some of the caves. Regardless of the craft to get you there, it’s worth the trip! These tours depart year round from Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor on the west side of Kauai or from Hanalei only in the summer months on the north shore.
Places to Stay on the South Side of Kauai
You aren’t too far from the airport if you choose to stay near the east side of Kauai, which can be a plus. There are also a lot of cool hotels which can be more budget friendly. The most populated town in Kauai, Kapa’a, has a bunch of shops and places to stay. You might want to check out Fish Bar Deli, a cute restaurant in old town Kapa’a with incredible cocktails and food with local ingredients. If you’re looking for a hotel to stay at, the newly renovated Kauai Shores Hotel has a nice pool, lawn games, and is right next door to the Lava Lava Beach Club – where you can enjoy live music.
Things to Do on the East Side of Kauai
You will definitely want to stay near east/central Kauai if you are wanting to hike during your trip! This area is accessible to a lot of hikes, including Sleeping Giant. This area of the island is your go-to for so many outdoor activities! And soaking in the beauty of Kauai is never a bad idea.
Places to Stay on the East Side of Kauai
North Shore of Kauai
The North Shore is the go-to area for those seeking a natural Kauai experience. With more rain on this part of the island than others, that leads to lush jungles and beautiful greenery. You’ll find staggering cliffs and mountains near towns such as Princeville. You can even see waterfalls from mountaintops where it’ll be raining at the summit, but sunny near the base. So cool! The area of Hanalei Bay is another place that is really neat to explore. Find cute coffee shops nearby such as Trilogy Coffee in Kilauea or Hanalei Bread Co. You’ll find my favorite hidden gem, Palate Wine Bar, up in the North Shore, too! The have yummy flatbread pizzas, an amazing assortment of wines and beer, pasta, salads, and cheese boards. Delicious!
Things to Do on the North Shore of Kauai
The North Shore is a great place to learn how to surf, so why not take a surfing lesson? This is a really popular activity for visitors. Keep in mind that you want to be as respectful of the locals as possible: obey parking signs near the beach, drive slowly and safely. The North Shore draws a lot of visitors, so we need to make sure we treat the area with respect.
Another fun thing to do on the North Shore is visit the gorgeous Hāʻena State Park. You’ll totally want to hike Kalalau trail, but remember that reservations are required and I strongly recommend taking the Go Hāʻena shuttle to get to the park.
Places to Stay on the North Shore of Kauai
There you have it – your ultimate guide to the gorgeous island of Kauai! Can’t wait to help you plan your Hawaiian elopement in this slice of paradise.
First looks are an amazing way of being able to share a moment with your partner before your wedding or elopement day. Maybe you’re torn on whether or not you want to include a first look during your elopement! There is no wrong answer: first looks never make your ceremony less “special”, and serve as a wonderful grounding point before such a significant event.
There are so many ways you can make a “first look” your own – something that really speaks to the two of you. Here are some fun, emotional, intimate, and alternative ideas to having a first look during your elopement in Hawaii!
What Is a First Look?
A “first look” is when you and your partner see each other for the very first time during your wedding or elopement day. When you have a first look before your ceremony, this can help ease your nerves and make your wedding day even more exciting!
If you are choosing to have guests attend your Hawaii wedding, having a first look can be an amazing moment that you and your partner can share – just the two of you.
Where Do Couples Have Their First Look?
Where you have your first look is entirely up to you! If you both are getting ready in the same area, we can find somewhere beautiful to set up your first look. If you have your heart set on having a first look amongst the gorgeous Hawaii scenery, we can head to a specific spot just for your first look! You two can arrive separately, or even get ready away from each other in the car or in the trees.
Types of First Looks for Your Hawaii Elopement
There is no “one size fits all” approach to having a first look for your Hawaii wedding! Whether you write letters to one another, going the silly route of a prank, a romantic grounding moment with a prayer, or maybe you’re feelin’ classic, the right answer is what first look really speaks to what your relationship is all about.
There is nothing like eloping in Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the top destinations for couples eloping and getting married, but before you finish packing up your bags, let’s take a look at some “must haves” for your Hawaii elopement and trip to go as smoothly as possible! The last thing you want to have to worry about is whether or not you forgot something, and you want to be prepared. That’s where I come in! Being a Hawaii elopement photographer for years, I’m able to put that expertise to use for you.
What to Bring for your Plane Ride to Hawaii
Don’t Forget Your Elopement Supplies!
With these checklists in hand for your Hawaii elopement, you will be as prepared as you’ll ever be for one of the best days of your life! Let’s do it!
Even before you set foot on The Big Island of Hawaii for your elopement, you’ll want to be prepared and know where you should stay! Each city and town in Hawaii is unique, and offers various different experiences and vibes. Let’s take a tour to figure out where you’ll be staying during your Hawaii elopement adventure.
The two main cities on The Big Island are Hilo and Kona. You’ll probably book your flight to land in one of these spots!
Hilo is on the east side of the island, and gets more rain than the west side. A sunny day on the east side of Hawaii is magical because of how lush the jungles are! Hilo offers diverse and authentic food, and has those essential island vibes you might be after. If you’re planning to elope at a waterfall, or do a day after session at Mauna Kea like Joey and Raegan, Hilo and the surrounding area is where you’ll want to stay!
Places to Stay near Hilo, Hawaii:
Kona draws people in with promises of sunshine. It’s catered more toward tourists but also has a lot to offer as far as foods, beaches, and activities! It’s a conveniently located city, with many activities using Kona as their jumping-off point. Sunset catamarans, snorkeling, and Manta Ray trips come to mind! Kona also offers nightlife, more than almost anywhere else on The Big Island!
Places to Stay in Kona, Hawaii:
If you want to be in Kona but slightly out of town, you can try Ka’awaloa also known as the Captain Cook. Kealakekua Bay is a beautiful spot to explore, as well as South Kona. Sometimes, it can be nice to be in Kona but feel a little more “Hawaii”. The adorable town of Holualoa is 15 minutes outside of Kona and at a higher elevation. Within minutes, you can go from lava fields to lush jungles. There are a bunch of coffee farms here, and lots of Hawaiian architecture and art galleries. Flower shops, coffee shops..this area has a cute, small town feel.
Seeking a resort experience and nice hotels on the beach? Waikoloa! In this town, you’ll be in a good position to explore northern part of island. Waikoloa is full of boutiques, well known brands, and nice restaurants. Such a relaxing vacation base!
Waimea is pretty centrally located, home to lots of agriculture. A total foodie town, with spots like Forc and Red Water. One of my fave places here is Waimea Coffee Company, which feels cozy and homey when Waimea has a misty day. Check out their Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, where you can pick up fresh flowers for your elopement bouquet!
Dreaming of eloping near the southern part of Hawaii? Nāʻālehu has mix of jungle but is a little drier and warmer than staying in Volcano. However, you are only about 30minutes to the entrance of the national park. A totally cute tiny town! If you’re planning on staying here, stock up on supplies in Kona or Oceanview.
If your Hawaii elopement will take you to Punalu’u black sand beach, you’ll want to stay in Pahala. From there, you’re about 5-10 minutes to the black sand beach. I’ve stayed at Sea Mountain for vacation, and loved it! For breakfast, stop at Punalu’u Bakery, for world famous Hawaiian sweetbread or my favorite coffee shop, Ka Lae.
Of course, I can’t forget about the town of Volcano! Staying here works perfectly if you want to elope at Volcanoes National Park.
Volcano is an intimate town that can get pretty cold by Hawaii standards! You’ll want gloves, a rain jacket and a puffy jacket for sure. Total PNW vibes, like the rainy town of Fern Forest. This area has lots of unique treehouse airbnbs, and cabins with relaxing spas!
You’ll find the town of Pahoa nearby, filled with crystal shops, cafes, worldly clothing, and a really cute bookstore. It’s a cool area to explore if you want to see where the new lava flow happened recently, too!
Things to Remember When Booking Your Stay in Hawaii:
No matter where you decide to stay in Hawaii during your elopement trip, I just know you’ll pick the perfect place based on what is important to you and your partner.
I’ve been an elopement photographer in Hawaii for many years now, and something I’ve noticed is how many couples really benefit from having their elopement split over two or more days!
Splitting up your elopement day works best for couples who:
Every one of my couples who chose to split up their elopement day has said that they really love having the extra downtime! Especially if you are planning a sunrise ceremony, it’s easy to forget you are waking up at 2 or 3 AM! Having your elopement take place over multiple days means a more relaxed atmosphere to take naps as needed and chill.
If you are including family members during your Hawaii elopement, you can use the first day to have them with you for group photos and your ceremony, with your day-after being completely yours to enjoy some intimate moments together!
With the option of splitting up your elopement day, your personalities have so much more opportunity to really shine through! During your elopement, couples are often wearing a dress or a suit: it’s usually not something really comfortable where you feel like yourselves! This can show another aspect of your personality in a genuine way! Every couple is so unique, and this is a great way to show off your personality and story. Maybe splitting up your elopement day means more laidback moments, like hanging out at your Airbnb together. This can often feel so much more relaxed because of what you are wearing and how much you feel like yourselves! I like to take a “fly on the wall” approach for this: think of it as being on a date with your partner! Have fun, bring your favorite snacks…and you don’t have to worry or stress about time!
Another fun route to consider when splitting up your elopement day is “trash the dress”! Having photos taken with family, then feeling compelled to do something epic and adventurous while wearing your wedding attire! If you are feeling like you want adventure, having your second elopement day include some “trash the dress” elements totally could be for you.
Examples of Couples Who Split Up Their Hawaiian Elopements:
Kassidy and Jonas
Kassidy and Jonas had family attend their short ceremony, yet still wanted to have an adventure on their own where the two of them could connect. This is really a “best of both worlds” approach if you are incorporating family but also would like some private, adventurous moments, just the two of you!
Joey and Raegan
Their second elopement day just felt like the two of them were on a date! I met the two of them at their hotel, where they often took walks and wanted to include that. I can come to where you and your partner are staying, or we can all adventure to someplace new: there are no real rules when it comes to how you would like your Hawaii elopement day to play out!
Karen and Phil
What Karen and Phil did for their Hawaii elopement was split it up into two parts, because they wanted to see and explore so much of what Hawaii has to offer! This is a great possibility if there are two distant locations you want to explore and you don’t want to feel rushed or tired. If you can’t decide on where to go: do one the next day!
Beck and Rob
Beck and Rob wanted a really laidback elopement. They wanted to come into town, get breakfast, take their time, and just have an elopement that flowed easily. Having two days helped spread things out where they could enjoy their time together adventuring, but also chilling at their Airbnb!
I hope this post inspires you to know that you have the freedom to make your elopement as long as you’d like! I am always here to help guide you and make an elopement experience that really speaks to what your needs are.
Wondering What to Wear for Your Hawaii Adventure Session?
An adventure session in Hawaii means you and your partner having a blast amongst the sand, waves, and lush greenery of the islands. And for me, it also means wearing clothing that both represents you, and compliments the landscape and climate of the Hawaiian Islands.
Long, flowing dresses are AMAZING here in Hawaii for most shoots because of how well they play with the trade winds! Having movement in your photos makes everything so organic and free.
If variety is what you are after, we can do some poses in jeans/pants/shorts etc that may not be totally possible in a dress, and then change halfway through! You are ALWAYS welcome to bring more than one outfit. I recommend bringing 2-3 outfit changes, and we can feel out what works best based on the weather, what your partner is wearing, and the mood of the session as it unfolds naturally.
When it comes to color, don’t be afraid! It’s just about knowing what tones to pick. Really vibrant reds can take over the colors when I edit your photos, so I would go for burnt orange, mustard yellow, shades of tan or beige, light blue, grey, maroon, and light pink!
How Do I Change Outfits During My Session?
Depending on shoot location, there may be bathrooms. Most of the time, I can bring a sheet or towel to change behind, you can use your car or duck behind some trees…haha! That is actually more common here than you might think: with the beach lifestyle of Hawaii. If you aren’t comfortable with that, that’s completely fine! Stick with one outfit that you love, and feel free to text me before your shoot so that I can help you choose!
Where to Buy Outfits for Your Hawaii Photo Session:
-Citrus and Lemon
-Mr. Pretty Skirt
Places Based in Hawaii:
-Pineapple Blush Boutique
-Kepola Design House
-Ginger and Koi
-Rent the Runway
-Ka Lole Hele
What to Avoid Wearing for your Adventure Session in Hawaii
-Bright, clashing colors
-Classic white and khaki (now is your chance to get creative!)
-Being overly matchy with your partner
-Clothing that doesn’t feel like YOU
When you don’t feel authentically you, it can show in your photos. The most important thing is to wear what you feel most confident in, and what makes you shine! The key here is to do what feels best for you. If you’re on vacation and want to get a cute, flowy dress…do it! If you want to wear something that feels more like your everyday outfits, do that!
I’ve had couples wear Vans and T-shirts with jeans, dresses and button ups, or barefoot in the sand. Do what is best for you!
You’ve booked your plane tickets, Airbnb, and have your elopement date set (complete with me as your photographer, haha!). The excitement leading up to your Hawaii trip is palpable.
It is our job as humans to recreate responsibly: for both ourselves and the planet! Read on to discover things you may not know about visiting the Aloha State:
What to Pack!
-Reef-safe sunscreen is a must. Sunscreen that is reef-safe helps keep our reefs, oceans, and the animals that live here healthy!
-Sunglasses! The sunshine is radiant here, and with the sun reflecting off of the ocean and sands, you’ll be glad you packed sunglasses for your Hawaii trip.
-Speaking of sun protection, a floppy hat or baseball cap is a must.
-Reusable water bottles. We want to do our part to cut down on the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Packing a reusable water bottle for your visit to Hawaii can help!
-Don’t forget a portable phone charger! While you are adventuring amongst the Hawaiian Islands, you may be snapping photos and using GPS. You definitely want to avoid a dead phone battery if you can help it!
Things You May Not Know if it’s Your First Time Visiting Hawaii:
-Do not touch or disturb wildlife, just observe from a distance!
-If hiking or playing at the beach, please do not stack or balance rocks! Most of us have come across stacked rocks on a trail or the coast, but did you know that rock stacking can contribute to erosion and can also cause ecological damage? If you do stack rocks, make sure to disassemble your creation before leaving the shoreline.
-There are unfortunately often a lot of microplastics that wash up on our shorelines! If you see anything and are comfortable picking up some trash and disposing of it, it would be much appreciated. The goal is always to leave things better than how you found it!
Sounds like you’re ready for your visit to Hawaii! Armed with insight and guidance on how to make Hawaii enjoyable for not just you and your partner, but local residents, plants, animals, and the habitat, too!
Planning an adventure elopement in Hawaii? The Big Island of Hawaii is a place of magical, cultural, and beautiful significance. From sand, to surf, to tropical trees, there are so many options when it comes to your Hawaii elopement.
Where Should You Elope In Hawaii?
Narrowing down where your Hawaii wedding or elopement should take place will depend on the amount of coverage you are looking for! Some locations require shorter hikes or no hiking at all, and those can be paired with other, more accessible locations to create an elopement day full of variety!
Picture this: having your elopement ceremony while the Pacific Ocean serenades you at Black Lava Cliffs, heading out for a picnic on the bright sand at Kukio Beach, before ending your elopement day at one of my secret spots (secluded beaches and private ponds, anyone?!)
Thinking of a longer elopement day? We can even throw some half-day locations into the mix! Your Hawaii elopement can include camping at Green Sands Beach, playing amongst a canopy of trees on rope swings, or even climbing mountains!
Once you have your elopement location in mind, I am able to give the two of you guidance when it comes to planning.
Hiking around Mauna Kea on a 90 degree day is not something I would recommend, but having a Plan B, just in case the summit of Mauna Kea is closed? Absolutely.
When planning your Hawaii elopement on the Big Island, flexibility is important. Weather, road conditions, permitting, and rules can change in an instant, so I strongly encourage that we come up with various plans together to make sure that your elopement day is full of wonder, not stress!
Hawaii Elopement Locations:
The enchantment of Hawaii can’t be contained to a few examples! I love to show my couples a location guide to give them an even deeper glance of all that Hawaii has to offer.
When considering where you should elope in Hawaii, the deciding factor should be what you two feel in your heart. And I am here to guide you along the way! Have a specific vision in mind for your Hawaii elopement? My job is to provide you with the tools, resources, and location possibilities to help the two of you have the Hawaii elopement of your dreams.
Hawaii is one of the most picturesque places in the world, so it is no surprise that couples choose to get married on one of the many gorgeous islands of Hawaii! As a Hawaii wedding photographer, I know all of the tips.
Wondering how to make your marriage legal in Hawaii?
Let’s walk through it!
FIND AN OFFICIANT A.K.A. “performer”
First off, you will need a performer to officiate your wedding ceremony in Hawaii. Your performer can either be a professional officiant based in Hawaii or a friend or family member.
How to Have a Friend of Family Member Officiate Your Wedding
If you are wanting to include a friend or family member to perform your ceremony, they must be ordained through an organization such as Universal Life Church. After that, they will need to register with the Minister Registration Office – Hawaii Department of Health online. Don’t forget, they will need to be registered at least two weeks before the ceremony date!
Once your loved one is ordained, next will come registering as a performer. And good news: no matter what island your Hawaii wedding will take place, the registration will not be affected.
First, read the Marriage Performer Guidelines on the Hawaii Department of Health website. This will provide context for what to expect on the application. Once the application is completed and your $10 application fee is paid, you will get a payment confirmation via email right away. Your application approval can take up to two weeks, so be patient!
Dreaming of a Hawaii wedding, yet unsure of what island you’d like to host your vows? Getting a head start on your friend/family member’s officiant registration is a great first step.
Choosing a Professional Officiant for your Hawaii Elopement
If you choose not to include a family member or friend in your Hawaii elopement/wedding, there are a ton of wonderful performer options! Many officiants call Hawaii home, and they all have so much to offer couples looking to get married. Recommendations are my jam, so you can count on me to help the two of you find a performer you love. After all, getting married is an intimate event. You want to be 100% certain that everyone involved has your back!
What Happens Next?
After finding your officiant/performer, apply online for a marriage license! You will fill out the $65 online application, and then make an appointment to see an agent on the island you will be eloping on when you get to the island.
The license agent is the person who creates and gives you the physical certificate after applying online! Make sure this appointment is set within 30 days of your ceremony because once they issue your license, it expires after 30 days.
Once You’re on The Island
When you go for your appointment with your license agent to pick up your application, you need to go down to the health department together. Both of you must go, and bring your IDs! A lot of these appointments are becoming virtual because of COVID, so just be aware of any changes, and plan accordingly!
If you’re not sure what agent to go with, or are concerned you won’t have enough time before your ceremony to get your certificate, I’m happy to recommend some agents who can arrange online appointments to get a digital certificate rather than going in person.
Hurray, it’s finally here! On your wedding day in Hawaii, bring your license to the ceremony and the performer will sign it. Most officiants will have you sign it after the ceremony and then they take it and mail it for you, or you can mail it yourself. After that, your official wedding license is mailed to you within 4-6 weeks of your ceremony. If your officiant files your certificate online, it takes only up to a week turnaround.
Yay! You’ve gotten your marriage license in Hawaii, everything is signed, mailed, and made legal…congratulations!
Not so daunting, right?!
Let’s do this!