How to Elope in Oahu, Hawaii
The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Dream Adventure Elopement in Hawaii
Hawaii is one of those magical places that we all grew up knowing about and that I believe everyone should experience at least once in their lives should the opportunity present itself (& respectfully to the culture). It's such a beautiful state with landscapes that look like paintings, some of the kindest people you'll ever meet, an extremely rich culture, and immense opportunity for adventure on all corners of the islands! When you look back on your wedding day, which is arguably one of the most special days in your love story, imagine those special memories paired with excitement for a new chapter in your life & the thrill of discovering all the magic that Hawaii holds.
If you're reading this, odds are you have recently gotten engaged and are now considering where to tie the knot. First off, congratulations! Second off, I'm glad you're here - you've come to the right place. I know how stressful wedding planning can be, so I hope this guides aids you in relieving some of those anxieties and answers some (or all!) of the questions you may have when it comes to what it'd be like to elope in Oahu. In this guide, you'll find everything you need to know about how to elope in Hawaii, including information on the best ceremony and photo locations, and more!
Keep reading to learn about how to plan an elopement in Oahu, Hawaii!
First Thing's First: WHEN?
The amazing thing about Oahu is that there really isn't a bad time to visit! The weather in the Hawaiian Islands remains fairly consistent - in fact, there's really only two seasons: summer (kau), which is from May to October, and winter (ho'oilo), which is from November to April. This means the temperature doesn't fluctuate too much throughout the year, but you should be aware that different parts of the island get a bit more rain in certain months. The really cool thing about Hawaii is that the islands have numerous micro-climates throughout. Certain areas get 200 inches of rain annually, whereas others may only get 10 inches per year!
Another thing to think about, of course, is tourism. Since Oahu is Hawaii's most visited island & 2/3 of the state's population resides here, you may want to consider planning your wedding for off-season. I would recommend looking at dates within April to May or September to October. However, deciding when to elope will ultimately depend on your personal preferences.
KAU (SUMMER): MAY TO OCTOBER
These months have the lowest average rainfall in inches. This also means you can expect higher temperatures on average, with highs in the mid 80s and lows in the lower 70s. You will still want to be prepared with rain gear just in case, but you have a better chance of sunshine! This weather is perfect for hanging out by the beach, but definitely expect more crowds with school being out. Another thing to keep in mind is that Hurricane season starts in June (but remember that temperamental weather can happen at any time of year). During these months, the days are longer at 13 hours of daylight.
HO'OILO (WINTER): NOVEMBER TO APRIL
During these months, you can expect more rain, stronger trade winds, and cooler days. There's a little less daylight, totaling 11 hours each day. Waves can also get extremely high - some of up to even 40 feet high! I would definitely recommend avoiding waves on the North Shore during these months. Leave the surfing to the pros! Although it's not ideal for getting your tan on, you can expect a moodier vibe for your photos. Plus, who doesn't want to spend Christmas in Hawaii?
I would say the months of April, May, & September are my personal favorite times to visit the island. April & May are technically off season so you can avoid the summertime crowds, plus you still get more warm days. In April, you may also still get to see a few whales in migration! September is another great option for elopements, as it's less hot and crowded as the months preceding while the rain is still more sparse.
Learn more about Hawaii's climate and how to adequately prepare for the Island elements HERE & HERE.
The Nitty Gritty: Marriage Licenses, Wedding Permits, etc.
The marriage license fee in Hawaii is $60 with a $5 portal administrative cost. You can pay the fee online or in-person when you submit your application to a marriage license agent. You'll have 30 days before the marriage license expires from and including the issuance date before it becomes voided. There's also no waiting period once the license is approved. One other thing to note is that no witnesses are required, making elopements in Hawaii suuuper easy. Another option to alleviate some stress is to get all of the legal paperwork out of the way at the courthouse first before your elopement adventure. It's all up to you!
As far as permits go, if you opt for any location on the island that isn't an official venue, you'll need to apply for one. It's also common for officiants to take care of this for you, which can be helpful! This will cover your wedding itself as well as the photography for your ceremony. Be sure to double check your location's regulations on photography and videography, as some require a separate standard film or commercial permit in addition to the wedding permit.
There are also different types of permit regulations based on where exactly you want to elope. Beach weddings & elopements on unencumbered shorelines need a Wiki Permit. Additionally, state parks will require a Special Use Permit to cover your photographer and/or videographer (aka commercial activity). It's important to note here that some beaches & locations are off limits for wedding ceremonies and photography. You can view a list of permitted beach wedding ceremony locations HERE and a list of open and accessible locations HERE, but more on that later!
You can find more details about this entire process here. Contact marriage agents here. Please note you'll need to show your driver's license to prove you're over 18 years old. I recommend setting up an appointment to take care of everything a few days before your elopement date!
Getting To & Around Oahu
To get to Oahu, you'll fly into the main international airport: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). From here, it's about a half hour to Waikiki and 45 minutes to an hour to the North Shore. You can take a bus, but I highly recommend renting your own car to easily get around the island. Plus, many places you'll go offer free parking. Most people opt for a Jeep Wrangler or a convertible to enjoy the sunshine while they drive. The good thing about a Jeep is that you'll have peace of mind knowing your car will be okay in almost any weather or terrain - not a huge concern on Oahu since it's one of the most developed Hawaiian islands, but just in case it's nice to have! We used Priceline & were able to pick up our car at HNL. They let us pick the car we wanted day of, and we opted for insurance as well.
Where to Stay for Your Oahu Elopement
If you want to stay in the thick of things and close to Oahu's nightlife, then Waikiki might be the right fit for you. However, if you'd like to stay away from the all the hustle and bustle, you might consider instead looking for lodging on the North Shore or the East Shore, where things are a bit more laidback and to truly immerse yourself into the adventure elopement experience.
There are two things you should consider when planning for your elopement:
Getting Ready: If you opt for getting ready photos and potentially a first look, there's a chance we'll be using your Airbnb or hotel room for these moments. Further, if you choose to have family and friends attend your elopement, you may also want to use this space for a cute backyard reception too.
Getting Around: Hawaii's speed limits are lower than the mainland USA. Due to high levels of traffic on Oahu in combination with the traffic regulations, there's a chance it could take hours to get from one side of the island to the other. Because of these reasons, location is crucial - however, it's also common to drive around 30 minutes to an hour from your accommodation to your ceremony location.
One other thing to note is that Airbnbs are reserved for monthly rentals on Oahu. If you want to stay on the island for less time, I'd recommend looking into the following hotels & resorts:
HONOLULU / WAIKIKI - The Hub of Tourism
WAIANAE (LEEWARD / WEST SIDE) - Primarily Undeveloped, Except Ko Olina Resort Area
NORTH SHORE - Laid Back, Surf Town Vibes
WINDWARD EAST (KANEOHE / KAILUA) - The Wet & Green Residential Part
Bonus idea: Hawaii Surf Campers is an option for the adventure lovers! Rent a restored camper van (mostly VW buses) with everything you need to travel around the island. Each van includes a bed, a stove, kitchen supplies, and a shower hose.
The BEST Places to Elope in Oahu
AKA Oahu 'Wedding Venues'
Odds are, if you're reading about how to elope, you're seeking an experience. An elopement doesn't mean that your day will be "less than" a traditional wedding. Hawaii offers this and more with its beautiful sceneries and endless adventures, plus a laid-back vibe. Pretty much anywhere you look in Oahu is an incredible view so when it comes to choosing your elopement location, you really can't go wrong. Whether you want to saw "I Do" next to a majestic waterfall or run around on the beach on your wedding day, you're guaranteed to have the adventure of a lifetime. The opportunities for beautiful elopement locations are endless, so I'll try to keep this short:
Crouching Lion: For the more adventurous couples, this requires a hike up a steep incline, where eventually you'll get to one of the most stunning views of Oahu's mountains and the Pacific Ocean's crystal blue waters. The sunrise or sunset from this viewpoint will absolutely leave you speechless. In order to be prepared, be sure to have the hiking essentials (food, water, shoes with good traction) in addition to the wedding essentials. You'll want to wear different clothes to hike in than your wedding or elopement outfits. You may also want to bring a hairbrush, makeup for touchups, and wipes or a towel for sweat.
This location is on the East Side of the island, which experiences high amounts of rain. The hike becomes pretty dangerous after rainfall, so please have a back-up location in case of weather.
Parking for this location is a little turnout a couple hundred feet away from the hike entrance. You'll see other hikers parked there too!
Makapu'u Lookout and Lighthouse Trail: This area offers many gorgeous spots for your Oahu elopement. The trail itself is paved with a moderate incline and is about a two mile distance roundtrip. I would give yourself about 30 to 45 minutes to hike up to the top, but there's also a bunch of spots on your way up to have the ceremony! Many people recommend the views on this trail for sunrise too. If you aren't a hiker, there are also great spots at the base of the mountain.
The lookout can get pretty busy, so I'd recommend having your elopement on a weekday. If you opt for a sunrise elopement, you can park along the street since the parking lot doesn't open until 7 am.
Ka'ena Point Trail: This trail leads to a lookout on the northwestern tip of the island. This is a popular spot for both engagement sessions or elopements! It's one of the best spots for sunset and a great getaway from the busyness in Waikiki. It's also the greatest place to see the stars once the sun goes down!
You can find parking either on the North Shore or in Waianae. If you do opt to walk far out on the Trail, make sure to bring headlamps for the walk back. I'd also recommend bringing comfortable shoes to change into for the walk until you reach where you'll be taking photos, as the terrain is too uneven for heels.
Kualoa Regional Park Beach: This narrow beach has amazing views of Mokoli'i (Chinaman's Hat) and the Kualoa Mountains. This location is perfect if you want both the ocean and the mountains in your background!
Waimanalo Beach: This beach is about 3 miles long, one of the longest stretches of white sand beach on Oahu. It also features shade from ironwood trees, as well as the Ko'olau mountains and several islands in the distance. This beach is one of the only beaches on the island that allows you to set up an arch and chairs for your guests (on weekdays only though!) should you want to invite family and friends to your elopement.
Kahana Bay Beach
Halona Beach Cove
Ma'auka Ridge Trail
Wa'ahilla Ridge Trail
Things to Do in Oahu Before, During, or After Your Elopement
Check out the North Shore! Known for its unreal sunset views, this part of the island is home to delicious shave ice, the Banzai Pipeline, and sea turtles, of course. The North Shore is very laid back and less touristy than the island's hub, Waikiki. It truly feels like paradise!
My favorite beaches are Banzai Beach for surfing, Sharks Cove for swimming with marine life, and Leftovers Surf Break to watch the sunset.
Bonus idea: Check out the famous Sunrise Shack for incredible coffee and delicious smoothie bowls!
If you and your partner are more of the active couple, you may be drawn to Oahu for all of the hiking trails the island has to offer. Here are a few of my favorites:
Lanikai Trailhead: Located about a half hour from Honolulu, it's about 30 minutes to the first pill box view, then another 10 to the second. You're in for some spectacular views, and you're close to the beach for a refreshing swim post hike! The beach here doesn't have as many waves, so it's perfect for a relaxing dip in the turquoise waters.
Olomana / Three Peaks Trailhead: This is a 4.4-mile out-and-back trail near Kailua, Oahu. It's pretty steep and strenuous, so I wouldn't recommend hiking this if you have minimal experience. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the first peak. From there, it gets steeper and more challenging, so you have to be especially careful heading to the second and third peaks. But once you make it there, the views are absolutely unreal!
Diamond Head Crater Hike: This hike is short and sweet, less than a mile each way. It's also well-maintained, featuring lots of stairs! However, this hike is still a bit steep. Note that it also costs $10 per car or $5 per person walking, so carry some cash with you!
Koko Crater Railway Trailhead: This is one of the more unique hikes I've come across, spanning the distance of an old railroad track! It's also called the stair master workout, because you will definitely be feeling the burn during this hike. It's about 1000 steps to reach the summit, but everyone agrees that the views here are unlike any other! Definitely worth the climb.
Honestly, one of my favorite things to do was take the top off our Jeep Wrangler and drive around the island. Even though Oahu is the busiest Hawaiian island, you'll be surprised how peaceful a drive around the coast will be. I would give yourself an entire day to drive around the full island, but despite how long it takes it'll be so worth it to see all the views!
Even more ideas:
Visit the Dole Plantation and order some Dole Whip.
Witness the history at Pearl Harbor.
Rent kayaks to Kaneohe Sandbar & go tubing.
Go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters at Hanauma Bay.
Visit Downtown Honolulu to check out Chinatown, the Arts District, or Iolani Palace.
Go to a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Oahu Elopement Itinerary Ideas
I hope by now you're feeling super inspired by all that Oahu has to offer for your elopement experience, but if you want to see how these ideas could potentially come together to create the ideal, adventure-filled day, read on for a couple sample itineraries.
A Summer Elopement in Oahu:
Day 1: Wake up early to see sunrise from the peak of one of Oahu's amazing hikes, explore, take all the photos, and then grab a bite to eat at the famous Giovanni's Shrimp Trunk (tip: try the Garlic Shrimp Scampi). Then, go check in at your hotel or airbnb and relax a bit!
Day 2: Spend your morning getting ready together at your Airbnb or hotel, then head to Leonard's Bakery for their delicious malasadas (fried dough with or without filling), then take a hike and explore to find the perfect ceremony spot, share your vows, and take portraits surrounded by epic scenery.
A Winter Elopement in Oahu:
Day 1: Spend your morning on a kayak and enjoy the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, then head over to the Polynesian Cultural Center for an epic luau dining experience. Alternatively, if you go to a luau near Waikiki, you may see fireworks!
Day 2: Share your vows in the morning at the top of a peak overlooking Oahu's gorgeous terrains, adventure to an epic waterfall, then head back to your airbnb or hotel for a private dinner and first dance. Hang out and relax by the water and watch the sunset with your loved one!
What to Wear for Your Oahu Elopement
Eloping in Hawaii doesn't mean you can't wear typical wedding outfits. If you want to rock an awesome custom suit or don the dress of your dreams, you absolutely should - you deserve to look and feel your best on this special day. If you want to opt for an adventure elopement, though, you may want to consider a few extra things:
Main attire: If you want to wear a dress, I recommend something loose and flowy so you can move around comfortably, as tighter, form fitting dresses aren't the best for adventuring when you need to climb or even hop in and out of a car. Plus, flowy dresses are too dreamy for windy settings! If you opt for a suit, just ensure you're 100% comfortable in it. Either way, wear something that you won't mind getting dirty or wet.
Hair and Makeup: I personally think having a professional hair and makeup team makes a huge difference in your day. It can boost your confidence and give you a bit more peace of mind too, plus they're probably used to doing hair and makeup styles that look best for photographs! I do also recommend going with a hairstyle that will still look good after some wind and moisture, as well as waterproof makeup just in case!
Alternate wear: If you opt for an elopement location with a hike, definitely wear different clothes for your journey there, then change into your wedding garments once you have arrived!
Waterproof hiking shoes: For the adventurous couples, this is an absolute must! You'll want to wear something that will keep your feet dry and comfortable as you adventure around. I also recommend something that looks good with your wedding wear, but you can also change your shoes once we start taking photos. Either way, you'll definitely want to have these for the longer stretches of walking or hiking.
Other outfits: If you want to incorporate a few different activities or adventures into your elopement documentation, you can totally bring a few outfits! For example, you may want to do a morning hike before you get ready for your ceremony (or even the day before), so you could bring a more casual outfit. You may also want to take a dip in the ocean after your ceremony, which gives you an opportunity to splurge on nice, cute swimsuits for you two.