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The picturesque mountain views, pristine beaches, and lush vegetation of Kauai, Hawaii makes it one of the best places to elope in the US. Kauai is the furthest west of the main islands, and is nicknamed the garden isle due to the tropical rainforest covering most of the land. The island is home to the Nā Pali coast which is one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world, with towering sea cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. Kauai is a place that changed my life, and through all of my years traveling the world, it still remains my favorite place I have ever been. Filled with stunning views, hidden waterfalls, tropical reefs, and so much opportunity for adventure – Kauai truly is the perfect place for an elopement. I created this Kauai elopement guide as a resource to guide you through the process of planning your Kauai elopement!
How to elope in Kauai
I know planning a Kauai elopement (or an elopement anywhere for that matter) can feel stressful! You have so much freedom in the choices you get to make, which can ultimately feel overwhelming. Luckily, most of the decisions you will be making are actually fun. Instead of choosing things like seating charts for 200 guests, you are choosing which tropical beach you want to say your vows on! Here are the 6 basic steps to planning a Kauai elopement:
- Book your Kauai elopement photographer! I always recommend hiring your elopement photographer first, because they will be able to assist you throughout the rest of the planning process! Get in touch here!
- Choose the location you want to say your vows + any other areas you want to explore and take photos at on your elopement day!
- I’ll help you plan out all the details of your day like booking lodging, creating a day of timeline, vendor recommendations, and anything else you need help with!
- Apply for any necessary Kauai elopement permits, and secure your marriage license!
- Elope! We will explore Kauai, soak in all the amazing views, eat some good food, and celebrate your marriage!
Getting to Kauai
Kauai might feel like this far away, hard to reach place with super expensive flights, but I haven’t found that to be true. To get to Kauai, you’ll want to fly into the Lihue Airport (LIH). Flight prices typically range from $300-$700 depending on where you are flying from, but I have always found flight deals on the cheaper end of that spectrum! Lihue also has lots of direct flights, so if you are flying from a major airport, you’ll probably have some great flight options! I recommend using Google Flights when searching for a flight! If you have a bit of flexibility in your schedule then this will be the best way to find the best prices!
You will also need to rent a car when you travel to Kauai! The island is small, but you’ll still need to drive around to explore! You can always rent a car from one of the main rental car companies at the airport, but I’ve also found Turo to be a great option when traveling to Kauai!
Kauai elopement laws and permits
Every elopement location has pros and cons, and the main drawback to an elopement in Kauai is the restrictive permitting system. The Hawaiian government is extremely strict when it comes to elopements and commercial photography, so the process of acquiring the proper permits and approvals can be lengthy and a bit of a headache. As an elopement photographer, I spend a lot of time guiding my couples through permitting processes.
To obtain a Kauai marriage license, you’ll need to fill out the application online, and pay the $60 fee. You can find the application and all information here about getting your Kauai marriage license. You’ll need to present the application in person to a marriage license agent in Hawaii. Once you receive your marriage license, it will be valid for 30 days.
You will need to hire a state-approved performer to legally marry you in Kauai. Unfortunately this means that you won’t be able to have a friend or family member marry you. Once you’ve hired your officiant, and received your marriage license, then you are ready to go! Here are a few Kauai officiants that you can hire to perform your ceremony:
Like I mentioned, Kauai is very restrictive and strict when it comes to permits! A good rule of thumb is that any location that is not on private property will require a permit. There are two different types of permits you will likely need for your elopement day – a permit for your wedding ceremony, and a permit for commercial filming (aka photography).
If you are choosing to hold your ceremony outside of a venue (on public lands) then you will likely need a permit for the location you choose to say your vows at. If you want to get married in a state park, you’ll need to apply for a special use permit. You can see more information on Kauai special use permits here. There are pre approved ceremony locations, and to be perfectly honest, they are not that great! I would typically advise against holding your ceremony on public lands.
The easiest location to hold your elopement ceremony on Kauai is a beach. The permitting system is super quick and straightforward. All you will need is a Wiki Beach permit, which costs a whopping $20. You can acquire a Wiki permit for any unencumbered shoreline, which basically includes all public beaches on Kauai. You can see the list of Wiki Beach permit locations here. This is my top recommendation for a Kauai elopement, due to the ease and low cost.
If none of the pre approved ceremony locations on Kauai fit what you are looking for, you can always hold a commitment ceremony in a different location. This means that while you would be legally married at one of the approved locations, you can say your vows and commit your lives to one another at any location of your choosing (as long as commercial photography is permitted).
The other permit that you will need to consider is the commercial use permit! This permit will be needed for any location that you want to explore and take photos on your elopement day. The cost of the permit is $110, and you will need a separate permit for each location you want to explore. It’s also important to keep in mind that not every location on Kauai will allow for commercial use.
When to elope in Kauai
Now this is a tough one because Kauai has gorgeous weather year round. Kauai is a tropical island, which means it doesn’t really ever get cold or experience seasonality like the rest of the US! It stays warm and sunny throughout most of the year, with slight variations in weather during different months. You really can’t go wrong planning your Kauai elopement at any time of year. There are a couple different factors to consider when planning your Kauai elopement:
Kauai’s peak tourist season is the summer months, from June – September. During this time of year, you’ll find an increase in crowds, and prices. While Kauai is one of the lesser visited Hawaiian islands, and really doesn’t see nearly the same amount of tourism as the other islands, I still recommend avoiding the busiest months to have a more enjoyable elopement experience.
Kauai’s shoulder seasons are when the magic happens! If you are looking to save money and avoid the crowds, I typically recommend eloping in Kauai anytime between April – early June, and late September – mid December. During these months, you will find lower prices for flights, rental cars, and accommodations (which is a huge bonus), and tons of privacy and seclusion, due to the lower rates of tourism. The weather is also fantastic during this time of year.
Kauai is home to the wettest spot on earth, so you can imagine, it gets pretty rainy. It rains every single day somewhere on the island. The good news is that the rain tends to happen in the form of a light drizzle, and it comes and goes quite quickly, moving to a different area of the island. Because Kauai is a tropical island, it technically only experiences two seasons, the dry(er) season and the wet season. The wet season typically occurs from November – March, so if you are really worried about rain and cloudy days, I’d recommend avoiding those months! The reality is though, if you are eloping on Kauai at any point during the year, be prepared for a little rain! It is almost unavoidable.
The different areas of Kauai
Kauai is a small island, which makes it perfect for exploring! You can easily drive from one end of the island to another within a couple hours. There are 4 distinct areas where you can stay in Kauai, + the remote Nā Pali coast. Each one has a totally different vibe and pros and cons to it. The great news is that where you stay really doesn’t matter too much, because of how easily accessible and small the island is.
Nā Pali coast:
If you look at a map of Kauai, you’ll notice that there are no roads or towns on the Northwest shore of the island. That’s because this area is made up of the Nā Pali coastline, and is only accessible by a grueling hike, boat, or helicopter. This area is absolutely magnificent, and one of the most iconic shorelines in the world, with jagged cliffs towering above the turquoise ocean water. I highly recommend taking a boat tour out along the Nā Pali coast, because it will literally take your breath away.
The North shore of Kauai is by far my personal favorite area of the island. It’s the furthest area away from Lihue (the largest city on Kauai), so I find it to be less populated than the rest of the island. It’s also the most stunning! This area is covered in lush, tropical rainforest, with jagged mountains that tower above the shorelines, speckled with waterfalls and low hanging clouds. My favorite beaches in the world are located on the north shore, with incredible coral reefs to snorkel and hidden coves to explore. Because of how lush this side of the island is, it does have a higher chance of rain! But in my opinion, it’s well worth it. The north shore is also home to some of the best food on Kauai, with so many incredible food trucks where you can find fresh poke bowls, juices, acai bowls and more.
Kauai’s East shore is home to Lihue, and the most populated area of the island. Here you will find lots of shopping, places to stay, and things to do. This side of the island is pretty lush with quite a few different waterfalls to explore as well! And you can’t go wrong with any of the beaches! The East shore is a nice area to stay due to how centrally located it is. Although I love the other areas of Kauai a bit more, by staying around the East shore, you can easily pop over to other areas of the island!
The South shore of Kauai is the sunniest part of the island, which means it’s also the warmest! It’s also quite populated just like the East shore. This area has tons of fun things to do, like cultural activities, water sports, golfing, and more. There’s also Poipu beach, which is one of my favorite beaches to visit on Kauai! The last time I was there I got to swim with 2 monk seals (from a safe distance), and it was incredible.
The West side of Kauai is one of the most underrated areas in my opinion. This is the most remote area of the island, with limited lodging options, and often completely empty beaches. Of course there is the popular Waimea Canyon, which is also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and for good reason. Waimea Canyon is incredible, with colorful jagged cliffs, panoramic views of the ocean thousands of feet below, waterfalls everywhere and tons of rainbows! Waimea canyon is seriously a magical place, and one of my top recommendations for a location to explore for a Kauai elopement. Beyond Waimea Canyon, the West shore has some quirky little towns to visit, as well as one of my favorite secluded beaches in Polihale State Park. This side of the island is also pretty sunny, and I found the water to be warmest here (which felt incredible for someone who is a baby about cold water).
Where to stay for your Kauai elopement:
Now that you know about the different shores of Kauai you can start looking into accommodations. I highly recommend splurging a bit on where you stay for your Kauai elopement, if you can. I seriously think accommodations are one of the most important parts of an elopement day. It’s where you will be starting your morning, getting ready, and eventually ending the evening. Staying at a beautiful resort will enhance your elopement experience so much. Here are a few of my favorite places to stay for an elopement in Kauai:
Kauai elopement locations
Choosing your elopement location is one of the most important decisions you make when planning your day. The amazing thing about Kauai is that there is so much diversity in the landscape. Not only are there incredible, pristine beaches, but there are also rocky canyons, cascading waterfalls, lush rainforests, and so much more! And with how small and accessible the island is, you can easily explore multiple places all throughout your elopement day. There are so many different ways to explore too – you can hike, kayak, snorkel, take a helicopter tour, or even take a boat along the coast. When choosing your location, you’ll want to consider the scenery, how private it will be, and how accessible it is!
Here are a few of my favorite Kauai elopement locations:
Tunnels Beach is a magical place where the mountains meet the ocean. It’s actually my favorite beach in the world, with golden yellow sand and turquoise blue water. The water is filled with coral reefs, and caverns made of lava (hence the name). It’s also an incredible spot to watch the sun set behind the lush, tropical mountains! This is definitely one of my favorite places for a Kauai elopement.
Waimea Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on Kauai, and possibly the world! With tons of trails to explore, waterfalls to find, and epic viewpoints to soak in, Waimea Canyon is the perfect place to explore on your elopement day. Because of the limited ceremony location options, I don’t recommend planning to make things official here, but I definitely recommend adventuring around and taking amazing sunset photos!
Secret Beach is another favorite spot of mine, located on the North shore! To reach the beach, it requires a short, but steep hike down a trail. The beach is gorgeous, with lava rocks and tide pools to explore. The sunset at Secret Beach is also stunning.
Kauai elopement ideas / Things to do in Kauai
You seriously could never get bored in Kauai. There is a never ending list of things to do, from water activities, to incredible hikes, to relaxing in luxury. Here is a list of my top, not to miss activities to do while you are visiting:
- Kayak the Hanalei river
- Snorkel Tunnels beach
- Hike to Hideaways beach
- Sunset cruise of the Nā Pali coast
- Hike the Kalalau trail
- Watch the sun set at Secret Beach
- Explore the Waimea Canyon
- Whale watching
- Look for sunrise shells at Polihale State Park
- Visit Queen’s Bath and watch the sea turtles
- Take a helicopter tour around the island
- Visit the Princeville botanical gardens
- Tour the Koloa Rum Company
- Snorkel Anini Beach
- Attend a Luau
- Take surfing lessons
- Explore Wailua falls
- Hike to Hanakapiai Beach
Where to eat in Kauai
Kauai has some of the best food I have ever eaten. Avoid the fancy, resort style restaurants like the plague, and instead opt for the food trucks, hole in the wall spots, and even the supermarkets. That’s where you’ll find some of the best local, fresh food of your life.
- If you are visiting Kauai, you absolutely need to eat poke for basically every meal of the day. My favorite place to get poke is a food truck called Hanalei Poke.
- After all my time exploring Kauai, I have come to find that the absolute best food comes from hole in the wall places, like the Hanalei Food Trucks. The resort style restaurants always left us disappointed.
- Kalalea Juice Hale hands down has the best acai bowls on the island. This is a necessary daily stop.
- Hawaiian Shave Ice is NOT to be confused with shaved ice. This is an entirely different, and far better food than the typical snowcone.
- You can’t miss out on a Hawaiian style hot dog, also known as a Puka Dog. I still dream of Puka Dogs, and have even tried to recreate them unsuccessfully multiple times.
- Don’t forget to grab a fresh juice from Kauai Juice Co – a local’s favorite spot!
Kauai elopement vendors
Choosing which vendors you want to hire can have a big impact on your day. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. Over the past few years I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of which vendors are worth considering for your elopement day. Take a look through the list I have provided, and start to consider which vendors you would like to include in your Kauai elopement.
My number one advice when you start planning your elopement is to find your photographer FIRST. A great elopement photographer will not only be able to take gorgeous photos for you, but also use their expertise and knowledge to guide you through the steps of planning your elopement, and ensure you have an incredible experience. Investing in a good photographer is truly priceless, they will be the most important vendor you choose for your elopement. Eloping in Kauai can be complicated and confusing at times, so you’ll especially want to hire someone who is local, and knowledgeable about the area.
For elopement photographers, of course I’m going to recommend myself! Not only do I specialize in helping couples elope in Kauai but I also like to think I take pretty decent photos ;). Check out my Kauai Elopement Photographer page for more info about working with me!
Hair & Makeup:
About half my brides will choose to hire a hair & makeup artist, and half will choose to do it themselves! While it’s definitely not necessary to hire a h&mu artist, it can be a great thing to splurge on, especially if you think it will make you feel incredible during your elopement! Here are a few of my favorite Kauai hair & makeup artists:
I always highly recommend couples to hire an incredible florist for their elopement day. Florals seriously make all the difference, even if you just get a simple bouquet! This is a great way to add a gorgeous touch to your day, and make it feel extra special. Here are some of my favorite Kauai florists:
How much does it cost to elope in Kauai
How much your Kauai elopement costs will vary drastically depending on a variety of factors. My biggest recommendation to my couples is to always prioritize what matters most to you, invest in those things and ditch the rest.
If you want to stay at a luxurious resort, have a private helicopter tour around the island, and end the night with a chef cooking you a multi course meal, that is obviously going to cost more than a simple ceremony at the beach and an adventurous hike! My best advice is to really be honest with yourself about what your priorities are, and invest in those things, rather than going for a bunch of budget options so you can have a bit of everything. Eloping is about doing what you WANT to do, so don’t get caught up in all of the things you “should” do. One thing to note, when you choose to invite guests to your elopement things will inevitably be more expensive and more complex to plan – so just keep that in mind when you are choosing who to invite.
Here is a breakdown of the different costs associated with eloping in Kauai:
Photographer: $4,800 – $8500
Wedding dress / attire: $500-$3000
Marriage License: $60
Flights to Kauai (for 2): $800-1500
Accommodations for 3 nights: $600 – $3000
Rental car for 3 days: $350
Catering / food: $75 – $300
Special details (personal vow books / invitation suites etc.): $45 – $200
Ready to plan your Kauai elopement?
I specialize in helping couples have the elopement of their DREAMS in Kauai. Kauai is my favorite place in the entire world, and there is nothing I love more than getting to share this special place with others. This island truly changed my life, and I can’t think of a more magical place to commit your lives to one another than this tropical paradise.
My role as photographer goes waaaay beyond just taking incredible photos (although I do a lot of that too). I’m here to walk you through every step to plan your incredible Kauai elopement adventure. Beyond just a gallery of AMAZING photos, when you book with me you get:
- My 70+ page elopement planning guide – exclusive only to my couples
- A “get to know you” questionnaire so I can learn all about you two + the your dream elopement
- A customized list of INCREDIBLE locations to choose from
- Vendor recommendations so you can book your vendor dream team
- Assistance with acquiring the proper permits (all the boring legal stuff)
- A hand crafted day of elopement timeline
- Plus any other help you need!
Let’s do this thing! Contact me here and we can get started planning your dream elopement experience!