Hawai’i is one of the places that is considered among the most beautiful in the world! For that reason, many couples consider getting married, eloping, or honeymooning among the Islands. But there are a few tips you should know that I certainly didn’t find on the internet when I was researching to help clients elope on the islands.
Timing is *everything!* Depending on the time of year you go, you’re looking at very different types of vacations. One vacation is much more expensive, hard to get reservations, and hard to find wedding vendors. The other? The off-season. When the waterfalls are full, the beaches are emptier, and there are more vendors and restaurants with openings.
The reason there’s an off-season when traveling in Hawai’i is because there’s a rainy season, and that doesn’t sound good, does it?
But hear me out.
Waterfalls are amazing during the rainy season, because of the rain. A lot of them all but dry up when it’s not the rainy season. If you’re interested in waterfalls, you’re going to need to consider going around the rainy season. I’ve gone on many hikes to see waterfalls and at the end, found a faint trickle of water coming down a rock. That’s not what I went for.
I’ve also timed things perfectly so when I showed up, it wasn’t raining, (but it was a jungle, so it was drizzling off and on) but the waterfalls were full and fast, and it felt sacred and amazing- the perfect place to elope or to have your wedding portraits taken.
The nice thing about the “rainy season?” Just the title of a “rainy” season deters tourists who don’t do their research. They may be picturing typhoons or hurricanes and immediately start searching for tickets in the middle of tourist season. But if you’re willing to do your research, you could find the best of both worlds- less crowds and more waterfalls.
You may think to yourself, “I’ll just go to this beach at sunrise and beat the crowds to see the turtles?” but you would be mistaken. Everyone is going at sunrise to “beat the crowds” so it’s less about outsmarting the masses, and more about knowing which places to go to, and which places to avoid. Your planner or photographer should have experience navigating the Islands, or at least have an excellent track record of researching their venues and portrait session locations firsthand, and having connections on the island. You need a guide, not someone to “wing it” and come up with 3 backup plans on the spot.
When you picture Hawai’i, you picture beaches, don’t you? Of course! They are some of the most beautiful in the world! But here’s the thing- because of the internet, you can’t just google “best beaches near me” because the beaches that are on the top of the list for you- those are on the top for everyone. Everyone’s going to go to that beach and then you have random people sunning in the back of your photos.
Which leads me to my next point: your photos.
Obviously if you’re eloping or getting married on Hawai’i, you’re looking for quality photos of a very important time in your life. Everyone in Hawai’i has a camera because it’s a beautiful place. If you have a camera, you eventually dabble in couples’ photography and maybe even weddings.
So it’s crucial to do your research and make sure the person you’re hiring is an actual professional, and not someone who has a beautiful instagram with a bunch of lucky shots. There are literally thousands of photographers in Hawai’i because they all want to capture beauty, but many of them are still hobbyists, but who charge because their time is worth something. But hiring a hobbyist comes with several risks, the first being, that you might not ever get your photos back. The second being- that they just aren’t good photos.
Newer photographers and hobbyists don’t have the experience to offer security features that are adequate for Hawai’i weddings or elopements. They probably don’t have dual memory cards, external drives, backup equipment, or fireproof safes and secure servers. All of that is expensive, and hobbyists or newer photographers don’t usually offer those features just because they’re newer and they’re learning. That’s fine if that’s what you’re looking for, we’ve all been there, but in a place with lots of sand and water- the two most deadly things to cameras, you want to be in good hands and pay the extra cost for a professional experience and result.
PHOTOBOMBERS + PHOTOSHOPPING
One more point regarding your photos, and a common issue regarding photography in Hawaii.
I’m a luxury wedding and elopement photographer, so a lot of what I’m writing has a lot to do with the image of your trip and the way you will look back on it and remember it. So you need to plan ahead regarding background people or photobombers! See this gallery of a hidden beach in Oahu? There were lots of distracting elements in the background that I had to take out, which I enjoyed especially for the magical end result!
At some point during your wedding day, you’ll of course want to have photos on a beach or at a waterfall, if the wedding itself isn’t outside- and there are most likely going to be background people swimming, walking dogs, surfing, sunbathing, or playing volleyball. Is your photographer able to take those photobombers out, and/or work in a way that doesn’t showcase background clutter in your images? Photoshopping is intensely difficult and unless an image is taken intentionally to be photoshopped later, you’re probably not going to be able to get the random grandpa and his pina colada out from the background.
WHEN DO I GO?
My personal favorite time to travel the Hawaiian Islands? Late March-Early April. Right at the very end of the rainy season, when it’s not a gushing downpour, and the rains are warm and light– but the waterfalls are full. However, there is a downside to this timing- the trails, and the fact that they may be extra wet.
If you want to find waterfalls or do any exploring in nature, the trails on the islands are life-threateningly treacherous. (I am an avid hiker and most of our vacations include rigorous hikes among the Colorado Rockies or equally challenging areas to hike) The trails are not well marked and it is incredibly easy to go off course and get very lost. It’s best to have a guide, make friends with locals and hike with them, or be willing to turn back the moment you’re uncertain about which way to go. On one morning hike I did on Oahu, five rescue helicopters flew overhead looking for tourists who were too bold and got lost and injured. A friend of mine who lives in Hawaii, a firefighter, said that a large chunk of the fire department budget goes to helicopter rescues of tourists every single year.
It’s hard to narrow down which Island you want to get married or elope on! So I’ll make it easier for you! There aren’t a lot of venues on the big island (which is Hawai’i) so it’s better suited for elopements- as long as you could get a permit for Volcano National Park- which you may not be able to. The Big Island has a lot more barren/desert terrain and is incredibly lovely, but it doesn’t have that lush jungle foliage you’re probably picturing.
Oahu is a great choice for weddings or elopements. There are a variety of venues sprinkled throughout the island, and you can always rent a private estate or bed and breakfast for your wedding. However, it’s the most crowded island. Waikiki is an incredibly crowded area and while there are wedding venues there, the crowds are very full and it’s very difficult to get around sometimes due to the number of people. There’s a huge late-night crowd so if you love to party, this is a good place to visit. I don’t personally think it’s a very good place to have a hotel because it is quite chaotic.
Maui is considered the less-busy Oahu, and also has its fair share of venues. It has the beautiful jungle foliage the islands are famous for, and less crowds. It’s a lot more family-friendly as well. For those reasons, Maui is my personal favorite choice for weddings or elopements.
My last suggestion would be Kauai. It’s smaller, quieter, and more secluded. Because it’s smaller, there are less options for venues, but my personal recommendation is to book a private estate or bed and breakfast. Maui is my first choice for weddings or elopements.
TAXES AND FEES
Here’s a little fun fact for the numbers people. Taxes in Hawaii are higher than almost every other state in the country, and for that reason, small businesses, like planners or wedding photographers and videographers, simply have to charge more. Small businesses are charged at an extremely high rate in every state, but in Hawaii that rate is higher than anywhere else. For this reason, if you’re already attached to your proposal/engagement photographer, it may be worth your while to fly them in for the wedding versus trying to find someone local. The travel fees are often less than the in-state tax rate.
WHERE TO SHOP
I learned this last tip on the final day of my most recent stay in Hawaii and I was very disappointed that I didn’t know it up front! Get a Costco membership before you go to the Island because Costco often has mainland prices for food. Many of the small stores around the island cater to tourists, and I’ve spent $15 on microwave meals way too many times before I learned this tip.
RESPECT THE LANDS
It’s important to know that while this is a special vacation for you- the Islands of Hawaii were quite literally stolen by the United States of America, and that has caused the islanders lots of pain. Our military base, Pearl Harbor, was installed on Oahu, and later bombed during world war II, and this would have never happened if America hadn’t stolen the islands.
The islanders hold that recent history close to their heart and while they are loving and warm, and treat everyone with the spirit of “aloha,” you need to be respectful. Don’t carve your names in trees or leave your trash. Don’t break posted rules, and use common sense. I’ve seen way too many ancient rocks defaced with someone’s initials carved in them and it’s incredibly disrespectful. You would also get well-deserved fines. So don’t forget that your important time of life is taking place in a historic culture with locals who will be very insulted if you don’t treat them, and their home, with care.
Most Hawaiians will tell you to visit their sacred spots and learn more about the culture of the Islands when you come, so you can better respect them. Two good places to do that are the Lolani Palace, and the Byodo-in Temple. I recommend you make time during your trip to visit these landmarks and show respect to the native culture as you grow your knowledge of a very old and very important culture.
I have a private list of other tips to share with my wedding and elopement photography clients, but I can’t expose all the tips and secrets I learned while spending time on the Islands to the internet because I want to do my part in respecting the islands and the locals. Additionally, I do have to reserve some secrets for my clients who are paying for a top-notch guided experience. I’m able to share specific restaurants, waterfalls, hikes, hidden beaches, and words of caution with my clients through an invite-only guide. If you’re interested in eloping or having a wedding on Hawai’i, reach out to me to discuss your custom Hawaiian Wedding.
To learn more tips, see more photos of exclusive Hawaiian portrait sessions, or inquire about my wedding photography services, view this link: https://www.fernandfountain.com/photo
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m Emily, a traveling luxury elopement and wedding photographer making joyful images of raw connection and capturing the fleeting moments of beautiful light. I’ve been in the industry for five years and have photographed couples from Iceland to Hawaii. My couples love to dress up for a night on the town but also might kick off their heels and jump in the pool with their friends!
WeddingsAbroad.com is ever changing, providing the means for couples to find the most romantic, unique setting for their special day. Want to chat with like minded brides and grooms, or ask some expert advice from our wedding professionals worldwide? Then join our private group on facebook www.facebook.com/groups/weddingsabroad