Kauai is, irrefutably, the most magical, romantic, adventurous, relaxing, enchanting elopement destination on the planet. This is not an opinion. It is fact. And if you try to refute that we will fight you. JK we’re huggers not fighters 😉 But seriously, Kauai is the most amazing place to elope for sooo many reasons. By the time you’re done reading this Kauai elopement guide, we bet you’ll have Kayak open in another tab, searching flights to LIH. I mean, where else can you swim with sea turtles in the morning, hike through a Grand Canyon-look-alike in the afternoon, and catch sunset on a dramatic mountain cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean? Kauai, that’s where.
↓ Keep reading to learn all about Kauai elopements and trip planning! ↓
KAUAI, THE ISLAND OF ADVENTURE (ELOPEMENTS)
Of all the Hawaiian islands, it’s easy to see why Kauai has been dubbed the “Island of Adventure.” Between the Na Pali coast, Waimea Canyon, and the mystical Mt. Wai’ale’ale, you have three world-class natural wonders to explore within this relatively tiny 562 square miles of land. When you visit Kauai, you don’t just go to relax on a perfect beach (although some of the most pristine beaches are found here). You also go to experience tropical adventure and jaw-dropping views like nowhere else in the world.
The combination of tropical paradise and epic adventure makes Kauai such an amazing elopement destination. Imagine saying your vows on the edge of a cliff high above the Na Pali coast, or below a 100+ ft waterfall surrounded by lush jungle vegetation, or along a rugged coastline with the waves crashing around you, or standing on the precipice of the Grand Canyon of the Pacific…so. many. options. And the best part? All these features are crammed into such a small area that you can feasibly visit multiple spots in the same day. And then after your wedding, you can jump right into the honeymoon.
Despite being a major tourist destination, Kauai has somehow managed to keep a low key vibe. Even the most touristy parts still feel more laid back than your average beach resort. I (Brandon) traveled there for my first time on a family vacation almost 20 years ago, and I can honestly say not much has changed since! It’s important to remember that this place is just as special to the locals as it is to us visitors and there’s a reason it’s remained so authentic. When you visit, please respect the island and the people who live there. The locals are friendly and with our help, this will remain very special place for many more years to come!
WHERE TO ELOPE IN KAUAI: AN ISLAND OVERVIEW
There is no shortage of breathtaking spots to elope in Kauai. The problem isn’t finding the ceremony location, it’s deciding which one is the one. There are so many incredible elopement locations on this island. Sometimes, you can even visit a few of these spots in the same day!
For starters, it’s good to have a general idea of what spots are found on the different sides of the island. The north shore is the gateway to the Na Pali coast and home to the best snorkeling beaches on the island. It’s also home to Hanalei, an artsy surf town with a killer weekend farmers market.
On the east side, you’ll find some of the best waterfall and jungle hikes. It’s also the most populated area on Kauai so there are lots of options for food and bars, particularly around Kapa’a and Lihue (where the airport is).
The south shore is the most touristy side of the island, specifically the town of Poi’pu where all the big resorts are. But that doesn’t mean you should skip it. Some of the best hotels are here and there are tons of great spots for scenic coastal hiking, snorkeling, and cliff jumping.
Plus, it’s a great base camp for exploring the west side of the island, where you’ll find Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park, two must-see spots for any Kauai trip.
NORTH SHORE KAUAI ELOPEMENT SPOTS
The North shore of Kauai is a great place to elope, especially if you’re getting married during the summer. That’s when the north shore waters are calmest and safest for swimming and snorkeling. But even in the winter you can still snorkel at many of the great beaches most days.
Whether you elope up here or just visit before or after the big day, definitely plan to spend a couple days exploring this area. The Kuhio Highway road was still closed when we were here recently (from a major rainstorm and landslide in April 2018) so we didn’t get to explore most of the best spots on the North Shore. But it has since reopened and we can’t wait to get back!
Pro tip! Buy a cheap case for your iphone so you can take sweet underwater pics of fishies and turtles. We snorkeled almost every day we were in Kauai. It’s so amazing to float around and watch the sea life, then swim back to shore and crack a beer while drying off in the warm tropical sun.
The Hanalei farmers market is a must! So delicious. So scenic. Grab some local food for your elopement picnic here and hit the trails! Plus, you’ll probably get to hear a live rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon (who lives here).
EAST SIDE KAUAI ELOPEMENT SPOTS
The East side of Kauai is all about the jungle ridge hikes, waterfalls, and swimming holes. Of course, there are plenty of great beaches to relax and snorkel at too. But our favorite memories from this side of the island were hearing the sounds of the jungle while traversing a mountain ridge during sunset and jumping from a two-tier waterfall after a long romp up a riverbed. After you work up an appetite with all the adventuring, we recommend grabbing a meal at The Local Kauai.
This cool tree is on the way up to an incredible jungle ridge hike we also did on the east side. This trail was definitely a keeper for Kauai elopements. It had all kinds of great photo ops along the way. From this perch, we could see miles into the interior of the garden isle.
SOUTH SHORE KAUAI ELOPEMENT SPOTS
Kauai’s south shore is home to beautiful beach resorts and some of the prettiest stretches of coastline on the Hawaiian islands. Poipu is a great spot to base your kauai elopement adventures. There are plenty of beach resorts to stay at and you’ll be central to the west, south, and east side. The waters are calmest on the south shore in the winter months, when a tropical getaway is extra nice.
We highly recommend grabbing an espresso at Aloha Roastery in Koloa, just a few minutes up the road from the resorts in Poipu.
WEST SIDE KAUAI ELOPEMENT SPOTS
The west side is where you’ll find Kauai’s best and most iconic views. Waimea is the last major town you’ll hit on your drive west. From there, you can keep driving west to a remote and expansive beach where you can camp and catch a killer sunset. Or you can turn up into the mountains and check out the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon.
Keep driving a little farther and you’ll reach Koke’e State Park, home to those iconic Na Pali coast ridge views, plus a bunch of other amazing and adventurous hikes. You can wander out along sketchy, narrow ridges or hike through one of the highest swamps in the world. Some of the trails here will lead you into the heart of Kauai’s mountains and one of the rainiest places on earth, Mt. Wai’ale’ale. It’s magical and mystical and entirely breathtaking.
Before you go adventuring in the mountains, do yourself a favor and grab a shave ice from the best shave ice spot on Kauai, Jo Jo’s!
After having their ceremony on the beach, we all drove up to catch some views at Waimea Canyon. We found this little secret spot and had this postcard view of the Waipo’o Falls all to ourselves…and the occasional helicopter.
If you follow the road past Waimea Canyon, you’ll eventually reach this viewpoint of the Na Pali coast. Clouds move in and out of here frequently, but when you catch it when it’s clear there’s nothing else like it.
This is probably the coolest trail we’ve ever been on. No joke. You traverse narrow ridges and get sweeping valley views out over the Na Pali coast like nobody’s business. We even saw a family of wild mountain goats prancing around! Unfortunately, we got clouded out from these views on the day of the elopement, but we had a pretty sweet backup spot for sunset (keep scrolling).
Since we got clouded out in Koke’e, we hurried back down the mountain to yet another beautiful spot for sunset. We watched the sun drift all the way down until it disappeared below the horizon, laughing and popping champagne and running around barefoot in the soft red dirt. Kauai is really unbelievably special.
Of course we had to end the elopement with a selfie 😉
KAUAI ELOPEMENT GUIDED TOURS
So we just talked about some of our favorite non-guided and totally free adventures you can do on Kauai. But there are also a bunch of tour companies that can help you take these adventures to a whole other level. Whether you’re traveling to Kauai for an elopement or just a vacation, it’s worth the time and money to check out at least one of these options.
Experience Kauai from a whole new perspective on a Helicopter Tour: There are a handful of helicopter tour companies in Kauai that will take you on the most scenic flight of your life. You’ll fly over the island, through the Waimea Canyon, and out along the rugged Na Pali coast. Pro tip: Book the doors off tour for the ultimate experience (and best photo ops).
Take a sunset catamaran ride with dinner and drinks along the Na Pali coast: This boat ride is equal parts luxury and adventure. It’s far from a boring yacht cruise (take some dramamine), but you’ll get to enjoy a nice dinner while sipping mai tais and watching the sun’s final rays kiss the knife blade ridges of the Na Pali coast.
Take a scuba or snorkeling tour and see the best of Kauai’s marine wildlife: There are a variety of guided snorkel tours you can book around the island. Some boats will take you to a small island off the coast of Kauai and other tours take you to the best spots along the remote Na Pali coast. Even though there is great free snorkeling all over Kauai, these tours pretty much guarantee you’ll see some cool stuff.
Kayak the Na Pali Coast: I kayaked the Na Pali coast with my dad and brother over a decade ago and the memories from that adventure are still fresh as the fish my brother’s friend speared with a traditional Hawaiian sling on that trip. We did a private tour and camped a couple of nights as we made our way across the coastline, but you can also do single day trips. You can only kayak the Na Pali coast in the summer months when the north shore waters are calmest though, fyi. There’s nothing else like the up close and personal exposure you get in a kayak to the remote beaches and cliffs and caves of the Na Pali coast.
Take a surf lesson and catch some friendly waves with amazing views: Kauai is home to some of the world’s best swells, or so we’ve heard. There are many places to take surf lessons or rent a board, but it seems like Hanalei is the best spot. The town is basically 50% surf shops. And the views from Hanalei Bay have got to make for the best surf ride ever.
FINAL TIPS FOR YOUR KAUAI ELOPEMENT TRIP PLANNING
- Buy reef-friendly sunscreen! If you buy your sunscreen in Kauai, it should be reef-friendly because that’s all they sell there.
- Stock up on groceries at the beginning of the trip: Pro tip – there’s a Costco in Lihue (airport city).
- If you book an Airbnb, they usually come with beach accessories like chairs, boogie boards, and coolers, which is hugely convenient.
- Rent snorkel gear from Snorkel Bob’s: It’s cheap and convenient and everything you need to see some fish and swim with the turtles. Pro tip – don’t cheap out on the gear. You want the better goggles, trust us.
- Pack hiking shoes/sandals that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy, cause they’re going to get wet and muddy at some point.
- Eat a Shave Ice (or twenty): It’s delicious, especially with macadamia nut ice cream added on the bottom.
- Eat poke from pretty much anywhere: poke is a Hawaiian dish and it’s fresh and oh so delicious on the islands. We particularly loved our bowl from Makai Sushi in Poipu.
- Buy your fruit from local roadside vendors or farmers markets, it’s the freshest!
- Most rental cars will do just fine. But if you want to explore off the beaten path, you should rent a jeep or something with 4×4.
- Go any time of year: There are some pros and cons to visiting in both summer and winter, but nothing is really a con when you’re in Kauai.
- Walk along the beach at night. It’s romantic af.
Oh, you know, just some delicious Kauai eats to seal the deal. Searching for flights yet?
WANT TO ELOPE IN KAUAI?
We travel to Kauai each year, sometimes multiple times a year. If you want to chat about working with us to help plan and photograph your Kauai elopement, hit us up! We’re super passionate about this place and love sharing our experience with couples.