Madison and Brian initially hired me for their 75+ guest wedding at the lovely Kahua Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was important for them to include their nearest and dearest in their wedding. But, they also loved the idea of an adventure shoot for just the two of them but weren’t sure if this were possible.
This is a common predicament for couples.
Can we have a ceremony that includes our family and do an adventure shoot later? The answer is… YES! So, I presented this idea to Madison and Brian and they were stoked. They didn’t have to compromise. They could have their wedding celebration with family and friends and have an intimate adventure elopement in Waipi’o Valley as well.
The morning of our shoot, we met in Waimea at the Waimea Coffee Company (one of my favorite coffee shops on the island), to fuel up with breakfast and coffee. Then we were off on our short 30-minute drive to Waipi’o Valley!
Madison and Brian wanted to hike in rather than drive. I was totally up for this as I LOVE the challenge of a good hike! We had an amazing time down in the valley, playing on the beach and in the trees! We talked about life, marriage, and faith and shared a lot of laughs. The best part? Madison was a total magnet to all of the beautiful and friendly wild horses along on our journey. They wouldn’t leave her alone! So thankful for the experience with these two!
You too can have the Hawaii adventure elopement of your dreams! See how we made it possible for Brian and Madison, tips and tricks for preparing, and ways to make the experience unique to you and your love!
Waipio Valley is located on the stunning Hamakua Coast on Hawaii Island, aka the Big Island. From Kailua-Kona, it’s a short one-hour drive through breathtaking greenery and farmland. Waipio was the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I and is therefore considered a very sacred place. According to Go Hawaii, Waipio Valley was an important center for political and religious life in Hawaii. It’s known as the “Valley of the Kings” and continues to be an important site for Hawaiian history and culture. The valley is a mile wide and almost 6 miles deep. Waipi’o in Hawaiian means, “curved water,” referring to the long and winding river flowing through the valley until it enters the ocean.
Waipi’o Valley can feel otherworldly. For instance, the valley is surrounded by 2,000 ft+ cliffs, and the black sand beach is pristine. If while you’re in the valley you look through the lush greenery in just the right spot, you can see Hawaii island’s tallest waterfall, Hiilawe Falls, cascading 1300ft in the back of Waipi’o valley. Don’t be surprised if you run into wild horses while you’re exploring!
Waipi’o Valley is not easy to access. However, there are a couple of different methods for reaching the valley safely and successfully. You can drive down (a 4×4 vehicle is a 100% must!), or hike down.
If you choose to hike, there is tiny parking near the entrance. If that’s full, you’ll have to park on the side of the road. Residents live on this road, so be respectful of where/how you park your vehicle. Keep your car unlocked with zero valuables in it. This area is known to have a lot of break-ins.
Personally, I prefer hiking over driving. The hike is tough but I love a good challenge. The road itself is only about 1/2 mile but the elevation gain is almost 1,000ft. One of the perks of hiking in, is you get to move at a slower pace. Therefore, you really get to enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley on your way down.
According to a 2014 Huffington Post article, the road down to Waipi’o has ranked the #1 steepest road in the country! Lance Armstrong was quoted saying, “You know it’s steep when the people walking down are walking backward.”
All that to say, this road is extremely dangerous if you don’t drive with caution. It’s a one-way road, so drivers going down must always give the right of way to drivers going up. Avoid driving if there are torrential rains.
Once you reach the bottom of the hill, the road will be Y. Take a right towards the beach. Avoid going left, as the 100+ Hawaiian residents living down in the valley appreciate their neighborhood not being disrupted by tourists.
For a ceremony and adventure shoot, 6 hours is needed for the entire trip! This allows for time to travel in, have the ceremony, marriage license signing, family photos (if there are family members joining), and roughly 4 hours for adventuring!
Almost 100% of my couples see 4 hours and think, “4 hours of getting my photo taken?! That sounds miserable!” I get that for sure! For instance, I don’t love getting my photo taken either. But don’t think of this as your “traditional” style photoshoot. Because it’s not just a photo shoot, it’s an experience! You and your love will be exploring a new part of the world, together. On your wedding day! I’m there to creatively capture it. Therefore, you can be reassured your experience will be fun and not awkward. Be reassured that I do almost zero posing of my couples. It’s my passion to capture moments that are genuine and real.
Lastly, almost ALL of my couples who were previously nervous about having a longer shoot commented to me how surprised they were at how short it felt after the shoot! The time will fly by! Check out another one of my Waipi’o Valley Adventure elopements, where the husband said this very thing.
Yes, you do need to purchase a permit to have any type of shoot in Waipi’o Valley. But your photographer will take care of those details!
No, you cannot bring chairs down. Therefore, your guests will have to stand for your ceremony. Make sure your guests are able to handle the hike/ bumpy drive into the valley. Ceremony archways are not allowed, but a floral circle on the sand or a floral half-circle is okay!
Yes, there is a limit! For instance, you can’t have more than 20 guests for your Waipi’o beach ceremony
One final note*. Waipi’o is such a special place for Hawaiians. Therefore, please be respectful of the land and leave it better than when you found it. Take extreme caution if you attempt to cross the river to the main beach. It can get hairy, especially in the winter months between November and April.
Join our email list and download our free guide to whatever you can offer your clients of value!!