Ultimate Big Island Elopement Guide | Eloping in Hawaii with Two Tides Photography

Wondering if the Big Island is the right place for your elopement?  In this Big island Elopement Guide you will find anything and everything you need to know about planning your elopement on the Big Island.

Seriously… EVERYTHING.

From the incredible history and the diverse landscapes to the unique Airbnbs, intimate wedding venues, and more! You see, my hope is by the end of reading this, you’ll not only get a sense of what the Big Island is like and all it has to offer but know if it’s the right place for your Hawaii Elopement!

Check out this Ultimate Big Island Elopement Guide and learn how to elope in Hawaii with Two Tides Photography

Big Island Elopement Guide: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ISLAND

DID YOU KNOW? Facts About the Big Island

In 1778, British explorer captain James cook made landfall off the coast of Kauai.  Upon returning to the Hawaiian islands a year later, James Cook landed in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island.  Cook’s arrival coincided with the Makahiki, a Hawaiian harvest festival of worship for the Polynesian god Lono.

Coincidentally the form of Cook’s ship, HMS Resolution, or more particularly the mast formation, sails, and rigging, resembled certain significant artifacts that formed part of the season of worship.

It is said that the Hawaiians initially viewed Cook as a Deity, or incarnation of Lono, and received a warm welcome from the Hawaiian natives. This, however, quickly changed and ultimately, Cook was soon killed during a quarrel between the Hawaiian and European people.  

Hawaii island is home to Kamehameha the Great.

Kamehameha united most of the Hawaiian islands under his rule in 1795, after several years of war, and gave the kingdom and the island chain the name of his native island.  

Understanding the Geography

Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, is the largest of all of the Hawaiian islands and the 3 largest islands in Polynesia.  The island is built from 5 different shield volcanoes: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, Kilauea, and Kohala.

The Big Island is considered the most ecologically diverse place in the country, consisting of 8 of the 13 climate zones. There are not many parts of the world where you can spend the morning on a warm tropical beach and the afternoon on top of a snow-covered volcano.

Mokus (Districts)

Hawaii Island contains 6 different Mokus(districts).
Below is a brief description of each!


Bright blue water, stunning beaches, and endless resorts.

Kona is a large sunny district that stretches about 2/3rds of the west side of the island.  Hualalai and Mauna Loa (two shield volcanoes), protect this area from excessive wind and therefore make it perfect for diving, snorkeling, and beach play.

The airport is conveniently located within 15-30 minutes of condos and major resorts. 


Amidst the vast lava fields, you’ll find the most luxurious resorts on the island.

Travel a little further north to Waimea, you can escape the heat and explore the endless green rolling pastures Waimea has to offer.  Make sure to check out the Wednesday and Saturday farmer’s markets in downtown Waimea.


During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Hamakua coast was covered with sugar cane.

Today it is a beautiful stretch of scenic highway with endless views of the pacific ocean.  And because of the 80+ inches of annual rain, Hamakua is lush and tropical.  Enjoy stopping at some of the historical communities like Honoka’a and check out some of the local boutiques and restaurants.


Hundreds of years ago, Hilo was primarily a farming and fishing village until the 1800s when it became the hub for the sugar industry.

Today you can enjoy the historical downtown with shopping, art galleries, museums, and local flair eateries.  If you’re looking for waterfalls, large farmer’s markets, or walks along the river, Hilo is where you want to be.


Ever wondered where people who want to stay off the grid live?
Towns like Pahoa, located in Puna would be it.

Puna has the reputation of having a free-spirited or hippy “vibe.”

In this former mill town, you’ll find great eateries(some of the best Pho on the island), a new natural grocery store, and some very unique off-grid Airbnb’s (check out Kalapana Gardens).


Want to explore some of the most beautiful black-sand beaches on the island? Or, how about the Hawaii Volcanoes national park?  Look no further than Ka u.

You will not find large resorts, shopping, or many restaurants in this area.  But, what you will find is the world’s most active volcano and some incredible natural beauty.  A trip to the Volcanoes National Park and Punalu’u black sand beach is a must.

Big Island Elopement Guide: Pros and Cons of Eloping on the Big Island

Pros of Eloping

  • With only 14.5% of the tourist population visiting the Big Island, you can expect beaches and restaurants to be less crowded
  • The resorts are massive.  Unlike Oahu or Maui where the resorts can feel packed together like sardines, the Big Island boasts some of the most beautiful and spacious resort properties due to the sheer size and space of the Island
  • Some of the best diving in all of Hawaii
  • Swimming with Manta Rays is possible only on the Big Island!  A must-do tourist activity
  • The only island where you can summit the tallest mountain in the world (from the seafloor to the summit).  
  • The most active volcano in the world is on the Big Island
  • Incredibly diverse landscape 

Cons of Eloping

  • Much of the Big Island is private property or not permissible for commercial shooting. This can severely limit couples on location options who are looking for an adventure shoot
  • The Big Island has great restaurants around the island but certainly not known for their cuisine in the way the other islands would be.
  • If the Kilauea is really going off, the VOG (volcanic smog) can get pretty bad.  Think forest fire smoke… NOT GREAT FOR PORTRAITS
  • Lava everywhere… And, I mean everywhere
  • If you’re a surfer, awesome!  So am I, but be prepared. Surfing on the Big Island means surfing over sharp reefs… NO EXCEPTIONS.
  • When you think of Big Island, think of small towns.  This means fewer grocery stores, fewer coffee shops, and boutique shopping.  It can also mean higher prices for groceries on the Big Island vs the other islands.

Big Island Elopement Guide: Best Elopement Venues 

If you’re looking for a venue but aren’t interested in getting married at a large resort?  Never fear!  The Big Island offers a plethora of intimate wedding venues for you to choose from!

Check out my: Intimate Big Island Wedding Venues for a list of my favorites!

Best Unique Stays on the Big Island


Located in South Kona, this lovely mango farm is a great spot for a unique stay!

The modern indoor/outdoor space makes you feel like you’re sleeping in the jungle.  We loved the basket of freshly picked avocado and mangos left for our enjoyment.


This spot can’t get much more unique.

This unit, located in the Puna district in a neighborhood called Kalapana Gardens, used to be a local community before a volcanic eruption buried it under 40+ ft of lava.  Now Kalapana gardens is a neighborhood of unpermitted housing, all fully off-grid.

This nicely decorated modern container house is a little slice of heaven amidst a barren lava field.  The best part of this spot?  The star gazing at night is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. 


Tucked away into the woods off of a quiet road in the town of the volcano lies this modern cabin.  Beautiful, high-end decor and finishings make this the perfect spot for those looking for something off the beaten path but who don’t want to skimp on luxury.

Make sure to book well in advance as this is a highly sought-after spot.  


Glamp the right way in this modern meets rustic geodesic dome in the southernmost part of the United States. Take a bath under the stars and soak up the surrounding beauty at this beautiful and unique spot!  

Best Big Island Hotels

One difference you’ll find on the Big Island compared to other islands is that the resorts are, well, BIG!  Simply because of the sheer size of Hawai’i Island, there is room for larger footprints for these top-of-the-line resorts.

There’s room to enjoy multiple beaches, restaurants, and outdoor activities.

If you’re looking for more of a resort vibe and want to spare no expense, look no further than these incredible resorts.  

Hapuna Beach Resort  $$$

One of my personal favorites. I love its 80’s vibe with large rounded columns, although it was actually built in the 90s.  But, a recent renovation has given it an updated modern plantation feel.

The best part?  It’s right on Hapuna Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the state of Hawaii

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel $$$

Luxurious with endless outdoor activities.
This hotel feels like you’re staying on a private beach, Mauna Kea beach. 

Four Season’s Hualalai $$$$

Consistently voted as one of the top resorts in the nation, and one of the best Four Seasons resorts worldwide, you will most certainly get what you pay for at this unbelievable resort.

They spared no expense with their recent 2020 remodel.

3 pools, multiple restaurants, an award-winning spa, and the King’s pond, a 1.8 million gallon pond for snorkeling with over 1,000 types of tropical fish, this will quite possibly be the best resort experience you’ll ever have.

Mauna Lani Auberge Resort $$$

Another newly remodeled resort, the design finishings of this resort will take your breath away. The rooms are lovely and dinner at the Canoe House will most likely be the best meal you’ll have on the island.  

Budget-Friendly Options

Looking for something that won’t break the bank?

Never fear, these “budget-friendly” hotel options still come with an ocean view, walking distance to restaurants and coffee shops, and have a super chill vibe.  


Royal Kona Resort

King Kamehameha Hotel

Big Island Elopement Guide: Best Activities for Your Elopement


Check out the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, the only living history coffee farm in the nation and a must-see while on the Big Island.


Explore the Big Island coast on a navy seal boat at Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures!

Check out the Donkey Mill Art Center or King Kamehameha Hotel’s Hawaiian historical art exhibit.


Want to do what the locals do?
Then a stop at the Waimea farmer’s market is a must!


Check out the City of Refuge National Park in Honaunau.


You can’t come to the Big Island and NOT do a night swim with Manta Rays!
Book with Big Island Divers or Aquatic Life Divers


Look no further than Aloha Adventure Farms!  Not only do you get to ride around some of the most beautiful the island has to offer, but an educational tour as well!


Consider doing some “voluntourism” while visiting the Island.  It’s a great way to give back to the local community and also immerse yourself in the beauty of Hawaiian culture.

Check out your options HERE!

Plus, volunteering can also come with added perks, such as a free night stays at a hotel!

Big Island Elopement Guide: Getting Your Marriage License

How to Apply for Your Marriage License

Applying for a Hawaii marriage license can seem tricky and confusing, but with these few simple steps, you should be well on your way to a legal marriage!

  1. Go the Hawaii Vital Records Website
  2. Complete the online application and pay the required $65 fee.
  3. Schedule an appointment to meet with an agent no more than 30 days prior to your ceremony date.  My recommendation to couples is to book your date with the agent within a day or two of your arrival on the island just to get it out of the way so you can move on with your lovely vacation. 

Bring the Following Items:

  • Your license or passport or any valid government I.D.
  • Both of you! Yes, you both have to be there to approve your application


Did you find this Big Island Elopement Guide helpful? Check out other elopement resources:

7 Ways to Personalize Your Hawaii Elopement
How to Elope in Hawaii: Tips for Planning Your Hawaii Adventure Elopement!
Ultimate Hawaii Elopement Venue Guide

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