For years I’ve pictured an elopement in Hawaii as the classic ceremony on a pristine beach with the palm trees hanging low and the sun setting over the ocean. And while this is a beautiful picture for sure, Hawaii has much more to offer, especially for adventurous couples. If you don’t mind doing a bit of hiking, there are some seriously incredible elopement locations on the island of Oahu. Today I’m sharing just a few of my favorite non-beach Hawaii elopement locations that are full of beauty and adventure (and happen to be hikes). Oh, and if you have any questions, want more location ideas, or want to talk about booking photography for your adventure elopement, let’s connect!
Pillbox Hike overlooking Lanikai Beach
My first day back in Hawaii we woke up early and hiked up the trail to the Pillboxes to see the sunrise. It was honestly one of the most memorable moments of my life. As we stood on the open ridge and looked out over the Pacific ocean and the Mokulua islands in the distance, the sun made a spectacular appearance. The trail leading up to the pillboxes (and just before, where we stopped) is not particularly long, just a bit steep. Heavy rains had carved out almost a shallow river bed, so there was no official “trail” for the first part of the hike. When you’re up on the ridge, not only can you see the famous Lanikai Beach, but also a portion of Kailua and some of Oahu’s finest mountains behind the town. Just as we were able to head farther up the trail to the pillboxes, a strong rainstorm hit us and we had to turn around, but the upside was that there was a gorgeous rainbow stretching over the valley!
If you’re looking to make your elopement an all day experience (and make sure you take your photographer with you!), there are several other adventures you could experience after your Lanikai Pillbox hike. The beach below is one of the most iconic spots in Hawaii, and most photographed beaches because of it’s beautiful view of the Mokes (the twin islands). If you want a relaxing morning and beautiful beach scenery, Lanikai is your spot. You can also rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards (we used Kailua Beach Adventures, but there are several great shops around) to get out to the islands themselves. It’s a beautiful paddle through crystal water and beautiful reefs. There’s also a bit of rocky coastline at the Lanikai Monument which is between Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach and would make a great location for some photos.
A few things to note:
The trailhead is marked with a sign and fairly easy to find. You will probably have a bit of an issue finding parking, so allow yourself some extra time for that, especially if you’re trying to catch the sunrise. We were there on a weekday in April, and I was surprised to see so many other hikers on the trail. If you want complete privacy for your wedding ceremony, this might not be the location for you. But there are some great spots below the pillboxes that people usually just hike through and don’t stop at.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike is perfect for elopers who want beach and mountain all in one, and love a good view. You won’t find any tropical foliage on the trail, but the incredible scenery (especially at sunrise) makes up for it.
The Judd Trail
I think the Judd Trail (also known as the Jackass Ginger Pool trail) is one of the most underrated trails on Oahu. We hiked the trail on a weekday late in the afternoon and never saw a single person! The hike was easy, and we saw a beautiful variety of scenery on the one mile loop trail. At the trailhead are a small waterfall and a meandering stream. We crossed a few rocks in the water and continued through the tropical forest to more amazing scenery. I wasn’t expecting to see such a sudden change in the trees, but we walked from very green and leafy forest with plenty of bamboo to an area of tall trees with high leaves and beautiful straight trunks.
If you’re up for going a little farther than a mile on your hike, the Judd trail meets up with the Nu’uanu Trail. We were unfortunately on a time crunch and couldn’t explore further, but the Nu’uanu trail apparently has some beautiful views along the ridge. I believe there is also a waterfall and deep pool that you can swim in along this route.
A few things to note:
Even though it was a lovely sunny afternoon, the trail was super muddy. Even the paths around the trail to avoid the mud were muddy. So make sure you bring appropriate footwear, and be ready to get a little dirty. We didn’t have any issues with mosquitoes on our hike, but with the amount of water around I could see it being a problem.
If you want privacy, beautiful forest, and plenty of water, this is a great hike to elope at! There’s a variety of scenery including several cascades, leafy forest, tall trees, bamboo, and beautiful rocky streams.
Manoa Falls Trail
Unlike the Judd Trail, Moana Falls is one of Oahu’s most popular and well-trafficked hikes. The easy 1.5 mile trek starts in a beautiful open forest with tall trees that will make you feel like you’re in a Jurassic Park movie, and that’s because several scenes were actually filmed on the trail! We couldn’t help but stop here for a while and take in the beauty around us and listen to the sounds of birds chirping and the stream bubbling by. The same stream appears many times along the hike and includes a few small cascades. Patches of bamboo and plenty of other beautiful greenery surround the trail throughout. An archway made of vines is a picturesque point along the path. It’s a fairly easy hike, and although the way to the falls includes some uphill hiking, there are steps included in the trail. At the end of the hike is the beautiful Manoa Falls – a very tall but “skinny” waterfall. There’s a pretty pool at the base of the falls, but the area is roped off and you’re unable to swim in it.
A few things to note:
Our hiking experience was full of intermittent rain, which made the trail pretty slippery and muddy (which is to be expected of most trails in Hawaii). Just be prepared, and don’t mind too much if your dress gets dirty. 🙂 I would recommend hiking and having your ceremony as early in the day as possible to avoid crowds. If you want your ceremony at the falls, hike up as the sun is rising and then make your stops for photos on the way down. And also make sure you bring bug spray!
It’s a popular trail for a reason! The trail has a beautiful waterfall, a creek running throughout, bamboo groves, a really amazing vine archway over the path, and gorgeous foliage. Just be prepared to meet a number of other hikers on your adventure.
Oahu has SO many hikes, and unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore everywhere we wanted to on our trip. But in my research I’ve come across a few other hikes that I think would be perfect for an adventurous elopement (or intimate wedding ceremony). Check out these bonus suggestions!
Crouching Lion Trail
This trail is short (half a mile I think), but a very steep hike. At the end you’re rewarded with an incredible view of the ocean and nearby mountains from the lush ridgeline. It sounds like there are some narrow areas of trail with dangerous drop offs, so be careful, especially when the trail is wet and muddy. But the view is totally worth a little adventure! Because it’s on the east side of the island, I bet it has a great sunrise view. Check out more details about the Crouching Lion Trail.
Ka’ena Point Trail
This trail was high on my list, and I really hope we can go back and complete it soon! There are two routes to get to the point – one from Wai‘anae side and the other from the Mokule‘ia side. The trail is fairly flat and easy as it goes along an old coastal railroad bed. You’ll have beautiful green mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. From what I’ve read, you may see seals and other wildlife and birds along the way! The Wai’anae trail has rocky beaches, tidepools (my favorite!), and even some blowholes. Picturesque dunes and a raised limestone reef can be seen along the Mokule’ia area trail. You can read more about the two trails to Ka’ena Point and see some photos of the Wai’anae path as well.
I hope you enjoyed these Hawaii hiking adventure wedding location suggestions! Check out Hula Land’s Hawaii trip planning resources and my Hawaii elopement Pinterest board for more location ideas and helpful tips!
Hey, friend! I’m Julie – an adventure wedding & elopement photographer who loves the outdoors and traveling! My photography is fun and heartfelt while highlighting the beauty of love and nature. I’m based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but wedding photography takes me throughout the southwest, to national parks, and all over the world! To find out more about destination wedding photography, check out my travel page. And if you want to get some great elopement planning tips, check out planning and advice section of the blog.