When you envision Hawaii, it’s easy to group all the islands into one image: white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, palm trees, turtles! However, all of the islands are incredibly different and have vast offerings in terms of experiences, adventures, hotels, and dining. We encourage you to use this guide on how to choose the perfect Hawaiian Island for your elopement.
When you fly into Kona, the primary airport on the Big Island, it’s easy to feel a bit dismayed. You’re flying over miles and miles of black volcanic rock and it basically looks like a black rock desert. But don’t be fooled! The Big Island is booming with remote beaches (green sands, black sands, and white sands), and calm, swimmable waters, not to mention a huge variety of adventures to partake in. The Big Island is exactly that – BIG! Almost every single type of terrain that exists in the world can be found on the Big Island – rain forest, desert, and even snow! There are fewer tourists and far more space to explore with little to no traffic to compete with. Here are highlights of our favorites on The Big Island.
Things to Do
Go to a Luau. This island has one of the best luaus known in Hawaii: Haleo Luau at the Sheraton. It has some of the best food and entertainment we’ve seen on the islands, not to mention the beautiful backdrop at the Sheraton. The fire dancer is our personal favorite. You won’t regret this romantic evening under the stars!
Take a Manta Ray Dive. It’s exhilarating to swim in the ocean with these majestic creatures. Whether you’re a certified scuba diver or just love to snorkel, both experiences have an amazing view of these 18-foot plankton eaters. We highly recommend this experience if you are able. We’ve found Snorkel Bob’s has one of the best deals.
Go Snorkeling. Speaking of snorkeling, we’ve had some of the best snorkeling of our lives on the Big Island! We highly recommend Honaunau or Two Step. It can get crowded here so you may have to park on the street. Last time I was there I saw a stingray, so be sure to keep your distance from any larger creatures you run into! If you’re wanting somewhere a bit closer to Kona, we recommend Kahalu’u. Also, if you want to be super prepared, purchase a panoramic snorkel mask from Amazon. You won’t regret it!
Swim with Dolphins. Dolphins are a common appearance on the shores of Kona and what’s a better way to experience them than while snorkeling! Be sure you pick the proper time of year for dolphin sightings. We highly recommend booking with Adventure in Hawaii.
Umekes. If you’re a poke fan, it doesn’t get any better than Umekes. This spot has received national acclaim for their food and you can tell, as they’re always busy! We recommend a reservation at all times of day. Also, there’s a restaurant and a poke shop; be sure you find the restaurant!
Rays on the Bay. Can you tell we are a huge fans of manta rays? Rays on the Bay has nightly scuba divers that go out so you can experience manta rays from the view of your dining room table. We highly recommend this dining experience!
Honu’s on the Beach. If you’re in the mood for exceptional food with a view of the ocean, it’s hard to beat Honu’s. They often have live music and we love the unbelievable food paired with great staff and setting. It’s very romantic!
The first thing you’ll notice when flying into Maui is just how green-blue the ocean is. There are a lot of beaches to choose from on Maui and typically the swimming conditions are perfect! The west side of the island is where the bulk of the hotels and attractions are but it also has a lot of desert terrain and not a lot of rainforest or trees. The east side of the island has the Road to Hana and also is where the bulk of the rainforest exists. Another thing you’ll notice about Maui is, sadly, the traffic. Maui is seeing close to 2,634,237 visitors each year. That’s a lot of tourists for a small island!
Things to Do
Go Whale Watching. If you go the right time of year, December 15 through May 15, you would be remiss not to go whale watching! The pass between Maui and Molokai sees thousands of humpback whales during this time period for mating. While you can see them any time of day, there seems to be more breaching in the morning. We highly recommend going with Trilogy. The boat wasn’t too crowded and they provide drinks and breakfast.
Go Surfing. Maui is actually a great spot for beginner surfing! Grab a longboard, take a couple of lessons and learn how to surf small waves! We found the best beginner spot to be in Kihei.
Experience The Road to Hana. Rainforests, pristine beaches, waterfalls, and camping are all huge perks of taking the Road to Hana. This is a full-day tour so be sure to start out early and plan accordingly. We suggest taking a 4-wheel drive vehicle, as some spots can be a bit hairy.
Take a Sunset Sail. What’s more romantic than watching the sunset from the view of a boat while eating an incredible meal prepared by a local chef? Not much! This is a great way to cap your elopement trip. Again, Trilogy is our recommendation for a romantic, memorable sail.
The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea. If you’re eloping at Makena Cove and staying in Wailea, then you won’t have to travel far to land at The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea. White linens, a view of the sunset and unbelievable food. This will definitely be a meal to remember!
Mill House. You’ve probably heard about The Mill House. It’s a popular destination located on The Plantation. Surrounded by the farm featuring local food, it’s hard to resist this spot!
O’o Farm. If you’re wanting a super unique dining experience and are into farm to table dining, we can’t recommend O’o Farm highly enough! Both the food and the experience are unbeatable! We’re huge fans of clean food.
If you haven’t heard, Honolulu is like Los Angeles on an island. There is always intense traffic and a whole lot of people. On the reverse, there is a lot to do on Oahu and ample beauty everywhere you go! If you’re okay sharing your experience with a handful of other tourists and really like the resort vibe, you’ll love Oahu! Oh, and be sure to rent a convertible. It makes the whole adventure so much sweeter on this island!
Things to Do
Hike Pali-Puka. We’re huge fans of moderate to difficult hikes, so if you’re looking to get your work out on we highly recommend Pali-Puka. With waterfalls, epic views and lots of rainforest, it’s a hard to beat experience. Put your hiking shoes on and be prepared to sweat!
Hang Out in Ko’olina. This is the ultimate Oahu resort spot. Four Seasons, Marriott and more have found their home here. There are a ton of pristine beaches and spots to hang, dine and shop. You can even hit the Luau after a day of hanging in the area at Paradise Cove!
Explore Cockroach Cove. We love this spot as the swimming is great, the snorkeling is awesome and there are lava tubes and lookouts to explore in the area. If you hit this spot, be sure to check out the tide pools at Makapuu Lighthouse. Make a full day of it!
Visit the Oahu Cultural Center. If you’re interested in the history and culture of Hawaii and its history then you can’t beat a day at the Cultural Center. This is an all-day event so grab your day pass and then hit the Luau at night.
La Hiki Kitchen. If you’re wanting as fancy of a restaurant as you’re able, it doesn’t get much fancier than La Hiki Kitchen in Four Seasons in Ko’olina. The view is a perfect spot for watching the sunset and the food is some of the best we’ve had on the island. You won’t regret this spot for celebrating your elopement!
Izakaya Torae Torae. If you’re into sushi then you have to go to Izakaya Torae Torae. Be sure to take part in the saki. We recommend family style, where you can try a little of everything. We weren’t disappointed with a single item here! Also, definitely make a reservation as this place gets packed quickly.
Ai Love Nalo. If you’re near Waimanalo and in the mood for clean food, it’s hard to beat Ai Love Nalo. Best for lunch or breakfast. Must try the fresh kombucha!
No matter what you experience or which island you choose we wish you the best in your travels! Hawaii is a very special place. Experience the ohana, partake in the culture and leave a little happier and rested.