couple floating in water

5 Tips for a Waterfall Elopement in Hawaii | Wailua Falls

If you’re dreaming of eloping in Hawaii, chances are you’re considering a waterfall as one of your location options! Hawaii is famous for its grand waterfalls on every island, in the middle of rainforests and tropical beauty everywhere. I personally love waterfall elopements because they provide you with so many options for your elopement day. Plus waterfalls are just so beautiful, I love the energy and the dramatic natural beauty that they add! That’s why I’m going to show you an example of an amazing waterfall elopement with Gabby & Ryan, plus give you my top 5 tips for your own waterfall elopement. Let’s get right into it!

bride and groom laughing


Gabby & Ryan’s Waterfall Elopement


Before we get into my top tips for a waterfall elopement, I wanted to show you an example of one I photographed recently! I had the most fun time with Gabby and Ryan adventuring at Wailua Falls, in Kauai. Gabby wore a beautiful cream-colored dress from Reclamation, featuring lace floral patterns all around and romantic, fluffy sleeves.

One of my favorite parts of my time with this wonderful couple? When they decided to jump in for a swim at the end! If you’re interested in eloping at a waterfall, chances are you’re somewhat of a fan of being by the water. Waterfall elopements give you the opportunity to have fun with your elopement day simply by changing into swimsuits and taking a swim together. After you’ve done all of the “official” stuff (read your vows, your ceremony, etc.), you can bring out your favorite drinks or snacks, and jump in to cool off. Especially if it’s hot out (which it likely will be in Hawaii), you’ll feel refreshed and relieved taking off your elopement attire and feeling the cool water on your skin. 

Now, let’s get into my top 5 tips for you to take into account when planning your own waterfall elopement!


couple floating in water


1. Do your research


First, it’s important that you do your research on how popular the waterfall is. Leave extra time for the potential crowds that may be there! There’s nothing worse than getting to location on a tight timeline and seeing crowds of people in the spot you want to shoot.

You’ll also want to figure out if the waterfall is open/exposed to the sun or has a lot of shade! If it’s more open, plan with your photographer on shooting around the same time you would for a typical outdoor session. If it’s shaded, make sure you go earlier so that it’s not too dark!

Finally, make sure you do your research on what the hike is like that you’ll be doing. You need to know that the hike you’ll be going on is realistic for you and your partner, and that you’ll be excited to hike it – not dreading an exercise level that doesn’t exactly suit you! And remember that you’ll have to come back, too – keep in mind that if the hike has some downhill spots, you’ll have to go uphill on your way back.


couple eloping at waterfall


2. Pack appropriately


Packing the correct items for your waterfall elopement is super important. You need to make sure you’ll have everything you need no matter what scenarios you may run into (weather, mud, etc.). Especially since you’ll be hiking away from wherever you park and won’t have easy access to your car!

Here’s a basic packing list of items you’ll want to make sure you pack for your waterfall elopement:

  • Some kind of towel that you can hold up and change behind – a sarong or pareo works well because they’re lightweight and easier to carry around. Turkish towels provide the same carrying ease and are useful for both drying off and to change behind! Make sure you bring enough towels to dry yourselves off comfortably if you decide to swim, or if you get wet from the waterfall’s mist!
  • Baby wipes to get mud off your clothes/skin
  • Hiking shoes with good traction – sandals, boots, etc. – talk to your photographer if you need help with this, and do research about the hike. For some hikes, you would want actual waterproof hiking boots to protect your feet from icy cold water. Here in Hawaii you can mostly get away with a water sandal. For the most part, I wouldn’t recommend a sneaker meant for jogging/training because there’s typically not enough traction to hike safely across slick areas!
  • A change of shoes just in case
  • Hiking clothes to get to the waterfall
  • Your elopement gear
  • A change of clothes for the way back, in case your original hiking clothes get too dirty/wet
  • Mosquito repellent – A lot of waterfalls have mosquitoes since they lay their eggs in water. I’m one of those that always gets eaten alive, so I’m very sad when I forget my spray!
  • Lots of water
  • Snacks/lunch
  • Waterproof makeup (if you’ll be wearing makeup)
  • Reusable shopping bags to put muddy shoes/clothes in
  • Bathing suits so you can go for a swim if you’d like to

For an even more in-depth packing list + hiking tips, check out my article on How to Plan Your Hiking Adventure Elopement!


bride and groom in wind


3. Plan to be hands-free


It’s really important that you are able to be handsfree while you hike, for a few reasons:

  • You won’t have to worry about carrying things, especially if you’re in your elopement attire
  • Instead of carrying gear with your hands, you can focus on freely enjoying you partner + the beauty around you
  • If you fall, you’ll be able to catch yourself with your hands!


bride and groom walking on rocks


4. Be aware of what’s in the water


Hawaii freshwater can actually have Leptospirosis + other harmful/deadly bacteria in it. Because of that, we’ll want to avoid tropical freshwater that doesn’t have a steady flow -stagnant water gets more contaminated. After a rainfall is usually the safest! The really dangerous bacteria can enter through cuts/scrapes and holes – like your eyes, nose, and mouth. Here’s are a couple articles with more detailed information about this bacteria!


couple swimming in waterfall


5. Prepare for anything + everything


Since you’ll be outdoors for the entirety of your waterfall elopement, you need to make sure you’re prepared for anything! A few things you can do to prep yourselves for whatever adventure we may encounter:

  • Wear darker colored clothing & shoes for the hike so that mud doesn’t stain them. Or clothes you don’t mind getting muddy – that way you won’t be upset or sad if the mud is worse than you thought it would be!
  • Allow more time than you think! When planning out how much time you estimate the hike will take you, allow yourselves more time than you think! I’ll help you with this as far as the day-of timeline goes. But it’s important to build in some extra time in case the hike is harder than you thought, ends up being pretty busy, stopping for extra vantage points, hair/makeup touchups, etc.
  • Be ready for bad weather by bringing rain gear and backup outfits. The rain in Hawaii can be pretty unpredictable. The last thing you want is to plan for a sunny summer day & end up in a torrential downpour, unprepared, and allow it to ruin your day!


hawaii waterfall elopement


There you have it, my top 5 tips for planning your waterfall elopement! I’ll be there to help + guide you along the way once you book me, so don’t worry if you have questions you need answered. Now enjoy the rest of Gabby & Ryan’s beautiful gallery!


A couple more free resources that you may find helpful:


You’re looking to have a full experience completely customized to you and your unique story. I’m thrilled to bring an intentional, unfussy but elegant approach to your love story, capturing all of the candids and little microstories throughout your day. This way you can relax and focus on celebrating with your loved ones, with no moments missed-from pre-ceremony preparations to your last dance.