How to get married at Volcanoes National Park (Big Island of Hawaii)
Tropical beaches, warm weather, and volcanoes are often the most commonly conjured up images of Hawaii. Beach weddings are fairly common, but if you like the idea of doing something truly unique, and you've decided to get married in Hawaii, why not go all out and get married at a volcano?
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island of Hawaii, on the southeast side. The park entrance is about a 2 hour drive from Kailua Kona, and up to an hour more from the Kohala coast resorts. The main volcano at Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea, is one of the world's most active, and is a destination in and of itself.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is managed by the National Park Service. Therefore, you will need to go through a special permit process through the NPS prior to conducting your wedding. Keep reading to learn more about the process and logistics of pulling off a volcano wedding!
Where is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?
Before you move forward, be sure to consider geographical location and how that affects your wedding plan. As the map below shows, Volcanoes National Park is on the southeastern part of the island.
The park is located in a remote part of the island and can be accessed via Highway 11 from both the Hilo and Kona side. The highway is well maintained and you won't need any special vehicles or equipment. Do keep in mind that at times, poor visibility can impact this route.
So, keep in mind that it is a bit of trip from the resort areas and so you will need to budget several hours for transportation. If it's a small wedding party, then it might make sense.
What is the weather like?
Generally, the weather in Hawaii is very temperate, with the exception of higher elevations. Volcanoes National Park stretches from sea level to about 4000 feet at the summit of Kilauea, near the visitor center, where the temperatures can be between 10 - 15 degrees cooler than sea level. This shouldn't be a significant issue for planning the wedding, but do keep this in mind when considering attire, etc.
At which locations at Volcanoes National Park am I allowed to have a wedding?
There are no areas that are specifically approved, rather then NPS provides general guidelines. First, they require that the weddings remain "small private affairs" that don't intrude on other park visitors. Halema'uma'u Crater and the hula platform near the Kilauea Visitor Center are off limits, but all other reasonably accessible locations are considered fair game. Most couples choose locations with a view into the Kilauea Caldera or Kilauea Iki Crater, or other forested areas like Kipukapuaulu.
For your convenience, the popular spots have been marked on the map below.
Some of the more iconic photographs of lava flows going into the ocean are of locations near the shoreline. These are difficult to access - requiring helicopter or boat rides - and weddings that incorporate this will require special arrangements beyond the scope of this article.
What types of weddings are permitted at Volcanoes National Park?
In general, there are no restrictions on the type of wedding, and many specifics will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis once you submit your permit application.
Do note that due to the national park being public land, the the NPS' primary concern is that your wedding activities do not interfere with other park visitors. What they make clear up front is that you cannot "reserve" or block off any areas. Additionally, no electrical power or generators will be allowed. This also rules out electrical musical instruments, microphones, speakers.
There is a limit of 1 table and 12 chairs allowed, unless there are special exceptions granted.
Also be aware that potted plants, dried flowers and any plants with seeds are not allowed to be brought and used. This is due to the highly sensitive ecosystem in the park.
What is the process for receiving a permit to hold a ceremony at Volcanoes National Park?
The NPS requires a Special Use Permit to hold a wedding at Volcanoes National Park.
The application fee costs $150 and is non-refundable, even if your application is denied. You can find the application PDF here. The payment will need to be submitted as a check, payable to National Park Service along with your application form, or by submitting payment online. In order to pay online, you will first need to call 808-985-6027 to retrieve your permit application number. Then, go to the Pay.gov website to submit payment using the permit application number. Don't forget to take care of the payment - otherwise the NPS may not begin to review your application!
Do I need event insurance for a wedding on Volcanoes National Park?
In general, if you are conducting a simple, private wedding, insurance should not be required. We recommend that you check with the NPS once you submit your application.