Hi all —
I highly recommend Kualoa. They are really quite flexible and nice, and the best things: they’re affordable, considering several properties here wanted thousands just so I could put my lil’ feet on their grass, and they don’t have a lot of rules. The cons are that they’re far (for Hawaii, which means about 20-30 minutes away from downtown/Waikiki), and that they are a ranch, so they’re pretty bare bones — it’s not golf course quality grass, you have to make sure someone checks that all the horse poop gets picked up, and you have to bring in rentals — everything from lighting to chairs (which Kualoa *can* arrange for you).
I tried doing the private home rental thing, but the really really nice homes are in ritzy neighborhoods where they are cracking down on having parties and/or they are picky about noise to begin with. I tried to go through a rental agency, but they told me that except for the Sullivan Estate and the Paul Brown Estate (both are gorgeous, but expensive), most private estates don’t allow weddings/parties.
Those of you who are doing the small gatherings and actually staying in the homes are probably OK. I was trying to find a home that could accomodate 120 people on the lawn.
The Dillingham Estate has been in flux, but it’s very pretty. if you can afford it, there’s a place called World of Aloha — it’s SOOOO beautiful, despite the cheesy name (http://worldaloha.com/), but it cost, IIRC, $8000 for just the venue use. (No tents, chairs, etc.). Bit of trivia: there’s a little house on the property that was used in the Karate Kid 2 movie, and if you want to stay there overnight, I was told, you can. (It’s also far out on the Windward side, near Kualoa.) For smaller parties (less than 100), the Bayer Estate is really pretty, but I think it can get pricey — it’s better for small, brunch or afternoon tea kind of weddings.
Lanikuhonua is beautiful, but they have a lot of rules, so if you use it, be sure to get a coordinator who can take care of it all for you.
The Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum both were not allowing weddings anymore as of last year. They may have changed their policies since then. The Bishop Museum just finished renovating, and they have beautiful grounds. We liked them, they weren’t too bad on price, but they were renovating at the time. The Hawaii State Art Museum is downtown, and is very pretty. The large lawn was $6000, I think, and the smaller upper patio was much less…can’t remember how much. It’s a little weird for parking if your guests are from out of town, though.
If you want to use a public park or beach, there are beautiful ones, and they’re free, you need a permit, though, but there is no public consumption of alcohol, so you’d have to have a dry wedding, or run the risk of hiding it and getting busted.
The Iolani Palace has recently opened up and is allowing private, non-Hawaiian events. They have a beautiful barracks that’s open air.
I used these folks as our day-of-coordination services, and I highly recommend them, however, they now have a minimum event budget requirement, which I can’t remember off the top of my head: http://current-affairs.net/oahu.asp Check their list of venues, though — they use some very nice places, but some can only be used if you hire them, and they’re not cheap.
Finally, a big challenge on the private, non-hotel/non-country club venues is that many require that you be shut down and off property relatively early: like 10PM. Some are more flexible than others (I think we shut down at Kualoa at 10, and left by 11, and they didn’t complain). So if you’re party-’til-you-drop people, you’ll have to come up with after-party plans, or should make sure you have a venue that will allow it.