Destination: Hawaii

Honeymoons & Destination Weddings

Courtesy of The Royal Hawaiian

Hawaii is the #1 honeymoon destination for U.S. couples, and why wouldn't it be? Miles of perfect beaches, temperatures that rarely dip below 70 degrees, fresh tropical fruit on every corner - paradise is not too strong a word to describe these islands. It's no surprise that Hawaii is also a popular destination wedding location. But even in paradise, a few savvy tips from Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel, can help you make the most of your trip.

First, some basic information: Two of the most popular days to get married in Hawaii are Valentine's Day and New Years day, so avoid those dates unless you want to wait in line for a minister. The heat and humidity can melt both makeup and wedding cakes, so consider a shaded wedding site or an evening ceremony, especially during the summer. While there isn't really an "off" season for Hawaii, there has been a recent slump in tourism which means deals are easier to find, so don't be afraid to ask if discounts are available on rooms and car rentals (just don't get the convertible - rains are frequent, though usually brief). The State of Hawaii requires a Right of Entry Permit for most beach weddings which costs $75 for 10 guests.

While the South shore of Kauai is more popular - and more populated - the lush North Shore is remote relaxed and romantic. The St. Regis Princeville Resort is re-opening after renovation on October 1st and has stunning views of Hanalei Bay and the "Bali Hai" peak made famous by South Pacific, called "Makana" by locals. Just a short walk down the hill from the resort is a private cove, perfect for sunbathing or a romantic sunset swim. During the summer months, the ocean is calm and offers some of the best snorkeling on the island at Haena and Tunnels beaches. But in the winter, the waves can reach dramatic heights. There are plenty of activities for the family or honeymooning couple: ziplining, kayaking, hiking, and almost daily farmers markets, but a helicopter tour of the NaPali coast and Waimea Canyon is absolutely unforgettable. End a busy day at Tahiti Nui in Hanalei Bay with a Mai Tai and live music - to which local ladies sometime dance the hula.

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Between the urban state capitol of Honolulu to the South, surfing villages to the North, and national parks and historic sites in between, Oahu has something to suit everyone in the wedding party. Honolulu is large enough to have lots of options for caterers and florists, unlike Maui and Kauai where choices may be more limited. The Royal Hawaiian (aka The Pink Palace) has hosted movie stars, presidents and princes since 1927. It is a glamorous site for a wedding ceremony or reception especially since it was recently restored. Another option is to rent a house for your wedding party. Vacation rentals are everywhere on the islands and are often less expensive than resorts, but you do have to make sure they are legal. When you're not spending time in your honeymoon suite, check out the surfers riding the Bonzai Pipeline on the North shore, or enjoy live music and Mai Tais with a view of Diamond Head at Halekulani's House Without a Key.

While beach weddings are always popular, another option is to wed in one of the many little chapels on the islands. The Grand Wailea Wedding Chapel on Maui is surrounded by palm trees and overlooks the ocean, but the beautiful stained glass windows might grab more attention than the coastline. The site fee ranges from $4500 to $5300 depending on season and time of day - sunset weddings are more expensive. In addition to the usual seaside activities, Maui is known as a whale-watching center since Humpback whales breed nearby every winter. Lahaina is a historic whaling town and much of the 1800s architecture is intact. Maui's Winery, the only commercial winery on the island, also has ties to Hawaii's history. Its tasting room is a cottage that was built in 1874 for the visit of Hawaii's monarchs, and the centerpiece of the room is an 18-foot long bar cut from a single mango tree. —Tammy Levent

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