Honeymoon Guide: Big Island

WHY WE LOVE IT

Everything honeymooners could desire: gorgeous hotels, world-class restaurants, spectacular beaches, misty waterfalls and mysterious lava tubes.

Breathing room—so much you could fit all the other Hawaiian islands into it with room to spare.

Kilauea, the world’s most visitor-friendly volcano.

Eleven of the world’s 13 main climate zones, including rain forests, lava deserts and (sometimes) snowcapped mountains.

Beaches in a variety of colors, with white, black and green sand.

Mind-blowing stargazing from atop Mauna Kea.

WHEN TO GO

Though the Big Island is a year-round destination, May through August is when the weather is driest and the ocean is most user-friendly for swimmers, snorkelers and kayakers. Fall and winter sometimes bring treacherous sea conditions to the northern and western shores. Humpback whales frolic off western shores in the winter (though not in numbers to rival Maui). April and December are the rainiest months; luckily most of the rain falls on the less-touristed windward side—you can still count on plenty of sunshine on the leeward side, where most of the hotels are. Snowbirds flock to the island from early December to April; family travelers dominate during the summer. September to Dec. 15 is the best time for deals (except at Thanksgiving).

WHAT TO PACK

Leave the formalwear at home. The Big Island is devoutly casual; a smart aloha shirt or muumuu is dressy enough for even the fanciest dining room. Pack sturdy footwear for hiking the volcano, jackets and sweaters for stargazing atop Mauna Kea, rain gear for recreational rambles in the rain forest and whatever you look best in at the beach.

WHAT TO BUY

"Botanically correct" aloha shirts and muumuus from Sig Zane; macadamia-nut shortbread and hibiscus truffles from Big Island Candies; six papayas for a dollar at the Hilo Farmers Market; mythical visions of ancient Hawaii by printmaker Dietrich Varez at the Volcano Art Center Gallery.

TOURIST INFO

For information, contact the Big Island Visitors Bureau. The East Hawaii office is at 250 Keawe St., Hilo (808-961-5797). The West Hawaii office is at Waikoloa Kings’ Shops, B-15, 69-250 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa (808-886-1655).

GETTING MARRIED IN HAWAII

Hawaii’s wedding requirements are minimal—present a marriage-license application, government-issued photo ID and $60 in cash (along with the divorce or death certificate if you’ve been previously married) to a licensed marriage agent and you’re in. You can download applications at hawaii.gov/health. To locate a licensed marriage agent on the Big Island, call the Hawaii County Department of Health at 808-974-6008. Most of the bigger hotels have wedding coordinators who will gladly handle arrangements for a wedding of any size. Some of the hotels, such as the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa and the Hilton Waikoloa Village, also have romantic little wedding chapels.

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