Yes of course there's the sun, the sand, the surf and the enduring aloha spirit, but there's a lot more to O'ahu than the fabled Waikiki Beach, luaus, and gorgeous weather year-round. Did you know that there are beaches on the island's North Shore where you can snorkel side-by-side with a sea turtle? How about the fact that you can score a five-star seafood feast for under $20? And did you know the best months to enjoy the island while avoiding the crowds are September and October? Perfect timing if you're having a late summer wedding!
Weddingbells recently made a trip to Hawaii's third largest island to do some honeymoon reconnaissance. What we discovered were some of the best places to splurge along with some unique, budget-friendly activities we're sure will make your Hawaiian vacation incredibly memorable. Here we'll show you the secret spots outside of the city of Honolulu where you can enjoy time alone with your new hubby along with the best places to commune with O'ahu's abundant natural gifts and some of the most surprising places to enjoy an incredible meal.
Most visitors to Hawaii will have some sort of run in with a pineapple, but how many can really say they've ventured inside of one? For "the complete pineapple experience," which includes one of the world's largest mazes, head to Dole Plantation about 45 minutes northwest of Waikiki. For just $6 you and your new mister can race each other through this three-acre labyrinth made up of more than two miles of paths crafted from 14,000 Hawaiian plants.
Score the fastest time and your names will be recorded on a sign at the maze’s entrance. Even if don't rank among the fastest you can still rest assured that you've burned enough calories to warrant a tasty Dole Whip cone on your way out.
Find more information at dole-plantation.com.
What could be more romantic than swimming beneath a waterfall in lush surroundings once inhabited by ancient Hawaiians? In addition to being a spectacular place to enjoy a dip on a hot day, the Waimea Valley on O'ahu's North Shore is home to a world class botanical garden with 5,000 documented kinds of tropical and subtropical plants as well as several significant historical sites. One of the best ways to explore the area is to take part in a half-day guided hike.
Admission is $15 (add an extra $10 to $15 to participate in a hike).
"From the line to the plate" is French-born chef Nico Chaize's motto. Chaize spent years working at some of Hawaii's top eateries before setting up shop himself on Honolulu Harbor. Each morning the freshest fish caught in Hawaiian waters is sold at auction across from Chaize's eatery. His restaurant, Nico's at Pier 38 Restaurant & Fish Market, buys this fresh catch straight from the auction and serves it up the same day in a variety of interesting and delicious ways.
Try the fresh ahi tuna steak coated with Japanese dried seaweed and sesame seeds then cooked to order and served with homemade ginger garlic cilantro dip and Asian coleslaw or the ahi belly steaks (pictured here) which are quickly deep-fried and topped with a spicy tomato salsa. Each of these dishes, including a seafood pasta with fish, shrimp, and clams in a light lemon lobster sauce, will set you back less than $15. There is absolutely no better (or more affordable) way to enjoy the finest delicacies the North Pacific has to offer.
Find more information (and salivate over the menu) at nicospier38.com.
Trust us, this is the type of memorable honeymoon activity you'll still be talking about on your silver anniversary. Honolulu Soaring, Hawaii's oldest and largest soaring operation, has been offering scenic flights out of O'ahu's Dillingham Airfield since 1970. On the glider tour you'll climb into the front seat of a bubble-topped aircraft (with the pilot behind you) and watch as your glider is attached by a tow cord to another plane and lifted airborne when the tow plane takes off.
You'll soar above the rugged cliffs of the Waianae Mountains and just when you get your bearings you'll hear the tow cord release! Once you compose yourself you'll find that this exhilarating ride offers unparallelled views of the coastline -- you'll also occasionally see a whale breaching in the ocean below! Want an even bigger rush? You can request an "aerobatic" flight where your glider pilot will send your heart into your throat with a series of loop-dee-loops and corkscrew turns. Don't forget your camera!
Flights range from 10 to 60 minutes and start at $79.
Find more information at honolulusoaring.com.
Shrimp from a truck: We admit the concept sounds a bit suspicious but you'll be hard-pressed to find a more delicious, fresh seafood lunch than the plates served up at some of the North Shore's famous shrimp trucks. Kahuku, in particular, is a well-known shrimp aquaculture area so freshness is guaranteed.
Many of the trucks pick up a fresh harvest daily then serve up these plump, juicy shrimp topped with sinful garlic butter, sweet coconut batter or spicy sauce and a side of sticky rice, salad and pineapple. It's no romantic dinner by candlelight (in fact, it's a bit of a messy endeavor) but if you and your new hubby are seafood-loving gourmands Kahuku's shrimp trucks are not to be missed.
Complete meals for $12 to $13.
Check out Giovanni's Shrimp Truck and see for yourself!
Equipped with double hull technology, which elevates the passenger area above sea level to ensure a smooth ride even in the choppiest conditions, Atlantis Adventures' Navatek I is the perfect boat from which to take in views of Honolulu and Diamond Head.
This vessel offers plenty of space indoors and out to relax and enjoy the scenery and the sea life -- dolphins, flying fish and the humpback whales that visit the area from December to April. An added bonus? The mai tais are an absolute bargain at $6 a pop!
Morning, lunch hour and dinner cruises are available.
Rates start at $49 per person.
Find more information at atlantisadventures.com.
Turtle Bay Resort is paradise for movie buffs and nature lovers alike. This property on O'ahu's North Shore is the only resort of its kind in the area and is the best place from which to explore the Waimea Valley, Turtle Beach, Haleiwa Town and the iconic surf breaks at Waimea Bay, Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) and Sunset Beach. With almost five miles of beachfront, it's also the perfect place to enjoy some alone time with your new hubby.
Go all-out by renting one of the beach cottages (pictured here) -- you'll probably recognize these units from the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall -- or book yourselves a table on the sand at Ola, one of the property's six restaurants. Spend your days taking part in the surf lessons or Segway tours offered by the resort or set off on your own to explore the property's banyan forest, which served as a set for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. With seven different ceremony locations, Turtle Bay also specializes in beachfront destination weddings.
Room rates start at $269.
Find more information at turtlebayresort.com.
It's hard to put into words all of the splendour of The Kahala Hotel & Resort -- it's the stunning chandeliers, which have hung in the grand lobby since the 1960s, the spacious recently-renovated guest rooms complete with his and hers bathrooms, the beyond-scenic views of mountains, ocean and dolphins frolicking in their poolside lagoon. It's the aloha spirit of the staff, eager to chat as they serve up healthy acai bowls or surf & turf eggs benedict for breakfast at one of the property's four outstanding onsite restaurants. It's also the exclusivity of the place -- the location six miles outside of Waikiki means that while other travellers jostle for a spot of sand on the city's main beach you'll have your pick of recliners at the edge of the ocean. During your stay you can also take advantage of free bicycle rental, introductory surf lessons or pay a bit extra to swim with the dolphins, enjoy a lomilomi massage or try your hand at standup paddleboard yoga.
It's all these factors that have combined to make The Kahala a celebrity favourite. Every U.S. president from Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush has stayed at the resort since its opening along with Queen Elizabeth, Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, The Rolling Stones, the Sultan of Brunei, Luciano Pavarotti, Cameron Diaz and Billy Joel (to name a few). In fact, author Joan Didion in an Esquire magazine piece once described the resort as the place where “Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show guests go to rest.” This sort of exclusivity does come with an above-average price tag, but then again there's not much about The Kahala that could ever be classified as average.
Room rates start at $425.
Find more information at kahalaresort.com.
Looking to check out some of Honolulu's best bars, boutiques, art galleries and eclectic restaurants? Head to Chinatown, located on the western edge of the city's financial district. If you're interested in adding a touch of Hawaiiana to your ensemble this area of town is also where you'll find some of the city's most affordable flower leis (take note destination brides)!
Spot a shop with these floral garlands in the window? Pop inside and you'll likely see a group of industrious locals artfully stringing together tropical blooms.
Just a few miles outside of Haleiwa Town on O'ahu's North Shore is Laniakea, or Turtle Beach -- a secluded little spot with more turtles than sunbathers. To get there follow the Kamehameha Highway from Haleiwa toward Kahuku. A few minutes along the highway outside of Haleiwa you'll see cars parked along the side of the road -- this will be the indication you've reached Turtle Beach, which is also a popular surf spot (there's no official signage).
Bring your beach blanket and wait for the turtles to come ashore for a rest or tote along your snorkel gear and, if the turtles cooperate, you're sure to have one of the most memorable (free!) experiences of your honeymoon (possibly your life).
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