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These islands offer outdoor pursuits, jaw-dropping scenery, and loads of romance, each with its own twist.

There’s a reason Hawaii is one of America’s most dreamed about honeymoon destinations — it’s wildly scenic, blissfully exotic and seemingly off the grid without your actually having to leave the country. And while the welcoming spirit of aloha is abundant throughout the archipelago, each of the islands has its own distinct flavor – which means that travelers don’t have to skimp on their favorite vacation activities in search of the best beach. There’s the sophisticated elegance of Oahu, the raw adventure of Kauai — and did someone mention the spectacular spas of Maui? Here, our guide to finding your perfect Hawaiian island honeymoon.

For the Spa Buffs: Maui

After months of wedding planning it’s understandable that your top honeymoon priority might be to partake in multiple couple’s spa treatments. The popular island of Maui is in part so favored for its host of high-end, beachfront resorts and gloriously pampering spas. The relaxing outposts highlight the surrounding natural splendor by utilizing native ingredients — aloe, sugarcane, sea salt, coconut and coffee — and traditional techniques in the treatments.

spa The Island Vibe:

Schedule your spa time for late afternoon, so you can relax on the beach or explore Maui’s scenic sights beforehand and watch the sunset afterward. Many of the resorts offer couples’ treatments in comfortable rooms, but the true standouts are those that feature open-air cabanas. Favorites include the Spa Grande at Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, with its elaborate hydrotherapy pool circuit and the serene ambience of the intimate Spa at Travaasa Hana.

In addition to hitting the beach, rent a car for a day to explore the scenic Road to Hana, with its 620 curves, 59 bridges and waterfalls galore and series of quaint island towns. Stop to watch the kite surfers on Hookipa Beach, and then enjoy a relaxing lunch with a view at Mama’s Fish House near Paia. Inland is just as scenic, with visits to Makawao (stop off at T. Komoda Store & Bakery for cream puffs) and the Upcountry farms — Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm and Surfing Goat Dairy are two favorites. The 10,023-foot Haleakala, a dormant volcano, has a crater crisscrossed with hiking trails. Dining options also abound, especially in the historic whaling town of Lahaina, where you can enjoy Hawaiian contemporary cuisine at Lahaina Grill and Pacific’O, or try a traditional luau on the beach as the sun sets.

Where to Stay:

For an immersive spa honeymoon book into the 780-room Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort with a 50,000-square-foot spa, nine pools and seven restaurants and bars. Also on the west coast in Wailea, The Fairmont Kea Lani offers an ornate yet subdued ambience with an intimate spa, 413 large suites and 37 beachfront villas. On Kaanapali Beach in Lahaina, the 806-room Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa has the beachfront Spa Moana specializing in Hawaiian natural botanicals, along with two free-form pools. For peaceful seclusion, check into Travaasa Hana, an enclave of 70 cottages and suites overlooking a black-lava beach.

For the City Scene: Oahu

If you love the 24/7 excitement of a big city, consider devoting a good chunk of your Hawaiian honeymoon to Honolulu, the Aloha State’s capital and gateway. Located on Oahu and home to almost one million people, Honolulu is known for both its iconic sun-and-surf culture — on bustling Waikiki Beach — and an haute restaurant and bar scene.

outrigger reef on the beach in oahu hawaiiThe Island Vibe:

City chic is the name of the game on Oahu, especially when it comes to dining and shopping. There’s an endless array of designer boutiques set next to the expected island beachwear outfitters at the Royal Hawaiian Center and the 290-store Ala Moana Center. Refuel at one of the area’s award-winning eateries. Indulge in creative Asian-inspired Hawaiian regional cuisine at Alan Wong’s, savor delicious steaks at The Beachhouse and enjoy a sophisticated take on seafood at Azure in The Royal Hawaiian hotel. Whatever your tastes, be sure to book a table at Morimoto Waikiki, a sushi outpost of the world’s most celebrated master. Cocktails and small plates are also popular city eats, as are enjoying both at sunset. At the trendy, tiki-torch-lit RumFire bar the scene is hip and the ocean views are spectacular. For a more authentic experience, there’s the atmospheric Banyan Courtyard at the Moana Surfrider, which offers local entertainment and mai tais beneath a 110-year-old banyan tree or the romantic House Without a Key at Halekulani for traditional slack-key guitar music and hula.

Of course, it isn’t all citified fun on the island of Oahu and typical Hawaiian pursuits — surf lessons, riding an outrigger canoe with Waikiki Beach Services and just kicking back on the beach — are abundant. The easy two-hour climb up the dormant volcano Diamond Head provides a great bird’s eye view.

the moderne honolulu hawaiiWhere to Stay:

The recently renovated, 639-room Outrigger Reef on the Beach is located adjacent to the shops and eateries of lively Waikiki Beach Walk, and sits on its own lovely section of sand. The 793-room Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, charms with historic details (circa-1901 architecture, a rocker-lined porch) and a beachfront location. The Heavenly Beds and a Hawaii-centric spa continue the draw. Youthful and nightlife-centric, The Modern Honolulu offers contemporary decor in its 353 rooms, two pools and trendy eateries and clubs, but no beach access. For the ultimate in romance, splurge on a room with a Waikiki view in the Royal Beach Tower at The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort — the hotel has been a pink-hued beachfront icon since 1927.

For the Green Lovers: Kauai

st regis princeville resort in kaui hawaiiCouples who live and breathe the great outdoors should head straight for Kauai, which you’ll soon discover is worthy of its “Garden Isle” moniker. It’s home to Hawaii’s greenest and most photogenic peaks, a dramatic sea-cliff coastline and a striking 3,600-foot-deep valley.

The Island Vibe:

Kauai is small enough to drive around in a few hours, but big enough to satisfy almost every active nature-lover’s checklist: hiking, sea kayaking, biking, ziplining, surfing, snorkeling/diving and whale watching. Discover the breathtaking Na Pali Coast on foot by hiking the 11-mile Kalalau Trail from Ke’e Beach or by sea during a rigorous kayak paddle with Outfitters Kauai. You can also take a relaxing catamaran sail with Captain Andy’s, complete with snorkel stop to see sea turtles and dolphins. Inland Kauai boasts dozens of miles of hiking trails in red-and-green-hued Aimee Canyon and Koke’e State Park, boating excursions on Hawaii’s only navigable river, the Wailua, and amazing photo-ops in front of rushing Wailua and Opaekaa Falls. Helicopter tours above it all are also wildly popular.

Hit the beach: For continuous sun, make your base in Poipu on the drier southern coastline or on the Coconut Coast to the east. Kauai’s North Shore from Princeville to Hanalei is the place to be for some of Hawaii’s most secluded beaches and amazing views. The tradeoff for all this lush greenery is a bit of rain.

 

 

Where to Stay:

With its prime Poipu location and recent renovation, the 394-room Sheraton Kauai Resort is a romantic beachfront enclave with a contemporary vibe. Also in Poipu, Koa Kea Hotel & Resort is a stylish 121-room boutique property with an intimate spa and a restaurant specializing in Hawaiian dishes. In Lihue on the East Coast, the 345-room Kauai Marriott Resort is set on 800 beautifully landscaped acres on Kalapaki Bay. And offering the most stunning view of panoramic Hanalei Bay, the 251-room St. Regis Princeville Resort is Kauai’s most luxurious resort.

For Endless Offerings: Hawaii, The Big Island

If you can’t decide if you prefer the beach to the jungle, the snowy peaks to an active volcano, Hawaii (a.k.a. The Big Island) is the one for you. It encompasses the stark landscape of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the barren serenity of 13,803-foot Mauna Kea’s often snow-capped summit, the green pastures of upcountry Waimea and the waterfall-studded rainforest of the island’s windward side near Hilo. And at 4,028 square miles, the Big Island lives up to its name — it takes nearly a full day to circumnavigate it.

four seasons hulalai` on the big island hawaii

The Island Vibe

One of the top experiences here is watching lava flow from Kilauea Volcano’s Pu’u Oo vent. You can walk across vast shiny grey-brown lava fields of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or for another vantage point, hop on an evening cruise from which you can witness the fiery red magma as it flows into the sea. Other post-sunset adventures: a night dive with Jack’s Diving Locker in the waters off Kona with giant manta rays gliding through the water, sucking in plankton and inciting awe, and sunset and stargazing from atop Mauna Kea (which at 33,000 feet from the ocean floor to its summit is the world’s tallest peak) with its sky-high perspective above the clouds. You can also horseback ride across acres of ranchland with paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys), kayak through the 17-mile Kohala Ditch System and soar above lava fields and the Kilauea crater in a helicopter.

Where to Stay:

The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay is newly renovated, offers a great value, and has a fun restaurant overlooking the bay where giant mantas congregate. The 1,240-room Hilton Waikoloa Village is an adventure itself, set on 62 acres with a dolphin swim program, a saltwater lagoon, golf, tennis, three pools and 10 restaurants. The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is set atop one of the world’s best beaches and offers sweeping views of the sparkling sands. And the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is luxury personified, with a stunning Kona coast setting, four restaurants, three pools and a snorkel lagoon and a spa.

Bonus, For the Cinephiles: Island Hopping

If you have a love of movies and TV series, consider island hopping in search of recognizable film locations. (Ideally spending three nights on each island.) If you only have a week, book a cruise on NCL’s Pride of America. You’ll start and end in Honolulu and spend two days each on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

Oahu: Four major TV shows have been filmed here, beginning with the original 1970s Hawaii Five-O (the opening sequence featured the Ilikai Hotel), continuing with Magnum PI in the 1980s and culminating with Lost (there are several tours to filming locations) and the new version of Hawaii Five-O. Movies set here have included From Here to Eternity, 50 First Dates, Pearl Harbor, Blue Crush, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (both filmed at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore) andThe Descendants.

Maui: The Magic Isle has fewer film credits — namely Papillon and Die Another Day (the opening surf sequence) — but it’s home to the annual Maui Film Festival in Wailea each June that draws top stars.

Kauai: When it comes to big-screen credits, Kauai wins best supporting island: South Pacific, Blue Hawaii, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, The Descendants, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Just Go With It and Soul Surferwere all filmed here — as were dozens of other films.

Big Island: The island’s diverse landscape has been featured in Waterworld, The Karate Kid, Part 2, The Planet of the Apesremake and dozens of other films.

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