Hawaiian Sun, Surf and Romance Captures the Heart
By Allison St. Claire
Back in 1953, women (and probably more than a few men) all over America watched "From Here to Eternity" and swooned as they watched sexy Burt Lancaster and glamorous Deborah Kerr fall in a passionate embrace onto the sands of a pristine Hawaiian beach - the most torrid love scene to grace American movie theaters in that era.
Since then, the aura of romance and passion has never left the beautiful Island State of Hawaii. Quick, do a little stream of consciousness word association here as you think of Hawaii - sensuous, swaying hips of hula dancers, pounding Polynesian rhythms, warm tropical breezes, sunny beaches, abundant flowers in brilliant passionate colors, romantic sunsets, cliffside wedding chapels, the haunting melody of "The Hawaiian Wedding Song"...
It doesn't take much to get the picture that Hawaii is one of the top places to go in America for that perfect wedding, honeymoon, vow renewal ceremony, or just to have a terrific vacation and meet other people who share your pleasure in experiencing a tropical paradise. And prices have never been lower or deals more easily arranged than now. Tourism to Hawaii has dropped significantly with the current economic downturn in Japan, and Hawaiian hosts are eager to fill beds, boats, shops and restaurant seats with tourists from the Mainland.
The state of Hawaii is comprised of eight primary islands. While the islands of Maui and Kauai are popular destinations for Mainland (or westbound) travelers, let's pop over to the place where every visitor first deplanes - the capital city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, where big-city energy and opportunities are nestled in a lush South Seas backdrop. In addition to city attractions, the entire island offers a terrific variety of opportunities for ecotourism, sports, culture, history and the arts.
I spent a recent Saturday evening relaxing in an oversized wicker rocking chair on the wide veranda of the magnificent, historic Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel. Even with busy traffic on the street just a few feet away, there were none of the typical fumes or overpowering roar of combustion engines along the canyons of a big-city street. Instead, the bright chatter of hundreds of strolling tourists and the flower-laden sweet tropical breeze filled my senses. The sight and scent of orchids, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and gardenias offered sustenance for both heart and soul.
I love the feeling of openness and spaciousness of Hawaiian street-level architecture. On the mainland, I would feel cramped, closed in, even overpowered by towering buildings in areas that are as densely built up as Waikiki Beach. Here, however, there are no walls, no windows, no automatic sliding doors or cramped little revolving doors. Particularly at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, just a few blocks away from where I was sitting, I would sometimes find myself looking up to see if there was a ceiling overhead to confirm that I was I'm actually indoors. Verdant gardens and flowers flow naturally from the beachfront alongside natural paths encircling tropical pools, and into a spacious lobby open on almost all sides to other gorgeous verdant vistas.
On the veranda that night, though, I started to notice the number of brides and grooms who sprang from elegant white limousines, stopping to have their pictures taken at the elegant portico entrance and then sweeping into this grand dame of picturesque historic hotels. I counted the number of couples -- young, middle-aged and seniors, who strolled arm-in-arm along the street. I could visualize the number of couples who gazed with love and passion into the eyes of the person across the table in romantic dining spots such as the restaurant high atop the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel. There's something about watching the glorious sunset splash across the massive bulk of Diamondhead crater or the sparkling city lights reflect off the phosphorescent ocean waves 30 stories below to create an ardently romantic atmosphere.
Statistics from the Hawaiian State government confirmed my observations. They show 45% of the almost 20,000 marriages in Hawaii in an average year are residents of other states. In 1998, almost 270,000 westbound travelers flew into Honolulu for a honeymoon in Hawaii. And while a lot of us come to Hawaii for romantic reasons, the state also remains a huge favorite among eastbound vacationers: over 343,000 Asian couples came to honeymoon in Hawaii, often exchanging vows for a second time, following their official marriage at home.
Almost all the major hotel properties offer special romance and/or nuptial packages including special room rates, champagne, chocolates, breakfast in bed, candlelight desserts, moonlit cruises and other sensuous amenities. Secluded wedding chapels offer glorious vistas of Pacific beaches or sparkling waterfalls, and include flowers, stanchions laced with tulle and silk florals, wedding cake, guitar or harp soloists, bouquets and flowers for both bride and groom, and much more. On "the other side" of the island from Honolulu, the Hilton Turtle Bay Golf and Tennis Resort features a picturesque white gazebo in a lush green meadow backlighted by spectacular ocean sunsets, perfect for a glorious wedding or party background.
The best tourist season in Hawaii - October to June - is close at hand. Are you ready for a romantic island experience?
What to Pack
The average temperature range in Hawaii is about 8 degrees -- from 72 to 80ƒ, both day and night. If the trade winds are not blowing (seldom, but a possibility in the summer months), the high range will feel hot and humid. But 90% of the time, temperatures are exactly what researchers have found to be the optimum for human comfort.
You'll want resort clothes -- from casual beach wear to dressy if you plan an elegant evening out. Add cool cottons for daytime, a beach cover-up for returning to your hotel room or to protect from sunburn, and a jacket if you plan to sail on a speedy catamaran or in the unlikely event of rain.
Plenty of reasonably priced equipment is available to rent for scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, surfing, jeeping, golf and tennis.
More on Hawaii