Vacation Travel Tips & Advisories

Hawaii Wedding

A Must See:  Hawaii’s Volcanoes At Night

Taking a hike around the volcanoes at Hawaii are thrilling, but see them at night and it’s even more spectacular.   For a unique way to see these awe-inspiring displays of nature, Hawaii Forest & Trail is offering a new Twilight Volcano Adventure— a full-day exploration of  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that really comes into the best beauty at sunset where lava meets the sea on the coast of  Kalapana, Hawaii.

The new Twilight Volcano Adventure departs the Kona-Kohala Coast in a comfortable customized 12 passenger van and traverses the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa—two of the world’s largest mountains which are inhabited by some of the rarest plants and animals on earth; a real thrill for the nature lovers.

Upon arrival at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Forest & Trail’s Interpretive Guide will lead nature lovers to the must-see spots and hidden treasures of this World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Preserve. The afternoon includes a short flashlight exploration through Kaumana Cave and an up-close view of the current billowing eruption at Halemaumau Crater, legendary home of the fire goddess Madame Pele.

As sunset approaches, the tour heads north to Kalapana to view the flow at twilight, when lava glows red against the blued backdrop of dusk. The journey concludes with a sit-down dinner in the rustic old plantation town of Pahoabefore returning to the Kona-Kohala Coast.  Tour itineraries may vary due to any unexpected  volcanic activity during the day.

For more information, also see Hawaii, Volcanoes, Hawaii Forest & Trails, Mauna Koa, Mauna Lea

Island weddings: Best spots for tying the knot in Hawaii


Every season is wedding season in Hawaii’s, thanks to its romantic venues, year-round warm weather and instant-honeymoon appeal. (And the same allure applies to same-sex commitment ceremonies in the islands, where legislation to allow civil unions was pending at press time.) For those who are “making it legal,” a same-day marriage license costs just $60, with no blood tests or U.S. citizenship required.

While sandy settings remain popular — so much so that most beaches now require permits for nuptials — couples can choose from many other scenic sites, as independent wedding planners and hotel coordinators are happy to tell you. Here are five options that may be familiar to local lovers but not to the Mainland’s marriage-minded, as well as some new twists on tying the knot in Hawaii’s:

1. Shipshape ceremonies

The ordained captain of the 1,500-passenger Star of Honolulu performs legal weddings (and commitment ceremonies) on its 60-foot-high observation deck just before embarking on a sightseeing cruise from the Aloha Tower Marketplace. The basic captain’s wedding package starts at $500 per couple, including a lei cake with souvenir server, reserved window seating, a toast and two glasses of sparkling wine, and commemorative photo, with cruise choices running from a lunch buffet with seasonal whale watching to three- , five- and seven-course dinner shows at sunset (the last with live jazz.) Private reception lounges are available for an additional fee if lots of guests are coming aboard.

Latest twist: Star of Honolulu’s Rolls Royce Wedding includes the captain’s wedding amenities, but adds a round-trip transfer from Waikiki hotels in a Rolls Royce and includes the two-hour sunset jazz cruise with seven-course French dinner and premium drinks. The package costs $1,655 per couple, with upgrades (bigger wedding cake, etc.) available.

2. Royal romance

Called the “Westminster Abbey of Hawaii,” Kawaiaha’o Church was the first church to be built in Oahu, made of 1,000-pound coral slabs hand-quarried underwater and carried by canoes to shore. King Kamehameha III attended its opening services in 1842, an association with the Hawaiian monarchy that continues today: The royal pews are marked with kāhili (feather staffs), special Ali’i Sunday services honor eight royals on the Sundays closest to their birthdays, and 21 portraits of the ali’i hang on the sanctuary’s upper walls.

Bridal parties who aren’t church members may still walk in regal footsteps — with a mandatory premarital counseling session, marriage license and approved minister — by renting the historic sanctuary. The cost begins at $1,500, with decorations and minister’s honorarium starting at $150 each and musicians at $75 per person; check the church’s Wedding Center Web page for details.

Ultra-luxury twist: If exchanging vows in blue-blood surroundings is appealing, and your budget is well in the black, think pink. The rose-colored Royal Hawaiian Hotel, reopened in 2009 after a major makeover, offers distinctive wedding packages (also available as commitment ceremonies) in the royal coconut grove of Helumoa, a peaceful enclave off the now open-air lobby, and other picturesque sites. For the one-hour wedding packages, hosted in the coconut grove, the base price of $4,300 includes an officiate, a music duo, floral arch, bridal bouquet and groom’s boutonniere, bottle of sparkling wine, two-tiered wedding cake, certificate and up to 50 chairs for guests, along with a wedding-day coordinator.

For those who’d also like a touch of Hollywood nobility on their big day, the “Pink Palace of the Pacific” recently announced new wedding packages created by event planner David Beahm, who designed the nuptials of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. The overnight packages, named for Hawaiian royalty, include chauffeur service from the airport, welcome leis, lomilomi massages at the Abhasa Spa, dinner at Azure or in a private cabana, a suite with breakfast in bed, wedding-day leis and bridal bouquet, and an hourlong photograph session, among other amenities; prices begin at $9,500 plus tax. (As with most hotel packages, wedding party members also receive discounts on room rates and spa treatments.)

3. Waterfall weddings

While Hawaii has no cataract known as Bridalveil Falls, à la Yosemite, some cascades could earn the nickname as a photo backdrop. Wedding coordinators such as Merry Maui Weddings and Aloha Maui Gay Weddings can arrange nuptials at a private estate in Ha’ikū, on Maui’s North Shore, where a waterfall tumbles dramatically down a steep cliff into the ocean. The approximate cost to use the unique cliff side perch begins at $1,650 for two hours, with additional fees to host a reception. For a location closer to the Valley Isle’s resorts, photographer Vincent Salamander of Merry Maui Weddings also recommends the Tropical Gardens of Maui in ‘Īao Valley. The intimate venue includes a koi pond with three-tiered waterfall, labeled botanical gardens and a Victorian-style wedding gazebos; the rental fee starts at $475, with a maximum of 20 guests.

On Oahu, Captain Howie performs weddings and same-sex commitment ceremonies in Pukalani Falls Hawaii Wedding Garden, his tropical oasis across from Waimānalo Beach; couples can get exchange vows in one location and shoot photos in the other. In addition to the natural-looking waterfall, the garden site includes a koi pond fed by two brooks and several parrots that will pose with the happy couple. The base rate, which includes consultation, an audio CD recording, conch shell blowing and toast with sparkling apple cider, starts at $225, with many other services available.

Rugged twist: Thanks to Ride the Rim Outfitters and Kona Weddings, adventurous couples can drive an ATV or ride in an open-air Kawasaki Mule to the rim of the Big Island’s Waipi’o Valley, where a two-tiered, 60-foot waterfall flows into pools fringed by banana trees and wild ginger. After the ceremony, the wedding party can take a dip in the pools; the ride back includes magnificent views of other waterfalls across the 3-mile wide valley, which lies almost 2,000 feet below. The site fee is $1,500, with separate charges for other necessities arranged by Kona Weddings. Fastidious folks have the option of a van ride — or just their wedding outfits, to keep them pristine — to the waterfall.

4. Groomed gardens

Why pay for a lot of tropical flowers at your ceremony when you can have them growing on site? That’s one of the appeals of botanical gardens and other lavishly landscaped sites. On Maui, Vincent Salamander recommends the 8-acreKula Botanical Garden — especially since its up-country location avoids the potential heat, noise, bugs and sunbathers down at the beach — or the more centrally located Maui Tropical Plantation in Wailuku, which boasts a gazebo overlooking a lagoon and a restaurant capable of hosting 500 guests. Site fees at the Kula garden start at just $10 per person, plus $100 for a ceremony and reception; at the Wailuku plantation, the fee starts at $450 for two hours at its gazebo.

Other blooming ideas for garden bowers include Na Āina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kilauea, Kauai, which includes a poinciana maze, lagoon, koi pond and Japanese teahouse; the lush valley of native plants and sacred stones at the elegant but eco-friendly Hawaii Island Retreat in the Big Island’s North Kohala district; and, on Oahu, Senator Fong’s Plantation & Gardens in Kāne’ohe, which provides sweeping views of the Windward Side’s mountains and shoreline and rents out its visitor center for receptions.

Succulent twist: Planted in the 1930s on what became the grounds of Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation near Po’ipu Beach, Kauai, Moir Gardens’ unusual collection of cacti, succulents and bromeliads stands out among the more expected orchids and water lilies. The adjacent Plantation Gardens restaurant is the logical site for a reception after a ceremony in the gardens, which are free to visit.

5. Cost-conscious couples

Even though weddings are essentially “recession-proof,” as one Hawaii travel expert noted, more hotels are marketing the relative affordability of their nuptial options as well as their romance. At the newly renovated King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel on the Big Island, a “Plumeria package” ceremony overlooking Kailua Bay starts at $500, including a wedding officiate and coordinator, a pair of leis and a bottle of bubbly.

Even luxury properties are cutting costs, in their fashion: Book a room for at least three nights at The Kahala Hotel & Resort — Oahu’s hangout for discrete celebrities and well-heeled travelers looking for respite from busy Waikiki — and the “Weddingmoon” package will allow an oceanfront ceremony with nondenominational minister and use of the resort for wedding photography for an additional $2,800 (I did mention how posh this place is, right?)

Ultra-bargain twist: Get married at home and enjoy a vow-renewal ceremony for free in Hawaii. Legally married guests of Outrigger properties on Oahu can participate in a ritual with chant, hula and a sprinkling of sea water held twice weekly at 8 a.m. in front of the Outrigger Reef. On Kauai, a similar ceremony is held for Outrigger guests every other Thursday (through Dec. 21, 2010) in Moir Gardens. The nondenominational ritual includes complimentary lei, slack-key guitar music, a chant by a Hawaiian kahu (minister), a vow exchange and a commemorative certificate; reservations are required, with a limit of six couples per ceremony.


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