Surfing Hawaii

North Shore Surf   Hawaii Tourism Authority Photo

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A Few Favorite Beaches

Getting married on a beach in Hawaii is tougher than might be imagined. Permits and insurance are required, and restrictions abound, including how many people can be involved (a maximum of 20), and how long you can be on the sand (no more than 2 hours). But beach time is a part of almost every would-be visitor’s dream of Hawaii, so even if you are not planning a beach wedding, here are a few favorite places your guests might want to get their toes in the sand:

Oahu’s Waikiki Beach is crowded and suffers from erosion, but it is one of the iconic travel destinations, so spend an hour there and then head for Lanikai Beach, whose sheltered waters and white sand make it ideal for swimming and sunbathing. On Maui, don’t expect to find serenity on Kaanapali Beach, but do expect to find everything else, from snorkeling to kayaking to sunbathing to shopping. The Big Island’s Punalu’u Beach is not great for swimming, because of the currents, but the warmth of its volcanic black sands attracts endangered turtles, and visitors who want to see them. If you’ve got a mixed group, including younger children, Kauai’s popular Poipu Beach, on the south side of the island, has a protected area ideal for wading and splashing. Lanai’s Hulopoe Beach, in front of the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay, but open to the public, was once named the best in America by environmental scientist Stephen Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach. The tide pools are a special treat, but take care in winter when conditions can get rough.

Traditional Luau

A luau, with traditional food and entertainment, is one of the classic Hawaii experiences, and can make for a memorable wedding meal. Usually, a featured dish will be pork baked in an underground oven, and seating will often be on a woven mat on the ground. One of the more authentic luaus is at the Polynesian Cultural Center, on Oahu, although another favorite is the Old Lahaina Luau, on Maui.

Catamaran Cruise — Oahu

One of the most romantic ways to see Hawaii is from aboard a sailing catamaran. On Oahu, send your group out on a 90-minute cruise aboard the 47-foot Maita’i catamaran, or charter the whole thing for a sunset cruise.

Haleakala Volcano Bike Ride — Maui

See who the real adventurers in your group are by suggesting one of the world’s great bicycle experiences — a sunrise ride down the Haleakala volcano. A number of companies offer this classic tour, but our favorite is the Haleakala Bike Company. Their van takes you up to the 10,000-foot rim of the crater to watch the sunrise (yes, you’ll have to get up very early), then drops you off just outside the Haleakala National Park boundary for the 23-mile ride down a road known for its upcountry Maui views, and its 29 switchbacks. For sleepyheads, there’s a more civilized version that puts you at the crater rim at 9 a.m.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Big Island

If you can’t afford to spring for fireworks, don’t worry; Mother Nature can help. Eruptions of the Kileauea volcano (which are nearly constant, but check online for activity level updates) are easily seen at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from the overlook at the Jaggar Museum. The park visitor center is open from 9-5, but the park itself has no closing hours, and the road to the overlook is suitable for all types of cars. Of course if nature’s fireworks are really important to your marriage you can base yourselves at the Volcano House Hotel, the only accommodation within the park.

Da Poke Shack — Big Island

There’s no inside seating at Da Poke Shack, and if you need to use the restroom you should have thought of that before you left your hotel, but the accolades for this tiny Kona eatery include Yelp readers naming it the top place to dine in America. (A second location recently opened on the Mamalahoa Hwy, atMile Marker 106.) Poke is a kind of diced salad whose ingredients most commonly might include tuna, seaweed, avocado aioli, sea salt, soy sauce, and chili pepper.

Alan Wong’s — Oahu

This pioneering restaurant, Alan Wong’s, is on the third floor of an office building, and has no view of the sea. But its always-creative menu offers what may be the best regional cuisine in Hawaii (the ginger-flavored snapper is a favorite), and it counts among its happy clientele President Obama, who dines here when he is on the island.

Mama’s Fish House — Maui

A long-time favorite, Mama’s Fish House is so kitschy it is cool, living up to everybody’s fantasy of Hawaii 50 years ago, except for the prices, which were clearly set in this Millennium. The fish menu changes daily and lists the name of the anglers who brought in the days catch.

Bailey’s Antiques & Aloha Shirts

Why get married in Hawaii without coming home with vintage Hawaiian shirts – for your entire wedding party. Bailey’s, in Honolulu, has the biggest selection.

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