When I heard about the “Let Hawaii Happen” campaign, which aims to change outdated perceptions of Hawaii by showing more than what's expected of the tourist's eye, I was very excited to explore the many hidden gems of the island. Or rather, the six major Hawaiian Islands. There’s nothing better than wandering and making discoveries off the beaten path. So if you’re planning a wedding or honeymoon in Hawaii, consider island hopping and getting to know Hawaii in ways you never thought before.
Kauai, the northernmost and greenest of the islands, is known for Waimea Canyon which is often called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” but is just as often overlooked by tourists. The views of this 3,500-foot deep canyon are not to be missed and worth every single minute of your helicopter ride or hike up closer to the sky. The towering cliffs of the Napali Coast, with its sea caves that you can explore by zodiac, is another wonder that could easily be the highlight of your explorations. If you're looking to bring home a piece of Hawaii with more than a keychain, head to Hanapepe and pick up a piece of local art at one of the many specialty shops.
You may already have "Visit Waikiki" and "Visit Pearl Harbor" on your agenda for Oahu but make sure to also visit the North Shore. This surfing mecca is known as the birthplace of modern big wave surfing. For panoramic views of the coast and Koolau cliffs, Nuuanu Pali Lookout is the place to go. Located in a valley along the 2,000-foot Koolau Range is the Valley of the Temples. The hidden gem is home to the Japanese temple called Byodo-In, which translates to the "Temple of Equality." The sound of the sacred bell (bon-sho) fills the peaceful temple grounds, as it is customary for visitors to ring the bell before entering the temple for long life and happiness.
Whether you're looking for a luxurious experience or charming small town, Maui's got it. Paia is a bustling hotspot for restaurants, galleries, and more. For a calmer experience, catch paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) horseback riding in Upcountry Maui. Or take a narrow, curvy, unforgettable ride to Hana, a town that is considered one of the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers. Finally, if you're looking for a challenge, you and your spouse can try and look for rare indigenous life like the Nene (Hawaiian Goose) on your drive to Haleakala, Maui Maui’s highest peak (10,023 feet) after you catch the sunrise.
Lanai is a small island known for luxury, seclusion and serenity. One way to combine all of the above? An exhilarating hike up the Munro Trail, past rain forests and to the scenic lookout atop Lanai’s highest peak. Or take a short, romantic hike past Hulopoe Bay to get a view of Puu Pehe, also known as “Sweetheart Rock.”
One way to see Hawaii that you may have never thought possible? A mule ride. Yes, you can ride a mule along some of the highest sea cliffs in the world to the gorgeous Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Perfect for nature lovers.
Every island has cultural markers that are musts for history buffs. Hawaii Island offers Hulihee Palace, a museum showcasing Victorian artifacts from the era of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. The sacred Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is a 180-acre site that was once a place for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers looking to take refuge. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park showcases petroglyphs carved by Hawaiians centuries ago at Puu Loa Petroglyphs, the largest petroglyph field in Hawaii.
Finally, instead of swimming with dolphins consider manta ray diving. Manta rays are gentle and otherworldly animals, but if you prefer to stay out of the water you may be able to spot them at night as you stargaze off the coast. No matter what island you choose and what road you go down, an adventure is waiting for you in Hawaii.
What are you most looking forward to exploring in Hawaii?
To pick the perfect island to exchange your vows or celebrate your nuptials, visit Go Hawaii.