At a glance: If you’re looking for the vibrancy and activities of a city, but still want to see a teeny umbrella in your drink at a tropical beach, you’re in luck. Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu, is Hawaii’s state capital and offers the best of city living and beach life. Whether you’re a history buff, avid adventurer, foodie, or just plain old fashioned beach lover, Honolulu offers a broad appeal and easy, direct flights from most major airports. Here, we highlight a few must-sees that perfectly sum up the destination wedding experience in Honolulu.
History: From the moving World War II monuments at Pearl Harbor to the impressive Iolani Palace, the only official state residence of royalty in the US, Hawaii is brimming with historical treasures. And, just because a site is historical doesn’t mean it’s not also scenic (this is Hawaii, after all). Overlooking the lush Windward Coast and Koolau Mountains are both the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, the site of a dramatic Hawaiian battle, andthe Byodo-In Buddhist temple, which commemorates Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. There are also a number of sites that are easily walkable from downtown Honolulu, like the historic Kawaiahao church and Aloha clock tower.
Culture: With a unique blend of indigenous, Asian and American cultural influences on full display, the Hawaiian people are proud of their unique heritage and happy to share the Aloha spirit with visitors. Getting involved can be as delicious as an authentic Pan Asian meal at Roy’s Waikiki, as fun as thrift shopping for vintage Hawaiian shirts or as memorable as a hula dancing lesson on the beach (hint: it’s harder than it looks!)
Waikiki: While it might not be a hidden gem, it is certainly worth the hype. As an international beach destination that’s renowned for its surf, Waikiki is home to a strip of gorgeous beachfront hotels, high-end shopping and dining, and plenty of nightlife. On the beach, you can watch brave surfers battle the pipelines along the North Shore, or stick to the baby waves with a gentle canoe ride at Waikiki Beach. Either way, a day spent on the water will be one for the books!
Nature: With ample public gardens to explore, Honolulu is full of gorgeous tropical greenery. On the grassy lawn at Kapiolani Park, the oldest and largest park in Hawaii, take a complimentary yoga class offered by Lotus Honolulu, an LGBT-friendly boutique hotel. Or, throw on some gym shoes and hike to the top of Diamond Head, a magnificent volcanic crater where temple priests used to inform villagers of surfing conditions with kites. If you’re up for renting a car, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a short drive from East Honolulu and a top snorkeling destination with vibrant marine life.
Nightlife: Honolulu is easily Hawaii’s hub for after-dark activity and offers a great selection of gay-friendly bars. Whether you want to enjoy a romantic meal to remember at Alan Wong’s Restaurant or sip signature daiquiris at an authentic tiki bar, Honolulu is a hub for fine dining and drinks. Afterwards, turn up the intensity with a spirited fire dancing show or night out at the trendy Bacchus Waikiki. Whatever you’re in the mood for, Honolulu’s nightlife will keep you on your toes.