Each fall there is a rush on jewelry stores as the love-struck plan holiday proposals. According to reports, at least a third of marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
That means a plethora of newly committed couples planning their weddings and honeymoons. For the betrothed who are contemplating a destination wedding or tropical honeymoon, Hawaii is often at the top of the list. More than a half million people traveled to the state in 2016 for their honeymoons, making up roughly 7% of air arrivals to the Islands, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority statistics. Additionally, more than 100,000 people visited Hawaii to get married in 2016.
From Oahu's nightlife to the culinary tourism of Hawaii Island, Kauai's breathtaking adventure offerings and Maui's picturesque mountains and lavish resorts, couples will find plenty of romance and a variety of accommodations and itineraries to match any checklist.
After 25 years of booking Hawaii trips, Linda Dancer has a well-tuned system for sitting down with clients interested in a romantic visit to the Aloha State. Dancer travels to all of the major Hawaiian islands each year. She has visited so often that she calls the Islands her "personal university."
Dancer specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons with a focus on Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean, and she has completed the training and certification to be a Master Destinations Specialist for the Hawaiian Islands.
"Hawaii is on everyone's bucket list, but it also means something different to everyone," the Nashville-based agent said. "Hawaii is to be experienced, and there is something there for everyone, but the proper itineraries for different couples can really vary. You have to know the Islands well and get to know the clients a bit to put all the puzzle pieces together."
In the following Q&A, Dancer shares insights and tips gleaned from a quarter century of planning Hawaii weddings and honeymoons.
Q: What are the new trends in Hawaii weddings and honeymoons?
A: Younger clients are really into food, from hole-in-the-wall eateries to fine dining. Of course, there's plenty for them, and I might steer them toward Oahu, which has so many great restaurants but also lots of little places for trying Hawaiian staples like poke or plate lunches.
If they want farm tours, upcountry Maui offers a lot. Oo Farm on Maui does tours and luncheons, and then they provide ingredients for Pacifico down on Front Street in Lahaina and other restaurants. Some kids think it's boring, but others love seeing how things are produced.
Q: What are some of your favorite options for small, intimate weddings?
A: Merriman's on Maui, which is up by Kapalua, is tucked way back and is against the ocean. The restaurant is elevated and then it drops down, and they have a lawn out back. It's a sweet place for an intimate wedding, maybe 10 to 15 guests. Brides can have their toes in the sand, which they love to do for their Hawaii wedding.
Another sweet little place is the Beach House Restaurant on Kauai. … You go up this road a little bit and the restaurant has the most amazing sunset views in the world. They also have this nice lawn space that is a good spot for an intimate wedding. You can have the reception right there, and the food is spectacular.
Q: What about best options for big, lavish weddings?
A: For a large, blown-out thing, I will most likely connect my client to a wedding planner on the Islands like White Orchid, which I work with a lot. Someone who has a private facility with everything in one place helps keep costs down. I like to send people to Haiku Mills on Maui, which is rustic and built out of the ruins of what used to be an old mansion. It's great for someone who wants something unique and cool. The place is so special and beautiful, you don't have to spend as much money to make it a unique experience.
Q: What do couples need to think about that they might overlook?
A: Because it is a bucket list destination for many people, often when I ask for a list of what they want to do I get back an eight-page dissertation. They have every minute of every day planned out, and I think they don't recognize some of the logistics issues. I have to scale them back because they forget about travel time and time to relax.
Some of them want to island-hop and see things all over the place. That takes a lot of time, and I like to show clients they can see different landscapes and get a range of activities just by visiting different sides of the same island.
On the Big Island, you can fly into Kona and start at the Sheraton Kona, where people can have the amazing experience of snorkeling with manta rays at night. Then you drive around the island, go to Punaluu Bake Shop and pick up some of their sweet breads, then visit a black sand beach. Continue on to the Hilo side and you can visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Rainbow Falls and then continue up to the Kohala Coast.
We'll go over their budget and itinerary and pick out the things that are most important to them. We make sure they have the stuff that really matters booked, because the most popular activities will fill up, and I always provide them with more info on other activities and options if they want to pack more in once they get there.
Q: What are some of your favorite romantic activities on the Islands?
A: For fun, exciting activities, the Kauai backcountry river tubing really is great and very popular.
I book wedding and honeymoon couples on a lot of private tours, like upcountry Maui farm tours, because then they can move at their own pace and see the things they want to see; it's more personal and leisurely.
For a really romantic dinner, the Grand Wailea on Maui has a restaurant, Humuhumu, where all of the tables are on these floating, thatched huts. But there is one table, table 70, that sticks out a little farther and is a little more romantic. It can be reserved in advance, and people reserve that for proposals.
And Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, which is just a lovely resort, also has the thatched-roof huts and sits next to a koi pond where you see swans swim by. And the food is fabulous.