O'ahu, Hawaii: An Island Made for Two
|The City of Honolulu, O'ahu, where palm trees grow among the skyscrapers (Brand X Pictures)|
The island home of Honolulu, O'ahu invites visitors to succumb to the dreamy offerings of "classic" Hawaii, with the dramatic peak of Diamond Head punctuating the resort-lined beaches of Waikiki, Maunalua and Waimanalo Bays. Once you're walking along the sugar-soft sand with the sound of crashing Pacific waves filling the scented air, the enduring magic and romance of this Polynesian jewel will become all too clear.
Start your vacation with a night or two at one of Honolulu's grand beachside hotels pitched along the two-mile stretch of Waikiki Beach, such as the elegant Halekulani (2199 Kalia Rd.). Its huge outdoor pool is decorated with a shimmering orchid mosaic, and its spa, SpaHalekulani, offers special dual treatment rooms for couples (try the traditional "lomi lomi" Hawaiian massage or the coconut-passion scrub).
At sunset, linger over a mai tai at the Halekulani's casual House Without a Key restaurant while hula dancers perform under the nearby trees. Roam through the coconut-palm groves of the frothy rose-colored Royal Hawaiian (2259 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki), built in 1927 and dubbed the "pink palace of the Pacific," or try the urban-chic-with-Balinese-accents of the W Honolulu-Diamond Head (2885 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki).
Hawaiian cuisine is a true melting pot of many influences, as you can discover at the intriguing, contemporary-Hawaiian Alan Wong's (1857 South King St., 808.949.2526, www.alanwongs.com), the cool Asian-fusion Indigo (1121 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu, 808.521.2900, www.indigo-hawaii.com) in Chinatown or at Chef Mavro (1969 South King St., 808.944.4714, www.chefmavro.com), where local ingredients get a Mediterranean spin.
But there's more to setting the mood than just setting the table. After a day on the beach, check out the open-air summer concerts held at the Waikiki Shell (2805 Monsarrat Ave., Waikiki, 808. 591.2211, www.blaisdellcenter.com) or the Friday night jams at the Kapiolani Bandstand in Kapiolani Park.
After adjusting to "island time," it's time to take a drive along the coastal highways ringing the island to explore some of O'ahu's alluring beaches and get an eyeful of the island's out-of-this-world scenery. Heading east, snorkeling is the big attraction at Hanuauma Bay, which teems with curious tropical fish. Windsurfers and ocean kayakers head to Kailua Beach Park (on the windward side of the island at the end of Kailua Road), where you can rent equipment nearby. Continue north to Kahana Valley State Park (52-222 Kamehameha Highway/Rte 83, 808.237.7766), a lovely 5,000-acre park with forest trails, swimming, fishing, and great picnic spots. Or head to the equally pristine and beautiful Malaekahana State Recreation Area overlooking tiny (and accessible) Goat Island (on Kamehameha Highway, just north of Laie).
If surfing gets your blood pumping, keep driving to the northern end of the island, where you'll find Ehukai Beach Park and Waimea Bay (Kamehameha Highway, North Shore), home of the world-renowned Banzai Pipeline. Swimmers and beachcombers head to the long, broad swath of mellow golden sand and mild surf at nearby Sunset Beach. At the island's northern tip is also the newly renovated Turtle Bay Resort (57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku), which includes the Spa Luana (808.447.6868), offering such treats as pineapple pedicures and Kona coffee bean and macadamia nut body scrubs. The airy, spacious beach cottages let you fall asleep to the sound of the waves in your very own beachside Hawaiian idyll, where you'll dream you and your loved one will never have to depart...
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication