Your wedding day isn’t the only time you should feel like royalty. A Hawaiian honeymoon can extend the feeling of living like a king and queen—the islands sing of majesty and the spirit of aloha. After all, these sublime isles are no strangers to the royal treatment; from the early 1300s until the late 1800s, they were a kingdom. In fact, the only real palaces in the U.S. are in Hawaii! So cue the trumpets, roll out the red carpet and get ready to experience life like Hawaiian royalty on the islands of Kauai, Oahu and Molokai.
The green fields and lush mountains of Kauai, the garden isle.
Ancestors of the royal family still reside on an island that seems to sit on the edge of the earth.
Explore the Royal Coconut Coast. Also known as Kawaihau, this area on the east coast was once a choice spot for religious (and superstitious) royals. It is comprised of four municipalities—Wailua, Kapa’a, Waipouli and Ke’alia—and some of the best beaches on the island. Perhaps the most important spot in this area is Wailua, which sits in the shadow of Nounou Mountain, also known as the Sleeping Giant. Legend has it that the land around the mouth of the Wailua River is sacred. There are large boulders on the banks etched with petroglyphs. And one rock, called the birthing stone or Pohaku-Ho’ohanau, was where the royal family gave birth (they often traveled here from other islands because the stone was said to impart divine powers onto the child). Today, the history of the region is preserved at the Wailua River State Park, where you can view the petroglyphs, swim in seawater pools and hike winding tropical trails that end in the Fern Grotto, a natural garden housed in an ancient cave. (You can even choose to get married here.) A relaxing river cruise is another way to treat yourself: As you float down the enchanting waterway, you’ll be entertained by hula performances and traditional music, as well as by narrated stories of the area’s history and legends (smithskuaui.com).
Get the ultimate royal treatment with an outdoor stone massage.
Get pampered in Princeville. In 1860, this upscale area was named Princeville in honor of Hawaiian Prince Albert, who died at the tender age of four. Today the resort community boasts residences, timeshares, two world-class golf courses, a spa and the überluxurious St. Regis hotel, formerly the Princeville Resort. (The property is currently closed and undergoing a major renovation. It will reopen in April 2009). Among the fabulous guest-room offerings, which include high-thread-count sheets and gold-infused wall coverings, is the complimentary Malie Mist. The aura-cleansing spray features the essential oils of the sacred malie plant, which were often used in rituals, including weddings. The tropical plant is found only deep in the Kauai rain forest (stregis.com).
Also in the Princeville area is the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, which opened last year. The property sits on the towering sea cliffs overlooking Hanalei Bay and boasts four pools and access to three golf courses. The resort is also home to a restaurant hot spot, Nanea, which has locals and visitors clamoring for its delectable island cuisine (westin.com).
For a truly elevating experience and the best views of the island, hop on a helicopter. Island Helicopter excursions buzz along the coastline, drawing incredibly close to some of Kauai’s breathtaking waterfalls and rugged canyons in the island’s interior (islandhelicopters.com).
Let loose with a lomi lomi massage. In Hawaiian, lomi lomi means to touch with loving hands. To honeymooners, lomi lomi means ultimate relaxation. A royal tradition for centuries, the massage technique incorporates long, rhythmic strokes. Compared to other types of massage, the practitioner uses elbows and forearms as well as hands, a method that’s said to improve energy flow. One of the best places to experience the massage is at Hanalei Day Spa in Hanalei. Treatments are conducted in beachfront, handcrafted hales, traditional Hawaiian houses fashioned from thatched palm fronds and ti leaves. As you lie in the shade, lulled by the sound of lapping waves, you’ll feel like an authentic royal (hanaleidayspa.com).
The heat is on at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa on Oahu.
This island, where Hawaii’s current state capital is situated, was also once home to the Hawaiian monarchy. Today, the royal palace is a popular museum.
Go native at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort & Spa, an enormously sprawling beachfront property that pays homage to the past while offering modern day luxuries. Think of it as an oasis of pampering with every possible resort amenity, from a spa and water sports center to a wedding chapel. It boasts more than 3,000 guest rooms in six towers spread over 22 acres of sandy white beach (hiltonhawaiianvillage.com). Take a splash in Waikiki’s largest swimming pool (10,000 square feet), wander the acres of tropical gardens hand in hand and indulge in the signature Four-Hand Massage at Mandara Spa (hiltonhawaiianvillage.com). You can also follow in the footsteps of one of Hawaii’s most revered figures, Duke Kahanamoku, the man who is credited with introducing the art of surfing to the U.S. mainland and winning an Olympic gold medal in swimming in 1920.
Before surfing became known for its popularity with the bleached-blonde-and-forever-tan set, surfing was a royal activity. And according to some experts, royal Hawaiian women were actually the first leisure surfers. At the Hilton Hawaiian Village, classes and private instruction are held in the exact place where Duke surfed as a child and young man. Sessions include basic surf etiquette, pop-up drills and some balancing skills (hiltonhawaiianvillage.com).
After all that activity, you’re sure to be hungry, so head on over to the resort’s luau, the only one held on Waikiki Beach. This traditional Polynesian feast, popular with locals and visitors alike, once served as a celebration for the islands’ royalty. Held at sunset, the luau’s highlight is the unearthing of the roasted pig from the imu, a pit filled with lava rocks and bamboo stumps and covered by ti leaves. The luau includes a hearty buffet featuring the roasted kalua pig, poi (a pudding-like dish made from taro root) and breadfruit, among other local favorites. When the sun goes down, the celebrating starts, so grab a Mai Tai and watch the fire-eaters, hula girls and other performers show their stuff (hiltonhawaiianvillage.com).
America’s only royal palace is on Oahu.
Step back in time at the royal palaces. Iolani Palace in Honolulu is the only official royal residence to ever exist in the United States, and it’s also the spot where Hawaii’s rich cultural traditions were revived in the 1970s. The Hawaiian kingdom’s last two monarchs, King Kalakaua, who built the two-tiered modern structure in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Lili’uokalani, resided here. In addition to serving as the monarchy’s seat of power, the white brick palace also hosted cultural events and luaus. It was here that the queen wrote the Hawaiian anthem, as well as 165 more folk songs, including the popular “Aloha ‘Oe.” All that changed in 1895, however, when Queen Lili’uokalani was overthrown and imprisoned in the building. During World War II, the palace served as a temporary military headquarters before being turned into government offices. When those officials moved out in 1969, the palace was restored in exacting detail. It was then that an appreciation of Hawaiian culture, including hula and language, was reawakened. Today, you can tour the restored interiors and learn about the history firsthand. If you like, you can even hold your wedding here (iolanipalace.org).
Have a bite to eat across the street at the trendy Downtown@HiSAM, inside the Hawaii State Art Museum, which was built in 1872 as Hawaii’s first hotel and crash pad for guests of the royals (hawaii.gov/sfca).
For another palatial attraction, stop by the Queen Emma Summer Palace on the scenic Old Pali Highway in southeast Oahu. Queen Emma, who reigned from 1856 to1863, summered annually in this quaint Hawaiian-Victorian home. Designed like a plantation home, with large exterior columns, an expansive porch and high ceilings, the house now displays furnishings and collectibles gathered from the queen’s five residences across the islands. Here, you’ll find cloaks, caps and other finery worn by Hawaiian royalty, as well as a colonial cabinet displaying a china set given by England’s Queen Victoria (Queen Emma was a quarter English). The home was restored and is operated by the Daughters of Hawaii, a group of direct descendants of Hawaiians who lived in the islands before 1880 (daughtersofhawaii.com/summerpalace).
Bringing the roast pig to the luau table
Hawaii’s most authentic and least developed island once served as a pilgrimage destination for the royals. It’s also the birthplace of hula, a storied dance form that originated from prayer.
Savor the seclusion. Once known as the island of prayer, Molokai offers today’s visitors the same respite and sense of relaxation as when the royal family visited during their reign. The island has approximately 7,000 residents, who share two bars, two gas stations and a whole lot of rural land. Towering sea cliffs and uninterrupted miles of tropical foliage make it a paradise for couples who truly want to get away. Not much has changed since the 1880s, when the beachside coconut grove—one of the few royal ones left—was planted for King Kamehameha. (The area was the famous king’s favorite summertime spot.)
The most popular activity here is a daylong excursion to the sequestered village of Kalaupapa, which can only be reached via a long hike, small plane or mule. Enormous sea cliffs, verdant hills and the sparkling, deep-blue ocean make this adventure one of Hawaii’s most romantic (muleride.com).
The island’s Hotel Molokai is a charming throwback that features furnishings hand-carved from Hawaiian wood, beachfront tiki torches and tons of natural light—but no air conditioning. A new spa offers a surprisingly comprehensive menu of treatments, from acupuncture to lomi lomi (hotelmolokai.com).