1. Young Island, St. Vincent
If the plane, taxi, and then ferry ride don’t convince you that you’ve reached paradise lost then the gardenesque lushness of this privately owned 13-acre tropical island will. The most northerly of the Grenadine chain of islands, Young Island is tucked about 200 yards off St. Vincent’s southern shores and is all about luxury, lavish indulgence, and verdant scenery. Linger over five-course feasts spiced with West Indian flavors in a thatched-roof dining hut for two. Sip a Coconut Delight right out of a fresh coconut at the swim-up bar. Refresh with a Bajan cane sugar body scrub at Spa Kalina. Visit the uninhabited archipelago, Tobago Cays, by boat and snorkel the coral reefs. At Young Island, cottages step up the hillsides, each a hideaway unto itself (particularly cottages 10, 28, 29 and 30) with open-air garden showers, seductive plunge pools, and glorious sea views – but the most secluded of all is the Duvernette Suite. Sitting at the very top of Young Island, it offers breathtaking views of the sea, Fort Duvernette, St. Vincent, and Bequia. You won’t want to be found.
2. Mackinac Island, Michigan
No automobiles are allowed on Mackinac Island, located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. There are, however, plenty of horses-drawn carriages and bicycles, and an unrivaled atmosphere of romance. The entire island looks like a movie set, and that’s just what it was in 1979 when the Jane Seymour/ Christopher Reeve classic, “Somewhere in Time” – considered one of the most romantic movies of all time – was filmed on an island considered to be one of the most romantic destinations in the United States. Two island resorts, the venerable Grand Hotel, home of traditional afternoon tea and the world’s largest porch (lined with at least too rockers), and the lakeside Mission Point Resort, offer an homage to the movie. For the former, it is the annual “Somewhere in Time” weekend package, in October; for the latter, the Mackinac Island Observation Tower has a gorgeous exhibit about the filming of the movie, the attendant Hollywood Sound Stage, and the island’s only movie theatre, which also appeared in the movie and offers a full summer lineup of films and events. All this, plus shops, art galleries, water sports, nightlife, and spectacular views.
The lights dim, and the arena goes quiet. Though it’s never truly quiet – Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium is vault-ceilinged and cavernous, and coughs echo through the space – you can sense the audience stilling itself; you can hear the bleachers creak as people lean forward.
Then the first of the men walk onto the stage, I and the crowd – some 5,000 people – sigh their appreciation and shout their approval. Flashbulbs blink throughout the stadium like fireflies. There are 20 men, and at first, they appear to be identical: their chests and legs and armpits freshly waxed, their hair slicked back with pomade, their foreheads and ankles and wrists and necks circled with bushy fern leis. They are naked but for a malo, a poufy fold of stiff cotton, which covers the crotch and resembles an origami rose. They stand, arms stretched before them, thumbs aligned, or with fists on their hips, and wait for the sound of their teacher’s hand slapping against his ipu, a large dried gourd that provides the percussive beat for all hula chants. Many hulas that are danced to chants begin with a call-and-response, and the teacher sings out a first line in Hawaiian – Are you ready? – and his troupe shouts out their affirmation: Yes, we’re ready. And then the dance begins.
Hula prizes uniformity above almost everything else. There might be 9 dancers, or 14, or 21, and they might be arranged in three or four or five rows, but no matter their number, you can be certain that hours of practice have been devoted to the group’s conformity of step and gesture. But the strange thing about hula is that the better synchronized a troupe is, the more it encourages you to notice the dancers’ differences: As they move, you see that this one is a teenager, and that one I in his 60s. This one is white, and that one is Asian (though most are distinctly “local,” that inimitable ethnic mix of Polynesian, Asian, and Caucasian that is the modern face of the Hawaiian Islands). This one is fat and tall, and that one is short and thin. Offstage, they are doctors and mechanics and social workers and civil servants. Onstage, though, they are only dancers.
Too soon, it’s over. There is one final call-and- response. The dancers hold their pose. Applause fills the stadium like birds. And then the troupe halves itself and exits, one group going stage left, the other stage right. Their dance is finished.
To love Hawaii is to love hula, and to love hula is to wait all year for the islands’ most prestigious competition, Merrie Monarch. The festival, which is held every Easter weekend, was founded in 1963 in part to revive the fortunes of Hilo, the small, very rainy former plantation town on the east coast of the Big Island, the largest of the seven inhabited islands. Most of the year, Hilo resembles what it is: a sleepy post-colonial outpost, a place where, until recently, parking meters accepted pennies, and where locals like my parents can visit from Honolulu and pretend they’re still in pre-statehood Hawaii, a place so remote that newspapers from the mainland arrived a day late.
But for one week a year, Hilo becomes the hub for hula fanatics. There are the troupes themselves, called hālau, but there are also their entourages: the family members and friends who will spend the days before the event mending, sewing, fixing hair, feeding, prepping, and encouraging. There are the fans – securing a ticket to the festival is a byzantine and frustrating process, one that was until very recently conducted completely by mail – and there is the media: The two-day competition is broadcast live locally, complete with the land of color commentary and personal-interest featurettes you get with any sports competition. The result is a cross between Burning Man, the Super Bowl, and the Miss America Pageant, but with a lot more mud.
Travelling was always the best solution for those who wish to escape the daily routine and spend some time with just their significant others around. Today, our experts from planetofbrides.com prepared for you the top 9 places that definitely worth your attention. Read and find out where to spend your next romantic vacation!
1. Venice (above)
Someone associates this jewel of the Adriatic with brilliant Shakespeare’s tragedies; someone links it to the person of Casanova. Well, you may have your own connections. Yet no one would argue that Venice is a must-see place for those who are willing to get some of the Italian magic.
It’s hard to remember any spots in North America that would surpass Niagara in fame and beauty. Located right on the border of Canada and the United States, it attracts tens of millions of visitors from all around the globe annually.
Trivial as it may seem, Paris seems to never give up its status of the most romantic city throughout Europe. Centuries ago, the capital city of France was already the centre of sophistication and courtesy hosting a significant number of stunning landmarks.
This fascinating island lies in the southern Aegean Sea, right in between the mainland of Greece and the famous Crete Island. So if you’re planning a trip throughout the country, there will be no difficulties to include this destination to your wish list. To make a long story short: it was actually ranked as the best island on the globe by BBC Travel.
In Hawaii, ‘aloha’ is everywhere. It’s reflected in the name of the boldly patterned shirts for which the 50th state is known, and you’ll see the word in the titles of businesses, restaurants and hotels. It also pops up in greetings, offerings of thanks and declarations of love. But why is it used so much?
Aloha isn’t just a word, or a way to say hello and goodbye. It’s a spirit that inhabits and influences almost everything that happens here, and the locals see it as a manifesto for life. It takes in many different meanings but, broadly put, it encapsulates generosity, friendliness and an over aching mantra of ‘do no harm’. Traditional Hawaiian culture doesn’t separate humanity from the natural world; both are regarded according to the values of unity, honesty and humility that aloha represents. If you want to truly understand it, you have to experience it first-hand. Here are a few suggestions of where to start.
In 1960, Laurance S. Rockefeller, a conservationist and hotel visionary, was invited to the undeveloped island of Hawaii. As he flew over the volcanic island, he spotted a beautiful, crescent-shaped white sand beach at the foot of the dormant volcano, Mauna Kea.
Unable to peel his eyes away, he asked to take a swim after landing. Looking up from the bay, Rockefeller dreamed of a resort that conformed to, but did not intrude upon, the location’s incredible spirit and beauty – one that inspired guests to return for generations. Here, the magic of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel began. A luxurious retreat was conceived, and the industry’s leading contractors were hired to build it.
Making its breathtaking debut in July 1965, it was the first resort hotel on the island and – at the time – the most expensive hotel ever built, at $15 million. More than 50 years later, resting on the gemlike turquoise bay of Kauna’oa, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a jewel of its own. It remains a legend and a tradition, offering guests a beautiful beach, the finest cuisine, championship golf and tennis, and endless aloha.
When Rockefeller found Kauna’oa Bay, there was little there: no roads, no power and no water; undoubtedly the right spot for his masterpiece.
He brought in every resource to transform the rocky landscape into a grand resort, including Mexican flagstones, Italian marble, ancient lava rock, black beach pebbles, concrete, steel and more than 200 varieties of plants to develop the lush, colorful landscape. One-and-a-half million man-hours went into building the “invisible” midcentury mega-structure.
A stone-stacked sign marked “Mauna Kea” and an extra-long winding drive leads guests to paradise at the resort’s entrance.
Blue tile floors matching the waters of Kauna’oa Bay line the open lobby, capturing the view of the ocean and encouraging guests to relax immediately upon arrival. The walls and pillars conform to the color of the bay’s sand. A multistory garden with sky-scraping coconut palms fills the center.
The 252 guestrooms – all with ocean or golf course views – were designed with an understated elegance in the style of an Old World mansion. Multiple sliding doors offer privacy and fresh-air cross-ventilation.
Guestroom doors open to corridorless floors that float over an atrium, where gardens and sky can be seen and trade winds can freely pass through. Suspended stairways rise throughout the concrete structure, connecting the floors. Monumental lava-rock walls adorn nooks and crannies.
More than 1,600 authentic Pacific and Asian artworks are displayed, giving the impression of a grandiose estate filled with fine art. With pieces from India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Melanesia and Polynesia, Mauna Kea has one of the most extensive collections of Asian and Oceanic arts assembled by one person.
It was developed as an integral feature of the resort, and includes hand-selected works like the 7th-century pink granite Buddha resting under a Bodhi tree at the top of an enormous staircase; the two golden Buddhist disciples cast of bronze, guarding the lobby entrance; and the hand-stitched Hawaiian quilts and hand- dyed kapas and tapas lining the fifth through eighth floors.
Some pieces were intentionally selected for outdoor display. Others were chosen for exhibition in lounges, corridors and alcoves to inspire and inform guests.
Marked by two oversize bronze Japanese koi, Manta resembles an 18th-century Buddhist temple. The open-air restaurant overlooks the bay and Manta Point, where amazingly graceful manta rays feed along the shoreline most nights.
It’s home to a legendary daily breakfast buffet and an even more colossal Sunday brunch buffet. As the sun sets, the ambiance changes as guests watch executive chef Roger Bartle and his team prepare ocean-and farm-fresh fine cuisine in the restaurant’s exhibition kitchen. The Batik curry remains a staple while specials change nightly. Displayed outside are the resort’s resident Macaw parrots, Mango and Keo.
Hau Tree rests on the beach and serves fresh salads, wraps, ice cream and the resort’s famous Ovaltine froth, a perfect beachside treat. Grab-and-go breakfast, sit-down lunches and relaxed dinners around the gazebo mean guests only need to stray steps from the sand for a great meal. It’s the ideal place to enjoy a Fredrico, the signature cocktail of Mauna Kea. Spiced with velvety Jack Daniels, the “Freddy” is a modern take on the island’s Mai Tai. It was named in 1988 after a guest who desired a crisp drink to enjoy in large quantities.
The most iconic gathering place is Copper Bar. With wide floor-to-ceiling panoramas of Kauna’oa Bay and copper accents throughout, it underwent a slow and calculated renovation in 2015 to preserve the multigenerational feeling and allure of Mauna Kea. The original copper bar top was transformed into a beautiful backsplash. Marine rope that once lined the pillars was reused as a new art wall. Skylights splash the bar with light from the lobby level above. Eighteenth and 19th-century Indian temple toys, made of extravagant bronze and brass as offerings to Hindu deities, are displayed. Elegant island favorites like seared poke bowls and spicy macadamia nuts are served daily. Mixologists shake craft cocktails like the Mauna Kea mule, made with house-made ginger beer and Maui’s own Pau vodka, and served, of course, in a copper mug.
Never has a grand hotel seen such grand activity. Although the trade winds smell particularly sweet and the waters look glass-calm in the early dawn, the crescent-shaped beach is lovely any time of day. Sun worshipers can bask in year-round warm weather, while adventure seekers can snag stand-up paddleboards (and glow SUPs at night), canoes and trendy inflatables from the Beach Club.
Snorkel gear is available for water enthusiasts looking to see the reef, located a few short fin kicks from shore and Manta Point.
Kids can engage in Keiki Club Adventures, a daily program filled with fun activities, while children and adults alike can enjoy cultural activities such as ukulele lessons, cast-netting, coconut weaving, lei making and more. Eleven tennis courts overlooking the ocean can be booked for private or group sessions with instruction offered daily at the Seaside Tennis Club. A weekly art tour explores some of the unique pieces in Rockefeller’s collection. The protected Ala Kahakai trail, which circled the entire island before there were roads, connects Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and sister property Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel via a rocky oceanside hike over hardened lava.
Developed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. on black lava rock, the award-winning 18-hole Mauna Kea golf course mirrors the resort in design, vision and glamour.
The elevated greens challenge players with prevailing winds and breathtaking ocean and hillside views. Some holes play right along the water, and others across it. The prized third hole draws masses all on its own with waves crashing into the rocky shoreline with each putt. Guests can carve their way through the course with a GolfBoard or get pro-style tips from new GPS-equipped golf carts.
Whether couples are renewing their vows or planning a destination wedding, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers stunning backdrops to make their special day one to remember. Outdoor venues include the classic Hole Number 3, located on the ocean’s edge of Mauna Kea Golf Course, while the new Kauna’oa Ballroom offers panoramic views of the bay and coastline.
With Rockefeller pedigree at its foundation, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel continues to welcome guests to experience rest, relaxation, adventure, and the timeless magic of Hawaii at Kauna’oa Bay.
The Hawaiian island of Lanai is known for unspoiled beaches and a recently renovated Four Seasons hotel. Another reason to visit: cats.
The nonprofit Lanai Cat Sanctuary, near the tiny airport, is a plein-air, no-kill shelter that houses more than 500 stray or unwanted animals from all over the island. It’s also open to the public, which means anyone can drop by to spend a few hours giving (or getting) love, wiggling string toys or distributing snacks.
Executive director Keoni Vaughn likens the facility to a resort, noting that feline residents get unlimited food, water, shelter and medical care. Visitors who establish cat bonds can adopt them. Admission is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. They also welcome cat food.
The Commitment. There’s an unmistakable difference in the hospitality offered by Halekulani. A dedication to personalized service, a high staff-to-guest ratio, and a profound commitment to the extraordinary guest experience set the hotel apart. Guests can explore interesting and unique activities with programs such as “For You, Everything,” which offers (when available) complimentary tickets to local museums, the symphony, or seasonal film festivals. Whether it’s the award-winning cuisine, the healing island traditions at Spa Halekulani, or the rare encounters that leave you transformed, Halekulani promises to live up to its name: “House Befitting Heaven.”
The Legacy. Nearly 100 years ago, this island getaway was only a simple collection of bungalows dotting the shoreline of Waikiki’s breathtaking Gray’s beach. Today, with its unobstructed views of Diamond Head and open-air design that highlights the island’s unequaled splendor, Halekulani is among the most desired destinations in all of Hawaii. Chosen by Travel + Leisure readers as a top hotel in the World’s Best Awards every year since the survey’s inception, Halekulani is famed for its all-encompassing hospitality and cherished location. From the very beginning, the hotel has provided guests with an unparalleled experience of indulgent serenity amid the vibrant setting of Waikiki.
The Hawaiian Islands’ collection of varied landscapes — tropical rainforests and lava plains, blackand white-sand beaches, sheer cliffs and wide-open bays — make it a true paradise. Want to experience the authentic aloha spirit year-round? Here are new options to buy on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island.
Hawaii Island – Hualalai Resort
Imagine looking out of your kitchen window to see rolling fields punctuated with dark lava flows and the Pacific Ocean filling the horizon, while the lush Kohala mountains dominate the views from the bedroom. You’ll find that at this sprawling resort on the Big Island’s Gold Coast, 10 minutes from Kona International Airport. Hualalai encompasses 24 development sites, and it’s expected to have 475 total residences by its completion in 2020.
Resort owners can apply for club membership when they are in escrow; after closing, they’ll enjoy privileges at the Keolu Clubhouse and the Hualalai Canoe Club, as well as the two championship golf courses. They’ll also have access to the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s facilities, which include a spa and a sports club.
Up for sale are wholly owned, two-to four-bedroom villas, three- to seven bedroom single-family dwellings and lots; five or six phases are still to come. Villas start at $1.4 million; single-family homes range from $4.25 million to $30 million, and lots start at $2 million. The homes are designed for indoor and outdoor living with lanais, landscaped gardens and pools. hualalairesort.com
Try before you buy: From $845 per night
Vacations are no longer about loading the kids in the car and heading to the nearest beach. Today’s families are looking to stretch their imaginations, sharing their passion for travel with their loved ones. Find the right getaway for your crew, no matter who’s tagging along for the ride.
Chances are, you’ve already been to Nassau. Take the road less traveled: With 700-plus islands and more than 2,000 cays, the Out Islands offer the whole brood a chance to experience the real Bahamian way of life.
DO: Forgot fancy duds and pack extra swimsuits for Abaco’s endless water activities, including boating, snorkeling and swimming in the clear, shallow waters. Island-hopping is a must: Green Turtle Cay offers plenty of shelling and a bit of history at the colonial settlement of New Plymouth, while the Sunday afternoon pig roast at Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill in Guana Cay is a tradition — kids can build sandcastles and splash in the calm blue water while you wait.
STAY: Abaco Beach Resort’s “Bahama Buddies” program (for ages 3-12) introduces younger visitors to local children and invites them to spend the day together, learning how to catch and cook fish, make island crafts and crack coconuts. There’s a variety of accommodations for all family sizes: oceanfront rooms with two beds start at $297, one bedroom suites with a pullout sofa from $585. abacobeachresort.com.
DO: Filled with reefs and blue holes (underwater caves), Andros is the least developed of the Out Islands. Days here are full of fi shing excursions, hikes through pine forests and diving at the third largest barrier reef in the world. Crab catching is an island pastime; in June, don’t miss the All Andros Crab Fest, with land crabs cooked 101 ways.
STAY: White-sand beaches run the length of the 96-acre Kamalame Cay resort. If your kids aren’t smitten with the place from the moment they hop of the private ferry from Andros, the fresh homemade cookies laid out each afternoon should do the trick.
Villas are pricey, from $1,485 per night, but a good choice for multigenerational stays; kamalame.com. The all-inclusive Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros has 21 beachfront cottages from $295 per person per day ($125 for ages 2-12); smallhope.com.
Eleuthera and Harbour Island
DO: With their quiet sophistication, these two islands are the Nantuckets of the Bahamas. Explore the local history with a trip to Governor’s Harbour, or rent a bicycle and pedal around Harbour Island. Shelling in the morning and stargazing at night are markers of a great day. The more adventurous can try horseback riding on the beach (ages 12 and up, or pony rides, ages 5-11) at Oceanview Farm.
STAY: For a chic boutique vibe, book at the Cove, with onsite activities including boating and paddle boarding. Two-bedroom suites run about $1,369 per night; thecoveeleuthera.com. The centrally located Pineapple Fields Resort features self-catering condos that offer conveniences like laundry machines. One bedrooms from $185 per night; pineapplefields.com.
THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS are places of epic and wild beauty that offer a plentiful range of off-the-beaten-path experiences. Hike to deserted beaches, hidden waterfalls and volcanic highlands, or go off-road touring in the remote backcountry. Help restore an ancient Hawaiian fishpond or take a walking tour of a historic town. Learn to take photos like a pro and night-dive with manta rays. Extraordinary adventures await across Hawai‘i.
Just a one-hour drive from Honolulu, O‘ahu’s North Shore is a world away of pristine mountains, valleys and forests. North Shore Ecotours (northshoreecotours.com) offers hiking adventures and an off-road driving tour on private conservations lands, providing guests with secluded access to O‘ahu’s natural beauty. Experience the island’s breathtaking natural terrain and vistas while learning about Hawai‘i’s exotic plants, culture and history — without the crowds.
Early Hawaiians employed an innovative aquaculture system of fishponds to catch, reproduce and raise fish. On the Windward Coast, nonprofit PAEPAE O HE‘E I A (paepaeoheeia.org) is dedicated to restoring HE‘EIA FISHPOND. Visitors are welcome to help with ongoing restoration work on Saturday Community Workdays (second and fourth Saturdays each month). Activities include invasive mangrove and seaweed removal, in addition to wall refurbishment. Private one hour Walking Tours are also available. Sign up for volunteer work and tours on the website.
Explore Maui’s paniolo (cowboy) heritage and lively arts traditions in MAKAWAO in Upcountry Maui. Browse the shops and art galleries; watch glass blowers, wood sculptors and painters at work; and visit Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center, home to art classes and exhibits. Maui Friday Night Parties come to Makawao every third Friday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with live music, great food, shopping and art, as well as kids activities. And don’t miss the Makawao Rodeo, held every Fourth of July.