Same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and commitment ceremonies are booming. As cities and nations around the world are increasingly recognizing our relationships, couples are planning their ceremonies and honeymoons.
In June, New York became the sixth U.S. state to recognize same-sex marriage, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont along with the District of Columbia. In January, the Aloha State—Hawaii—will start civil unions.
As we marry (or whatever the law officially calls it), more destinations are racing to capture the growing and lucrative gay and lesbian honeymoon market. Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale already announced honeymoon packages, but what U.S. destination can really compete with magical Hawaii for that dream honeymoon?
From picturesque landscapes, awe-inspiring views and the island culture of the Hawaiian people, a dream trip to this Pacific Ocean paradise should be on the very top of your list. So here are a few tips to plan your honeymoon now!
The islands of Hawaii
There are eight “main islands” in the 50th state: Niihau, Kauaii, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui and Hawaii. Each island has its own unique character and take-your-breath-away beauty, but Waikiki, Oahu, has a wide variety of hotels, fabulous dining and gay nightlife and weekly gay-chartered catamarans.
There are many hotel options in Waikiki, but LGBT travelers should definitely do the research before booking to make sure the hotel chain values the pink dollar. The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (www.iglta.org) is a great resource.
One stand-out company in Hawaii is Starwood. With its 100-percent HRC rating and national LGBT outreach, you can easily find a Starwood Hotel that fits your style in Waikiki. Try the Historic Royal Hawaiian, part of Starwood’s luxury collection. Built in 1927 and known as the “Pink House of the Pacific” (it’s distinctively pink; check it out at www.royal-hawaiian.com), this hotel defines Hawaiian romance, luxury and service. Do not miss dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Azure. Foodies will fall in love with the beachfront views of Diamond Head Crater and the delicacies prepared by Chef Jon Matsubara.
The Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort and Spa, makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back to 1901, the year the hotel was built. The hotel’s architecture, teak rocking chairs, traditional English afternoon tea on the veranda and the 100-year-old Moana banyan tree definitely set it apart from the modern hotels. The Moana Lani Spa offers eye-popping ocean views and a traditional Hawaiian prayer before a massage (www.moana-surfrider.com).
Sunset and the infinity edge pool are just two of the reasons to choose the trendy Sheraton Waikiki (www.sheraton-waikiki.com). The Sheraton is central to everything LGBT. Shoppers will love the close high-end shopping and gay daytime and nightlife activities are just steps away. Check out the new Bacchus lounge (408 Lewers St.) and Tapas (407 Seaside Ave.). There are two weekly gay catamaran sails that depart close to the hotel: one organized by Waikiki’s LGBT bar Hula’s Bar & Lei (www.hulas.com) and the very-fun Bear Cruise by the Aloha Bears (www.thealohabears.com).
How to get there
To find the best deal, look for packages on the hotel’s website or work with a travel agent and search online travel agencies like gay-friendly Orbitz or Travelocity. With new nonstop service from major U.S. cities including Chicago and Newark, N.J., a trip to this island fantasy is quicker and easier than ever. Airfares range widely and are usually pricey. Try using points for upgrades and free trips, especially to Hawaii. For travel in September, US Airways offered round-trip business-class service from Philadelphia for as little as 55,000 points and a $60 fee for taxes. American Airlines offered round-trip business-class service from New York City with a connection in Chicago for about 70,000 points. Both of these tickets were booked at least two months in advance.
Travel between the islands is easy. Choose from many carriers including Hawaiian Air and Island Air. One word of caution: All the airlines charge for checked bags, so don’t overpack! It will cost you.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing” and vice chair for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. He has learned how to find the best deals and travel resources out there for the LGBT community. Traveling locally, check out visitphilly.com/gay and friend visitgayphilly.com/facebook.