Perhaps it was a coincidence that on my last day in Hawaii a magnificent rainbow beamed across a radiant blue sky, seemingly connecting majestic mountains with the crystal blue Pacific Ocean. To me, this rainbow symbolized Marriott’s new love affair with gay and lesbian travelers. Considering the natural beauty of the island and the rich Hawaiian culture, maybe it’s time to get your Hawaii Five-0 on?
Party in Waikiki
Oahu is the main island and Waikiki Beach is just minutes away from Honolulu by cab or by hotel shuttle, a great value at just $10. The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa has a protected beach, a pool and shopping. This Marriott hotel is just two blocks to Hawaii’s only gay bar, Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand. Every Saturday, Hula’s organizes a gay catamaran sail. Waikiki can be expensive, so if you are on a budget, an alternative is the Aqua Park Shore Hotel — a great gay-friendly hotel with killer views but lacking the Marriott amenities.
Relax in the West
A short drive from Waikiki on the western shore of Oahu is the secluded JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa, fresh from a $20-million renovation. The JW Marriott is pure luxury and perfect for those looking for outdoor sports like tennis, golf and on the water adventures. There is nothing gay-specific about this hotel, so enjoy the sunsets and book a spa treatment! Marriott can arrange off-site tours for you including the Ko Olina Cat snorkel, sail and dolphin watch that guarantees you will see dolphins. Be prepared to eat well. Don’t miss the Ushio-Tei restaurant.
Get hitched in Kauai
TV series like “Fantasy Island” and movies such as “Jurassic Park” have filmed on this island. The natural beauty is the perfect backdrop for a commitment ceremony. The Kauai Marriott Resort on Kalapaki Beach caters to couples looking to tie the knot in paradise. The resort’s on-site Alexander Day Spa and Salon is gay-owned and the special-event team at the Kauai Marriott works with the more-than 25 gay-owned businesses on the island. Once a month, there is a gay karaoke night on the island, but for local culture catch the Luau Kalamaku show at the Kilohana Plantation. Insider’s tip: Eat at 22 North, a restaurant that uses mostly locally sourced ingredients.
Hawaii is an expensive and long flight from Philadelphia. You may find competitive airfares by considering airports both in Philadelphia and in New York. There are no non-stop flights. Among the best values is Jet Blue Airlines leaving JFK in New York. Jet Blue offers the most legroom in coach, your first checked bag is free and there are more than 100 channels of free XM entertainment. If you are planning to fly between the islands, book your flight on Hawaiian Airlines. The airline has lots of service. If you plan to use miles, shop early. I was able find a first-class ticket on American Airlines for just 37,500 miles back home.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) and the author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” He has learned how to find the best deals and travel resources available to the LGBT community. For local travel, check out visitphilly.com.