Lush tropical greenery, sheer waterfall-laced cliffs, some of the world’s finest beaches, mesmerizing Pacific Ocean sunrises and sunsets: Oahu’s an almost unparalleled destination for romantics. And the perfect base camp for an all-out romance-geared vacation is the Kahala Hotel & Resort, set as we are along gleaming sands and within a stone’s throw of Waikiki’s buzzing beachfront neighborhood. Hey, Frank Sinatra used to stay here—one of a whole passel of celebrities who did—and who sets the soundtrack for romance quite like Old Blue Eyes? Need another endorsement? Kahala was where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton honeymooned, how about that?
Whether you’re coming here for a wedding, a honeymoon, or just a spontaneous idyll with that special someone, we’ve rounded up a list of some of our picks for the most romantic corners of this bejeweled island. We’re detailing these magical destinations in a two-part blogpost: Read on, get inspired, and book your dream-worthy accommodations at the Kahala!
Hawaii’s one of the world’s great epicenters of waterfalls, given how rugged these islands are and how much rainfall our volcanic highlands wring from the reliable trade winds. As on other islands, many of Oahu’s most spectacular falls lie in remote, steep settings. But one all-out stunner of a cataract is delightfully accessible: Manoa Falls.
Set in the headwater reaches of the sublime Manoa Valley, this 150-foot waterfall plunges off the jungled slopes of the Koa’olau Range in the sort of spectacle that defines the ideal of “tropical paradise.” It’s the kind of payoff you might expect for an hours- or days-long cross-country slog through back-of-beyond jungle, and yet Manoa Falls awaits you at the end of an easy, well-trodden 1.5-mile trail not far from Honolulu.
It is easy, but keep in mind you’ll be hiking through drenched rainforest: The trail can be muddy and a bit slick, so take care with your footing and outfit yourself in sturdy shoes or hiking sandals and raingear. Also, bug repellent’s advisable given the skeeters inhabiting the glossy verdure.
But a bit of mud and mosquitoes is well worth it: The luxuriant and aromatic fern-swaddled forest, with its towering banyan and guava and arbor-like bamboo, is as jaw-dropping as the waterfall itself, which peels down a rocky chute cleaving the riotous vegetation into a boulder-edged pool.
Given its accessibility and beauty, the trail to Manoa Falls tends to be a crowded one, although on a rainy day you might find the soggy path fairly quiet. Even when you’re sharing it with other goggle-eyed hikers, though, Manoa Falls takes the breath away—and makes for one heck of a romantic day trip.
The knife-rimmed crater of Diamond Head (Le’ahi) makes one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Hawaii—in the U.S., really. The landform—geologically speaking, a “tuff cone” built in a brief, explosive eruption out of a coral reef—makes a striking backdrop for Waikiki Beach, but it’s more than a pretty skyline: It’s also a fine hiking destination with plenty of romantic views.
Originally laid out as part of Oahu’s U.S. Army coastal-defense network, the 0.8-mile-long trail from the crater floor to the rim is a steep one, but the culminating panorama from the Diamond Head crest—taking in Waikiki, Koko Head, and a good chunk of Oahu, not to mention Molokai, Lanai, and Maui—makes one of the finest vistas on the island. It’s a good idea to allow for a couple of hours to complete the climb up and down, which involves stairsteps and tunnels. And pack lots of water.
We’ll conclude our tour of some of Oahu’s most romantic destinations in our next blogpost!
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