Big Day in Paradise

Hawaii is more popular than ever as a wedding destination. Here are ten ideal places to tie the knot.

By: Marty Wentzel

Maybe it’s the soft trade winds or flower-scented air, but for whatever reason, Hawaii is luring an increasing number of couples looking for island weddings. According to state reports, 28.9 percent more visitors went to Hawaii for weddings and honeymoons in 2002 than the previous year. Following are 10 romantic places for them to take the plunge:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island Passions run high when couples recite their vows by the rising steam of a smoldering volcano. HVNP wedding facilitator Aleta Knight can advise them on the dos and don’ts of a ceremony at the edge of creation. 808-985-6027;

Haleakala Ranch, Maui Jason Latas of Maui Eco-Adventures arranges helicopter transfers to an exclusive pasture at the 7,000-foot elevation, surrounded by forests and ocean views. Rates from $1,000 to $20,000 depending on the client’s whims. 877-661-7720;

Sweetheart Rock, Lanai Rising from the sea off the southern coast, this backdrop comes with its own romantic Hawaiian legend. Supposedly, a jealous husband kept his beautiful wife, Puu Pehe, hidden in a sea cave, until one day, she drowned in the cave. Overcome with sadness, he buried her body at the top of an inaccessible rock island, then jumped off the rock to his death.

Legend or not, this spot is best for adventurous couples who don’t mind getting dirty. A basic beach wedding costs $1,500, when the couple books four nights at Manele Bay Hotel or Lodge at Koele. 800-321-4666;

Kilauea Lakeside Estate, Kauai This secluded retreat boasts a 20-acre lake, five acres of tropical landscaping and a lavish three-bedroom home that clients rent in order to marry on the property. Owner Steve Hunt, who got hitched there himself, offers a gamut of wedding services, from leis to luaus for anywhere between $200 to $50,000. 310-379-7842;

Kaupoa Beach, Molokai A sunset ceremony on secluded sands costs from $625 to $1,600 courtesy of Sheraton Molokai Lodge & Beach Village. During a honeymoon on the island, clients can try eco-adventures like horseback riding and mountain biking. 888-627-8082;

Diamond Head Park, Oahu With palm trees and manicured lawns by the sea, this small, photogenic park near Waikiki provides what some couples call the quintessential Hawaiian setting. Many firms arrange ceremonies there. Wedding in Hawaii lists packages from $180. 888-452-5450;

Waterfall Wedding, Kauai Coconut Coast Weddings flies couples in a helicopter over the scenic Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon en route to the ceremony site, notable for its three cascading waterfalls. Rates range from $2,650 to $3,250. 800-585-5595;

Outrigger Catamaran, Oahu Clients can sail toward the future aboard a 45-foot vessel, with views of Waikiki, Diamond Head and the Koolau Mountains. A 1.5-hour charter costs $1,000, plus charges for necessities like cake and champagne. 808-922-2210;

Pali Kai, Four Seasons Resort, Maui With native Hawaiian plants and cliff-side views of Wailea Beach, this intimate wedding site needs no man-made props. Couples can enhance the sense of place by hiring a conch-shell blower and chanter for the ceremony. A package for $6,250 includes dinner for the newlyweds. 800-334-MAUI;

Nani Maui Gardens, Big Island Four miles from Hilo, this nature-lover’s attraction provides 20 acres of gardens, pavilions and waterfalls for weddings of all sizes. Couples can plant a tree together to honor the occasion. 808-959-3500;