Can’t Buy Me Love

Visitors to Oahu will find plenty of romance — and at a value that will make them swoon

By: By Marty Wentzel

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Oahu Visitors Bureau
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For romance travelers looking to balance expense and excellence, an Oahu vacation delivers the goods.

“Visitor spending is in a steep decline, but couples are still looking to experience the best of the best,” said Stacey Alford, Oahu Visitors Bureau’s (OVB) travel industry sales director. “As OVB mentors travel agents, we are providing them with strategic destination expertise that will help their clients balance their budget. It is important to approach the planning process with compassion for their client’s need to feel that they are stretching the dollar at every turn.”

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Couples visiting Oahu won’t have to break the bank to have a romantic getaway. // © 2009 Justin Horrocks

At the same time, agents need to help their clients prioritize their trip so it includes certain must-do experiences, regardless of cost, said Alford.

“This is where Oahu’s depth of product and wide spectrum of value fits in perfectly,” said Alford. “On Oahu, couples can more easily minimize the compromise to their itinerary by integrating free and value-driven things to do with experiences that come with a higher cost. Agents with destination expertise and direct relationships with Oahu partners will be able to pull this off with ease.”

One such agent is Oahu Destination Specialist Jim Augerinos of Perfect Honeymoons and Holidays in Vienna, Va.

“Oahu is traditionally the most economical island in Hawaii so, typically, couples have been able to book an Oahu vacation more cost effectively than the other islands,” said Augerinos. “But one thing that clients have always commented on was how expensive the food and drink portion of the trip can be. So, I always suggest a list of cheap local eats where people can go and get good Hawaiian staples like plate lunches, ahi poke and shave ice to cut down on their food expenses.”

Couples are also more independent than ever, which can help lower sightseeing costs, he said.

“Rather than get on a tour bus, my clients will get in their rental car armed with a good guidebook or my suggestions for activities, and tackle Oahu on their own,” said Augerinos.

Oahu Destination Specialist Robin Kanno of Landmark Travel in Orinda, Calif., noted that most romance clients want a mixture of activity, adventure and relaxation.

“The desire for activity and adventure remains, but everyone is looking to stretch their dollars,” Kanno said. “Couples are willing to sacrifice eating at higher-cost restaurants so they can save money to spend on activities.”

Among her suggestions: Couples should stay in a condo and prepare some of their own meals.

“For instance, the Aston Waikiki Sunset is located just a couple of short blocks from the beach,” said Kanno. “To stock the refrigerator, clients can visit the Kapiolani Community College farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. There, they will find plenty of fresh, locally-grown produce and island-made products.”

Kanno advises couples on a budget to rent a car and explore Oahu using TourTalk Oahu, an entertaining, educational self-drive audio tour.

“While giving directions to significant sites of the past and present, it tells stories of the island’s culture and history,” said Kanno. “Imagine having a private tour of Oahu for only $24.95.”

Since all the beaches in Hawaii are free, clients can stop off at any one that calls to them. Snorkeling remains high on the list of romantic budget Oahu activities.

“If clients bring their own snorkeling equipment from home, this is a no-cost activity,” Kanno advised.

Another of Kanno’s favorite romantic activities is walking the two-mile paved trail up to the Makapuu Lighthouse, with fantastic views of the windward side of Oahu and Molokai in the distance. During whale season (December-April), it provides a great vantage point for spotting humpbacks.

Waikiki, meanwhile, is loaded with free or cheap programs with appeal to couples. Lessons in lei making, Hawaiian language, hula and ukulele are everyday activities at Mana Hawaii on Lewers Street and the Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Avenue. Complimentary music and dance programs take place at the International Marketplace and Waikiki Beach Walk. A timeless treat for couples is riding the waves in an outrigger canoe with a Waikiki beach boy. The cost is small and the ride includes catching two waves. At cocktail hour, couples can learn how to make a mai tai at Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber, which presents free mixology classes twice a week.

Come evening, couples can continue to save money while creating memories. On Fridays, for instance, the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free fireworks display. One weekend each month, free movies are shown on Waikiki Beach on a giant screen.

“Put down a beach mat, watch the sun go down in a gorgeous setting, look for the green flash at sunset, dine on some local carry-out food, enjoy the live entertainment and watch a first-run movie with the stars twinkling overhead,” said Kanno.

Guests of the Outrigger Reef on the Beach or Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach can partake in a free vow-renewal ceremony on Tuesday and Friday mornings. The non-denominational Hawaiian ceremony is performed by a practicing kahu (Hawaiian minister). The ceremony includes a welcome chant, music, a renewal of vows in Hawaiian, a blessing and the Hawaiian Wedding Song performed with hula. Friends and family can take part in the ceremony as well.

Kanno added that couples can time their romantic trip with any of the scores of Oahu festivals featuring free parades, crafts, music and hula. Examples include the Honolulu Festival in March, Lantern Floating Festival on Memorial Day, Kamehameha Day in June, Prince Lot Hula Festival in July, Aloha Festivals in September and holiday celebrations at year’s end.

To keep in touch with all that Oahu has to offer couples, agents can tune into OVB’s Webinars, presented multiple times per week. To sign up, e-mail Alford at stacey@visit-oahu.com.

“Driving on Oahu is a breeze, roads are nice, attractions are properly marked, and it’s really hard to get lost on an island surrounded by water.”

When it’s time to venture out, couples should visit one of Oahu’s many ABC Stores and buy a fold-up beach mat for $2.99, said Kanno.

“Not only is it great for the beach, but it is perfect for a romantic picnic,” she said.

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