Rejuvenating, relaxing, quiet, beautiful, perfect. Those are some of the descriptions of Kauai that travel agent Catherine DeMichiel hears from couples following their trips to the island. In fact, DeMichiel herself has fallen under the spell of Kauai, where she lives for nine months of the year
Ever since the film “South Pacific,” couples have been coming to Kauai for romance.
// © 2010 Kauai Visitors Bureau
“Most of my clients can’t wait to go back to Kauai,” said DeMichiel of Above and Beyond Travel in Arnold, Calif. “It’s an immensely romantic destination offering natural beauty, varied sea life, gentle breezes, Hawaiian music, uncrowded towns and a slower pace.”
Ever since the world first watched the 1958 classic romance movie, “South Pacific” — which was filmed on Kauai — the Garden Isle has been considered an ideal place for couples to escape to, whether it’s for a special occasion such as a wedding, honeymoon, vow renewal or anniversary, or simply a getaway for two.
“I think the romance market is a natural fit for our island,” said Kauai Visitors Bureau (KVB) executive director Sue Kanoho. “Sometime, I would love to gather stories of all the amazing wedding proposals that have taken place here. I think that would make a great little book.”
Dreamy, Yet Down to Earth
What makes Kauai so appealing to couples? For starters, said DeMichiel, consider all of its natural bounties.
“The beaches, mountains and rivers look the same today as they have for decades,” she said. “There are no freeways but, instead, the highways are mostly two-lane roads. The tropical beauty of the island isn’t intruded upon by high-rise hotels.”
With such an unblemished landscape as a backdrop, couples can celebrate their love together in the great outdoors, whether river kayaking and horseback riding or boating and snorkeling along the dazzling cliff-lined Na Pali Coast.
For couples desiring a slightly more unusual outing, DeMichiel has found success booking them on Princeville Ranch’s Jungle Valley Adventure, where a small group of 10 to 12 people go hiking, kayaking, ziplining and swimming and have lunch at a waterfall, all on a scenic, private, north shore property.
Some of Kauai’s most romantic activities take place during the sunset, she added, from end-of-day cocktail cruises to intimate dinners on the beach. Another sure bet: his-and-hers spa indulgences, especially when they include uniquely Hawaiian treatments and ingredients.
As DeMichiel encourages couples to open their hearts to truly local experiences, she suggests that they visit shops that are found only on the island. Some of her picks include the Koa Store in Lihue, with one-of-a-kind keepsakes made out of natural Hawaiian wood; Auntie Lilikoi in Waimea, home of passion fruit products; and the Waimea Brewing Company, a great place for handcrafted beers. To get clients in the island mood, she provides them with an arrival gift of Kauai-made goodies such as tropical coffee, cookies, nuts, jams and syrups along with a list of locations and times for farmers’ markets around the island.
Adding to Kauai’s romantic allure is the homespun hospitality of its residents, said DeMichiel.
“Aloha is alive and well on Kauai,” she said. “Most everyone takes the time to greet newcomers, and residents are happy to help with directions and suggestions for activities, dining and shopping.”
Tying the Knot, Kauai-Style
With so many amorous offerings, it’s no wonder that Kauai does robust business with the destination wedding market. Each year, anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 non-resident couples get married on the island, which explains why KVB dedicates a good portion of its advertising to romance-oriented magazines and websites. At the same time, KVB is making a concerted effort to establish a social media presence media, providing agents with a great way to share the romance of the island with their clients.
“One of the fun aspects of KVB’s Facebook page is seeing the incredible photos that our visitors have posted from their trip,” Kanoho said. “I enjoy reading the comments people write, counting the days until they arrive on Kauai or return again.”
Kauai’s many experienced wedding coordinators stand ready to handle all the details before the couple’s arrival, including the marriage license, officiant, leis, flowers, photography, entertainment, rehearsal dinner and reception. They steer couples to the perfect wedding location, whether that is on a beach at sunset, on the deck of a boat, next to a cascading waterfall or in one of the island’s many gardens. One of Kauai’s more popular settings for exchanging vows is Fern Grotto, a geological wonder naturally draped with greenery and accessible only by river boat.
Some clients prefer to tie the knot at a resort, where facilities and services cover everything from the wedding ceremony to receptions and private dinners. Couples can customize their special day accordingly, including a torch lighting, showers of orchids, fireworks, Hawaiian chanting and hula or an oceanside couple’s massage.
Agents eager to sell romance travel to Kauai should be sure to check with the island’s resorts and vendors to see what current specials they offer to visiting couples, advised Kanoho.
“Sometimes, people just need that little extra push to help them to say ‘I Do’ to the booking,” she said.