Tiki bar tippling has long been a staple of classic honeymoon escapes (bonus Instagram likes if it’s a swim-up). But when couples are looking for more adventure than a race to the bottom of their frozen margs, a beach vacay can be a bit of a snooze. To really get the heart pumping, head to island of Oahu, where you can test a relationship with the ultimate leap of faith—a jump right off the side of a mountain. Because as it turns out, speeding side by side and upside-down along a zip line cable hundreds of feet in the air is the perfect time to appreciate your S.O., take in the view of Hawaii’s lush landscape and hope the harness and carabiner rings have also vowed to have and to hold.
This adrenaline-aphrodisiac cocktail is served up at CLIMB Works, a seven-dual-line zip lining course on Oahu’s North Shore that includes a 1,500-foot run. (And there’s a 2,500-footer, more than eight football fields long, in the works for early 2015.) Guests soar through the trees and over acres of organic farmland used to grow basil that’s shipped back to the mainland, as well as tasty apple bananas that unfortunately stay put.
But that’s not the only adventure found on the island, which ranks as Hawaii’s third largest in size but number one in population. Oahu’s nearly 1 million residents make up 70 percent of the state’s total, so the capital of Honolulu has as much metropolitan area as it does paradisiacal scenery. Nowhere is this contrasting landscape as clear as from a seat aboard a Blue Hawaiian Helicopters tour, which covers most of the island, showcasing Pearl Harbor, Sacred Falls, Dole pineapple farms and Diamond Head, a mountain that provides hikers with some of the best views of Oahu available without going airborne.
Back in the city, where hibiscus-flowered shirts are as out of place as they would be in Back Bay, the contemporary Hawaii finds its beacon in the Modern Honolulu, a 353-room boutique hotel whose sleek design is punctuated by pops of colorful decor—a piece by Herbie Fletcher featuring surfboards broken during competition hangs in the lobby, and the artist’s multi-photo chronicle of surf star Kelly Slater drinking a beer while riding a wave is on view in the penthouse suite. For a drink of your own, head behind the lobby’s speakeasy-esque swiveling bookcase to the Study for a cocktail named after a classic novel. Continue relaxing at the Spa at the Modern Honolulu, where the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage uses techniques meant to mimic the ocean waves you’ll be surfing soon enough.
Next door, the Hilton Hawaiian Village provides the entertainment, from its weekly fireworks display (best viewed from the top deck of the Star of Honolulu on a sunset dining and jazz cruise) to its CabaRAE variety show. Co-founded by a former Cirque du Soleil director, the in-the-round performance gives guests tastes of trapeze, comedy and drag, with appearances by Dolly, Liza and a hula-hooping Elvis.
For a different set of characters, head to Aulani, a Disney resort that’s light on the shtick, for visits with Mickey and Minnie. Couples can sneak away from family time on the lazy river for cocktails in the ‘Ōlelo Room, named for the Hawaiian word for “word.” The wood-carved decor offers a primer on basic vocab, and fluent bartenders can help you with pronunciation, reflecting the recent renaissance of the language. Just down the road, raise a glass and say cheers—or “kāmau”—to a similar resurgence in Hawaii’s local food scene with chef Peter Merriman at the helm. Ninety-five percent of the ingredients at Monkeypod Kitchen, his restaurant at the Ko Olina resort, are locally produced, and the menu features fare like organic macadamia nut-crusted day-caught mahi mahi and a Makawao Ave. cocktail made with Templeton rye, lemon, honey, bitters and cayenne-ginger beer that’s created in-house daily.
For dessert (and a mid-morning snack, and après-swim nosh), head to the Kahala Hotel and Resort for its milk and dark chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, made fresh daily and paired perfectly with a wall of orchids that omit a faint smell of chocolate. But the beachside resort is more than just a cocoa lover’s dream. Nestled in a quiet Honolulu neighborhood, the hotel’s ocean-facing rooms have unobstructed views of the sunrise, as well as the property’s 26,000-square-foot lagoon, home to six resident dolphins. Book a swim with them or head to the ocean to rent a stand-up paddleboard.
Of course, with a beach spanning the length of the estate, guests can forgo the water sports for a much-deserved afternoon off with a fruity drink from the poolside bar—perfect for days when navigating the buffet is all the adventure you need.
-TGIF! The First Friday Honolulu Art Walk, held every month in the city’s Chinatown, is a Bourbon Street-lite celebration that closes down streets so groups can flock to bars and enjoy late hours at art galleries and shops.
Aulani 92-1185 Aliinui Drive, Kapolei (866-443-4763) resorts.disney.go.com
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters 99 Kaulele Place, Honolulu (808-831-8800) bluehawaiian.com
CabaRAE Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, 2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu (808-354-0629) cabarae.com
CLIMB Works Keana Farms 56-452 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku (808-200-7906) keanafarms.com
First Friday Honolulu Art Walk firstfridayhawaii.com
The Kahala Hotel and Resort 5000 Kahala Ave., Honolulu (800-367-2525) kahalaresort.com
The Modern Honolulu 1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu (808-450-3379) themodernhonolulu.com
Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman 92-1048 Olani St., Suite 4-107, Kapolei (808-380-4086) monkeypodkitchen.com
Star of Honolulu Aloha Tower Marketplace, Pier 8, 1 Aloha Tower Drive, Honolulu (800-983-7827) starofhonolulu.com