Category Archives: Holidays to Hawaii

Fourth of July – why all the fuss?

Theresa Wilson is Bon Voyage’s resident Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Here she shares her perspective on the Fourth of July holiday……..

Happy Birthday, America!

I’ve now lived in England for 25 years and have fully embraced my adopted country.  But if there is one time I really do long to be home it’s the first part of July and all of the Fourth celebrations.

 On the whole, Americans are a patriotic bunch – we fly flags from our front porches; we thank our military for their service; we wear eagle and flag embossed clothing year-round, but give us a holiday where the entire point is patriotism and stand back.  Parades, fireworks, family gatherings, BBQs, picnics, baseball – God Bless America! 

It’s a tough one for those of us split between two countries.  On one hand, we’re celebrating the birth of a nation – on the other, we’re celebrating freedom from British rule.  I have a British husband, so you can imagine the jokes that fly around our family!  But I believe that both countries have huge amounts of respect and interest in each other.  Back in 1776, it was time to end the American Revolution and let the original colonies be independent. Although the war went on for another seven years, on July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence from Great Britain’s rule.  The Declaration of Independence was ratified on the fourth.  There is some historical debate on whether that is true, but no alternate theories here – the 4th of July is America’s Independence Day! 

As a child, it represented the first big weekend of summer.  Schools typically break up in the USA between the end of May and mid-June, so summer activities were in full flow, but everything stopped for the 4th of July.  Depending on when it fell, either the weekend before or after would be packed with family fun.  We were always involved with the local parade which included the whole community.  If you weren’t in the parade you lined the street waving flags, hoping to grab a treat that might be thrown from a marcher!  Then it was on to a good old family style BBQ.  Burgers, hotdogs and corn on the cob straight off the grill. I honestly dream about that corn – fresh from Midwest fields, dripping in butter. It’s as much a part of my Fourth of July as waving flags and sparklers!

Fourth of July as waving flags and sparklers

Evening Events

This brings me to evening events.  We’d all gather at the appointed family members’ home for an evening of backyard games, more food and ultimately fireworks.  Invariably, we’d fire a few rounds of our own that an uncle brought from a local stand while all the kids always ran around the garden with lighted sticks actively spewing sparks.  Of course, one of us would either be afraid and drop the ignited stick on the ground or get burned while the adults continued lighting roman candles and keeping fingers crossed that nothing flew over the neighbour’s fence!  It was the 1970s,  so don’t judge!  Then it was time for proper pyrotechnics!  Some years we’d watch local displays from the comfort of our own lounge chairs in the yard.  Other years, we braved traffic and crowds for an amazing vantage point along Lake Michigan.

Family Reunion

Reunion

In my adult years, our family would undertake a huge reunion every other Fourth of July and religiously those of us who no longer resided in Wisconsin would flock home.  Ultimately, the Fourth of July is as much about celebrating family and friends and summer as it is about celebrating America’s birthday.  Don’t get me wrong – there is always a red, white and blue cake, but it’s more than just being American – it’s about the people we love, what we appreciate about living in a democracy and what we are thankful for. That’s Thanksgiving too, but one holiday at a time!  The funny thing is – every American I know loves all things British.  The Queen, Buckingham Palace, the accents, the pomp and circumstance…the list goes on.  The more I think about it, the more I realise – the Fourth of July today has very little to do with celebrating our break from Britain and more to do with bringing a nation together to honour where we came from and think about where we’re going.  Like any country, we’ve got our issues, but hopefully we’ll reflect, regroup and re-emerge stronger than ever.

I know I will be with my family in spirit and chances are I will wear stars and stripes to the office on the 4th. You can take the girl out of America…..

Theresa Wilson Celebrating 4th July
Theresa Wilson

Hawaiian Hula – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know.

Ever seen Hula dancers and wondered about what all of the gestures and movement signify? Here’s everything you ever wanted to know from our friends at Fairmont Hotels, owners of some of our favourite hotels in the Hawaiian Islands! Click for more info on your perfect, tailor-made, Hawaii holiday

5 Top Honeymoon Destinations in the USA for 2017

America honeymoon ideas and inspiration for the trip of a lifetime, with destinations including Hawaii, New York and California.

A honeymoon is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, marking the start of an exciting new chapter in life, and typically the end of a lot of wedding planning! The destination you choose for your holiday is a personal choice that reflects you and your partner – are you looking for something relaxed, active, adventurous, luxurious, scenic, secluded or exotic? Every couple will want something slightly different from their special trip to match their tastes and celebrate their relationship.

At Bon Voyage we have seen many happy newlyweds jet off after planning their honeymoons to the America and Canada, and they come back wishing they could do it all again. Here are 5 incredible honeymoon destinations in the USA to inspire you. If you’re looking for a tailored trip, or you need help and advice, our honeymoon experts are happy to help. Get in touch today.

Hawaiihawaii beach letterbox

Aloha! Hawaii is a honeymoon destination to remember, and whilst many are drawn in by the beautiful beaches with their white sands and turquoise waters, the exotic islands are rich in culture and offer something for everyone. From Maui to Molokai, there’s eight main Hawaiian Islands, six of which are open to visitors. Each island is different, and for the best trip we would recommend some island hopping – after all, if you’re going to make the 17+ hours trip from London, you should ensure you have a good itinerary.When you arrive in Hawaii you’ll be greeted by friendly people, vibrant culture, natural beauty and unique surroundings. You won’t find all-inclusive resorts, so enjoy mixing with the locals and exploring the islands. Zip line through waterfalls, see lava trickling down volcanoes, swim with manta ray or simply relax on the beach, or by the pool.

A Hawaii honeymoon can also allow you to tick off another US destination as a stopover to break up the long trip. Popular choices include San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but at Bon Voyage the USA is our oyster, so speak to us if you have a particular stopover destination in mind and we’ll try our best to make it happen.

New York 5th Avenue

If you’d rather spend your honeymoon visiting iconic attractions, shopping in some of the best stores in the world, eating anything and everything your heart desires and exploring the city that never sleeps – New York is the place for you. Appealing to those who would rather revel in the charming culture of Coney Island’s beaches, than sit and sunbathe all day, New York has much more to offer than just the obvious attractions. Whilst Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square should all play a part in your New York adventure, the city can also offer luxury and romance.

At Bon Voyage we’ve sent many newlyweds on their way to marital bliss via New York City and they’ve come back deeply in love – with the city!

A popular choice due to how flexible you can be on budgets, time and exactly what you’re looking for, New York honeymoons can cater to any requirements. Horse drawn carriage at sunset through Central Park? Check. Helicopter ride over the city? Check. Michelin-starred fine dining? Check. Slice of pizza as big as your head at 3am? Check. New York has it all.

FloridaFL Keys 2 pairs of feet

 

 

This may strike you as a family holiday destination, but Florida is also a great honeymoon destination. The sunshine state has it all, and whilst you can kick things off with a visit to the theme parks in Orlando, there’s a lot more on offer. Head to Miami and enjoy the bustling music and club scene on South Beach, or rent a convertible and take the scenic ocean-view drive down to Florida Keys.

When it comes to accommodation, you can pick from small and intimate, or huge resort style hotels, holiday homes or luxury villas with private swimming pools.

Couples who have honeymooned in Florida have praised the laid back vibe, beautiful beaches and the breathtaking coastal sunsets. There’s also a whole host of jazz clubs, one-of-a-kind shops and of course, all the fantastic food you could hope for.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas sign & showgirls

Viva Las Vegas! Whilst some attach a Vegas honeymoon onto the end of their Vegas wedding, many others head there to enjoy the glitz and glamour – and there’s really no place like it! Vegas is known for its incredible hotels, boasting 17 of the 20 biggest hotels in the USA. The best thing about Vegas hotels, other than their impressive themes and incredible size, can be the value for money. Because much of their revenue comes from the casinos, rather than the rooms, it’s the best place to treat yourself to 5* luxury. Perfect for your honeymoon!

We recommend you head there for a Sunday to Thursday trip if you can as it tends to be cheaper and less busy mid week. Accommodation in the middle of the strip is best, but even then you’ll find yourself doing a lot of walking.

When it comes to Vegas it can pay to be organised; book shows in advance and plan some time to enjoy a day off the strip with a visit to Red Rock Canyon or a helicopter to The Grand Canyon.

California

Golden Gate suspension Bridge in San Francisco, California

The Golden State of California offers everything from the bright lights of Hollywood, through to the natural beauty of the National Parks such as Yosemite. Whether you drive the scenic coastal road, or just visit a few handpicked places, there’s something for everyone.

One of our favourite ways to enjoy a California honeymoon is to take the breathtaking drive down the coast, starting in San Francisco. Spend a few days exploring the city before you head south through San Jose, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Malibu. Ending your trip in San Diego allows you to choose from staying downtown in the charming Gaslamp Quarter, or along the beautiful water.

If you’re partial to a glass of wine, you must visit Napa Valley for wine tasting. This can be done from San Francisco and there’s a few options available, including a guided tour, or taking the Napa Valley Wine Train. There’s also a lot to do and see inland, including Palm Springs and Yosemite National Park where you can enjoy hiking, rock climbing, swimming, rafting, or just take in the sights and have a picnic.

Whatever you want from your honeymoon, it’s important to be organised. The last thing you want is something else to worry about with a wedding on the horizon. Speak to a USA expert at Bon Voyage today.

You Had Me at Aloha!

Theresa Wilson is the born and bred American of the Bon Voyage team.  Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin she also lived in Phoenix, Arizona and Fairbanks, Alaska before moving to the UK.  But she had never travelled to the islands of Hawaii……..

Imagine flying in a helicopter, with no doors, over an active volcano.  Hovering so close you can feel the heat.  Picture yourself 200 feet in the air, hanging by cables, suspended over a waterfall.  What about a night swim with manta ray?  And to think, I had never embraced the idea of Hawaii.Ocean view of Makuleia Bay

Naively, I thought it would be just like the Caribbean and it seemed a long way to go for a beach holiday.   I am going on record as saying I was wrong!  Thank goodness that chance presented itself in the form of an invitation as part of a tour operator familiarisation trip courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Board.

Off I went – London to Newark and then Newark to Honolulu – yep, all in one go!  We were fortunate to try the new United Airlines Economy Plus and it was very good.  The 767 on the second leg was especially roomy and the new in-flight entertainment system, superb.  Worth remembering is that even though the 2nd flight was 3 hours longer than the international, it is still a domestic US service and therefore all food and alcoholic beverages must be purchased.  I popped for a Mai Tai and sesame noodle salad.  A bit pricey at $17.95, but the quality was good.  And, when I managed to knock my Mai Tai off my tray and watched $7.00 worth of rum splash down the aisle the crew instantly replaced it without charge.

After 17 flying hours flying and a full 24 hours after leaving home, we arrived on the island of Oahu.  Driving from Honolulu airport to Waikiki Beach it struck me that this was America but not as I know it.  Strip malls, doughnut shops and 7-11s aplenty but also a return to the 1970s. I expected Tom Selleck as Magnum PI to appear around every corner.  Hanauma Bay 2We arrived at Waikiki Beach just as the sun was going down.  The main drag is Kalakaua Avenue and it reminds me of a mini Las Vegas strip without the casinos; lots going on and full of bars, shops and restaurants.  But this ‘Las Vegas’ is where East meets West and you are soon reminded that to the Japanese, Honolulu is a weekend shopping destination.  Asian visitors are not only numerous but they outspend the western traveller at a rate of 2 to 1.

Inevitably, given the time change, I was up before sunrise and took my first proper look at Waikiki Beach and the 300,000 year-old volcanic crater that is Diamond Head.  The beach was already becoming a surfers’ playground and by 7am was swarming with longboards.  Given time and suitable footwear I would have loved to have tackled the hiking trails of Diamond Head and view of Honolulu from the crater.

We spent our first day inspecting hotels.  One thing is glaringly obvious – you must book an ocean front room or risk major disappointment.  As one hotelier eloquently put it “the more green you give us, the more blue we give you!”   Rest assured, Bon Voyage won’t let you make the mistake of choosing a car park view rather than the Pacific Ocean.Hawaii - Kauai Beach

We escaped the frenzy of Waikiki and headed north to the tranquillity of Turtle Bay.  Given just enough time to explore the stunning Turtle Bay Resort, glimpse a green sea turtle and the beach that provided the backdrop to the TV drama ‘Lost’ and all of a sudden Oahu had become a different island.

The nature of these trips is that there is little time to gather one’s thoughts and before we knew it we were aboard the short flight to Maui.  What a contrast.  We all let out a collective sigh as we stepped off the plane.  You could instantly tell this island was the antidote to the frenzy of Honolulu. Hawaii Road to Hana Maui is the older sister, a bit more grown-up and sophisticated, but still laidback and fun.  I adored Maui.  The people are special, the hotel selection first class, the beaches leave you speechless and the food is delicious.  You could easily spend a week on Maui and you definitely need a car.  Driving is easy and do pop for a Jeep or a convertible.  The two main hotel/beach areas are Wailea/Makena and Kaanapali.  When I go back I plan to split my time between the two as each has a different vibe.

We experienced our first luau, a traditional Hawaiian party, at the Royal Lahaina Resort.  It was fantastic.  It may seem a bit of a touristy thing to do, but I can assure you, the Hawaiians performing are doing so from the heart with genuine love and pride of their culture.

From Maui we enjoyed a day trip to the tiny island of Lana’i and once again I was blown away by the contrast in landscape.  Palm trees were replaced by evergreens and pines bringing back thoughts of my native Northern Wisconsin.  This is the island that was purchased by Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle, the huge tech corporation) and the history is fascinating.  Once completely dominated by pineapple production, what happened next is most interesting. Hawaiian dancers (2) The Culture and Heritage Center tells the story and this alone is worth the ferry ride.  Plus, it is right next door to Hotel Lana’i which serves the most amazing deep dish chocolate chip cookie.  Arriving by sea back into Maui is another reason to make the day trip; the views of the island from the water were spectacular and I have about 55 photos to prove it!  Back on land we spent a most enjoyable evening in Lahaina.  It’s a sweet, old whaling village, perfect for mooching.

And before you know it, we’re off again.  Our next stop – the Big Island or as the Hawaiians prefer to call it, Hawaii Island.Volcano on Hawaii

I was very keen to see Hawaii Island, but have to admit we had some ‘adventures’ planned that I wouldn’t normally sign up for.  We flew into Hilo and proceeded immediately to the first, a helicopter tour of volcanoes and waterfalls.  OK, I can handle that. Except do you remember the bit about this being a DOORLESS helicopter?  Yes, nothing but that little seatbelt keeping me from getting real close to the lava.  After the first ten minutes I start to relax a little and realise I was unlikely to accidentally undo my belt.  By then we’ve made it to the Kilauea volcano and I just can’t believe I am flying over an active volcano that only 13 years ago destroyed 181 houses and 9 miles of highway.  Volcanoes national parkThe landscape is dominated by molten lava and feels completely prehistoric.  Again, another island totally different from the three we’ve already visited. If that wasn’t enough for one day, next we were whisked off for a spot of zip lining, eight zips in all.  Being blonde, it hadn’t really dawned on me that while the first zip line was only about 20 feet off the ground, as you went through the ‘course’ the height increased until eventually you were hundreds of feet up (1,700 to be exact) and by then it was too late to bale out.  And yet, I loved it!  I still find it hard to believe that I completed the zip course and I owe it all to the crew at Kapohokine Adventures, an inspirational group of people.

After five hours of adventure, we headed northwest to Waikoloa and the Hilton Waikoloa Village, our hosts for the night.  This place is impressive.  With over 1,200 rooms, I thought for sure this wasn’t going to be my cup of tea, but you know, they do it very well.  The property is so spread out that you don’t feel on top of anyone.  Plus, it is one of the best whale watching spots on the island; the locals told us that February is generally the best month.  We enjoyed one night here and then travelled south to Kona and the Sheraton Kona Resort. I’m running out of adjectives now; the setting here was just incredible.  It’s right on the sea and surrounded by black volcanic rock.  Here, ‘Rays on the Bay’ is Hawaii’s only restaurant built on lava cliffs and most evenings offer a view of the resident manta rays.  Definitely make a reservation for one of the fire pit tables.  AND, speaking of manta ray….yep, my final adventure, night swimming with these impressive sea creatures.

Manta diving with eclipseThe excursion operator, Fair Wind, provides a first class experience.  The crew even make putting on a wet suit in front of a group of one’s fellow swimmers not as cringe-making as it might be.  The first suit I was given didn’t stand a chance of getting past my knees, but our guide thought it would.  I loved him for that!  Anyway, all suited, masked and snorkelled, we jumped into the ocean and held on to a floating line attached to the boat.maui0168_l  The sea was lit from the bottom which illuminated the plankton, the only thing manta ray eat.  They don’t have a stinger or teeth so are, in a word, harmless.  Until they come right under you and span about eight feet wide!  It is considered good luck if they swim up to you so I expect to win the lottery any minute.  I wasn’t the least bit worried, it was all rather calm, except for the screaming of others in my group!  They obviously missed the “they have no stinger or teeth” talk.  We were in the water for about 40 minutes then headed back.  Staying at the Sheraton is perfect for this excursion as we could still see the manta ray for hours, first from ‘Rays on the Bay’ and then from my room balcony.  A truly amazing end to my last evening in Hawaii.

How can I sum it all up?  I am in love. 

I’m glad I went to Oahu and I am sorry we didn’t get to Pearl Harbour, so I’ll be going back for that.  Maui and Big Island are magical and on the list for next year.  I plan to spend a full week on Maui and at least 4 nights on Big Island. What do you need to know before considering Hawaii? It is going to be more expensive than anywhere else in the USA, but look at a map to remind yourself of where it is!  They have to import everything, so staples like food and drink run about 10-15% more than cities like San Francisco and New York.  Department store shopping isn’t great value, so make sure to mix this holiday with a great shopping city if that is an important factor.  I did fly all in one go which I wasn’t keen on at first.  Having now done it, I still think you get more out of a holiday pairing it up with pre and post stops, but if you are keen on spending your full two weeks in Hawaii – go for it!hawaii beach letterbox

Most of the hotels were built in the 1970’s tourism boom and the exterior views don’t hide the fact.  The biggest lesson I learned is that you must look past the façade.  The inner beauty of the places and people is there if you are open enough to see it.  And, as I mentioned earlier – OCEAN FRONT is a must!

It’s a long way and it isn’t a beach holiday in the traditional sense.  The Polynesian culture, people and history are fascinating and wanting to learn and immerse yourself is the reason to go.  The beaches are just a bonus and form an amazing backdrop.  As we boarded the shuttle to take us to the airport it was complete silence and heavy hearts.  But, as the Hawaiians say “a hui hou.”  Until we meet again.Hawaii beach and couple

 

For holidays to Hawaii visit the Bon Voyage website, or call our friendly team of USA travel experts on 0800 316 0194.