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TRIP TIPS

MUST DO
Vela: Eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp on the Big Island; it's so yummy (808) 331-8442. Watch the surfers at Waikiki Beach. John: Go to a luau and try the Imu, and enjoy tropical drinks at The Halekulani while listening to a traditional Hawaiian band (800) 367-2343

BEST SOUVENIR
Vela: 12 rolls of film! John: Christmas ornaments, since we've been collecting them from every place we visit. We got a Santa sitting on a beach chair drinking a Lava Flow.

MUST PACK
Vela: Floral skirts and lots of bikinis. John: A great camera and tons of sunscreen.

WORTH SPLURGING
A helicopter ride on The Big Island; booked through Hawaii Activities (877) 877-1222

BEST TO AVOID
Vela: Getting heatstroke; drink lots of water. John: The tourist-trap shopping malls.

Real Honeymoon: Vela & John on the Islands of Hawaii

Vela (Tuohy) Burke and John Burke were married on September 28 at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in New York City before escaping town to the Islands of Aloha.

Honeymoon Details

Vela and John vacationed for nearly two weeks in Hawaii, traveling to Oahu, The Big Island, and Kauai.

Why They Chose It

"We love the sun and the ocean," says Vela. For Vela and John, honeymooning in Hawaii was like diving headfirst into paradise. They decided to spend 12 days island hopping, since they couldn't pick a favorite place after weeks of research.

Where They Stayed

The newlyweds hopped a plane that flew direct from Newark Airport in New Jersey to Oahu, Hawaii. "I was surprised how short the flight was," Vela exclaims. "I was expecting like 14 hours, but it was only 10." After landing they headed straight to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Their next destination: The Big Island. "We took off and landed 30 minutes later on what seemed like the moon," says Vela. "The landscape was all black lava. It was unreal." They picked up their rental car (a must for anyone visiting Hawaii) and set off for the Kona Village Resort. Their "room" was a thatched-roof cottage in complete seclusion among lush tropical beaches, ancient fishponds, and lava seascapes.

The third stop: Princeville Resort on Kauai. On the last leg of the trip, Vela and John headed back to Oahu where they stayed at The Halekulani (meaning 'house befitting heaven'), on Waikiki Beach. "The Halekulani was perfect," says Vela. "Our room was immaculate, the chocolates on our pillows were delicious, and I finally found the best lemonade on earth!"

What They Did

Their first night spent in Oahu was blissfully uneventful: "We were so tired we just wanted to chill," says Vela. But the two did manage a quick champagne toast on the balcony overlooking the ocean before hitting the sack. "We toasted to our wedding -- we were so proud of ourselves for pulling it off." Once they arrived on The Big Island, their active selves perked up: They spent four days feasting, snorkeling, and treating themselves to late-night dips in their private Jacuzzi on the porch under a perfectly clear, star-studded sky. With no television, clock, or telephone, the couple was able to fully escape from the stress of their busy city lives.

Then it was off to Kauai. "I loved Kauai from the minute I set eyes on it," Vela says. "The Garden Isle is truly stunning." The two began their stay with a private dinner on the beach in a candlelit tent, resting up before tackling more adventurous activities. The next morning they went hiking in the famed Na Pali Coast State Park, with its trails that cross above towering sea cliffs and through 6,175 acres of lush valleys. "It's an 11-mile trail that takes an entire day," says Vela, "so we decided to just do a couple of miles." After a couple hours of working up a sweat, Vela and John headed into town to buy snorkeling gear, and then went straight to the beach.

Their remaining days in Kauai were spent hanging out by the pool -- "the most amazing pool I've ever seen," points out Vela. Before they left, they took part in an Imu Ceremony at the resort's luau, in which a kalua pig is cooked in an underground oven. "We had a couple of helpings and drank our fair share of Lava Flows [otherwise known as a pina colada with strawberry juice in the center]," says Vela. "Needless to say, we slept very soundly that night."

Finally, they returned to Oahu to snorkel. On their first day there they visited Oahu's prime snorkeling destination -- Hanauma Bay, a sanctuary to hundreds of reef fish and gigantic sea turtles. On their last day, it started to rain, and they knew it was time to go home.

The Best Part

Island hopping. "Each island is so distinct and amazing," says Vela. "We thought we wouldn't have enough time on each island, but it was perfect. Every four days we packed up and moved onto a new island, at a new hotel, with new adventures."

The Worst Part

Island hopping. But only because it meant six flights in one vacation. "I hate flying," explains Vela. "And I cry every time during the take-off and landing." Once Vela realized how much time she'd be spending in the air, they almost called off the entire trip! "The thought of six flights absolutely terrified me," says Vela, "but in the end, I decided it was now or never."

-- Allison Micarelli


For fun facts about this honeymoon, see right-hand column of this page.

-- Allison Micarelli

See More: Real Honeymoons