If you and your future spouse are anything like Dom and me, you’ll love a honeymoon to Napa Valley and Hawaii. Both of us are adventurous and get pretty stir-crazy, so while we originally thought we might like to go to Bora Bora or the Maldives and stay in one of those iconic huts on the water, we ultimately decided that we’d most likely get antsy if we were stuck in the same spot for two weeks. So after much consideration, we ultimately decided to spend our honeymoon in Napa Valley, the big island of Hawaii, and Maui (video recap of the highlights below).
I have to give major props to Dom for our honeymoon… he planned every. single. detail. Since we got married in Virginia, we had to fly to the west coast to get to Hawaii. Once we figured that out, Dom suggested that we should spend a few days in Napa Valley before heading to Hawaii. If faces could turn into emojis, mine would have looked like this when he mentioned that idea 😍
Below I’ve broken down where we stayed, places we visited and activities we did. Whether you’re planning your honeymoon or just a trip to any of these places, you should definitely consider these recommendations!
Lodging – Candlelight Inn Bed & Breakfast
We have nothing but amazing things to say about Candlelight Inn. It’s in a great location, but is still somewhat secluded which is perfect for a romantic getaway. Since it’s a bed & breakfast, the owners are super involved and make your stay as enjoyable as possible. We were lucky enough to book the Creekside Cottage, which was an entire cottage to ourselves at the back of the property, which included a fireplace in our bedroom, jacuzzi tub and breakfast/kitchen nook. If you don’t want to go into the main dining room for breakfast with the other guests, we had the option of having our breakfast delivered to our cottage… obvi took advantage of that so I could stay in my pajamas!
Activities – We purchased an activities package from the Candlelight Inn, but these activities can certainly be booked and purchased separately. However we booked with Candlelight because we got a discount on all of these activities, and they were scheduled for us. What else could you ask for?!
Hot Air Balloon Ride: a must-do in Napa Valley! I had always wanted to go in a hot air balloon, but am so happy I waited until our honeymoon in Napa. I can’t imagine a more gorgeous view than overlooking the endless vineyards with the sunrise changing the colors of the sky. Dominick is not a fan of heights so was a bit nervous, but actually enjoyed it just as much as I did. It was such an amazing experience and actually incredibly peaceful. Cherry on top – the hot air balloon ride ended with a champagne brunch at Domain Chandon vineyard. They knew what they were doing when they let us take champagne to-go 🥂
Wine Train: this was a fun experience, but I would not recommend it as a top activity when visiting Napa. The Wine Train is a three to four hour train ride through Napa Valley (only 36 miles, so it goes fairly slow), featuring a gourmet lunch and, of course, wine. You have the option to get off of the train and tour a few wineries, but this package is more expensive. However if you’re interested in the Wine Train, I would definitely recommend stopping at wineries. We were jealous of the people that got to do winery tours (the Candlelight Inn package only included the lunch and to stay on the train). Not only will it be fun to stop at different wineries, but you also won’t need to have a DD since the train will do the transporting for you.
Private Wine Tour: this was a five-hour private driver that took us to some of the most popular wineries in Napa Valley. Again, this was part of the Candlelight package, but it was awesome to have a driver that knew the best spots and could give us a little background on each of the wineries we were going to. He also asked us our preference of wine and gave us options of where we’d like to go. If you have the option to do this, I would definitely recommend! Since neither of us had to drive, we both could enjoy ourselves and drink as much wine as we wanted.
Couple’s Massage: didn’t know how much I needed this until after our massages were over. After the stress of planning a wedding, it was so relaxing to have that stress relieved with a massage. Would definitely recommend this no matter where you go for your honeymoon.
Wineries – I’ve broken these down into different categories: scenic, best wine, and not our favorite. While there are over 400 (!!!) wineries in Napa and they are amazing compared to other parts of the U.S., it can be hard to narrow it down since there are just so many. Here’s our input:
Scenic – these are the wineries we visited that have the most beautiful views
Artesa – this vineyard has a unique layout architecturally, plus the view is amazing with endless views of vineyards and mountains. This winery is unusual because after the tasting, you can purchase a bottle of wine and take it out on their patio to drink (most vineyards don’t let you do that). So naturally we bought two bottles (one for the patio, one to bring home with us) and spent a couple of hours on their patio enjoying the view… and the wine.
Sterling – this winery is unlike any other you’ll visit in Napa because you take a chair lift up to the winery (it’s on a hill). This vineyard is a bit more commercialized, but the experience is definitely worth it. The wine was delicious and we ended up purchasing a bottle – plus they let you take home your tasting glasses so you’ll have a souvenir!
William Hill – this winery seemed more relaxed and quiet – we were essentially the only people there when we went! I think that was partially due to the time (we went on the early side) and because it had rained earlier that morning. I think it would be more crowded on most days. But the wine was delicious and the views are spectacular.
Domaine Carneros – I mean… look at this huge estate! Just walking up to it is breathtaking, and they have an amazing patio where you can have your champagne tasting. Would definitely recommend this if you want to feel extra classy.
Best wine – these vineyards have delicious wine, but not the best of the best views
Domain Chandon – while the views aren’t as spectacular, this winery is so cool by itself. Would definitely recommend if you like sparkling wine! This is the vineyard that hosted the champagne brunch after our hot air balloon ride. They have a large terrace on top of their indoor area that accommodated us before they opened up to the public for their regular hours. Such an amazing experience.
Robert Sinskey – although the views from this vineyard are not so spectacular, they definitely make up for it with their nice outdoor area, amazing wine selection and the small snacks they pair with each of their wines which change every day depending on what they’re cooking up in the kitchen (food = happiness in my book). We also purchased two bottles to bring home!
Frog’s Leap – this vineyard was very different from the rest! It has a more laid-back farm-like feel… the building itself even looks like a barn. The inside is much more homey than most wineries, with couches and comfy chairs, while their patio is fully covered and offers regular patio furniture. We went on a full tour of this vineyard which was very different from all of the rest. In addition to growing their own wine, they also have a full garden along with some farm animals and pride themselves in being all organic and solar powered. We were able to “taste as you stroll” by picking different fruits and vegetables off of their bushes to try. They took us through the entire process of how their wine is made and we got to see the machine that squishes the grapes. There were also dogs running around! This is a great winery to come to if you want to experience something different, have more of a laid-back visit, or go on an interesting tour.
Not our favorite – these wineries may have had great wine and pretty views, but we would not list these as our top recommendations
Mumm – we decided to stop at Mumm because it was one of the vineyards on the route to other wineries we visited with our private driver. Since Mumm is such a popular champagne, we wanted to visit the place where it’s made. This winery was certainly nice, but it wasn’t our favorite. The views didn’t really compare the other vineyards we had visited, and since Mumm champagne is commercially available, we weren’t trying something entirely new that we had never had before.
Louis Martini – while this winery had a pretty good selection of wine (we purchased a bottle), I was a little disappointed when we visited. This winery almost fully indoors – both Dom and I are huge outdoor people – and it was quite dark inside with almost no windows. They do have a side patio, but it was completely shaded when we visited and the views are minimal. While we did enjoy the wine, I wouldn’t recommend this winery to people who enjoy a good view and outdoor patio.
Restaurants – to be honest… we didn’t eat all that much while we were in Napa (besides maybe 15 pounds of cheese). We were so busy with activities and touring vineyards that we only went out to dinner one night! Since we weren’t staying in downtown Napa, we decided to go there for dinner one night and went to an Italian restaurant called Allegria. It was delicious and definitely a good option if you’re in the mood for Italian!
We stayed in Napa for five nights and four days, which was the perfect amount. After wining for four days straight, we were ready to get to the beaches in Hawaii.
Oh, Hawaii. We loved Hawaii so much and would love to make it back to explore the islands we didn’t get a chance to visit on our honeymoon. Since we were in Hawaii for 10 days, we decided to visit two islands – the big island (Hawaii) and Maui.
The Big Island – obviously nicknamed for being the largest island of all the Hawaiian islands, the big island is full of volcanic rock so the beaches are much more rocky than sandy. This was definitely different than what we were used to, but the black rock is such a beautiful contrast to the bright blue ocean water. Just be sure to bring shoes to navigate these rocks!
Lodging – by far the coolest vrbo (or airbnb, hotel, etc.) I’ve ever stayed in in my entire life. Located literally on a cliff over the ocean, our little rented home provided the perfect romantic and secluded stay for us for the first few days in Hawaii. Complete with a private pool, sundeck, multiple patios and all normal house amenities, this was the best house we could have stayed in. We stayed on the non-commercial side of the island which was amazing because we did so much exploring on our own without all the tourists. The owner also left an entire binder of things to do, including secret excursions that only the locals know about. Could not recommend this home enough!*
Activities – so I mentioned that we get a little stir-crazy… meaning that we went on a lot of excursions! There were so many adventures we went on thanks to the owner of our vrbo who provided us tips on what to do. Here are some of the highlights that I would definitely recommend:
Snorkeling in the Kapoho Tide Pools – the best surprise we could have stumbled upon. This was a recommendation from our vrbo owner and it was our favorite snorkeling location of the entire trip. These tide pools are located at the end of a neighborhood (we would have never found them had it not been for the binder with instructions) and there were so many different types of fish, we were truly amazed. Water was incredibly clear and we just bought snorkel gear at a local convenience store, which worked perfectly!
Exploring the beaches and natural hot springs – you can find a lot of different natural hot springs and beaches just by looking on Trip Advisor. We had a black sand beach called Kehena just a couple of blocks away from our vrbo (which we later found out was a nude beach ha!), so we ventured there one day (not in the nude) and found other hot springs and places to stop via Trip Advisor and our owner’s binder.
Zip line over Umauma waterfalls – combine sight-seeing and adventure in one with this excursion. This experience takes you on 9 zip lines over the Umauma Falls and is a great way to see the natural beauty of Hawaii while doing something fun. We had a blast but it can be pretty pricey (around $200 per person), so while it’s definitely fun, it’s definitely not a must-do.
Akaka Falls & Rainbow Falls – after zip lining, we were close to some of the other waterfalls that are big attractions so we went to see two of the most popular waterfalls. Definitely a must-do if you like exploring and seeing the beauty of nature.
Restaurants – since we were in more of a secluded area with nothing but homes and nature, we did not venture out much at night because the roads weren’t lit and everything was pretty far. We bought some groceries when we first arrived on the big island and made a lot of meals at home for either on the road (lunch) or dinner once we got back from our daily excursions. However we did go out to dinner one night to one of the closest restaurants to our vrbo which was also one of the highest rated. Kaleo’s Bar & Grill is a seafood restaurant and it had delicious food and drinks. Would definitely recommend if you are staying on that side of the big island.
*Sadly, because of the current volcanic eruption on the big island, we are unsure if the vrbo home we stayed in is still standing. Much of the area near the volcano did not survive, and we are not sure if this home is included. It is still up on vrbo, so I’ve included the link, as the host has not taken down the rental property or written a message that it is no longer standing. Fingers crossed it survives the volcano!
After our stay on the big island, it was off the Maui! We were ready for some regular sand beaches and for a little more action since the big island is much less commercial.
Paia – when we first got to Maui, we stayed in Paia, which is the cutest little town with lots to do from hitting the beach, to shopping at local boutiques, to grabbing drinks at happy hour and of course dining at some awesome seafood restaurants. We rented an Airbnb (we really like the full immersion experience over hotels) called the Gingerbread House which was the perfect location and very spacious for the two of us. My only complaint would be that it was pretty hot (no A/C), but apparently most homes in Maui don’t have it – so not a big deal.
Hana – after two days in Paia, we headed to the town of Hana by taking the road to Hana (a must-do! Read on for details). There we stayed at Travaasa Hana, a gorgeous resort, but definitely a splurge. We figured we’ll only go on one honeymoon, so why not do it big?! The way to get the most out of this resort is if you have a decent amount of money to spend. They have a variety of activities to partake in, but they are all fairly expensive. This place is like living the real resort life (the only place we stayed like this in Hawaii) and it was super relaxing, but of course we got stir crazy because we can’t sit still for more than a few hours… are we five-year-olds?
Snorkeling at Molokini – one of the highlights of our entire honeymoon. This was SO much fun. We lucked out with the company we booked with because Dom forgot to book until we were already in Paia (oops) so he called several places before talking to this company, Maui Magic Charters. We reserved the last 2 spots on the last available boat and it was for 21+ which was actually amazing. Let me tell you everything that we got for this snorkeling trip ($110 per person) – 5 1/2 hour snorkeling trip to two separate locations with snorkeling gear provided plus breakfast, a mid-morning snack, unlimited beer, wine, soda, water and juice (all complimentary), and the greatest grilled burger you’ll ever have when you’re starving after a full day of snorkeling called a Maui Wowie. It involves a burger with grilled pineapple and a hotdog on top (all add-ons optional, but all worth it). Probably the best burger I’ve ever had to date and they topped it off with cookies for dessert. They also came around with multiple cocktails for us which was completely unexpected but of course appreciated by everyone on board. We also lucked out with a great group of people on our boat which made the whole day so fun. The two places we snorkled at were the Molokini crater (the most popular snorkeling destination in Maui) and Turtle Town where there are so many sea turtles. It was beyond awesome. If you’re in Maui, this excursion should be at the top of your list.
Sunrise at Haleakala – literally watch the sunrise from above the clouds at Haleakala National Park at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Since we were there for our honeymoon, they have implemented a new reservation system to sign up to view the sunrise. Be sure to do this ahead of time as it will definitely book up! The cost to view the sunrise is $25 per car once you enter the park. While this is an amazing experience, the drive to view the sunrise must be made in the dark up a mountain with limited guard rails. We left our airbnb two hours prior to the sunrise. Be careful and make sure the driver can see well at night and takes it slow. There are plenty of hair pin turns that sneak up on you and if you have our luck, it will be raining and foggy, making it even more difficult to see! But the experience and view is definitely worth it.
Paia Bay Beach – this one was of the very first beaches we went to because it was super close to our Airbnb. It was super nice and pretty empty so we basically had the whole beach to ourselves! None of the beaches we went to in Maui were super huge – most of them are smaller nooks which makes it fun to explore.
Downtown Paia – downtown Paia is really just one street of shops, restaurants and bars. But it’s super cute and there’s a lot to do! We did a bit of shopping and then hit up a happy hour for margs and tacos at Milagros Mexican Restaurant and had a late dinner at Paia Fish Market. Would recommend both of these restaurants – so, so good.
Road to Hana – the Road to Hana is one of the most suggested things to do in Maui, and for good reason. The entire drive is about 2 hours, but that doesn’t include the stops along the way. The road to Hana is along the Maui coast, so you have beautiful views of the ocean, but that’s not all. There are hidden waterfalls, swimming holes, rainbow trees, picnic spots and overlooks that can’t be missed.
Black Sand Beach – there’s a black sand beach located on the outskirts of Hana within the Wai’anapanapa State Park. All of these beaches require sneakers due to the rough nature of the ‘sand,’ which is really small rocks. If you have a chance to stop at these different beaches along the way, it’s a sight you won’t want to miss. While it’s not an ideal place for laying out, it’s a fun place to see, go for a swim and of course take unbelievable photos.
Red Sand Beach – once we arrived in Hana, we had to do more exploring (obvi). We had done research on the must-see spots in Hana, and there were several beaches we couldn’t wait to explore. This beach is a must-see but the path to get there is what makes it an adventure. I would only recommend going to this beach if you are not afraid of heights, steady on your feet and fairly athletic in case you do happen to slip (so you can catch yourself). While the beach itself is beautiful, the path to get to it is pretty treacherous. Some parts are better than others, but there is a fair stretch of the path that is about 2 feet wide and is literally on the edge of a cliff with a 50 foot (or more) drop to rocks and the ocean. I wouldn’t want my parents (who are close to 70 but very able) to walk it and probably wouldn’t want my future children to do so either. That being said, I did the walk in flip flops and possibly tripped a couple of times while attempting to take pictures… certainly wouldn’t advise that and would suggest wearing sneakers! If you can make the trek, it really is worth the gorgeous view on the other side.
Horseback Riding – while Travaasa Hana offered a variety of activities to do while staying at their resort, most of the activities required payment and were quite pricey. We decided to choose one activity to do so we could still experience all that Travaasa Hana has to offer without overspending. Horseback riding was a perfect option because we got to horseback along the ocean which neither of us had ever done before! Would definitely recommend this as a fun option if you enjoy horseback riding. Definitely a unique experience compared to other horseback rides I’ve taken.
Restaurants – we finally went out to eat in Maui! Here were the restaurants we went to and they were all amazing.
Milagros Mexican Restaurant – located in downtown Paia and has a great happy hour. We went here twice because of its awesome atmosphere, delicious margs and yummy tacos.
Paia Fish Market – some of the best fish you’ll ever have. I was definitely not expecting this when we walked in, but let me tell you, we were both surprised with how good it was. Pretty cheap for the amount and quality of food you get and perfect for a quick sit down dinner (the dining area is very small) or for take out.
Mama’s Fish House – You guys. This place is hands down one of the top 3 restaurants Dom and I have ever been to. One of my previous co-workers recommended Mama’s to me before our honeymoon and thank goodness I listened to her. We didn’t even get to Mama’s until the day we were flying home because it’s always booked solid. Make sure you book reservations in advance! There were no dinner spots available even several days in advance so we had to make a reservation for lunch (yes – all lunch reservations are booked, too). Both Dom and I got the Mama’s Stuffed Fish which is fish stuffed with lobster and crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust (now I’m drooling). Wish I had taken a photo of this meal, but it would not have done it justice anyway. This restaurant is also right off of the beach (beautiful views) and has an amazing atmosphere. Only downside is the price – it’s uber expensive (around $100 per person) but trust me, it’s worth it.
Since Hana is so remote – essentially the only real establishment there is the resort – we were only able to eat at the resort restaurant. To be honest, we weren’t super impressed. Everything on the menu was overpriced, portions were fairly small, and the food was not great. If we were to do it over again, we would make the Road to Hana a day trip excursion (rather than staying in Hana for a few nights) and make our way back to Paia and stay there for a couple of extra nights since it was such a cute town with a variety of things to do.
I hope this list helps all of you who are interested in traveling to either Napa Valley or Hawaii! Feel free to ask any questions or leave comments about what you’ve done in these places. We are always open for new recommendations for when we go back someday!
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