Besties Destinations & Weddings: Hawaii remains on top in travel, wedding category

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday September 28, 2022
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Hawaii is the top choice of readers looking for a relaxing getaway. Photo: Cynthia Laird
Hawaii is the top choice of readers looking for a relaxing getaway. Photo: Cynthia Laird

Now that the pandemic is a fact of life, people have resumed leisure travel and are planning in-person weddings. Below are the top choices in this category.

Best domestic getaway destination


The Aloha State continues to capture the hearts of readers looking to unwind and rest. With its numerous outdoor adventure options — from snorkeling in reef-ringed coves to hiking waterfall trails — its cachet as a safe vacation choice has skyrocketed since COVID travel restrictions put in place in 2020 were lifted last March.

While Honolulu on the island of Oahu continues to be a nexus for LGBTQ visitors, nightlife options abound throughout the archipelago of eight major islands. The Hawaiian tourism board maintains an updated list of LGBTQ-friendly venues and community events, such as Maui Pride held the second Saturday of October.

The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu exhibition on view in Bishop Museum's Castle Memorial Building has been bringing public attention to the history of the mahu, the term Native Hawaiians used to refer to individuals of a third gender and today would be known as transgender or nonbinary.

"There is no written documented evidence that mahu was anything but a normal part of society. We have no evidence prior to the coming of Christian missionaries of whom took the greatest issue with mahu and living that truth," co-curator Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu recently told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper.

The exhibit is set to close October 16, and a series of special events is planned for that weekend. For more information, visit the museum's website.

To learn more about Hawaii tourism options, visit or


Monterey, California

The Russian River is an LGBTQ-friendly destination. Photo: Photo: Courtesy  

Best local getaway destination
Russian River, California

This Sonoma County vacation hotspot has been a mainstay for LGBTQ locals and visitors for decades. At its heart is Guerneville, with its LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-friendly lodging options and a main street revived in recent years by LGBTQ business owners.

The Rainbow Cattle Company has been a major draw for LGBTQ patrons since it first opened its doors in 1979. Across the street is the tasting room for Equality Vines co-founded by gay civil rights activist Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit that established marriage equality in the U.S.

Travelers accompanied by their pets can rent a private residence to stay in via a home-sharing rental site or opt for one of the pet-friendly rooms at the gay-owned The Woods resort in downtown Guerneville. It markets itself as "a Russian River Gay Hotel with 'Clothing Optional' heated pool."

For more information, click here.

Tahoe, California

Best honeymoon destination

Couples tying the knot apparently are in the mood for amore Italian style. This European tourist mecca took top honors as the locale best suited to celebrate the start of a (hopefully long) marriage.

While the country itself doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, it does honor civil unions. Attitudes toward LGBTQ couples are overwhelmingly positive among Italians, according to public opinion polls.

As the gay travel-loving couple behind the Nomadic Boys website points out, the legalization of civil unions in 2016 has sparked a growing interest in Italy as a wedding and honeymoon destination. They put together a list of their top five picks for LGBTQ couples to consider when planning a celebration of their nuptials in the country.

Kaua'i, Hawaii

Tiffany & Co.'s familiar blue box is a sign of luxury. Photo: Courtesy Tiffany& Co.  

Best place to buy rings/jewelry
Tiffany & Co.

A perennial favorite among engaged couples to find their perfect wedding bands is Tiffany & Co. Located at 350 Post Street in San Francisco's Union Square shopping district, the 184-year-old company is synonymous with luxury and beloved for its finely-crafted jewelry.

It has long embraced same-sex couples. For Valentine's Day in 2020, roughly a month before it shuttered its stores due to the COVID pandemic, the San Francisco location posted to its Instagram account a cartoon by New Yorker cartoonist J.A.K. featuring a man on bended knee proposing to his boyfriend. In his hands is a quintessential blue Tiffany's ring box.

For more information, click here.

D&H Sustainable Jewelers

Photographer Steven Underhill. Photo: Steven Underhill  

Best wedding photographer
Steven Underhill

Northern California native Steven Underhill took the top spot in this category this year, having come in second place in 2019. He is a staple at LGBTQ events around the city, with his photos published weekly in the print and online editions of the Bay Area Reporter.

Underhill has published several books of his photographic works and contributed to the gay youth publication XY magazine. In addition to weddings and events, he also can be hired to take headshots and portraits.

For more information, click here.

Raul Salazar

The Legion of Honor is a favorite for wedding receptions. Photo: Courtesy SF Travel  

Best wedding reception venue
Legion of Honor

This city-owned fine arts museum perches atop San Francisco parkland overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the nautical entrance to the bay. As it notes on its website, it "has long been one of San Francisco's most popular venues for weddings, receptions, and a variety of private events."

Couples not only seek it out for its awe-inspiring views of the city's skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, they also fall in love with its neoclassical architecture. It provides a one-of-a-kind venue to plan the perfect wedding reception.

For more information, click here.

de Young Museum

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