Hawaii retains strong bond with Bay Area: Besties

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 25, 2023
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Diamond Head is easily seen by visitors to Honolulu on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Photo: Cynthia Laird
Diamond Head is easily seen by visitors to Honolulu on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Photo: Cynthia Laird

After deadly fires ravaged the island of Maui this summer, Bay Area residents mobilized to help out by donating to various charities. A number of LGBTQ organizations also pitched in by launching fundraising drives to assist the residents of Lahaina and other West Maui towns who lost their homes and livelihoods to the conflagrations.

There has long been a strong bond between the Bay Area and the Aloha State, as evidenced in Bay Area Reporter readers routinely voting for the country's 50th state as their favorite place to vacation in the U.S. Hawaii once again took top honors this year.

The people of Hawaii have also long embraced LGBTQ visitors, who have myriad lodging and nightlife options throughout the archipelago of eight major islands. Hawaii placed 11th among the 50 states for LGBTQ inclusivity on the 2023 Inclusiveness Index produced by the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley.

Its score this year was a marked improvement from its 20th ranking in 2022 on LGBTQ acceptance. Overall, Hawaii took top honors on the index for the sixth consecutive year as the country's most inclusive state.

As the B.A.R. reported in September, Hawaii officials are eager for vacationers to return to Maui due to the island's economy being over reliant on tourism. As of October 8, the travel restrictions were lifted for most of West Maui though Lahaina remains closed to the public.

For the latest travel updates, visit the website of the country's tourism authority at https://www.gohawaii.com/

It has a dedicated page for LGBTQ visitors, with information about LGBTQ-friendly venues and community events, that can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ptam94ac.


Palm Springs, California

Nikki Jizz performed at Russian River Pride October 15. Photo: Gooch  

Best Local Getaway Destination
Russian River, California
In recent years fires, as well as floods, have also impacted the Russian River area, with the LGBTQ-friendly hamlet of Guerneville at its heart. Nonetheless, LGBTQ travelers continue to flock to this Sonoma County vacation hotspot.

B.A.R. readers have once again named it their favorite place to visit in Northern California. Only a couple hours drive north of San Francisco or west of Sacramento, the area offers a plethora of LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-friendly lodging options and local businesses to patronize.

Earlier this month Guerneville played host to a newly-revived Russian River Pride parade and celebration. Other LGBTQ events like Lazy Bear Week and Women's Weekend continue to go strong and are already planning for their 2024 iterations.

For more information, visit https://gayrussianriver.com/

Carmel and Monterey, California

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

Best Place to Buy Rings/Jewelry
Tiffany & Co.
Unlike other global and national brands, Tiffany & Co. hasn't pulled up stakes in San Francisco's beleaguered downtown. Its imposing doors continue to stand sentinel at 350 Post Street in the city's Union Square shopping district.

In return, B.A.R. readers are again showering their support on the 185-year-old company. They continue to name it the place for engaged couples to find their perfect wedding bands and other finely-crafted jewelry.

The jeweler also hasn't backtracked from its embrace of the LGBTQ community. While other retailers have caved to criticism from right-wing activists upset at their pro-LGBTQ marketing, Tiffany continues to showcase its "Stand For Love" campaign on its website.

For more information about its local store, visit https://www.tiffany.com/jewelry-stores/san-francisco/


Photographer Steven Underhill. Photo: Steven Underhill  

Best wedding photographer
Steven Underhill
Northern California native Steven Underhill again takes top honors in this category for the second year in a row. He is a staple at LGBTQ events around the city, with his photos published weekly by the B.A.R.

He also can be booked to take headshots and portraits. Meanwhile, Underhill is working on a new male photography site.

For more information, visit https://www.stevenunderhill.com/

Raul Salazar

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

Best Wedding Reception Venue
Legion of Honor
With its hilltop location by the Golden Gate, this city-owned fine arts museum has long proclaimed itself to be among "San Francisco's most popular venues for weddings, receptions, and a variety of private events." B.A.R. readers agree, again giving it top marks in this category.

Couples have four different event spaces they can rent in or outside the neoclassical building. The Court of Honor surrounded by the museum's columned wings can accommodate 450 seated guests. The Balustrade Lawn overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands has a capacity of 250 seated guests.

There is also the Terrace Level providing indoor and outdoor through spaces between the Hall of Antiquities, Museum Café, and terrace. It can be configured to accommodate 150 to 350 guests. Indoors is the Rodin Galleries, whose three connected spaces can fit 80 seated guests or 200 standing.

For more information, visit https://www.famsf.org/about/weddings-private-events

Julia Morgan Ballroom

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