Our family recently celebrated Enzo’s 5th birthday in Hawaii, and it was truly a dream come true! Now living in Arizona, Jezriel and I were craving some yummy seafood and were eager to explore new places in Hawaii. Instead of visiting the typical tourist spots, we decided to focus on our favorite local spots and try new ones.
To make this moment even more unique, we hired a photographer, PeeDee Visuals, to capture our memories. If you are getting photos taken, try to schedule this at the beginning of the trip to avoid tan lines or being burned! We also wanted to incorporate traditional Hawaiian cultural elements, so we asked Kēhaulani to create beautiful leis for our family. She made a stunning lei po’o for me, a traditional head lei, and a Keiki lei for Cataleya; we also chose maile leis for the boys.
These leis hold great significance in Hawaiian culture, and we were thrilled to incorporate them into our family’s celebration. They are not just accessories but a way to connect with the rich history and traditions of the islands. Our photos and leis will serve as cherished memories of Enzo’s birthday and remind us of our beautiful time in Hawaii.
During our trip, we discovered some helpful tips for traveling with kids. For instance, we highly recommend getting a TSA pre-check. It makes family travel much more manageable and stress-free, especially when you have laptops, cameras, and drones. We also carry on as much as possible to avoid any potential lost or damaged luggage, which we’ve experienced in the past, and this one time we checked in the bag, it got cracked. Also, jet lag is always a challenge, and staying hydrated helps, but this time we utilized these tablets; I should have taken them on our way back home.
We can only do so much with our kids in a day to avoid overwhelming them. Plus, travel days literally take all day and are the most exhausting. Rent a van because parking spots are narrow! If you’re traveling with kids, it’s helpful to pack full-size liquid Motrin/Tylenol in your carry-on since there is a shortage of them right now. I asked TSA on Twitter if full-size Infants/Children’s liquid Motrin/Tylenol counted towards their 3-1-1 rule, which it doesn’t!
Traveling with kids can be tricky, but we made it easier this time by purchasing a seat for our youngest, Matheus, so we could install his car seat and give my arms a break. He slept for 3 hours straight each way! We used a compact stroller with a car seat adapter to easily click his car seat into it and store it in the overhead bin. Our older son, Enzo, used a travel-friendly front-facing car seat, and our daughter Cataleya used a booster packed in her carry-on.
We made sure to balance fun and relaxation by prioritizing beach days and spending 2-4 hours every day soaking up the sun and playing in the sand. Our daily routine consisted of breakfast/coffee at our hotel (most of the time), lunch near whichever beach we were at, and dinner back at or around the hotel. We stayed at the Laylow for 11 days/10 nights; being Bonvoy members made it even more convenient.
I’m a big fan of washable and water-resistant bags and used these bigger bags to keep our wet/dry clothes separate. I used this beach bag to put towels (15% off use RaiZ15), sunscreen, and sand toys and even brought it on the plane for Matheus’s stuff; it even has a trolley sleeve to make it easy to travel with. I purchased a pop-up tent to keep Matheus shielded from the sun because I knew the older kids wanted so much time at the beach.
We also found some fantastic beaches, including Hukilau Beach, Kailua Beach Park, Waimanalo Beach, and Sandy Beach.
We had the chance to explore some beautiful hiking trails. One of the most kid-friendly hikes we found was Waimea Falls. For a more challenging hike, my dad and Jezriel tackled the Koko Crater Railway Trail in 2019.
Now, onto the food! We tried so many amazing places, and here are some of our top picks:
Ry’s Poke – One of our favorites, delicious poke, and the most personable owner ever!!! Buy his sauces to bring home; they don’t need to be refrigerated, and they are so flavorful.
Seven Brothers – Mainland-style hamburger and fries with an island twist. The kids love the cheeseburger combo on the keiki menu!
Da Bald Guys – Unique and top choice for plate lunch (especially Jezriel lol). Fried poke is a must, and some of the best Mac salad.
Tina Fresh Fruit Smoothie – Get a pineapple smoothie in the whole pineapple, and right next door, they sell fresh cold coconuts.
Surf N Salsa – The closest thing to mainland Mexican food. Carne asada fries and California burrito in your huge Hawaii-like portions, yes please!
Marugame Udon – Go during lunch because it’s a crazy long line during dinner. Tempura heaven!
Hideout @ Laylow – Great assortment of breakfast to dinners, coffee to happy hours.
Raised By the Waves – If you’re feeling plant-based options, highly recommended.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – I preferred this one; Kahuka area, northeast, garlic lovers come through!
Waiahole Poi Factory – Delicious local and traditional Hawaii favorites; try their dessert!
Kualoa Coconut Man – Old school pool over the road and get your fresh coconuts type way. We love fresh coconut water!
The Pig and The Lady (Chinatown) – Hands down, the most mouth-watering Pho we’ve had. Nothing has compared in California, Vegas nor Arizona for us.
Senia (China Town) -Such a cute boutique restaurant, we brought the kids, and they brought cocktails to enjoy with us. Tons of flavors and unique foods to choose from.
Huerringbone – We met Chef Tamashiro as we enjoyed the yacht seafood platter, drinks, and dessert. Seafood lovers head this way!
Down to Earth – Local Organic Grocery Store, grab what you need.
House Without A Key – The best drinks for your money and the most fantastic maitai I’ve had. Try their version of an old fashion!
Surf Lanai (Pink Pancakes) – P.I.N.K P.A.N.C.A.K.E.S., enough said.
You saved room for sweets right!
Banan Beach Shack – Need a quick cooler when heading down to Waikiki’s beach. Check out the side street lined with surfboards that serve cold treats. It has excellent access to the beach right next to the Royal Hawaiian. Get the Pineapple Yacht!
Leonard’s Bakery – This place is famous for a reason. Try the puff puff and get some traditional malasadas – The line is always long, but it moves fast!
Pipeline Bakeshop – You want a more local, much calmer spot. They don’t have puff style Malasadas, only have traditional Malasadas, but they have great other deserts, such as ube, haupia, Mochi Bubble Waffle Cones
Matsumoto Shave Ice – Hot day must. Still our favorite, always a line, but it’s worth it.
Holey Grail Donuts – They made our fresh on the spot. A unique twist on gourmet-style donuts. They got coffee too!
Magnolia Ice Cream – Philippines represent here! Check out their Ube cookies and cream!
Liliha Bakery – All-day eatery but more known for its bakery items; check out their mochi donuts.
Honolulu Cookie Company – Shortbread cookie lovers delight! Automatic, try all flavors, please.
And for coffee lovers, these are some must-try spots:
Green World Coffee – Down to the roots coffee spot. Try their Iced dirty Thai latte + lavender latte.
Kona Coffee Purveyors – A coffee shop that is next level. Try their Kona Nitro + Cappuccino Upgrade to Kona Beans with Oat Milk + Ice Loose Tea for the Kids.
Island Vintage Coffee Waikiki – The Ube bagels sell out, so go there when the kitchen opens at 7 am, but the coffee shop opens at 6 am. If you go later highly recommend doing an online order.
Surfers Coffee – Their mochi pancakes are a must! Mochi Waffles, I will repeat, great choices coffees.
Local Joe – You need a jab in the arm, come through here; the most robust coffee we had, I think it has a secret code name, the venom coffee.
And last but not least, here are some things to do during your Hawaiian vacation:
Things to Do
Church – St. Augustine by the Sea – This is a Catholic Church and where we attended mass as it was close to our hotel and it’s literally right next to the beach.
Germaine’s Luau – This is still my preferred Luau, it’s near the ocean, and outside, you get a beautiful sunset view.
Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden – Free entry
The Byodo-In Temple – The kids love feeding the friendly birds.
Hanauma Bay – If you’re not a resident, you have to make a reservation 2-days prior.
Spots recommended by you guys that’s on our list for NEXT TIME:
Keana Farms – Zip Lining
Cinnamons – guava chiffon pancakes
Boots & Kimo’s – Mac Pancakes
Moku Kitchen – Mai Tais
Overall, our Hawaiian vacation was an unforgettable experience, and we can’t wait to go back. If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii with your family, we hope these tips and recommendations will help you make the most of your time on the islands. And if you have any recommendations of your own, be sure to leave them in the comments!
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