Honolulu Hawaii family vacation

Our first plane trip out of country as a family of 5.  C and I were quite nervous about the flight. Our kids are super active and rarely sit in one place for long.  First we were thinking of going to San Diego, Anaheim, or LA, mainly for the short flight.  However after reviewing hotels and distance between hotels and attractions and the beach, we would need a car to zip around all those places. C doesn’t feel comfortable driving in unfamiliar places so after going back and forth on it, California is off our list. I then looked around for other warm places and Hawaii came to mind. Flight is longer than we would like but it’s the only way if we want warm summer-like weather.  This trip is meant for spring break and for Bee's birthday.  She told us months in advance she would rather we go some where, like previous year, than have a party at home.  Although this time, while opening her presents from us, she came to the realization that without a party, she doesn't get many gifts :-D
We picked Waikiki, Honolulu.  Reason is that we been there before so the familiarity with the place is a bonus.  We also like the busyness of the place :-)  other islands are just so quiet, so serene, so calm.  It's not us !  We like noise, we like lights, we like to be in a city that doesn't shut down at 9pm, we like to walk around and explore (with coffee and snacks on hands), and Waikiki is all that and more.

Lots of screen time and sugar to keep them stay put

For those who likes numbers, we booked our trip as a package, 8 days/7night, flight for 5 people + hotel (Hyatt Place, 2 queen beds and a pull out sofa, 1 bathroom (no kitchen)) + tax all add up to $6500 Canadian.  We are going at the tail end of spring break so prices came down a bit for flight & hotel.  Exchange rate is 1.31 CAD to 1 USD when we left.

The weather in Waikiki this time of year, March, is already quite hot !  Like our August afternoon weather here.  What I love about this place though, is the water temperature !  There's no water hole around BC that quite reached 26/27 degree like here.  The rain here is even warm and is short lived.  So if the forecast predicted it will rain or be cloudy the days you're here, don't be discouraged.  The weather and water temperature is still be way warmer than the North West :-)  We swam everyday, morning and afternoon.  It's quite relaxing just watching the waves crashing in.  Depending on what beach you're at, some section of the beach that has no rocks divider (acting like speed-bump), the waves are really strong.  It pulled Love in once and scared her a bit.  Might be dangerous for toddler.  If you stick to the main beach area of Waikiki, the water is pretty gentle and calm.

Grabbed a set of snorkel for $8 for the kids.  Great to use on any beach.  We were at the main beach on Waikiki and saw an octopus, schools of white fishes, a zebra print angel fish, sea urchins, corals and lots of silver and black color fishes.

The main strip on Waikiki is very busy and vibrant.  There are a lot of places to take a seat and let the kids blow off steam.  We hang out often at the Royal Hawaiian Centre.  At the back of this place is a koi pond next to a big outdoor green space; this area connects to the Royal Hawaiian hotel and to the other side is the Sheraton hotel.  It's a nice area to rest and enjoy some live music or show at the outdoor stage there.  There are many greenery and flowers here they're so pleasing to the eyes.

Waikiki has many market place or center, each has their own specialty and all have nice big seating area.  The city and buildings' designers did a good job on making them an engaging space.  We like to walk up and down here when the sun is at it's highest, grabbing shaved ice, ice creams or snacks and just sit around.  Mid day is sweltering hot, the kids and I can't handle it, so we hit all these centers to enjoy their AC :-)  If you like to shops, this is the strip to be on.  From high end stores to affordable ones, they're all here.  I didn't shop so am not sure if prices, after conversion, are similar to Canada.

Clear warm water
What I learned quickly about Waikiki is that food is quite expensive !  Food court meal ranges from $10-19USD (for comparison, $10 get you 2 chicken drumsticks with corn and a drink, $19 will get you some grilled chicken over bed of kale salad and some sides and a drink). Ice cream is between $5-10 USD ($5 for something like store bought and $10 is gourmet style). Restaurant items are $15+. There are lots of ramen restaurants around here ($7-$20 a bowl) so if you like noodles, this is heaven !  

Dukes Lane Market and Eatery - great little place for quick snacks and ice cream.  The outdoor market sells trinkets and Hawaiian t-shirt and dresses (geared towards tourists).  The restaurants at the back looks promising but we didn't get to try.

Ramen from one of the Japanese food court

Yummy green tea ice cream.  I can do without all the toppings though.

Island Shave Ice - homemade style natural syrup with bits of fruits.  Not overly sweet.  Worth a visit !

What we liked about our hotel, Hyatt Place, is that it has free hot skillet breakfast !  When deciding between this and the Hyatt Regency (2 blocks away), the price/night is almost same but this one won over due to free breakfast.  I know my kids, ever the early risers, and my husband, late riser.  

True to themselves, the kids were up and asking for breakfast at 6AM - YES 6 AM in the morning !  I forgot about time differences and I am so glad to able to take them down for breakfast that early.  Everyday the hot skillet menu change while some stable items remain the same (oatmeal, cereals, drinks, fruits, yogurts, asian stall (miso, rice & asian side dishes)).  Seriously, this buffet breakfast helped ease our morning and make it less stressful for both C and I.  We don't have to all wake up at the same time, get ready and decide where to go to eat.  Here we get to take turn sleeping in and get to eat breakfast in our jammies.  So if you got early/late risers like us, this option would greatly help you out.  

Outdoor patio at Hyatt Place.  Lots of room for our youngest to move around, while waiting for us to finish our food.

Waikiki has local farmers market event happening a couple times throughout the week. Ask locals or hotel concierges for info. I enjoyed some sweet fruits from the market ($5/fresh coconut, $5/soursop, $3/mango, $5 for a cup of fresh pressed sugarcane ($7 if no ice). I lovedddddd the sugarcane juice. Reminded me of summer in Vietnam.  Sugarcane juice was my hot weather staple there.  You can ONLY get fresh sugar cane juice from the farmers market so keep that in mind, if you want to try it.

Here are some tips and suggestions:
  • Hawaii is very busy so to avoid line up, go earlier or after the lunch (noon) or dinner rush (around 5pm).
  • Popular locations and attractions (Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay, etc.) and are busy on the weekend as locals visit them also, it is best to do those during week day. 
  • If you want to rent a car, book it 4-5 days in advance of the day you need it. We tried to book 1 day before and it was sold out EVERYWHERE downtown and vicinity. Who knew !  A few of our plans fell through because of it. 
  • If you like pineapple then the Dole Plantation is a nice visit.  Yummy ice cream and fresh pineapple are avail. for purchase.  It's worth a stop from a trip but I wouldn't make it the main event of a day. 
  • All day bus pass is really cheap in Waikiki, great to avoid walking from one end of the strip to the other.  It's also great for a visit to Alamona Shopping Mall (biggest mall I ever been to, with really high end stores (Prada, Gucci, etc) affordable ones like H&M, Gap, etc). Buses here are NOT baby stroller friendly. You can take umbrella stroller, but will have to fold it and store under your seat.
  • MUST visit Kailua and Lanekei beach !  They are next to each other.  About 40 min. drive away or 1 hour and 15 min. on bus.  Kailua is a bigger beach.  Powder soft almost-white sand with turquoise water.  It's the highlight of our trip.
  • MUST visit the Honolulu Zoo here.  It's at the end of the Waikiki main strip.  It's a huge 42 acres piece of land with so many species.  It's organized into 3 tropical zone:  Rainforest, Pacific Islands and African Savanna.  You will need a full day to explore.  Lots of interesting info. on each species and cool tropical plants all around.
  • FOOD - we ate at various restaurants in Waikiki and they were pretty good.  I would suggest you read reviews online before walking in to any eateries.  The restaurants below are worth a mention because they were dishing out some quality food that are tasty and doesn't cost too much !  
    • Marukame Udon - self serve Japanese eatery. You cannot sit down to save a table unless you got your food. NO EXCEPTION.  Pregnant or with an infant, they will ask you to wait outside until you get your food.  Other than that, this place is tasty, great with kids, lots of different type of tempuras, and also super busy!  There will be line up outside during lunch and dinner so go off hours. Example: We went at 1pm lunch and 4:30pm dinner and both times were less than 5 min. wait.
    • MEE Korean BBQ - eat in or take out, quick service, tasty and big portions.  Ignore the not-so-friendly counter lady.  She's not there to make friends :-)
Now back home, I wish we did less things and lounge more at the beach.  Just laying there on the sand and let the world pass by is pretty relaxing !  When we go to check out this or that, visiting places, etc., we are not relaxing.  I think if we have 2 weeks here it would be better :-)  NExt time.

Marukamen Udon - sweet tasty broth and thin slices of beef.  Lots of added toppings to choose from.  One of my favorite place here.  It has AC so the heat is bearable :-)

The highlight of our trip must be Kailua beach.  It's simply beautiful.  I highly recommend a trip to this beach.  Honolulu is really a slice of paradise.  The air, the water, the sun, the waves, the sand, the friendly people, the great food, I can go on !  We definitely will be back, maybe next year :-)

Kaillua Beach