And it is those things. Well, except the hula girls.
To me it is where I was reborn.
SuperHub and I moved to Hawaii as our first Army assignment while I was 8 weeks pregnant with Piper. We arrived on the island as two 28-year-olds with no kids and left six years later with two kids in tow. For me it is where my motherhood was born, where my babies took their first steps, and where we enjoyed our first taste of parenthood and military life.
Hawaii represents so much to me. I truly feel like my entire life changed on that island. I finally became the person I was supposed to become. I became a Mom. And my college sweetheart became a Dad, which unleashed within him a strong, dependable, and hilarious parenting partner.
It's hard to single out our favorite things about Hawaii, but I'll give it a try!
Things to see and do:
Pali Lookout - It's exactly what you want Hawaii to be. A gorgeous panorama of the dewy rainforests, huge mountain vistas, and Kaneohe bay. And it's mostly free, just pay for parking! Watch your kiddos though, there are no fences or anything and in the Spring there are weird bees that walk around on the ground.
The North Shore - Turtle Beach, Haleiwa, Laie, are just a few points that you will pass as you head up the shore. While you are stuck in the traffic on the only road that heads North, pull over when you see little artsy Haleiwa and have some farm fresh food at Cafe Haleiwa. If you see the elusive Impossible's pizza truck, slam on your brakes and sink your teeth into a pizza masterpiece. If you don't, swing by one of the many shrimp trucks for some garlicky goodness.
Honolulu - It's really just a big city, but if you know that going in, you can enjoy the kitsch and find a few gems. The people-watching is top notch! Just know that you will have some crazy wait times at restaurants, so plan ahead and eat early, or make reservations. If you desire Cheesecake Factory or another big chain restaurant, prepare yourself for a two hour (or more!) wait.
Ko'Olina - This is my favorite part of the island. It's really what I always dreamed Hawaii would be. Basically three of the top resorts on Oahu are there, so you get well-kept beaches, excellent restaurants, and not so many people.
Eggs N' Things - Honolulu
This breakfast institution is worth the hour wait on the street. In all my Southern upbringing, I have never had such a luscious pecan waffle in my life!
BLT Steak - Honolulu
Yes, it's a chain. But it's incredible. They start you off with piping hot popovers, which we like to follow with a wagyu steak. Sweet peaches, it's good.
Island's Burgers - Honolulu - Ala Moana Mall
On an island where everything is overpriced, Island's is a hidden gem. The burgers are really delicious (SuperHub loves the Kilauea burger), the fries are great, and the beers are cold. If you sit outside, you can hear live music from the neighboring bar. There is rarely a wait, and you can get out of there for $20. Win!
Roy's - Roy is the most famous chef from Hawaii and has restaurants all over the US, however his locations in Hawaii are the absolute best. Get the butterfish entree and order the King Crab Maki rolls. They aren't on the menu, but the sushi chef will make them for you. We prefer the Ko'Olina location because it's quiet and on a golf course where you have swaying palm trees and island breezes.
Monkeypod Kitchen - Ko'Olina
Monkeypod is across from the Disney Aulani resort. (Aulani has a very sweet character breakfast that you can book if you reserve ahead of time. They only take a few non-guest reservations a day!) Monkeypod has awesome Mai Tais, and delicious pumpkin ravioli. And live music in the early evenings!
Maui Mike's - Wahiawa
Maui Mike's is a local favorite! They serve rotisserie farm-raised chicken in sandwiches (we love the Maui Wowie) and over rice. If you are headed up to the North Shore, you will drive right through Wahiawa, so keep an eye on your right and stop for lunch. You won't regret it.
Haleiwa Joe's - Haleiwa - North Shore
The North Shore has a dearth of really great restaurants. If you want to watch the sunset over dinner, this is the place for you. It's not going to get any Michelin stars anytime soon, but it's tasty. The calamari is really nice and served with an asian sauce. The blackened prime is only served until they run out, so get there around 5:30pm when they open and you can savor it with your sunset on the side.
The best luau is found at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore. It's far away, but worth the drive. Stay for the fire show after and you will be glad you did. Even better, book a night at Turtle Bay Resort so that you can crash there after the show and wake up to one of the most lovely places on the island.
Feel free to e-mail or message me through my Facebook page if you are headed to Hawaii! I'm always happy to share our favorites with you guys.