Hi guys! We're home from an amazing 2 weeks in Hawaii and I'm back to share all of my photos from our holiday. I shared our trip on Instagram while we were away and received lots of questions on where we stayed, shopped, ate, how we got around the island, the best type of room for a family and how we went about booking everything. So I thought I would add all the information from our trip into a series of blog posts in the hope it might give some ideas and tips for anyone thinking of a trip to Hawaii. Due to the overload of photos (I took so many as everything was sooo beautiful!) I've decided to break everything down into 3 blog posts - Waikiki, the North Shore and Disney Aulani resort. I hope you enjoy the recap! x
This was our 2nd family holiday to Hawaii and we loved everything about our stay in Waikiki last time so we decided to stick with what we knew and stayed at the Moana Surfrider again. It's located right on the beach at Waikiki and is in the centre of town, so it's close to so many restaurants and shopping places. We didn't feel like we needed a car during our stay at Waikiki as everything we needed was right outside our door. We grabbed a cab for our daytrip to the Ala Moana shopping centre. The beach is perfect for families, so calm with beautiful sand plus the blue of the water was just stunning!
We stayed in a Tower Ocean suite at the Moana Surfrider located on Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu.
It was 73 square metres in size. The room consisted of a bedroom, lounge area with sofa bed and a kitchenette + dining table. We also got them to bring up a foldaway bed which we set up in the living area and there was still plenty of room to move around. The main selling point was the balcony and that view! Looking right out on to Waikiki beach with a view to Diamond Head and also down Ala Moana boat harbour.
Originally we were shown to the 16th floor where the view was stunning but it was quite scary to be up so high (vertigo!) especially with little kids. We asked to be relocated on a lower floor and we were quickly moved to the 5th floor. Still with an amazing view but not so high up to give me panic attacks!
Our "Suite Life Package" included breakfast at the buffet or room service every morning, access to a private lounge with free snacks and drinks through out the day, 2 sunloungers and an umbrella reserved on the beach for us daily. We booked directly through the hotel's website as rates here were more attractive than through a travel agent. We also mentioned that we had stayed there previously and they gave us a $300 spa voucher as a gift for returning. All these little things go towards making your holiday even better.
As there was a kitchenette in the room (fridge, tea + coffee facilities, plates/cutlery) we could keep bottled water and snacks in the fridge or serve up our takeaway and eat in the room on the nights the boys were exhausted from the beach and sightseeing.
The Moana Surfrider has a classic Hawaiian vibe and the building is gorgeous and spacious. You can always find a little space for yourself to just sit and chill and enjoy a drink and the view. The old banyan tree in the middle of the hotel courtyard is a landmark and people come to sit and have a drink in the bar outside and listen to music during the afternoon. There is also a wonderful pool with a kiosk nearby serving snacks and the all important shave ice. It was lovely to take a dip in the pool after the beach and get clean after the salt and sand.
The colour of the water at Waikiki Beach is stunning, that blue! I came home with a collection of beach umbrella photos as I loved the contrast of the colours and the blue sky + ocean so much.
Each beachfront hotel has it's own roped off section of the beach with their own umbrellas and sun loungers for their guests. The rest of the beach is up for grabs!
Our package included 1 umbrella and 2 sun loungers reserved for us daily. Fresh towels were always on hand and waiters from the hotel offered service on the beach too. You really didn't have to move if you didn't want to!
Waikiki Beach has something for everyone as it has off shore sand banks and reefs creating a variety of waves to surf. From Ala Moana boat harbour down to Diamond Head. These reefs and sand banks remove all the power from the breaking waves so by the time they reach the shore they are gentle and perfect for the kids to play around in or for you to grab a float and head out to the water to relax.
(Buy a float from any ABC store, they're everywhere! You can also pick up a bucket and spade for the kids)
We took our GoPro out with us in the ocean and took some great shots looking back to the beach.
So fun and lovely that the whole family could do it together.
Simon and Finn always travel with their own short boards but Waikiki is more of a long boarding wave so we hired boards over there. Hourly longboard and SUP rentals are available from 3 or 4 beachfront locations but we found a place one street back (Koa Board Sports in Koa Street) that had daily and weekly rental rates that were much more economical. All of the beachfront hotels have lockable storage racks for their guest's boards so you don't have to trek them inside each day.
Plus most longboards won't fit in the elevator!
We had breakfast included in our room rate so we ate breakfast every day at the hotel buffet. We found we were sleeping in (blackout curtains!) and were having breakfast quite late so we weren't really eating lunch. We had access to a private lounge that served complimentary drinks, fruit, muffins, biscuits and antipasto nibbles so that usually got us through to dinner.
I've listed a few of the places we ate at for dinner and loved -
Located in the Royal Hawaiian Centre
(huge menu and delicious desserts. The portions are massive so sharing dishes is great)
Also every place is happy to box up your leftovers so we took things back to our room to eat later.
Located in Waikiki and Ala Moana
I loved their frozen lemonade. Fresh lemonade not Sprite. Also you must try the Butter Cake.
Located on the Beachwalk
Owned by Australian Bill Granger. Food and coffee is Sydney standard. So a great spot to grab your coffee. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Located on Lewers Street
American food and an extensive beer list.
Located on Waikiki beach
Salads, grill and cocktails! There is a party on the beach every afternoon in their Barefoot Bar. Live music and lots of dancing. Definitely a place to get you into that holiday spirit.
On the Beachwalk
Nice and reasonable priced Italian food
Located in Ala Moana Shopping Centre
Try a little taste of New York in Hawaii.
We practically tried every Shave Ice store in Hawaii, we all loved it. So refreshing to eat on a hot day.
We loved the one just next door to our hotel the Moana Surfrider. It was a little too convenient ;)
Other places we didn't get to try but heard great things about were -
Located at the Waikiki Parc hotel.
Its a bit on the expensive side but worth having a special meal and nice cocktails if your kid free.
Located in the Royal Hawaiian Centre
Happy Hour every day from 4pm - 6pm. Good sushi at a great price.
We tended to have a browse around the shops after dinner as the weather was perfect to walk around at night and it was nice to take in the holiday vibe. All the shops along Kalakaua Ave and its surrounds were open til 10pm. Noah is long out of a pram at home but I did buy an umbrella stroller from an ABC store for $20 to push him in when he was tired and his little legs couldn't keep up.
We did dedicate practically a whole day to browse around the Ala Moana shopping mall. We caught a cab and it was about 10 minutes from our hotel. The shopping centre has everything you could want plus lots of restaurants to stop at for a break or to have lunch at.
I've listed a few stores that we found great in Waikiki-
These stores are on every corner and they are the perfect place to pop in to buy snacks, milk, bread, toiletries, wine + beer and holiday souvenirs at great prices. Some mornings we would buy a yoghurt for breakfast from here when we just wanted something light. You can also buy your inflatable floats here for $2.99 to take out and have a float on the ocean.
H + M
Great clothes, shoes + accessories for both men and women. In the main Waikiki shopping strip.
Perfect to pop into while waiting for a table at the Cheesecake Factory as it's right next door.
Bargain prices for clothes (men + women) shoes, jewellery and bags
A huge shopping mall. You can find the list of shops here
Finn loved the store Champs for Nikes etc you can't get here plus sports tees you don't see in Australia. I loved the Barnes + Noble book store for lots of books, magazines and kids toys.
Longs Drugs (chemist)
This was a huge store that we popped into to get some eye drops but they also had lots of beach gear, cosmetics, toiletries, cereals and snacks.
Other things to do
You can wander down the beach and check out the Duke Kahanamoku Statue.
There are shops and restaurants down this way too plus the Kuhio Beach Hula Show is on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. You can grab a spot and listen to traditional Hawaiian music and watch them do the Hula free of charge.
I couldn't resist a snoop throughout the Royal Hawaiian as it's such a Hawaiian icon. It is old school glamour throughout and of course I loved the pink everywhere!
We didn't go as we are spoilt with Taronga Zoo so close to home but it is an easy 10-15 minute walk from Waikiki. Something to do if you tire of the beach and shopping.
Diamond Head Crater Hike
Another activity we didn't get time for but I've heard it's up there on the difficulty scale in terms of a few steep and rocky pathways and a claustrophobic tunnel moment but if that doesn't deter you the view at the top is all worth it!
For us we were happy to laze around on the beach, float in the ocean and dip in and out of the pool.
We then had a wander around the shops and streets at night when it was cooler.
What we packed
I tried to pack lightly as there was a laundry room with coin operated washers + dryers.
I did a load of washing the night before we left each hotel so we arrived at the next place with everything fresh. A tip for you - American dryers seemed to be a lot hotter than ours so we always used low heat to prevent shrinking the clothes. We learnt this from the guy next to us in the laundry room as we watched him fold his tiny t shirts!
The hotel provided all toiletries and a hair dryer so I took the minimal amount of stuff.
My straightener didn't work, even with a converter so I embraced the natural holiday look ;)
We packed extra snacks and cereal for our fussy eater (rice cakes, cereal) It was great to have these available when we were in the room and didn't feel like going out.
Ipads, headphones, books were great to have for down time and when everyone needed a little bit of quiet. Also when we were travelling in the car they kept everyone occupied.
I also took my laptop so Simon and I could watch "House of Cards" once the kids were in bed.
We bought an International Travel Adaptor from JB Hi-fi that allowed us one Australian power point and 4 USB ports to charge all of our devices from one American socket. So handy!
I took my Canon DSLR for photos and video, Simon took his GoPro for the water shots and we both had our phones so we were well catered for when it came to taking snapshots of our holiday. I made sure I charged the batteries each night so it was ready to go in the morning.
I took so many photos as everything was so beautiful!
We took our own beach gear, sunscreen and surfboards as the boys planned to do quite a bit of surfing on the North Shore. I packed Noah's float jacket for the ocean so we could relax as he is fearless. Although he didn't need it for the pool as he is like a fish and growing up so fast.
Simon puts his surfboards in a travel cover and made sure he took his own 2.5 metres tie downs to attach the boards to roof racks when needed.
If you are going to use your phone to make calls and send texts you have to contact your carrier and have them switch on International Roaming for your phone. Make sure the first thing you do when you arrive overseas is to go to the settings on your phone and switch off Data Roaming.
This means that emails and social media updates only get downloaded to your phone when your connected to Wifi, saving you enormous overseas data charges.
Simon had a $10 package from Optus per day that allowed him to make unlimited local and international calls and texts. This enabled him to still run his business while on holidays. It also came in handy if we had to call any of the hotels etc regarding travel arrangements while on the road.
Finn, Simon and I kept in contact with family at home via Facebook messenger.
All of the hotels we stayed in had free Wifi for their guests which was great.
I could still get my IG and Facebook fix ;)
When we travel we use an American Express Travel Card that allows you to load the card with your destinations currency before you leave. We used it to pay for literally everything (except tipping). We have been using these cards for years and wouldn't travel without them.
Although we always make sure we have about $200 on us at arrival for tipping or any other purchases that require cash.
At the time of our holiday the Australian Dollar was quite low (63cents -73cents) so we were watching the dollar quite closely in the 3 months leading up to our trip and made sure we loaded the card up when the currency was favourable.
We never travel without Travel Insurance. It really is quite inexpensive, a 14 day world wide comprehensive from 1 Cover costs $195. Well worth it considering we have had some bad luck in the past with suitcases and laptops going missing!
America has decided that restaurant tipping should be 15%, 18% or 20%. And they go as far as calculating each of these percentages for you at the bottom of the bill.
The standard rate for bellman at a hotel was $1 per bag.
Hiring a car
Alamo, Hertz and Budget are the 3 main companies in Waikiki. Make sure you book a few days in advance. We hired a standard USV but they had run out on the day of pick up so they upgraded us to a Kia Minivan at no charge. This was great for us as there was room for us, the luggage and the surfboards.
We hired the car for our trip to the North Shore and kept it for the duration of our stay as unlike Waikiki the things we wanted to see were more spread out. Plus Simon and Finn wanted to be able to travel to different surf breaks easily.
We stayed in Waikiki for 5 days and that was perfect for us as we felt we had seen and done everything we wanted to.
Tomorrow I will share our time on the North Shore
I would love to hear your favourite spots in Waikiki and any tips you have
Thank you to Daisy for all of her tips and recommendations, they were wonderful and so useful!
(PS - we had a lot of people asking about Finn's arm. He fractured his wrist during rugby training 4 weeks before we went but the cast we chose enabled him to go surfing and swim as normal. Phew!)