After spending two weeks with the fam, we did a bunch of laundry and packed our bags again (no checked bags for the first time ever—woot!)—but this time headed for Hawaii!
To give you a little background, we’ve been friends with fellow Midwesterners Brent and Karen since moving to Colorado seven years ago. You may recall that we took a trip with them two years ago to Yellowstone and the Tetons. During that vacation we decided that taking a trip every two years would be a super cool tradition for our families, especially for the kiddos. The crazy part is that in Yellowstone Kaylee was the only kid—but now there are three of them! Some of you know that Brent is a pilot (and a fellow Boilermaker—hail Purdue!—although I didn’t know him in college). They generously granted us buddy passes for flying, which made the trip significantly less expensive, although a bit nerve-wracking at times, since we were flying standby. Okay, so that’s actually a good place to begin, as the adventures started in the airport. Aloha!
We left Colorado Springs early on a Friday morning. After being picked up by Dan and grabbing some Micky D’s for breakfast (funny how we only eat McDonald’s while traveling), we met up with Karen and her two daughters, Kaylee and Nora, at the Colorado Springs Airport. Brent was flying that day, so he planned to meet us in Hawaii. The COS Airport is great, as it’s so small and easy to navigate. Unfortunately, their security takes for.ev.ah. Matt and I were literally the last ones on the plane, and practically ran to the gate—picture Home Alone, but with hardly any drama, because thankfully we were not at O’Hare. Okay, so maybe don’t picture Home Alone. Speaking of, I love watching that movie around the holidays! Yeesh…digression. Can you tell this is going to be a long post? : ) So I’ll spare you all the nitty gritty details and tell you that we made it from COS to Salt Lake City, and from there to LAX. Two flights done by noon. Another stop at the LAX McDonald’s (twice in one day—which means twice in one year). Then it got a little nutty. Karen and her girls barely made it onto the flight to Honolulu, Oahu, but they scraped on at the last second. Remember, we were all flying standby, and Matt and I had about the lowest priority possible. That left us sitting in LAX trying to figure out how in the world we were going to get across the ocean to meet up with our friends.
Long story short, Matt hopped online and saw that there was a flight leaving for Kauai with empty seats, so we were able to get on another plane. Granted, we were headed to a different island than our friends, but at least we were going in the right direction. : ) Since the plane was full, we weren’t able to sit by each other, and Liam was a lap child. It was a long 5 1/2 hours, but thankfully Liam slept for over half of it in Matt’s arms (thank you, hon!). We landed in Kauai late that night and quickly booked a hotel room in Lihue. After a short taxi ride and showers, we conked out.
Crowing roosters awoke us bright and early the next morning. Liam was up and at ‘em due to the four hour time change, so we quickly headed out to see the ocean (just beyond our doorstep!), and then ate breakfast at a yummy open-air place.
Liam loved smelling the flowers in HI.
One of many roosters wandering the island.
Liam’s first glimpse of the ocean!
By 9 am we’d booked a rental car and were off to see the island before plane hopping over to Oahu that evening to be with our friends. Let me just say that while our plans were completely not going according to plan, we loved getting to see another island, especially Kauai. It is incredibly lush and wild, and the people were some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. Apparently living in such a lovely place makes for some pretty happy folks. : ) We ended up driving around the island to the Napoli Coast, where we spent some time on Ke’e Beach (so picturesque) and hiking a brief section of the Napoli Trail.
Then we meandered back through tiny towns, stopping for burgers and Hawaiian BBQ, as well as at Hanalei Bay, where Liam experienced his first dip in the ocean. It was pretty wavy, so he wasn’t all that thrilled, but he certainly warmed up to it over the next few days.
After stopping to see some waterfalls,
we hightailed it to the airport where we caught a super short flight from Kauai to Oahu. While we were sad to leave Kauai after such a short visit, we also felt so blessed to have experienced it in a small way. Brent and Karen were waiting for us in Honolulu when we arrived, and thus began our next set of adventures!
When deciding where to stay in Oahu, we landed on KoOlina, which is a resortish area on the southwest part of the island. Our reasoning was that it would be more kid-friendly, as it has calmer beaches protected by coves. While we enjoyed KoOlina, we found ourselves spending a fair amount of time on the road, as we loved being on the east side and North Shore areas of Oahu. I’d like to say that if we did it again, we would stay in those areas, but it was very expensive, so I’m not sure we could swing it even if we wanted to. Apparently the traffic in Honolulu is worse than LA, and it was necessary to drive through it often. Thank goodness for lots of Oreo cookies. : ) On our first day in KoOlina, we walked to the beach and introduced Liam to calm water. He was skeptical at first, but soon was playing in the sand and water with Kaylee and Nora, his new buddies. Lunch was a sample platter at a nearby Mexican restaurant, along with a gooey apple chimichanga for dessert. Then we headed back to our condo so the kids could nap. Matt and Brent ran back into town for some groceries, and Karen and I decided to walk back to the beach with the kids for an early evening on the beach. It was the perfect time to play around in the sand while enjoying a sun set. Somehow, I must have forgotten to take photos of this day—boo!
After resting up from all the traveling, we were ready to explore more of the island. We took off for a morning hike up Diamond Head (a dormant volcano used as a watchtower during WWII)
and Lanikai Beach, which was a little tricky to find. But I’m so glad we persevered, because it was definitely the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been on.
We soaked it in as long as our stomachs would allow and then hopped back on the road in search of shrimp trucks and the North Shore. The guys found a place that offered garlic shrimp and garlic fries, plus a side of fish. It was all delicious, and of course, very garlicky. Perhaps it’s a guy thing? There were loads of middle school boys mowing on the garlic fries. Then we were off to Sunset Beach, which apparently is a really famous surfing area near Waimea Bay. The waves were huge, and Matt decided to jump right in, despite my objections. In the end, the lure of the waves (and the cajoling of my husband) broke me, and I jumped in as well.
Yup, those are Matt’s legs!
Our cheering squad. : )
Possibly my favorite photo of the trip—Brent and Matt (legs again) hurling themselves into the waves.
Karen and I getting in on the wave action.
We had a total blast being pummeled by the waves, exhausting ourselves for the ride home. Not too exhausted for Hawaiian shaved ice from Matsumoto’s though. : )
The next day we took off again, this time for Waikiki Beach, where the crowds are many and the waters are stunning. Crystal clear, warm water was such a pleasure to relax in.
This little dude adored plopping down in “water holes” and spent most of his beach time in some sort of sandy pit.
Matt and Brent rented surf boards and rode some waves, while Karen and I hung out with the kiddos. Later she and I rented some paddle boards and spent some time on the water ourselves. Then it was coconut shrimp and burgers for a late lunch (I’m pretty sure I ate almost a burger per day) and back to KoOlina to meet Karen’s aunt and uncle and cousin for dinner at Longboard’s, which is a restaurant seated on the ocean. There was a luau in process right next to us at the Disney Resort, and we were able to snag parts of it while waiting for our dinner. It was pretty cool and helped entertain a tired Liam.
By this point we were pretty exhausted, so we took a pool day. Basically, we didn’t do anything too crazy, and it felt nice to just relax and rest up.
One of the best parts about going on vacation with your friends is that you sort of have built-in babysitters. We had decided ahead of time that we would “kid swap” so that each couple could have a day to themselves. So, Matt and I watched all three kiddos while Brent and Karen explored the island for an entire day. Since they had the car, we walked over to the nearby resorts and spent the morning ogling their koi fish, sharks, and sting rays. Liam totally would have jumped in with the fish if I’d let him—I was afraid they were going to eat his fingers!
After a lunch of tasty margarita pizza and then naps, we packed up the kids and headed to the beach for some afternoon sunshine.
Liam loved the outdoor showers, too.
Hoping to make the most of our kid-free day, Matt and I crept out of the condo at 6:45 am and headed back to Waikiki, where Matt had booked us a private surf lesson! Honestly, I was not too sure about it, picturing myself being tossed about by massive waves, but it ended up being the highlight of our trip. Our instructor was really cool (pretty much picture your typical laid-back surfer, but also a dad and business owner). He took us to an off-the-beaten-path spot where it was far less crowded and the waves were bigger—maybe 4-5 feet? After a ten minute lesson on the lawn, we paddled our boards out to where the waves were breaking, and then we just started riding waves! It sounds like I’m kidding, but actually I’m not. Our instructor pushed me into a wave, and I kind of freaked out and plopped into the water, but after that first attempt, I was able to actually stand up and surf! It was pretty amazing. Of course, we fell a few more times, but I also felt improvement with each new wave. Sadly, we only snapped this lame photo of our surf boards.
We kept joking that we should ask some surfers if we could borrow their boards for a picture, but I felt like too much of a poser to do it. Heeding our instructor’s advice, we lunched at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers (it did not disappoint—yum!), and then made our way to Hunauma Bay, which is a gorgeous snorkel spot.
From what I recall, it’s actually a volcanic crater where a reef hosts all sorts of colorful ocean life. Although I thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling, I was pretty tired and needed a break before Matt. While he was exploring on his own, he saw several sea turtles, which was high on his wish list. We didn’t really have an agenda after snorkeling, so we decided to drive around the coast again. On our way to the North Shore, we stopped at the Blow Hole, where Matt once again took to the waves.
Then we caught the tail end of a sunset at Sunset Beach before searching for dinner.
We originally thought we’d grab a shrimp plate at the infamous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, but it was closed. After a bit of debate, we dined at Luibueno’s on really tasty queso and fish tacos. It was a crazy fun day, and I loved getting to hang out with my hubby in such a special place.
On our last full day in Hawaii, we decided to hit up Waikiki Beach once more, after first stopping at a farmer’s market, where we loaded up on local foods and the best huli huli chicken I think I’ve ever eaten.
Dinner was at Nico’s on Pier 38, where an oyster shell kept Liam’s attention.
We tried to get a photo of all the kids together, and this is pretty much our best shot. It totally cracks me up.
A mad game of Euchre 500 ended the day. : )
Knowing that our flight wasn’t until after 9 pm, we spent the morning packing, and then headed out to enjoy the North Shore once again, stopping by Giovanni’s for a shrimp plate, Matsumoto’s for more shaved ice, another delicious huli huli chicken at a local farmer’s market, and the Dole Plantation for amazing pineapple whipped ice cream (shout out to my favorite Bluffton Street Fair attendees, Ross & Leah!), along with a train ride for the kiddos.
I think at this point we were all feeling pretty tired, and the kids were showing some signs of “too much vacation” (Bernstein Bears, anyone?). Of course, that entitles anyone to eat their way through the island. : ) During our last nostalgic stop at the beach, we spied two huge sea turtles hanging out on the sand during sunset.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the airport with hyper kids and another nail-biting standby list. Thankfully, we all made it onto the massive plane and our kids were able to use their car seats—a huge blessing, considering it was an overnight flight from Honolulu to Salt Lake City. Liam was out within minutes of getting settled on the plane, and Matt and I were also able to catch a few winks here and there.
Being woken up by the pilot upon arrival at Salt Lake, we were pretty groggy. We tried to catch a final flight into Denver, but we didn’t make the cut. Being tuckered out after a long night’s travel, we decided to rent a cheap hotel room to shower and sleep. Matt had to work, so he hooked up to the internet at the airport while the rest of us cashed out (amazingly all the kids did too) for a few hours at the hotel. Then we scrambled back to the airport hoping to catch a late afternoon flight (and I do mean scrambled, because it was at this point I realized I’d left my ID with Matt, who was back at the airport…Brent was able to retrieve it, so it all worked out, but there is nothing like forgetting your ID to get the blood pumping a little harder). It got a little nutty at this point, since Brent and Karen’s family caught a flight on a different plane than us. Matt and I were the last people called on our separate flight, and we breathed a huge sigh of relief when the plane taxied off the runway. After an uneventful and blessedly short flight, we landed in Denver, where Dan picked us up and drove us back to the Springs. And thus ends our Hawaiian adventure! It was definitely a trip we’ll remember forever!