Disney’s Aulani – Oahu, Hawaii

When my husband and I went to Hawaii on our tenth anniversary last year, we saw the shell of the Aulani, a Disney resort and spa.  It was still under construction so we just saw it from the road but it looked amazing even then.  Recently they held their grand opening and lots of reviews and posts are popping up all over the Internet.  Going to visit Hawaii with our kids is something we are thinking about doing next year but we will probably visit another island this time.  We might not be seeing the Aulani anytime soon but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream about a trip!  I compiled posts from some of my favorite travel bloggers and writers about their visits for today’s Travel Blogger Tuesday!  Look no further for information…just follow these links!

Pitstops for Kids


The Vacation Gals

Family Vacation Critic

Delicious Baby
5 Minutes for Mom


This weekend I am remembering the events of September 11th and all the events that occurred afterwards.  I don’t have any words of wisdom to share on this somber weekend of remembrance.

Instead I share a photo from the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Visiting the memorial of the USS Arizona is a moving experience.  While we stood on the platform floating in the middle of the harbor, everyone on that trip took a few quiet moments to look up at this flag.  It was such a quiet moment that the only thing you could hear was the flapping of the flag in the wind and the water lapping against the platform.

Although the events of Pearl Harbor happened many years before 9/11, as I stood there watching that flag and reflecting on what it means for me, my family, and the people standing around me, I couldn’t help but think of other events in our history and other flags that are flying all over the United States.

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Pink Pineapples

When my husband and I were in Hawaii, we would take pictures of different things we saw and text them to the grandparents.  They would share them with our kids and it gave us a chance to share what we were doing even though our kids weren’t with us.  My son loved the turtles that we saw, but my daughter favored the pink pineapples!

pink pineapple

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A Visit to Hanauma Bay 21 Years Apart

A very young me before the conservation effort that prohibits standing on the reef and feeding the fish.  It was a LONG time ago!

A very young me (taken from a family scrapbook) before the conservation effort that prohibits standing on the reef and feeding the fish began. It was a LONG time ago and this is a BIG No-No now!!

“Come on…will you just get in the water, Jennifer?”

That was what I heard as I stood on the coral reef in the middle of Hanauma Bay in Honolulu, Hawaii.    My mom was trying to coax me off of the reef and into the water.  My sister was swimming around like one of the brightly colored fish darting in and out of the anemones while she tossed frozen peas from the bag that she carried close to her.  It was 1990. 

I don’t remember much from that trip to Hawaii.  I remember eating copious amounts of pineapple.  I remember attending a luau and my amazement (and a little bit of disgust) as they removed the pig and prepared it for the attendees and I will not forget standing there in the middle of Hanauma Bay thinking that surely something was going to find me a tasty morsel for his next lunch.

Fast forward to my ten year anniversary where we celebrated in Hawaii with our first major trip without the kids.  Hanauma Bay was on our list of things to do.  The weather wasn’t conducive to snorkeling the first morning of our trip so we spent the day driving around and exploring the island.  The next day the rain had stopped and, thanks to our jetlag, we were up with the sun.  We threw on our swimsuits, packed our sunscreen and made the short drive to Hanauma Bay.  Because of the overcast weather, we found a parking space quickly and close to the entrance.

A lot has changed since my visit 21 (yeesh…21 years?!?!) years ago.  Shortly after our visit in 1990, a great effort was made to help rebuild the reef.  You can no longer feed the fish and walking on the reef is a no-no and for good reason.  These rules are in place to help preserve the beautiful reef and in turn make it available to visitors for many years to come.


To swim in Hanauma Bay, you have to watch a conservation video about the bay, the reef and the sealife.  If you plan on returning to Hanauma within a certain amount of time, you can sign a sheet that states you watched the video and you will be able to enter the bay without watching the video again.  As I watched the video I could feel my pulse quickening and when it showed an eel popping out of a hole in the coral reef I about fell over!  However, I was determined to do this after everyone back home made fun of me!  Once the video is finished, you are free to start swimming.

Take the walk down to the water…the view is beautiful and there are several opportunities to snap a few pictures. 

My delicious husband rocking the scruffy face posing for yet another picture taken by his obnoxious wife!

My delicious husband rocking the scruffy face posing for yet another picture taken by his obnoxious wife!

Once you have reached the bottom, head directly to the huts and get in line to rent your snorkel equipment for reasonable prices.  If you brought your own gear, you can skip this step unless you need a locker.  You can stay as long as you wish snorkeling around the waters. 

Arrive early and be prepared for crowds.  The parking lot fills up quickly and you will be turned away.  Also, the area to rent gear and lockers is very small and the line gets very long very quickly.  Even though it does get crowded, the area is large enough that you are not constantly bumping into other people (though it does happen occasionally!).

If you don’t have a car, you can still go!  Follow the directions on the website to catch the correct bus to Hanauma Bay.  You can also set up a tour that will pick you up and drop you off.


Don’t bother with disposable underwater cameras or be prepared for not so great pictures.  I didn’t want to invest in a waterproof box for my DSLR camera and we don’t own a waterproof camera so we just bought a disposable camera that we could turn in to have developed and tossed.  After being amazed by all of the underwater sights and seeing the poor quality of my pictures, I wish we had spent the extra money to rent a camera.  I think it would have been worth it.  On a sunny day, your photos taken with a disposable camera might turn out better than ours did on an overcast day.


If you have your own snorkel equipment, bring it. If not, consider purchasing inexpensive equipment at one of the hundreds of ABC stores (or any other store carrying snorkeling gear) you will find around Honolulu.  We brought one snorkel and mask leftover from a cruise.  While in an ABC store near our hotel, we decided to spend a few dollars on a second set so we could avoid waiting in line for rentals.  I also like the idea of not using a snorkel that had been previously used!


Pack a lunch or bring snacks.  We had planned on just spending an hour or so at Hanauma Bay and then we were going to head to one of the local shrimp trucks.  It turned out that we took to snorkeling like the little fishies we were visiting and we stayed a lot longer than we had planned.  There is a concession stand where we grabbed a drink to tide us over until we were able to get our late lunch. 


Bring cash. You will have to pay for parking and you may want a few dollars to ride the shuttle bus back up the hill.  We had planned to walk back up the hill but after several hours of nonstop snorkeling we decided to take the shuttle.  I was glad we had a few bucks ($1 a person) in our pocket!  Admission into the park is $7.50 per person but children 12 and under are free. 

Consider wearing a rashguard.  I can’t stress this enough.  We both got sunburns.  Be sure to give extra attention to your back, neck and the back of your legs because that is in fact what will get the most sun as you swim around the water!

Kids will love it too!  Though it was just me and my husband, we wish that we our children had been able to experience this with us.  There were children of all ages. Everyone had the same look of wonder in their eyes when they emerged from the water.  If your children are not proficient swimmers, life jackets will help them stay afloat when you are exploring the reef.  Another option that I read about on Go Explore Nature when we returned was purchasing a boogie board with a see through window.  You can swim beside your child as they float and look through their window to a whole new world!

 Our children are still very put out (even 8 months after our trip) by the fact that we did not take them to Hawaii with us.  We will have to make it up to them someday.  I dream about the day that I can take them to Hanauma Bay and add another memory to the banks of that beautiful horseshoe, its coral reefs, and colorful inhabitants.

What are you dreaming about this week?  Visit Mother of All Trips to read about all sorts of different dreams.

Honolulu Family Vacation on raveable

Round up of our Oahu Adventures


Has it already been seven months since my husband and I were relaxing on a beach in Hawaii? 

Like any other vacation, we ate our way through the entire thing!  We had plate lunches at the Rainbow Drive-In, garlic shrimp at Ted’s Bakery and the Shrimp Shack, and some of the most delicious sushi I have had lately at Doraku.  We had lots of sweet dishes as well: macadamia nut pancakes for breakfast, shave ice at Wailoa Ice, banana lumpia, and coco puffs.

We saw the many film locations and some of the most beautiful views in Hawaii at Kualoa Ranch.  We also found the home of the Others!  We had a quiet romantic moment hiking to Manoa Falls and learned a few things about the hike along the way. 


We took a self-guided tour around the entire island and enjoyed seeing sights like the Byodo In Temple and the turtles at Laniakea Beach.  Daddy J took surfing lessons on the North Shore while I read a whole book and was interrupted by nothing except the falling rain and crashing waves.

We hiked up Diamondhead and saw a bird’s eye view of Waikiki.  We watched fire spin at a luau.  I only have a few more things to share with you: surfing lessons, our visit to the USS Arizona, a Dole whip at the Dole Plantation, swimming with the fish in Haunama Bay, and our sunset cruise.  I am going to take a break from writing about our trips through the Southern states and try to finish writing about our trip to Hawaii.  It truly was magical and I am looking forward to returning in the next few years.

Surfing His First Wave

*Edited to add: This morning I woke up to the news of the tsunami and earthquake.  My family is thinking of families in the affected areas.*

Getting on a surfboard and surfing has been on my husband’s bucket list for as long as I have known him.  Even though we live on the Gulf Coast, he had only been on a surfboard once or twice.  Surfing a wave on the North Shore definitely ranks up there in his top ten awesome activities!  He took a lesson from the Hans Hedemann Surf School at Turtle Bay Resort in the North Shore.  A review of his experience will be posted next week but here are a few pictures from that first caught wave!




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The Rainbow State

Everywhere we turned, we could see why Hawaii is nicknamed the Rainbow State…



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Liliha Bakery – Honolulu, Hawaii

If you watched Hawaii 5-0 last week, you saw Dano raving about a pastry that his partner brought him.  Before his partner explained what they were, I saw the tell tale box from Liliha Bakery sitting on the car and knew that he had to be eating a coco puff.  Sure enough, Dano’s partner goes on to explain that they are the famous coco puffs at Liliha Bakery.


According to the website, Liliha Bakery sells between 4800 and 7200 of these coco puffs a day and I believe it!  The place was packed.  Fortunately, there is a lot of parking available so we didn’t have trouble finding a space.  Besides pastries, Liliha also serves diner type food. 

The coco puffs were very sweet and delicious but don’t just confine yourself to coco puffs! 


We tried several other pastries and each one was delicious.


If you are staying in Waikiki and want to visit Liliha Bakery, you will need a car or some other mode of transportation because it is about 10 a ten minute drive. 

Be sure to visit Wanderfood Wednesday over at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

Honolulu Family Vacation on raveable

A Hike up Diamond Head


Diamond Head is a dormant volcano that was once used as a military observation station but is now a state monument.  We knew Diamond Head would be crowded with both tourists and locals alike but we wanted to see the bird’s eye view of Waikiki.  The hiking distance is about 1.5 miles round trip and it can be done in about an hour or two depending on your level of physical strength.  You begin the hike up a walkway and then you will twist and turn up the crater.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the prettiest hike up.  I was amazed by the trash along the hiking path.  According to the state park website, there is a 1,000,000 dollar trail repair project in progress right now.


You will walk through a tunnel…


 and climb lots of stairs. 


Once you are almost to the top, you will have to climb a spiral staircase and then crawl through a lookout station. 


We saw lots of people running the trail for excercise as well as many women in heels.  My husband and I made the climb up and the return trip down in about 1.5 hours with stops at different lookout points.  Getting to the top was so worth it though…








A few things to know before you go:

  • There are lots of stairs and they can be exhausting!
  • Bring water with you.  If you forget, there is a small lunch truck where you can purchase water, snacks, and other food items.
  • According to the website, there is a trail restoration project in progress.  Be sure to check the state park website before you go to determine if the trail is open.
  • We saw lots of children of all ages making the hike.  I think that my kids could have easily made the trip but we might have heard some complaining. 
  • If you really want the “I hiked Diamond Head” tshirt that someone is selling about halfway down the crater, haggle.  They went very low in price trying to get us to buy a tshirt (which we didn’t).

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Paradise Cove Luau

You can’t go to Hawaii without going to a luau, right?  Well, actually you can and it is incredibly expensive so it might be worth skipping!  That being said, Daddy J and I decided that we wanted to attend a luau.  I remember going to one when I was in 8th grade and it is one of the things I remembered most about that trip to Hawaii.  There are several luaus available on different parts of the island.  They are all priced about the same but each one offers something different.  After doing our research, we deferred to our friends who live on the island.  They said that anytime someone comes from the mainland, they take them to the Paradise Cove Luau so that is what we chose.

We made our reservations the day that we attended the luau but we were not there during the height of the tourist season.  If you know when you would like to attend, I recommend making reservations in advance.  Paradise Cove does provide transportation from the hotels in Waikiki.  Since we had our rental car, we decided to drive. 

We went  with the least expensive luau package, the Hawaiian Luau Buffet.  It costs $82.00 an adult and includes your lei, three standard drinks (one upon arrival), wing seating, and the self service buffet. 

When you arrive at Paradise Cove you are welcomedwith a shell lei, kukui nut lei, or fresh flowers depending on the level of luau package you choose.  When we entered the area, we were amazed at the beautiful view. 


We spent much of our time over by the water watching the sun set. 


Before the dinner and the performances began, we wandered around the grounds.  You can see arts and crafts demonstrations and try your hand at games of skill and dancing. 


Before we were seated at our table we watched the Imu Ceremony, the removing the cloths and leaves from the underground oven. 


I was surprised at how much we enjoyed the food that was served in mass quantities: kalua pork, fish, salad, macaroni salad, taro root rolls, poi and so much more. 


The performance was entertaining and the traditional costumes were beautiful.




Was it worth the money?  Would we go back to a luau?  If we return to Hawaii on our own, we will probably skip the luau now that we have been to one together.  That being said, if we brought our kids and had the money in the budget (child tickets are a whopping $62!) we would attend another luau.  I know that my kids would love the performance and would eat the food available. 

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