Every year my husband and I take one of our kids on an epic vacation one on one. Not only does it give us a chance to totally focus on one instead of three kids, but we get to plan it together and turn it into a true adventure.
So far I’ve taken Chloe to Paris and London and Kenya to Iceland. This summer Chloe and I had planned on major trip outside of the country, but 20 days before I started to get nervous traveling abroad, and the night before, I pulled the plug on it. With 24 hours to plan and a lot of phone calls to friends I trust, I decided on Oahu, Hawaii. Nine days later I can say this was one of the best, most amazing trips I’ve ever been on and doing it with Chloe (now 12 years old) made it even more special. So many of you asked me to put together all of the details of our trip, so here goes.
Hotels and house rentals were few and far between, so I had to get creative. On top of that the restaurants were at 50% capacity because of covid, so I had to be flexible with dinner time. But thankfully one of the best parts about Oahu (which was a total surprise to me) is the incredible food
Leonard’s Bakery: We drove by this malasada donut shop twice before we dared to get there at 6:30am to beat the lines for their ridiculously magical custard filled malasada. Pick from so many flavors like vanilla cream, chocolate, ube, guava, coconut, macadamia nut and more!
Highway Inn: for traditional Hawaiian food and mostly locals inside. The signature Hawaiian Combo Plates are a must.
Sushi Murayama: If you’re game for a totally omakase experience (all chef’s choice), then you’ll love this sushi restaurant. Everything bite is local or flown in from Japan. I was shocked at the dishes Chloe ate one after another making it quite an adventurous meal. I’m still dreaming about their toro rolls.
Bozu Sushi: Our server from Murayama recommended this local sushi spot, and it turned out to be a real treat. The presentation was breathtaking, service was incredible and every bite of food including the sushi, sashimi, salad and grilled fish was perfection.
Choi’s Garden: We ordered way too much food at this Korean grill restaurant which has hot pots too. Perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
Edible Hawaii: Chloe’s dream came true when we happened upon this husband and wife owned and operated edible or baked cookie dough and soft serve spot with flavors like ube, pistachio and cookie monster plus endless toppings.
Double Thr33: We make bubble waffles at home, but this is my new dream ice cream shop which offers 3 bubble flavor waffles, 4 soft serve ice creams and endless toppings too.
Hachibei: If you want to taste a little bit of this and that, this yakitori restaurant straight from Japan will make you smile from ear to ear. Watching the chef grill up every morsel of food was like live theatre to boot.
Shabuya: Hot tip: make a reservation on Yelp for this in demand spot so you can avoid the two hour wait we endured. Luckily you’re at a gorgeous open air mall to walk around and wait which is totally worth it for this all you can eat Korean hot pot spot. Chloe ate 6 plates of meat, 4 bowls of vegetables plus rice! It’s that tasty!
Haleiwa Bowls: Since I have a smoothie for breakfast almost every day, I was craving my daily fix. This may be my favorite smoothie/bowl spot I’ve ever visited, and I’ve been to a lot of spots. Thick, creamy and topped with some of the best crunchy granola and fresh fruit ever. Definitely go off peak hours because the long line says everything about the magic they offer.
Green World Coffee Farm: If you like strong, clean, rich coffee and delectable pastries this roaster is for you. Every day on our way from Honolulu to the North Shore to surf we stopped by and I can 100% say if you’ve a java lover, this is a must.
Kahuku Farms: Any farm that also has a restaurant is my version of heaven. We were famished when we showed up around 11am before the lunch rush which was lucky. We wanted to make sure we got to taste a little bit of everything, so we really went for it ordering their grilled vegetable focaccia panini, acai bowl with lilikoi butter on top, plus lilikoi cakes which may be one of our favorite dishes on the island.
Mike’s Huli Chicken: If I see a line of people waiting at any restaurant, food truck or food joint, that’s enough reason for me to try it. Mike’s sells one thing: Huli chicken with grandma’s secret sauce and dang it’s good. We grabbed our to-go box, parked in front of the beach, opened the trunk and had one of the most delectable lunches I can remember.
1979 Hawaii: On our second day on the island we had spent the morning at the beach playing and snorkeling and were beyond thirsty when we got in the car. Hawaii has this mysterious way of having an answer to your hunger right when you need it most. This little road side stand sells whole pineapples filled to the rim with fresh pineapple smoothies that are so refreshing and satisfying all in one.
Il Gelato Hawaii: Most people want Hawaiian snow cones, but Chloe and I are gelato and ice cream lovers first. This sweet spot with incredible gelato (Chloe went for dark chocolate and I got the local java) each with homemade waffle cone pieces.
Farm to Barn Cafe & Juicery: Vegan poke, the best grass fed burgers on ube buns, green juices and endless organic, farm fresh meals to refuel you during all of your activities. Don’t miss the weekly yoga classes in the front of farm!
Ray’s Kiawe Chicken: There’s a reason Guy Fieri calls this one of the best Diners Drive Ins and Dives on the island. Chloe and I had two passive plates of chicken with a magical sauce to dip in, rice and salad that she asked me to bring her back to several times. Worth the drive to the North Shore!
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: Butter, garlic and shrimp. Need I say more?
Ted’s Bakery: After a long morning of surfing we were famished. What better than pie before lunch. Haupia Pie and Pineapple Macadamia Nut Cheesecake are must orders, although they have an extensive roster of brunch choices too. Don’t forget to get in line before 2:30pm as they close shortly after.
We were super sporty and active on the island and this definitely was planned. Once there, though, we wanted to participate in as many water-sports as possible.
Uncle Bryan’s Surf School: One of the greatest experiences of my life was learning to surf 14 years ago. There’s nothing like the beauty of waiting on a board in the ocean waiting for the perfect wave to coast you into shore. We took lessons at Uncle Bryan’s, recommended by a friend, and so happy we did. They know the best, safest, areas to surf, bring your a board to use and give you the confidence and tips to feel like a pro. Ask for Aina who’s one of the kindest surfers I’ve met.
Farmers Markets: There’s a farmer’s market on Oahu every day of the week. We visited the Sunday market at Kailua which was packed by 8am. Most of the markets on the island include fresh, local produce, baked goods (the Baker Dudes Macadamia Nut Sticky Buns and Blueberry Lilikoi pastry are next level), fresh coconuts, a green smoothie truck and much much more.
Kamoauli: I found this experience on Polynesian traditional canoe
‘Ehukai Pillbox Hike: If you’re spending time on the North Shore I highly recommend this hike. Difficulty — medium.
Island View Hawaii: When I brought up the idea of swimming with sharks, Chloe thought I was crazy. She was shaking as we go into the water, but minutes in she relaxed and marveled at the 3 varieties of sharks we got to see up close. Our guides were so supportive and made it one of the highlights of our trip conquering fears.
Diamond Head: A beautiful hike over Waikiki and the ocean that’s not to be missed. It took us 60 minutes round trip, but can take up to 90 minutes depending on your ability and how long you decide to take in the magnificent view. Difficulty — medium
Lanikai Beach: The sand is powdery soft and perfect for an all beach day. We took kayaks out to tour the tiny islands close by using Kailua Beach Adventures. They also rent stand up paddle boards and offer guided kayak tours.
Coral Crater: One of Chloe’s favorite things she got to do at camp this summer in Catalina was zip-line, so she told me if we could do one thing in Oahu, it was zip-lining! We had two fabulous, fun and engaging guides who went the extra mile to make zip-line a great time! Bonus? We had 30 minutes remaining in our time there so our group decided to bungee jump! I have a massive fear of heights and it took me a second to take the plunge, but once I did I was proud of myself for going through with it.
If you’re looking for an adventure, rent a car. There’s so much to see around the island and since most drives are 20-60 minutes it makes touring the island a breeze.