It started years ago…Sean and I would talk about places we dreamed of visiting. Sean’s first choice was always HAWAII.

We knew it was a major trip and would require a lot of planning (and budgeting). As we got closer to 2018 (also known as the year Sean was turning 40 so we decided to make it happen, nothing makes you forget that you’re turning 40 like going to Hawaii). We researched and started planning the trip based on things we dreamed of doing on the islands (Pearl Harbor, helicopter, incredible snorkling, etc). We narrowed our visit to the middle of the Pacific down to three islands…Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island (aka Hawaii). They were very intentionally selected based on experiences we thought would make instant memories of a lifetime.

Maybe one day I’ll do more posts on the mad science of how I plan our summer trips but for now, I’ll give the highlight reel of our trip and then come back to the planning, camera gear, traveling with kids, etc.

We started with the gorgeous island of Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle which is one of the oldest islands. Kauai was on our list from the jump because my little cuz lives there along with a coworker/friend of mine. I expected a small island with a true Hawaiian vibe, small towns and an incredible landscape…it delivered! It met all my dreams and more. We arrived after dusk so we were thrilled when we naturally woke up for sunrise (ahem, jet lag) and took in this!

We hauled our own snorkel gear so we could have it whenever we wanted (and I was a little weirded out by germs, ewww).

The following image is so special to me. It didn’t escape me that we are so blessed and fortunate to be able to plan for a trip like this. Seeing our 9 and 11 year old snorkeling off a small island in the Pacific Ocean was overwhelming. So, so special.
If you know Declan, he loves his long hair. He fit right in with all the surfer dudes. 

One of the natural wonders of Kauai is the Waimea Canyon. It’s known as the “Grand Canyon” of the Pacific. It’s about 10 miles long and 3,600 feet deep with incredible views, colors, waterfalls, and…animals.

The image above was from our helicopter ride (more on that later) but drink in that incredible waterfall. We caught glimpses of it on our drive up through the Waimea Canyon. And then we noticed that small trail just to the left of the waterfall…it looks like a clay cliff. We didn’t know how far or what we were getting into when started but long story made short…yep, we hiked that. It ended up being 6 miles round trip and since we didn’t intentionally plan on hiking it, we did it without being properly prepared (no water, hype up songs). Needless to say, we’re pretty proud of that hike now. Even the scary part when we ran into a wild boar.

I couldn’t get a super straight answer on why but there are chickens and roosters EVERYWHERE!! No literally, EVERYWHERE. 

If your travels ever take you to Kauai, go to Passion Bakery. The most delicious pastries and breakfast sandwiches. So good, we went twice 🙂
And shave ice!! Yes, shave (not shaved! no “d” on the end). We loved it and had it at a number of places. Ono ono was my favorite with the local spice of Li Hing Mui (it was unique — both sweet and spicy). A couple other notes about the shave ice: shave snow is shave ice that’s been shaved, re-frozen and shaved again. We got that once as well, it’s creamier and while it was tasty we liked the shave ice better. And a snow cap is where they add sweet condensed milk to the top (similar to how we’d add chocolate syrup, because sugar).

This image is the shave snow (their portions are GINORMOUS!) I love Dec’s face after his first bite 🙂 And Sean was happier than he looks, pretty sure he was more-than-ready to dive in.

We dreamed of ‘getting to tha choppa’ in Hawaii and were thrilled when we could make it work and the weather was amazing. We were especially tickled to have the unique opportunity to land at Jurassic Falls. Oh yeah, the same waterfall at the beginning of the Jurassic Park movie. It’s privately owned in Kauai and the owner is friends with the helicopter company owner so they worked out a deal (that also included the government).  What was crazy about this experience (aside from the mega waterfall) was the ability to fly through the canyon and land on the ground (no helipad or anything). Insane right?! We also flew through the Waimea Canyon and then over the breathtaking Napali Coast. Seriously, I could called it a trip after that. It was so breathtakingly beautiful. We saw countless waterfalls, flew over the wettest spot on the earth (gets over 300 inches of rain) and into a volcano crater. We were all pretty speechless and losing our minds, except for the poor woman next to Sean. She was losing her lunch(es).

Click here if you want to see a video that I took of us flying through the canyon to the falls. Harp’s face at the :34 mark tells it all. It was truly jaw dropping.  (Sean said we look like we’re going to a funeral because we’re all in black. This vacay was killing it, so it kinda made sense. The black reduces the glare on the glass so we took that instruction very seriously 🙂 The super cool-looking footies are to protect the land from anything that may be on our shoes when we walked up to the falls. We took them off when we got back into the helicopter. And the yellow packs are floatation devices…safety first!)

We went to a popular Luau on the island. It was entertaining had plenty of fire and drinks (Sean) to keep our interest, but a little touristy. Harp and I got beautiful leis and we all tried poi (made from taro root), a local food for those with an acquired taste. Harp explained it best when she said it tasted like flavorless applesauce.

The next morning we met my cousin and his lovely girlfriend for sunrise, breakfast and surf lessons. The kids LOVED getting lessons from James and he was so patient with them. And we were so proud of both kiddos for trying it. And Declan was especially excited to catch a long wave. They were both a little surprised with how tired they were after. No big deal…just a seal on the beach!

We spent the next day with my friend/co-worker Melissa and her hubby. If you’re ever on the island, you have to rent bikes from Coconut Coasters. They own the place and they are truly the nicest people. We got to tour the Fern Grotto (cave) on a lovely river boat cruise!

And then we headed to the north part of the island (which was most impacted by flooding earlier this year) and enjoyed a sunset over majestic Hanalei Bay. With two miles of beach and surrounded by mountains it was gorgeous spot for the kids to run and play some baseball with a stick and coconut.  Check out restaurants AMA and Kalypso if you head there, ask for James or Celestial respectively!

We tried and loved POG (passion, orange and guava juice). I’m pretty sure this girl, drank her weight in POG. And she was on cloud 9 when she found out Hawaiian Airlines served it on the plane!
One of my favorite photos of the island. We passed this field of palms about 6 times a day and everytime it make me grateful and full of joy. I have always loved palms and to see them in such concentration with the mountains as the background…stunning.

Stay tuned, we’re just getting started…Oahu is up next 🙂 And the Big Island isn’t far behind.

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