Hawaii: May 29 - June 27, 2016.

It's hard to come up with what to say when it comes to our month stay in Hawaii. Every time I'm there, it feels like another home. A chunk of my childhood was spent on the streets of Kalihi. Kapalama and Kalakaua were my old schools. Ala Moana Beach was our playground. I haven't lived there since 8th grade, but Oahu will always have a piece of my heart.

We flew out the day before Memorial Day so we would make it to the Lantern Festival at Ala Moana Beach. The festival happens every year on Memorial Day. You're able to pick up lanterns in the white tents on the beach. There may be a line and they do run out so I'd suggest picking it up as soon as you can. It is free and they do recycle the lantern bases every year, but you're able to make a donation as well. There's a seating area in the tent for those who wish to decorate or write notes to those they are honoring. You can also take it home to decorate. The festival starts with a ceremony on the beach and volunteers come by to light your lanterns. When it's time for release into the ocean, it's the most beautiful sight (I posted a little video on my instagram).

I still have a huge amount of family living on the island. I usually end up staying with my cousin and his family in Ewa Beach. I love going to the Kapolei area. You could find Olivia and I at the new Regal movie theaters there (reclining seats), Target, or Costco. A new mall is building on Kapolei Parkway and is set to open this Fall.

We spent a fair amount of time at the beaches. Kailua and Ko'Olina are by far our favs. Kailua with its white, soft sands and beautiful blue water. Ko'Olina with its calm lagoons and breathtaking sunsets. My sister booked a one bedroom villa at the Ko'Olina Marriott Beach Club for a few days. It was an absolute dream for Olivia to wake up and walk down to the beach or the pools. The garlic fries there are the best I've ever had. Their bloody mary's aren't so bad either (best one on the island might be Nico's though).

Sunset from a one bedroom villa at the Marriott.

This trip, we stopped by Sea Life Park. I haven't gone here since I was a child, so I thought we'd check it out with Olivia. We attempted the Dolphin Encounter experience, but Olivia got scared off toward the end. It's pretty small so I wouldn't consider it a must-go on the island, but it's a something-to-do.

Olivia really enjoyed the Discovery Center. The water feature and the toddler play area were her favorite parts. There are many interactive things to do with children there and it's a good place to go on a rainy day. Fair warning.. there are quite a bit of homeless tents surrounding the center.

The summer before Olivia came into our world, Bubba and I spent a month in Hawaii too. We did the small hike to Waimea Valley Falls and he loved stepping into the water to watch the waterfall. Since it's a short and simple walk to get to the waterfall, my cousin and I took Olivia this time. It's stroller-friendly with lots of shade. 

Ala Moana Mall has really grown in all my years back and forth. Olivia enjoyed the Gelato Bar at Nordstrom. Her favorite flavor was watermelon. We bumped into a follower at the Nordstrom shoe section as well (disclaimer* please excuse my social awkwardness if you ever bump into me)! I love the jelly au lait drink at Palm D'or (with white milk; it's sweeter with soy milk). I grew up eating bakery goods at St. Germain Bakery (relocated to the ground floor). The ham roll and onion roll are our go-tos and the cakes aren't too bad either. Cafe Lani is a family-friendly restaurant with unlimited bread! The bacon roll, the cheese roll, and the croissant were everyone's top picks. We never leave the mall without stopping into Nails L'mour/Mani Pedi Spa on the 2nd floor to say hi to the family.

If you're heading to North Shore, don't forget to stop by the shrimp trucks! Macky's, Romy's, and Giovanni's are the ones we usually frequent. The best one is up for debate. I, personally, like all three. Some stop for shave ice in Haleiwa, but my favorite has always been the one in town on School Street (Shimazu). It has the softest ice.



We tried a few brunch spots during our visit. Heavenly Cafe in the Shoreline Hotel in Waikiki. Boots&Kimos and Cinnamon's in Kailua. Cafe Kaila. We preferred Boots&Kimos and Cafe Kaila.

Other places to eat:
Aunty Ramen. Build your own bowl of soup!
Korean at Hyung Jae, Million's, or Ireh.
Zippy's. Love the spaghetti here!
Pick up snacks for family and friends at Lin's Hawaiian Snacks.