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Bucket List: BFF Trip to Hawaii

In the Spring of 2015, my bestie and I planned the first of many kid-less trips together and headed to Vegas! No kids, no husbands, no responsibilities. Just hour after hour of aimlessly walking around, shopping and watching shows. A mom’s dream! Never mind the droves of drunk college students and way too many men that flocked to Rachel’s fiery red hair. (Sorry, Isaac.) But, seriously, we had an incredible time and we often look back on that time as “back when things were easy.” We even commented during the trip that life had kind of gotten to an easy, comfortable feel. Finally! And then the ish hit the fan and life got real.

Just a few months later, Rachel and her hubby found out their precious 4 year old, Avery, had a rare brain tumor and had to undergo immediate surgery. The next few weeks were a blur and while Avery is a happy, healthy 7 year old, her struggles with this brain tumor will never end. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions and I can’t even imagine how they manage all the stress. I’m not kidding – they are an incredible family and I’m beyond blessed to know them.

So, after watching what this brave momma has gone through and will continue to go through for the rest of her life, I wanted to take her away. Somewhere away from the responsibilities of kids, medications, schedules, and everything else. That was always the plan. But then, life happened. I got pregnant, moved away, had Baby Amy, and moved again. Before I knew it, it had been almost three years since we took a kid-less trip.

Three years. Jeez. It didn’t seem that long. It’s amazing how fast time slips by when you’re raising babies.

Throughout that time though, I’ve been incredibly blessed in business (thank you, team!) and was able to put together an epic BFF trip. After some planning and scheming with her husband and mom, I booked the tickets and revealed the surprise.

We were going to Hawaii!

Only one thing… it would be a super short trip, during the Christmas season, and not at all convenient with our husbands’ schedules… but we were going to Hawaii one way or the other! Without kids!

We woke up at 3 am, made it to the airport in record time and waited for our 6 am flight. With all that time to spare, we made the last minute decision to stay at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki and booked our room right there in the terminal. After some excruciating delays, we finally arrived on island, took pictures of the rainbows (how could we not??), ate some loco moco and reached our room right at sunset. A quick throw of our bags on the bed and down we went to the beach.

It was incredible to start the day in rainy, dreary WA and end it with our toes in the sand in Hawaii!

So, what are two moms without kids and nothing but time to do? Head straight to the bar for a lava flow, of course. I think we completely recharged our #momlife batteries right there with those lava flows. And we sat and listened to music, without any kids complaining about their food and climbing onto the table. It was glorious.

Oh, and some random guy came up and told Rachel that she looked stunning. (Sorry, Isaac.)


Our first morning was slow, aimless and wonderful. We woke up, went down for coffee and a malasada, then headed straight for the beach. Batteries full recharged. I can go back to my kids and function like a sane person now. But, thankfully, we’re not done with Hawaii yet. 😉

It didn’t take long but we grew antsy to explore so we took off toward the North Shore for the day. Coffee in hand, ready to shop our little hearts out.

After crashing my Team PCS Battle Buddy Cassie’s house for a much needed reunion, we stopped by the Dole Plantation for the non-negotiable Dole whip experience. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been, you just have to go every time you’re on the island. It’s mandatory.

Then we set onward to the North Shore Soap Factory (always a fun peek behind the scenes of soap making, though we didn’t find anything we loved) and stopped for food at the Beet Box Cafe. Y’all. This place was hoppin’! So many great healthy foods to choose from but we finally settled on this masterpiece.

We got the Avocado Toast, which was divine and the perfect sized meal for our jaunt around town. We shopped at the HE>i store (love!! Read their story here.) and continued on to my favorite drive along the North Shore… Waimea Bay. Little did we know that it would be packed with surfers (some pro surfers too!) preparing for a competition that week. We hopped out, walked alongside the busy road and watched the surfers wait out their waves. My friends, that’s something you just can’t do with 4 kids from 18 months to 7 years old. Lawd, Amy would hurl herself right over the railing down into the bay. That child.

If we had more time, we would have walked down to Sunset Beach to watch the massive waves. We caught some video but they never do them any justice.

We started our way back down to Honolulu with a sentimental stop in Mililani Town for dinner with my self-proclaimed Japanese mom. She spoils me rotten and I know better than to go to Hawaii without catching up. 🙂

When we arrived back at the Hale Koa, we were greeted by my friends who may or may not have broken a few rules in their quest to hang out in the jacuzzi. My little rule-following heart had many attacks during those 3 minutes. Thankfully, we never got caught and it was worth a few lost items for all the laughter.

That night, we (Ok, ok, I) ate chocolate covered macadamia nuts and talked until our eyes couldn’t stay open any longer and woke up once again to a beautiful ocean view.


Day 3 was our last chance to enjoy the island so we didn’t venture out of Honolulu. We had breakfast on the beach, took some fun photos and tried to soak up as much sun as possible. Which, for this dear ginger, isn’t much. Haha!

After a cool, beachy morning, we walked around downtown and wound up at Duke’s for lunch; I got the buffet (it never disappoints) and Rachel couldn’t pass up the tacos. Not even fish tacos – this girl! You can take the girl out of Texas but… 🙂

After lunch, we did something that I had never done in Hawaii! We rode a tour bus on a scenic drive. Boy, was this fun! There were some must-see stops that I just never thought to do and it was nice to not have to think about traffic or getting back in time to leave for the airport. If you do this, be prepared for a lot of wind!

Hanauma Bay

Our first stop, Hanauma Bay, is always a stunner but if you can go down into the bay and snorkel, you won’t regret it!!

We didn’t get to hike Diamond Head or Koko Crater but if you love a good sweat with breathtaking views, don’t miss out on those. An easier but just as lovely hike/walk is Makapu’u Lighthouse.

One of my favorite stops was the Halona Blowhole, but not for the blowhole! 😉 We snuck off from the group and ran down to the hidden beach for a snapshot. It was heart-thumping to risk missing the bus but SO worth it!

Other sights on this tour was Sea Life Park, Makapu’u Lighthouse and just incredible panoramic views from the coastline. This brought our trip to a close and afterward, we begrudgingly made our way back to real life in WA. But a part of me keeps that salty air in my heart. Until our return back, of course. 😉

Headed to Oahu? Here are my must-sees every time I visit the island:

I usually stay at a friend’s house but if you are military affiliated, the Hale Koa Hotel is really affordable and pretty nice!

While in Honolulu –

Get a guava cake at Saint-Germain Bakery – Are you at all surprised that this is my first “to-do”? 😛

Hike Diamond Head, Koko Crater and/or Makapu’u Lighthouse

Snorkel at Hanauma Bay

Eat lunch at Duke’s and sit on the lanai

See the dolphins at Sea Life Park

Go down to the hidden beach at Halona Beach Cove

Shop at The Refinery for cute gifts to take back for your favorite person. The many ABC Stores you’ll see around are great for inexpensive souvenirs!

On the Windward (Eastern)  side –

Enjoy the most beautiful beach on the island at Kailua Beach

Don’t forget to get some shave ice at Island Snow and if you’re looking to stock up on healthy treats, there is a Whole Foods there as well.

Hike the Lanikai Pillbox for great views

Up on the North Shore – 

Go to the Dole Plantation and eat Dole Whip

Grab shrimp at a food truck in Haleiwa (although, now I’m adding a trip to the Beet Box for future vacays!)

Drive along Waimea Bay and enjoy that view!

Stop at Turtle Beach early in the morning to catch a sun-bathing sea turtle

Lounge at Sunset Beach and be careful if you wade in the ocean – the waves are tremendous!

Adventurous? You’ve got to visit Skydive Hawaii and Shark Encounters!

On the Leeward (Western) side – 

Go into the Ko Olina resort and relax in the lagoons

Walk into Disney Aulani resort for snapshots with Disney characters or enjoy a Character Breakfast!

Go back onto the lagoons and stay there all day. 😉 #notevenexaggerating

In the middle of the island – 

Check out the swap meet for an epic walk around the stadium while getting all of your souvenir shopping done for the trip. Put sunscreen on!

Visit the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

This is just a personal tradition but I always go into this sketchy strip mall in Pearl City and grab a spam musubi from SushiMan. It’s the best on the island. 🙂


Well, friends, there you go! There is MUCH more to do on Oahu but those are my tried and true favorites and things I make sure to do each time I visit. Have an amazing trip and share your pictures with me! 🙂

Pam 🙂

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