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Hawai’i High

From romantic repose to family fantasy Julie Mahoney found the magic was still alive in Hawaii when she returned with kids in tow.

There was a full moon over Waikiki the night that Thomas, our first son, was conceived. My husband and I were on our honeymoon, high on mai tais, sunshine and the strange excitement that accompanies a shiny new ring.

It was the first time we had visited Honolulu, a glitzy yet friendly place, chock-full of Americans in “Aloha!” shirts. We swore we’d be back soon but two children, a mortgage and a hectic work life got in the way until earlier this year. I saw a flight deal, a wave of nostalgia washed over me and without a single sensible thought, I’d booked a winter holiday to Hawai’i.

Honolulu hiatus

Being back in Honolulu was just like seeing an old buddy, albeit one who has had a bit of work done. The shopping strip has gone from souvenirs and fast food to Louis Vuitton and sashimi. The street performers and buskers are still there but the crowd is well-heeled and international.

Having two little boys in tow (Willian, eight, and Thomas, 10) was no trouble either because the whole town caters for kids. Take Morimoto Waikiki, a top restaurant opened by one of the ‘Iron Chefs’ from Japan which is stunning in every way. Nestled amongst its white linen tablecloths and coral sculptures are highchairs. The restaurant is open air at the front so it’s not a matter of containing noise either; ambient sound washes over you, along with the cool evening breeze, drowning out any kiddie racket.

Big ships, big shops

During the day, there is plenty to keep the whole family occupied. Between swimming in the calm, warm water of Waikiki Beach and watching the passing parade, to driving up to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor the boys are enthralled. Big ships – even tragically sunken ones – have that affect on boys, large and small.

Pearl Harbour Memorial

On our last day in Waikiki, I decide to brave one of the biggest shopping malls in North America – the Ala Moana Center. The boys come along but before long they are flagging – they stick around long enough to pick out new runners before my merciful husband takes them back to the Moana Surfrider Resort & Spa for an outrigger canoe lesson.

Lunchtime rolls around and I spend a blissful hour at Mariposa restaurant on the second level of the Neiman Marcus building nibbling on housemade ‘pop-ups’ (savoury pastries served with strawberry butter), sipping bottomless iced tea and eating a fresh crab salad. Life is beautiful.

After a big day of shopping for me, and an afternoon of sun and saltwater for the boys, we barrel into the hotel restaurant, Beachhouse at the Moana, for an early meal. This is what takes me back to the heady days of our honeymoon. The dining room is the epitome of Victorian charm, all parlour palms and languidly rotating ceiling fans. The menu lists local fish, as well as the usual protein staples, and there is a special section for kids. Sitting here with not one, but three of my favourite males, I can’t help but feel very much in love.

Hibiscus and hula in Kaua’i

The flight to Kaua’i, the northernmost and oldest of the Hawaiian Islands is remarkably quick. Twenty minutes in the air – just long enough for a complimentary juice – and we’re back on the ground. Alighting the plane is like arriving in old Hawai’i; a land of 1960s Elvis and luaus (traditional Hawaiian parties or feasts), hibiscus and hula.

We jump on the courtesy bus to the depot and pick up an automatic sedan (although hubby is vocally disappointed that we can’t get the orange Mustang from the Hertz fun collection). The friendly reservations staff hand over a foolproof map – there is one main loop road on the island so once you find that, you’re set.

Grand Hyatt Kauai

We are staying at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Poipu on the south shore so we turn left and travel down country through lush greenery, turning off down an avenue of enormous eucalyptus trees dubbed the ‘tree tunnel’.

The entryway to the hotel is magnificent. A sweeping traditional South Pacific-style portico leads into a cavernous foyer filled with elegant tropical flower arrangements, chandeliers and a selection of sitting areas, shops and the check-in desk. There are five pools – a saltwater lagoon, a kids’ play pool and an adults-only pool, plus two other lagoon-style pool, complete with waterfalls and slides.

There are restaurants galore – poolside, sashimi, fine dining, casual, breakfast – you name it, it’s there. We have booked a family room that is very nearly the same size as our Sydney apartment.

High times

Three happy days ensue. We rise early for breakfast, swim all morning in the resort pools, pick up lunch out and about (Living Foods at Kukuiula Village is our favourite), and then go driving in the afternoon. The scenery of the island captivates us with its waterfalls, rusty red soil at Waimea Canyon, verdant hills and palm-fringed shores at Hanalei Bay and staggering cliffs along the Na Pali coast.

Princeville Ranch

On our last day, we splash out on a zip-lining experience for the whole family. For the uninitiated, zip-lines are more commonly known as flying foxes. At Princeville Ranch Adventures, there are nine lines of varying lengths and heights that whizz through the treetops. The boys are beside themselves with excitement as they get clipped securely into their harnesses by the guide; they are Peter Pan’s Lost Boys for a morning. After line number eight, we stop for a swim and lunch (meat and salad rolls, chips and cookies) and then it’s onto King Kong, the highest, longest line. Boisterous yelling gives way to delighted laughter once everyone’s feet are back on the ground. Hawai’i really does make you a little bit high.

Family Faves

  • Stop in Waimea for lunch at Island Tacos and a shaved ice at Jo Jo’s.
  • Drive up to Hanalei Bay (of The Descendants fame) and while you’re up there, go zip-lining at Princeville Ranch Adventures
  • Have a look in the shops at Old Koloa Town for Hawaiian shirts and local knick-knacks
  • Drive to Pearl Harbor and pay your respects to the fallen soldiers
  • Check out Ala Moana Center (but wear comfy shoes)
  • Have an outrigger canoe lesson at Moana Surfrider, Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach Honolulu

Getting there

Qantas offers three direct flights a week from Sydney to Honolulu with domestic connections available from all capital cities. Qantas also has daily flights ex Perth connecting with Jetstar on the new Airbus A330-200 aircraft.


The currency is the US dollar.


Most Australian residents holding an Australian passport do not require a US visa providing the duration of stay is not more than 90 days and travellers hold a valid outbound ticket.

More information


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