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We took our 7-year-old son to Waikiki for our 10th wedding anniversary. We catered the trip to us, not him.

Nicole Findlay   

We took our 7-year-old son to Waikiki for our 10th wedding anniversary. We catered the trip to us, not him.
  • For our 10th wedding anniversary, we wanted to go back to the same place we honeymooned.
  • We decided to bring our 7-year-old son.

Anniversary trips are about the marriage, not the kids. But we chose to take our little one with us across the Pacific to Hawaii to celebrate 10 years of matrimony. We spent our honeymoon in Oahu, and taking our son back to the island gave us a unique opportunity to see how much we'd changed in the past decade. Since the vacation was about our marital milestone, we catered the trip to us, not our 7-year-old.

The beach is the main attraction in Waikiki, and we had plenty of time playing in the ocean. But out of the water, my husband and I chose what we wanted to do. This meant staying in a fancy hotel, eating at nice restaurants, and enjoying plenty of relaxation — no aquariums or water parks. And still, everyone had a fantastic time.

We hiked a trail that my whole family loved

We love to hike, but my little guy can quickly become disinterested. We decided to do the Diamond Head Summit Trail, and the 1.6-mile round trip trek — built in 1908 as part of the US Army Coastal Artillery defense system — entertained him almost immediately. I had a fleeting moment of regret when he started to complain during the initial quarter-mile stretch of concrete path, but he was hooked as soon as we hit the dry dirt trail with intense switchbacks.

The curvy trail only got better as we traveled up and down steep staircases, through a long, narrow tunnel, and past bunkers built in 1915. The summit offered jaw-dropping views of the turquoise coastline.

Our catamaran ride wasn't aimed at kids, but mine had a blast

The big yellow boats conveniently departing from Waikiki Beach are designed for adults, as there's a bar on board, but kids are allowed to join. We chose an early excursion to avoid a party crowd, and the staff couldn't have made us feel more welcome.

We sipped complimentary drinks and enjoyed the ocean views. Our son loved the lively music and the giant splash net at the front of the boat. One staff member even helped him spot a sea turtle swimming below.

Our hotel was luxurious — even with a seven-year-old

The Royal Hawaiian — or the "Pink Palace of the Pacific" — is the same place we stayed on our honeymoon, and we wanted to stay there again for our anniversary. It's a perfect quiet escape from the busy streets of Honolulu. The airy and elegant historic hotel is the epitome of chic with its pink walls, black-and-white tiled floors, and lush greenery. Plus, their Mai Tai Bar, which makes the best mai tais on the island (in my opinion), has a kid's menu, and my little picky eater loved everything on it.

We opted for a room with a balcony, so when our little one went to bed, we sat outside listening to the waves, chatting, and playing cards.

We enjoyed nightly live music and award-winning restaurants

Instead of Googling "best restaurants for kids in Waikiki," we chose places where we were excited to dine. Our two favorites were Duke's Waikiki and Merriman's. We were drawn to Duke's for its nightly live music and oceanfront location, the upbeat tunes, tiki torches, and tacos kept us happy all night.

The award-winning Merriman's was also a hit. Its farm-to-table Hawaiian cuisine was our favorite meal on the island. Our 7-year-old went so far as to say he'd had "the best pasta of my life." In my husband's opinion, they also made the best mai tai on the island, rivaling those at the Royal Hawaiian. Only adding to our experience, our lovely waiter talked to our son just as much as he chatted with us.

Full disclosure: no matter where we dined, the notepad and box of crayons I kept in my purse proved magical.

We all learned something new at our first Hawaiian luau

We went to a luau, and it was a highlight of the trip. When we arrived, our family got matching Kukui Nut Leis and temporary tattoos, plastic ponchos when it rained, and enough Hawaiian food and tropical drinks to last us all night. Throughout the three-course sampling of local dishes, my husband and I tried so many new culinary treats, including poi and pink haupia cake. Our son dined on fried chicken, which he loved almost as much as his virgin piña colada.

As expected, the entertainment was a mix of music, hula dancing, and storytelling. Not quite as expected, we saw a rainbow over Diamond Head and learned so much about Hawaiian history and culture.

Will we cater every vacation to us rather than to our son? No, and I wouldn't want to. But this family trip is one I'll never forget, and not only because my husband's new morning uniform is his recently acquired Royal Hawaiian pink and white striped hotel robe.

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