Outfit Recap 4/29/17

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Welcome to my weekend outfit recap! These posts are just a back-to-basics way of sharing of outfits I wore each week (some of which otherwise wouldn't make it to the blog) with links to current or similar options if my exact item is sold out.

Outfit Recap:

White Peplum Tank + Jeans:
Tank: Target | Jeans: Express (Similar) | Bag: Sole Society | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks | Shoes: Lucky Brand

Blush Cardigan + Black Lace Cami
Cardigan: Target | Lace Cami: SheIn | Jeans: Express | Bag: Amazon | Shoes: Charming Charlie

Striped Tee + Sneakers:
Tee: Nordstrom | Jeans: Express | Sneakers: Amazon (Another with more sizes) | Hat: Target | Necklace: Gift

Blue Top + White Jeans:
Top: Gap (Gifted, SimilarBudget Option, Off-the-Shoulder Option) | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Nordstrom | Bag: Amazon

Navy Duster + Grey Jeans:
Cardigan: Abercrombie (Current) | Cami: Express (Similar) | Jeans: Express (Similar)| Shoes: Amazon | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Bag: Amazon

Date Night Top + Black Skinnies (Full post here)
Top: c/o SheIn | Jeans: c/o Mott & Bow | Shoes: DV Safia (Option) | Ring: Kendra Scott | Nails: OPI Let's Be Friends (Similar) | Glitter Clutch: Express (Similar)

Peach Tee + White Jeans (Full post here):
Tee: Abercrombie | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Amazon | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Bag: Amazon | Ring: Stella & Dot | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks

Blue Cami with Lace Detail (Full post here):
Top: Express | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Charming Charlie | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bag: Amazon  | Watch: Fossil (Similar) | Bracelet: JustFab (Similar)

Linking up with:


Blue Lace Top + Lace Up Sandals

TGIF! It felt great to be back to normal this week, but still, nothing beats Friday and having the whole weekend ahead of you. Mine will be mostly filled with taking kids to their weekend activities, but we do have a fun party to attend on Saturday night and I'm excited to get dressed up for that. Outside of party attire, I've been trying to expand my collection of cute spring tops and go beyond the basics that I normally wear. This one from Express caught my eye and I scooped it up the first chance I had:

Top: Express | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Charming Charlie | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Cardigan: Gap (on my arm) | Watch: Fossil (Similar) | Bracelet: JustFab (Similar) | Dark Self Tanner: Amazon

I'm very glad I didn't read the review section for this top before ordering it because I might have been dissuaded. The one reviewer (so far) mentions it being very tight across the bust, and I didn't find that to be the case. Of course, your bust may vary so I'm certain that will be a consideration for some of you! I took my normal size and I found it plenty roomy overall due to the somewhat square cut of the top. It is short in the length by design, but it fully covers my waistband of my jeans and doesn't move up much when I lift my arms. So I wouldn't wear it to volunteer at school, but for every day it's just fine.

These shoes only come in half sizes, so although I normally wear a 7.5, I ordered a 7 in these and they fit perfectly. They're very comfortable and so much more affordable ($39) than the designer version!

Finally, these jeans are longtime favorites and a staple for just a nice, classic, non-distressed pair of denim. I took my normal size and I always prefer the Short length at my height (5'4").

Front View:
Top: Express | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Charming Charlie | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bag: Amazon  | Watch: Fossil (Similar) | Bracelet: JustFab (Similar)

Friday Favorites: 
Most Fridays I try to share some of my favorite things, but today I stared at the computer screen and just came up blank. I think most of my favorites lately have been covered in recent posts so rather than prattle on about my favorite dental floss (Glide Threader Floss since I have a permanent retainer on my bottom teeth), I'll recap a few things that have been on the blog recently:

Favorite Feedback on a Post: 
The comments and follow up I've had on this post about taking risks have been some of my favorites, so thank you all for your input on that!

Favorite Books Lately: 

Favorite Vacation:

Favorite Podcast for Bloggers:

Favorite Date Night Outfit:

Favorite Beauty Products Lately: 

Well that sums it up! Thanks for stopping by today and have a great weekend!

Linking up with:


What's Up Wednesday April

Today I'm joining What's Up Wednesday for an end of the month, behind-the-blog, life update. You can view the prompt questions for this post here, or just read on to find out what's been going on around here lately!

What I'm wearing:
Lately I've been trying to branch out and try some newer-to-me styles of tops, but I still love a basic t-shirt and jeans outfit like this one I wore for a Saturday of running the kids around to their weekend activities:

Tee: Abercrombie | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Amazon | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Bag: Amazon | Ring: Stella & Dot | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks

Outfit Notes:

This tee is very soft and comfortable, and although the style name is "Relaxed," I didn't think it was especially relaxed and opted to size up. If you want a more fitted look (not tight, just fitted) go with your normal size, but I tried two sizes and preferred the look of one size up.

This necklace is a three-piece set, but I'm only showing one of the pieces in this photo. If you click the product link you'll see the two additional long loop necklaces that I opted not to wear with this outfit. It's a little pricey, so I felt better about getting multiple options out of the deal.

Front View:
Tee: Abercrombie | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Amazon | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Bag: Amazon | Ring: Stella & Dot | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks

What I'm reminiscing about:
Our family trip to Hawaii earlier this month was very fun and memorable! I did a full trip recap in this post listing all of the activities we did and what we would do differently if we had a do-over.
Shooting outfit photos at the Dole Plantation (kidding...)

What I've been up to:
This month I realized that a one-week vacation makes three weeks of my life seem "not normal." One hectic week to prepare, one week to relax and imagine what it would be like if everyday life was this easy, and one hectic week to recover and get everything settled back to normal. I'm just now back in "normal" mode and I'll be doing the usual mom stuff of helping kids with homework and life problems, chauffeuring them to their after school activities, friends' birthday parties, plus all the doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments. I'm also chaperoning a field trip later this week and conserving my energy for that!

What I'm working on:
My Black Belt Test for Tae Kwon Do is coming up in May and I have been using a lot of my morning workout time to review and practice for that (in place of doing cardio or yoga on those days). I cannot remember the last time I had to prepare for a test like this that required so much mental, physical, and emotional effort!

What I'm reading:
It was a good month in books because I didn't dislike anything I read. Some were a bit more compelling for me than others, but all of them were easy to finish!

Books- April 2017

The Guest Room: This story is about a bachelor party where things go very, very wrong and two people wind up dead. The fallout of that one night impacts the lives of everyone who was there as well as each of their families. It would be great if all men read this and were a little more afraid of having these crazy bachelor parties just in case something like this ends up happening! The author did a very good job of making this story believable and realistic. It wasn't really a page-turner or psychological thriller but it held my interest very well and I was eager to see how it was all going to be resolved. One thing that stood out to me about this book was that I felt like the author kept the dictionary by his side while writing to use as many obscure words as possible, especially in the second half of the book (e.g. ontological, mephitic...had to look those up!). Normally I just skim them but there were a few paragraphs filled with so many that I had to give in and say, "Fine! I will look it up and learn a new word, okay?" All in all it's a good read, but I would avoid reading it if your significant other is planning to attend a bachelor party in the near future because it might give you an anxiety attack! (Thanks to Tracy's for this suggestion!)

Everything We Keep: This story opens with a woman who is attending the funeral of her fiancé That same day, she receives information that makes her question whether her fiancé actually died or not, and she struggles with trying to move on with her life vs. seeking answers about her fiancé's death. I felt like this story grabbed me right away....but then slowed way down as the main character tried to rebuild her life. I got a little bored, but the second half of the book picked up again and got better as I felt it got back to the main mystery of the book. (Thanks to Nicole for this suggestion!)

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: In this story, a girl has a very rough family life (to put it mildly) and has to fend for herself beginning at a young age. As a child, she happens to help save a man's life, and he in turn develops a soft spot for her. He quickly learns that there are no adults taking proper care of this child and feels compelled to step in. As they take care of each other, things get complicated due to the age difference. Likewise, my thoughts and feelings on this are complicated! I loved most of it. The characters were well developed, the story was very interesting and drew me in immediately. It's also the, "make you think" type of story where you question your beliefs of right and wrong. But...there were parts I did not like at all! I wasn't as crazy about the direction of the story in Part Three, yet I don't know how else I really think the story should have gone! I guess it was realistic? Ultimately it was 100% worth reading and still something I'd recommend because the good outweighed the bad. (Thanks to @emjoyce for this recommendation!)

Slammed: I have read several Colleen Hoover books but I hadn't read her first ever book until now. In this story a girl moves to a new town to start life over after the death of her father. She meets a boy and they have an instant connection...only to find out their relationship isn't quite what they thought it was going to be. This was a quick read, and pretty enjoyable but not nearly as much as some my favorites by Colleen (such as November 9 and It Ends with Us). Going to her earlier works I can see how much she has grown as an author. If you just want a quick love story type of book for a beach vacation without too much depth, this is a good fit.

Her Every Fear: This author's previous book, "The Kind Worth Killing" was one of my favorites of 2016, so I was happy to see he came out with a new book in January. And it's a good one! It's a dark suspense novel just like his previous book. A woman agrees to a six-month apartment swap with her second cousin (a man she's never met), and the day she moves in, a woman in the same complex is found dead, heightening her anxiety for her own safety and casting suspicion on several of her neighbors. I definitely recommend this if you liked, "The Kind Worth Killing" or if you like suspense novels in general!

Seeing as I was surprised by this author's "new" book (it came out in January), I have a question for my fellow readers! How do you like to keep up with your favorite authors to know when they publish a new book? Do you follow them on social media? If so, which platform do you think is best for that? Or do you use some other method, like Goodreads? I have a few favorites and I'd like to be in-the-know when they have something new!

What I'm listening to:

Did you know Justin Bieber can sing in Spanish? I didn't either! But I'm not gonna lie, I like it. Hear it for yourself here.

What I'm doing this weekend:

Momming it up yet again! My kids have a performance with their Parkour team this weekend, some training sessions, and a birthday party so I will be the chief chauffeur and stage mom for the better part of the weekend. Plus I'll make some personal time for my Black Belt Review class, a dance class, and my girlfriend's annual house party (they go all out), which will include me wearing a fancy rent-the-runway dress, so watch for that on my Instagram story since I may not get it posted here.

What I'm looking forward to next month:
I think I covered this in previous topics, but Black Belt Testing is looming large on my May calendar and I'm looking forward to having that stress off my plate and moving on to the next phase of training! That's really where the fun begins and I can move on to more advanced skills and weapons training.

* * *
And now you are all up to date! I have been thinking about doing my book reviews in a separate post each month rather than here, just because they really do take up a good chunk of time to prepare. I end up skipping and shortening other categories to compensate. It didn't happen this month due to my vacation schedule, but be on the lookout for that possible change in the future!

Linking up with:
JoLynne | Lindsey | Mel | Sheaffer | Shay | Narci


Daily Deals: Free Shipping + 50% Off

Surprise! It's a random Tuesday post! Normally when I find that an item I've worn on the blog has gone on sale, I tend to post it to my Instagram Story just because that's the quickest and easiest way to get the information out! But I know not everyone follows me on that platform or checks my Instagram story by the minute! There are a couple of sales I saw today and I had time to put together a quick post about it, so here we go!

First, Charming Charlie currently has Free Shipping on all orders, no minimum! I posted this outfit in my weekend outfit recap (here), but I don't usually add much detail to those posts in the interest of time. But since I am new to shopping at Charming Charlie (thanks to Caryl!) I wanted to share fit detail on these pieces since some of you might be unfamiliar with their sizing as well!
Top: Charming Charlie | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Charming Charlie | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks | Bag: Sole Society

My photos really don't do this top justice! It has a very cute ruffle layer detail that you can see better in person and in the stock photo. It ran true to size for me. I also like that it comes up a bit higher than my Barcelona cami so there are no modesty issues if you have to bend forward, etc.

These Shoes only come in whole sizes. I am normally a 7.5, occasionally an 7, so I ordered a 7 and luckily they fit great! They're also very comfortable and easy to walk in. They're an excellent dupe of a designer pair that retails for $150! Here's a close-up, side view of the shoes:

Front View:

Shop the Look:

Also! When I was preparing this post I was navigating away from the Charming Charlie site and a coupon code for $10 off popped up if I was willing to stay! So it might be worth attempting to get that code before you place your order! (Okay, on further inspection it's $10 off an order of $60 or more. So you would likely have to get more than one item, but that wouldn't be hard to do with a little browsing!)

The second deal I wanted to share today is that Express has 50% off select dresses! Not all dresses unfortunately, but my black cami sundress is 50% off, making it under $30 right now!
Duster: Abercrombie (Sold out in this color, lightweight version here) | Sundress: Express | Necklace: Stella & Dot (Similar) | Ring: Stella & Dot | Sandals: Target | Nails: OPI "Let's Be Friends" (Similar)

It runs true to size, has pockets and is such a convenient, comfortable piece to throw on in a hurry. It's also pretty easy to dress up a little more for dinner with a strappy sandals (see how I wore it in Hawaii here). It also comes in a floral print version and a denim version, but I will warn you that I tried the denim version on in store and I almost had to call for help to get it off! Not to mention the difficulty I had putting it on! It could really use a size zipper, but it doesn't have one. It has much less stretch in the torso than my version of the dress, so consider sizing up or just beware the issue in advance.

Front View:
Shop the Look:

That's all for today! I'll be back tomorrow for What's Up Wednesday and my monthly book reviews!

Linking up with:


Date Night Top + Goals Check-In

Today's outfit involves another case of "blogging made me do it." Marta originally posted this top on her blog about a month ago and I was smitten. I don't normally go for off-the-shoulder tops because I find them a bit fussy with the way they tend to ride up the shoulders. But I loved this top so much that I decided it was worth the trouble. Especially since planned to wear it for a night out where I don't need to do much more than sit at a table and chat with friends. And that's exactly what I did this past Saturday!

Top: c/o SheIn | Jeans: c/o Mott & Bow | Shoes: DV Safia (Option) | Ring: Kendra Scott | Nails: OPI Let's Be Friends (Similar)

Outfit Details:

This top is my second piece from SheIn and I think it will by my go-to for Spring and Summer date night, drinks with friends, etc. Hopefully those events will involve different people each time so no one will know exactly how often I'm repeating this piece! I wore it this past weekend and got more compliments from strangers than I can remember getting on anything I have worn. It's very easy to get on and off, especially since it has a zipper in the back and plenty of stretch in the arm/shoulder area. The neck tie was actually a little difficult for me to do on my own because once I'm actually in the top, it's hard to reach around my neck! But it's doable. I ordered my normal size in this, but I wonder if one size up might have given me a little more room in the shoulders and helped the top stay down a little better (since I frequently had to re-adjust it down on my arms), but it wasn't worth the trouble of returning/exchanging.

I did a full review of these jeans in this post, but the short version is that they run true to size and I find them very slimming! They've also become my go-to for a night out.

Front View: 
Top: c/o SheIn | Jeans: c/o Mott & Bow | Shoes: DV Safia (Option) | Ring: Kendra Scott | Nails: OPI Let's Be Friends (Similar) | Glitter Clutch: Express (Similar)

Monday Motivation: Update and Check-In

It's been a minute since I've done an update on the goals I've posted about in the past couple of months, so today it's time for a check-in. In my original New Year Goals post (find it Here), I listed three main areas of focus for the year: Relationships, Time Management, and Personal Growth. Here's a recap of what I've been working on in those areas since my last check-in:


1. Building Stronger Relationships (Here): I don't have anything significant to report on this one since it's always going to be a work in progress! Many of my goals aren't going to be something I ever get to mark off as "complete," but they're areas where I want to continually improve just to be a better human.

2. Giving Family My Undivided Attention (Here): I am really working on this and will admit it's hard! As this article stated: "Instant notifications are a drug that train you for a life of distraction." No matter what I'm doing I get antsy when I get a notification on my phone and feel like I must check it immediately at least to see who/what it is. That can be disrespectful to my present company, and I'm working on overcoming the urge to respond to my phone immediately, or else just putting it on silent somewhere out of reach so I don't even have the distraction.

Time Management:

1. Time Management Techniques (Here): While I didn't touch on it as much in this particular post, one of my big goals for time management this year was to work on punctuality. I feel like I am finally making progress on this one. I've had to get real about how long it takes me to get out the door for certain things, e.g. in my head I think I can be changed and out the door for Tae Kwon Do in five minutes, but really it takes ten minutes by the time I change clothes, pull my hair back, use the bathroom, get my water bottle ready, etc. I've learned to adjust my "must start getting ready" time accordingly or drop something off the get-ready list when I don't start on time. I've had to go to Tae Kwon Do several times with my hair down and annoyingly in my face because I didn't start getting ready on time, but I was on time for class and proud of it!

2. The one-hour packing plan (Here): Packing for a trip is one area where I struggle with procrastinating, so I made a plan for our Spring Break trip to set a timer, get focused, and get it done in an hour. Well that was a fail in real life. I didn't set a timer (when it came down to it the thought stressed me out), and I forgot to take into account that the kids would be home from school that day, so it wasn't realistic to expect a full, distraction-free hour of anything. But I did stay pretty focused on the task and would go right back to it after handling any kid-issues, so I still got it done in about two hours.

Personal Growth:

1. Improving Focus (Here): This was my most recent post (from one week ago) so I don't have any real updates here. I feel like I'm stuck on Step One, which is identify the problem. I really do want to improve my focus because I think it will help me be more efficient and also help with my time management goals.

2. Taking Chances (Here): Once again this a more recent post so I don't have much in the way of an update. This is also something that I don't always actively pursue (vs. improving personal relationships where it's a constant pursuit), but rather I try to be open to it when opportunities come my way. Sometimes I do have to seek out opportunities to take chances, but usually that starts from a desire to try something new (e.g. start a blog, take a class, add to my friendship circle, etc.), and I haven't had any of those urges lately!

* * *
Well now you are all up to date on my goals! How are you all doing? Do you still think about New Year's Goals (as a survey would say, Always, Sometimes, or Never?) or have you re-evaluated what you want to accomplish this year? I'd love to hear what's motivating you these days because I always get a fresh surge of motivation when others share their goals!

Linking up with:


Outfit Recap 4/22/17

Welcome to my weekend outfit recap! These posts are just a back-to-basics way of sharing of outfits I wore each week with links to current or similar options if my exact item is sold out. Also, all jeans are currently 40% off at Express, which coincidentally means nearly all of the jeans in this post are 40% off!

Outfit Recap:

White Lace Cami, Blue Jeans:
Top: Abercrombie | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Amazon | Necklace: Kendra Scott (Gift) | Bag: Sole Society | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks

Black Cami, White Jeans:
Top: Charming Charlie | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Charming Charlie | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks | Bag: Sole Society

Black Peasant Top, Grey Jeans:
Top: Abercrombie | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Amazon (Similar) | Bag: Sole Society | Necklace: Stella & Dot (Gift, Similar)

Beige Moto Jacket, Grey Tee, Black Jeans:
Jacket: Express (Vintage Pink color is similar) | Tee: Nordstrom | Jeans: Express | Necklace: Stella & Dot  | Shoes: Amazon

Grey Duster, White Cami, Black Jeans:
Sweater: Abercrombie | Cami: Express (Similar) | Jeans: c/o Mott & Bow | Shoes: Target | Bag: Amazon (Similar) | Necklace: Express (Gift, Similar)

Linking up with:


Oahu Family Vacation Plan + What I Wore

Last week, we took our family of four (two adults and two tween boys) to Hawaii and stayed on the island of Oahu for six days and five nights. Here's a look at what we did each day, what I wore, where we stayed, and what activities we would recommend or not for other families in a similar stage who are planning a trip to Hawaii.

View of Honolulu from Puu Ualakaa State Park (See Day Three)
Day One:
Travel to Hawaii, get settled 

We flew via Alaska Airlines and were very pleased with the in flight service, food options and entertainment options. Our only other direct flight option from San Diego was Hawaiian airlines and my husband had a bad experience with them on a previous trip so it was an easy choice. I hardly ever mention the airline we used (although usually it's Southwest) because it's just a means to an end, but Alaska really made the flight more enjoyable so I thought it was worth a mention.

We stayed at The Laylow (a Marriott "Autograph Collection" property) on Waikiki Beach.
This is a brand new hotel (it opened in March of 2017) and we loved it. It was perfect for our needs. It was very clean and modern, and the staff was always friendly and helpful (even down to simple things like letting us use their clean pool towels to take off-property to the beach every day so we didn't have to bring or buy our own). Plus the concierge made a lot of great recommendations for our trip since we had very little planned when we arrived. The location was also excellent. We were one block from the beach and there were probably hundreds of restaurants and stores within a two block radius. We settled on this place largely because our room had two King Size beds (which is pretty rare in hotels!) and that made sleeping a lot more comfortable for our family. And that was the main thing we were planning to do in our room since this trip was all about being out and about!

Day Two:
Dole Plantation, North Shore, Polynesian Cultural Center

Day two was packed (actually over-packed, more on that below) with three main activities:

Dole Plantation:

Our first stop and first activity of the trip was a visit to the Dole Plantation.  I'm actually glad this was our first because while we enjoyed it well enough, in retrospect it seems weak compared to the other stuff we did! If we had done it last we might have been a little more bored. The plantation has a maze (like a corn maze except pineapple, of course) and a little train ride where you learn more about the history of pineapples and other crops in Hawaii, plus a retail shop and snack area. It was interesting and relatively enjoyable, but we didn't stay long. We also didn't have any of the pineapple ice cream or specialty treats they sell because none of us were really in the mood for it. Overall I would still recommend this as an good family activity, but maybe on a day where you just need something slower paced. I wouldn't really consider it a must-see. I've been to all kinds of apple farms, strawberry farms, pumpkin patches, etc. here in California and in the Seattle area and this is pretty much the same thing, just a different crop in different weather.

North Shore: 

Next we drove up to the North Shore to check out the famous waves, and they did not disappoint! We stopped at Waimea Bay Beach park to let the kids play in the water for awhile...under close supervision near the shore. They had a blast letting the waves crash over them without any boogie boards or anything else. After that we kept driving up around the North Shore to find lunch and Shaved Ice. We stopped at Shark's Cove at an area with a bunch of food trucks. The food was just okay and the service was mediocre to bad at some of the trucks. But it was enough to fill us so we could go on to our final stop of the day.

Polynesian Cultural Center:
(I shared a video of this tree climbing demo at the PCC on my Insta-Story that day!)

This is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Aotearoa through live presentations in a very scenic "theme park." Most people go and spend the full day here, which would be easy to do if you want to see a presentation at each of the villages, plus take in the night show (the best part, in my opinion!) at 7:30. That said, my husband and I have both been here before and he wasn't keen on spending the whole day here again. So we got there around 4:00 and only went to the final Samoa and Tonga presentations (several people told us those were the best two so we made sure to see them), followed by dinner in the banquet hall and the night show. I enjoyed everything we saw an experienced, and so did my family. But the biggest mistake we made in planning our trip was doing this activity on the day after our arrival when we were still on California time. The night show started at 7:30, which was 10:30 to us, so it felt very late on top of being tired from a full day of touring and wave-surfing. The kids were practically asleep when the show started, but it did grab their attention and kept them awake until they could crash in the car. The night show is my absolute favorite (probably of the whole trip) just because you all know I really enjoy dancing and watching different styles of dance, and the night show is all about telling the story of Polynesia through dance.

Day Three:
Hike & Bike Tour
  Rainforest to Reef: Hike and Bike Tour

This was one of the activities the concierge recommended for our trip and it was awesome. Prior to this, the closest I have ever been to a rainforest is Rainforest Café and this was far more beautiful and incredible. Our guide picked us up in a van about a block from our hotel and took us up to a hidden trail where we did a two-mile hike rainforest hike up to a waterfall (I honestly can't remember the name our guide told us, it wasn't Manoa falls and he said it isn't on Google maps...). We saw all kinds of beautiful, lush scenery and views. We never would have found and navigated the trail without the guide, and he was incredibly knowledgeable about every plant and tree in the rainforest, not to mention every aspect of Hawaiian history and culture! He was also well-prepared for us with rain ponchos, mosquito repellent (we still got bit though), snacks, water etc. The trail itself was not difficult in terms of incline, but it was slippery and narrow in parts and took some careful footing. Our guide provided us with Trek sticks to help with balance, and many times I had to use that plus a bamboo branch to make my way on the trail.

 Views from the Rainforest

After we hiked the rainforest, we came back down the same trail to the van where we drove up to Puu Ualakaa Lookout (see views in the intro of this post). We had lunch there (provided by the tour company) and then went up to the top of the hill to do our 5 mile downhill bike ride. It was a really fun way to enjoy the views of the island while sailing down the hill on a bike!

We returned from the tour in the late afternoon and the kids swam for awhile in the hotel pool, then we grabbed dinner and were done for the day!

Day Four:
Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling Cruise

For this tour package (which we also chose based on the recommendation of our concierge), a tour bus comes and picks people up at a few different hotels around downtown Honolulu before taking everyone out to the west side of the island to cruise around looking for dolphins and then snorkel. On the boat we were served muffins, coffee, sodas as we boarded, and later on they provided a full Hawaiian lunch and alcoholic beverages for those of age. It was a very full service experience. We cruised around in the boat a little until we found a pod of dolphins (or mega-pod according to the captain). They estimated about 200 dolphins so we really did see a lot of dolphins. There were a few dolphins who seemed to like racing our boat and stayed by our side for quite awhile. So for dolphin sighting in the wild: five out of five stars!

Next up we stopped the boat for the snorkeling portion of the day.

I don't snorkel (I just cannot get the hang of it) but my husband and kids did and they did see fish, but my husband felt it was nothing spectacular and not better than what you see at Haunama Bay. So for the snorkeling portion 3 out of 5 stars.

After snorkeling, they served lunch and drinks and just cruised around on the boat. (Again the food was maybe 3/5 stars. My kids would give it 1 out of 5 stars but they're picky eaters.) The sun was finally out for awhile at this point so it was nice to sit outside and enjoy the weather and scenery. When the boat took us back to shore, we got back on the bus for the ride back to Honolulu. We spent over an hour on the bus each way between island traffic and dropping everyone off at different locations in the city.

This tour is on my short list of "things I would do differently next time." When all was said and done, my kids enjoyed it and thought it was cool, so I'm glad for that. However, we were gone from 10:00 AM until about 6 PM, but out of an 8-hour day we only got a good 90 minutes of actual fun-time (30 minutes a piece of boat cruising, snorkeling, and dolphin watching). We spent almost three hours of the day just on the bus. We could have driven there ourselves in our rental car and saved a lot of time. The snorkeling wasn't so impressive or unique that it was worth the trouble of the bus and boat rides. I think a simple 1-2 hour dolphin sighting boat ride (minus bus service) would have been a better fit. (And in the bigger picture of scheduling, if we had done that one morning maybe we could have done the Polynesian Cultural Center in the afternoon/evening that day). The food, snorkeling, and bus ride just weren't worth the extra time and expense for us. I hate to say anything negative about the tour because the staff were all fun, friendly, and enjoyable. We signed up for it all knowing what it entailed and how many hours it would be, so that's on us. It wasn't a bad experience, it's probably just different stroke/different folks. I would also add that this happened to be the day of our trip with the worst weather: lots of clouds and intermittent showers. There was some sun here and there but more clouds than sun. So that meant we spent more time uncomfortably packed in the boat rather than out on the deck, which is no one's fault but took away from the experience all the same.

Day Five:
More Beaches and Snorkeling

This was our last full day on the island and we let the kids choose the activity. They wanted to get back in the water, so we decided to go to Haunama Bay. We pulled up around 9 AM...and the lot was full. They told us to check back every 30 minutes to see if we could get in. Waiting around and checking back every 30 minutes didn't seem like the best use of our time, so instead we googled nearby top-rated beach options and decided to head to Kailua Beach Park:

The scenery was beautiful, it was relatively quiet, and there were lots of trees with shade where we could hang out and easily watch the kids in the water, so that was nice. And since the water was very calm it wasn't as stressful as the North Shore. It would be a great place for families with younger kids. That said, mine were done here in an hour because they like a little more action. We decided to go back to Haunama Bay to see if we could get in yet, and luckily we did!

I'm so glad we went back and were able to get in here. It was truly beautiful and the kids had a great time snorkeling. We had heard from several locals and Hawaii-regulars that it was overrated, the snorkeling wasn't that great, etc. But we decided to go anyway and it was completely worth it for us.

Day Six:
Waikiki Beach and Travel Home

We didn't have to leave our hotel for the airport until 2:00 in the afternoon, so we decided to get in a little more beach time before packing up to head home. We decided to stick close to the hotel and just go to Waikiki Beach.
My boogie board crew on Waikiki Beach 

Is this beach touristy and busy? Sure, but it was convenient, very nice and enjoyable. We we went through the lobby of the Outrigger Waikiki (my sister is a Hawaii-regular and that's her favorite hotel), and it was great because we were able to rent two beach chairs, an umbrella and three boogie boards for $60 which made for a fun, comfortable beach experience and a nice way to spend our last morning.

After that we grabbed a quick bite at a nearby restaurant and then it was time to pack-up, clean-up, and go home!

What I Wore:
As you can gather from my activity list, I needed a lot of functional, comfortable outfits for this trip. I wasn't on a blogger-trip to showcase cute outfits in beautiful scenery, so I really tried to keep it very simple. I wouldn't even bother posting these outfits to the blog, other than hoping they serve as somewhat visuals for anyone packing for a similar beach/outdoorsy/family-friendly trip.

ONE: (Worn for airport travel both ways)
Shirt: Express (Similar) | Tank: Target | Shoes: Amazon | Bag: c/o Amazon | Leggings: Express

TWO: (Worn to Dole Plantation, Polynesian Cultural Center)
Tank: Target | Shorts: Nordstrom Rack (Similar) | Shoes: Sam Edelman | Bag: Fossil

THREE: (Worn for Dolphin/Snorkel Boat Day)
Swim Cover Up: c/o Amazon | Flip Flops: Target

FOUR: (Worn for Rainforest to Reef Hike & Bike)
Tank: Gap (Current) | Shorts: Target (Similar) | Sneakers: New Balance (Similar with more sizes)

FIVE: (Worn to hotel pool, sorry I was too lazy to iron this on vacation)
Swim Cover Up: c/o Amazon | Flip Flops: Target

SIX: (Worn out to dinner two nights. It was too dark to photograph this in real-time, but I was very glad I packed so I re-did the outfit picture at home to share.)
Dress: Express | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bag: Fossil | Shoes: Vince Camuto (Similar)

* * *
This is quite possibly my longest post of all time, and that's saying something since I can be pretty wordy! I considered breaking it into two posts, but generally I find it easier for myself to locate past posts when the topics are consolidated like this so I decided to just go for it all in one spot today. To be clear, no portion of this trip was sponsored or compensated by any of the brands mentioned. This trip was entirely sponsored by my husband and his full-time day job! But if any travel brands would like to sponsor our next trip, by all means hit me up! 

Have a great weekend and see you back on Monday!

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