Hawaiian Mango Pizza

Over a year ago we took a family trip to Hawaii. We spent a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center and were unable to get tickets to their Luau dinner. Instead we walked around the Hukilau Marketplace and stumbled on Pounders restaurant in Laie, Hawaii. The menu looked good and we were all hungry from walking around all day. I ordered their Hawaiian Mango Pizza and I have been thinking about it ever since. Sweet and salty, creamy and delicious, this Hawaiian Mango Pizza was completely different than any pizza I’ve had before and utterly delicious. I knew I wanted to re-create it when I got home. A year later…I’m still thinking about the pizza from Pounders and finally figured out the perfect combination of flavors and ingredients.

Hawaiian Mango Pizza Ingredients

  • Pizza Dough: This pizza would work well with many pizza dough recipes. I love this sourdough version and this quick and easy version.
  • Mascarpone Cheese: Mascarpone cheese is spread in a layer on top of the pizza dough and gives the whole pizza a nice creamy base.
  • Prosciutto: Prosciutto is torn into small pieces and spread on top of the mascarpone. It bakes up crispy and salty, giving the perfect balance of sweet/salty to this pizza.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan is sprinkled on top of the mascarpone and prosciutto before the pizza is baked. It bakes up creamy and salty making the perfect pizza layer.
  • Honey: Honey is drizzled over the top of the pizza right after it is pulled out of the pizza oven for a signature sweet/salty flavor.
  • Arugula: Arugula is added to the top of the pizza right after the honey. Arugula adds a bright, tart and peppery flavor that pairs so well with the sweet/salty flavors in this pizza.
  • Fresh Mango: Freshly diced mango is put right on top of the arugula giving the signature flavor in this Hawaiian Mango Pizza
Original Pizza from Pounders Restaurant

Using a Pizza Oven or a Conventional Oven

Pounders restaurant uses a beautiful pizza oven to make their pizzas. For this Hawaiian Mango Pizza Copycat version, the pizza is best made in a pizza oven. I’ve made pizza many times in an Ooni Koda 16 oven. Pizza ovens give the best texture, taste and crispness using the high heat and baking stone of a pizza oven. If you don’t have a pizza oven, you can still make delicious pizza, though the crust won’t be quite the same. Crank your home oven up to the highest temperature it will go (550 Fahrenheit is the highest my oven will go). Place a pizza stone in the oven and let it pre-heat for at least 30-40 minutes. This long pre-heat is crucial to the texture of the pizza dough. Proceed with the recipe as written and bake the pizza in the regular oven for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is puffed up and baked through.

Pick the Perfect Pizza Dough

I am partial to a really good sourdough pizza crust, though it takes some planning ahead. I also love this quick and easy pizza crust that takes about 2 hours start to finish. You could also use this favorite recipe that we’ve used for years before we bought our outdoor pizza oven and it’s another great option for a conventional oven pizza dough. If you want to make it really easy, grab some pizza dough at the store and bake according to the package directions. This recipe makes 1 personal-sized 10 inch pizza. On our family pizza nights the kids almost always choose pepperoni or cheese, and the adults get creative with toppings. If you’d like to make a pizza larger than a one 10 inch pizza, increase the ingredients for the recipe toppings.

Assembling Hawaiian Mango Pizza

Once you’ve got your dough, get to work assembling the ingredients and the pizza. Chop/dice the fresh mango and set it aside. Cut or pull the prosciutto apart into smaller pieces and set aside. Stretch the pizza dough into a 10 inch circle by pulling and stretching it, being careful not to rip the dough. Once the dough is shaped, carefully spread the mascarpone onto the pizza dough. I had to do this part with my fingers to get it completely covered. Don’t worry if it clumps up a bit, just do your best to get it covered as much as possible. Sprinkle on the prosciutto and parmesan and bake the pizza. As soon as it comes out of the oven, drizzle on the honey and top with the arugula and diced mango. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I store leftover pizza?

This pizza stores well in ziplock bags or air-tight containers in the refrigerator for a few days.

Can I substitute cream cheese for mascarpone on the pizza?

I have never tried this. Cream cheese has a little more “tangy” flavor than the mascarpone but it may work. The baked mascarpone reminded me a little of brie so I would consider substituting some brie if you don’t have mascarpone.

Can I drizzle honey on top of pizza before baking?

I like drizzling the honey on right after the pizza comes out of the oven. It doesn’t get your pizza oven all sticky and adds the best bit of sweetness to the pizza.

Hawaiian Mango Pizza (Pounders Copycat Recipe)

Hawaiian-style Neapolitan pizza made in an outdoor pizza oven. Mascarpone, parmesan and prosciutto are baked to perfection in a pizza oven. The pizza is drizzled with honey and topped with fresh arugula and mango. Absolutely delicious. This recipe is inspired from the amazing Mango Hawaiian pizza made at Pounders Restaurant in Laie, Hawaii.
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 1 min
Course Main Course
Cuisine Hawaiian
Servings 1 10 inch pizza

Ingredients
  

  • 200 grams homemade pizza dough see recipe notes
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 slices prosciutto chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup mango diced

Instructions
 

  • Preheat a pizza oven to 700-800 degrees (see recipe note about using a regular oven) about 30 minutes before you plan on baking the pizza.
  • Dice a ripe mango into small pieces. Set aside. Chop the prosciutto into small pieces and set aside.
  • Spread a little cornmeal on a wooden cutting board or pizza peel. Stretch the pizza dough out to a 10 inch circle and lay it on the cornmeal.
  • Spread the mascarpone cheese over the dough, covering it completely. You may need to use your fingers to gently spread the cheese over the dough. Be careful not to let the dough tear, but do your best to make sure the mascarpone is covering the majority of the dough.
  • Lay the chopped prosciutto on top of the mascarpone. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Check that the dough is not sticking to the board (this can happen if you don't work quickly enough). If it is sticking, unstick it with your fingers, add a bit of cornmeal if needed and try again.
  • Launch your pizza into the pre-heated pizza oven with a quick thrust forward. Let the pizza cook for about 45 seconds, then using the pizza peel pull the pizza out of the oven, turn it with a fork and return it to the pizza oven for another 30-45 seconds. This ensures that the pizza is cooked on both sides. You can watch a video of this process here.
  • Right after the pizza comes out of the oven, drizzle the honey on top of the warm pizza. Top with arugula and diced mango. Enjoy warm!

Notes

Oven: This pizza recipe works best for a pizza oven. I’ve made pizza many times in an Ooni Koda 16 pizza oven. You will get the best texture, taste and crispness using the high heat and baking stone of a pizza oven. If you don’t have a pizza oven, you can still make good pizza with this recipe. Crank your home oven up to the highest temperature it will go (550 is the temperature I tested it at). Place a pizza stone in the oven and let it pre-heat for at least 30-40 minutes. This long pre-heat is crucial to the texture of the pizza dough. Proceed with the recipe as written and bake the pizza in the regular oven for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is puffed up and baked through.
Dough: I like using this pizza dough recipe. This sourdough version is also delicious. I haven’t tried it with store bought dough, but I’m guessing it would taste delicious too. 
Keyword hawaiian pizza, homemade pizza, mango pizza, mango prosciutto, ooni pizza oven

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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One response to “Hawaiian Mango Pizza”

  1. Kris Avatar

    Amazing! I think I need this in my life! The arugula must really finish it off nicely! 🍕🥭🌱😋

Leave a Reply

8 Days in Peru: A Couple’s Trip

For many years, visiting Machu Picchu in the Andes mountains has been on my bucket list. I’ve seen the pictures, I’ve read travel blogs and I’ve always wanted to go. With the events of the world the past two years, we are just now feeling comfortable to travel internationally again with vaccines available and as we watched the COVID case numbers decrease. Thanks to some awesome grandparents who came and helped with our kids, we were able to make this incredible couples trip to Peru happen. This post is all about the eight days we spent traveling in Peru and details our tips, tricks and favorite sites.

Wet Season or Dry Season?

When researching Machu Picchu, many websites talk about the wet and dry season in Peru. Wet season is typically November to March which is actually Peruvian summer. This means you can plan to expect intermittent rain showers and warmer weather (most days averaged from 50-70 degrees depending on our elevation). Dry season is typically from April to October with cooler, though still moderate, temperatures. Machu Picchu is open year round, but the Inca Trail closes during the month of February, so if you want to hike the trail, plan ahead. We arrived in Peru the last few days of February, acclimated to the elevation for a few days and hiked the Inca Trail on March 1st, the day it opened. We were one of only 4 small groups hiking the Inca Trail that day. It was incredible!

Sun Gate Tours

After purchasing our tickets to Lima (I like using Scott’s Cheap Flights—the free version for cheap airfare combined with Google Flights), I researched where we would want to go and what things we’d want to do. I found some amazing hotels but was having difficulty figuring out how to get from point A to point B over the course of our trip. Enter Sun Gate Tours! Initially I was planning to use them only for the Inca Trail portion of our trip but after seeing how accommodating, quick to respond and helpful they were, I asked them to quote us the entire trip. Sun Gate Tours gave us a reasonable price for a private 8 day tour of Peru with all transfers, admissions and some food included. They would have happily booked us hotels as well, but I was a little particular about our hotels and am so glad I was. Their tour guides always showed up 10-15 minutes early. They took very good care of us with safety precautions and were constantly checking in with us on how we were enjoying the trip. They booked us the best of the best: from picking the best side of the train to sit on to making sure we had delicious boxed lunches for all our excursions. The combination of Sun Gate Tours and the hotels we booked made this vacation amazing.

Our Itinerary

  • Day 1: Depart Kentucky. Flight to Atlanta. Overnight flight to Lima, arrive around 5 AM.
    • Airport Tip: If you are planning a domestic connection from Lima, give yourself plenty of time to get through customs at the airport. We landed in Lima shortly after the airport opened and it still took us 1 1/2 – 2 hours to clear customs with many flights arriving at the same time (very long lines)!
  • Day 2: Flight from Lima to Cusco. Check in to hotel and walking tour of Cusco.
    • Tip: We booked our flight from Lima to Cusco ourselves with LATAM Airlines. Give yourself plenty of time in the airport to get in between flights.
  • Day 3: Tour of the Sacred Valley: Pisaq, Lunch, Ollantaytambo
  • Day 4: ATV adventure to Moray ruins and Maras Salt Mines
    • Tip: Wear sunscreen on all exposed skin–even on your hands! We put sunscreen on our face and neck and wore long sleeves, but forgot that the tops of our hands were exposed while on our ATV adventure. With the high elevation, you will get sunburned with much shorter exposure time.
  • Day 5: Train to Km 104 and hike on the “short” (one-day) Inca Trail into Machu Picchu
    • Tip: Wear hiking boots (my favorite for my sensitive feet/heels) here and use a walking stick! Ask your guide if they will provide one for you. If not, bring one. It was invaluable to us on the rocky terrain. I cannot stress enough how helpful it was for getting up and down the terrain especially in some areas that were wet and slippery. Our guide Richard had collapsible versions for us that were very light but sturdy.
  • Day 6: Tour of Machu Picchu, Train/bus back to Cusco
    • Tip: Pack ponchos! The weather can be unpredictable and it was nice to have the ponchos when we needed them. We had rain jackets but the ponchos helped even more, especially to cover our backpacks during rainy periods.
  • Day 7: Hiking Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain
    • Tip: This excursion overall was about 10 hours long, with 3.5-4 hours one way by car. If it’s raining, the colors may not be as vibrant. On the city outskirts as you leave Cusco you will pass an area with a lot of local bakeries. Be on the lookout and ask your guide to stop and grab some fresh bread if you’d like.
  • Day 8: Tourist Bus from Cusco to Puno
    • Tip: Hopefully as tourism increases, the train will begin running again from Cusco to Puno. You also have the option of flying.
  • Day 9: Tour of Lake Titicaca
  • Day 10: Flight back to Lima, overnight in Lima
    • You would probably have enough time to tour Lake Titicaca and still take an evening flight back to Lima on the same day. I would check that out if I was looking to save a day. The airport is located in Juliaca (about an hour outside of Puno).
  • Day 11: Morning flight back home from Lima to Kentucky via Atlanta

Hotels

I typically prefer booking hotels on our own. This way we can get the location and amenities that are important to us. We stayed at one hotel booked through the tour company and while it was totally adequate, it didn’t compare to the hotels we picked ourselves. If you use a service to book your trip, like we did, they will provide you with hotels they use and pricing. We preferred to pay a little bit more for nicer hotels because this was a couples trip. Being able to come back to beautiful accommodations after long days of site seeing and hiking were worth a little bit extra money to us. Below are our favorite hotels from the trip:

  • Cusco Hotel Antigua Casona San Blas: This hotel was the perfect location right in the older part of Cusco. Rooms were very clean, the courtyard beautiful and the service was top notch. The hotel supplied filtered water in jugs in the bathrooms to brush teeth with and drink as well as filtered water in the lobby to fill up water bottles. They also held our luggage for us when we hiked on the Inca Trail. Breakfast was delicious (more on the hotel restaurant below), and we reserved the spa one night for a massage, which was incredible.
  • Ollantaytambo: Las Qolqas Eco Resort: Another absolutely amazing hotel, nestled right into the Andes Mountains. Located about 10 minutes outside of Ollantaytambo, this resort is picture perfect and has incredible gardens. The service was once again amazing and the location could not be beat. We enjoyed meals made from their gardens, beautiful views, a wood burning stove to keep us warm at night as well as a beautiful spa. I highly, highly recommend this little piece of paradise! Note: Wifi was only available in the lobby of this hotel.
  • Lima: Wyndham Costa Del Sol Lima Airport: This airport hotel was nice, but the real reason it is listed here is the location. It is literally steps away from the airport, which makes it very easy if you have an early morning flight or if you get in late. We went when it was not crowded, but I’ve read to book this early during busy seasons because it fills up quickly.
The hotel is literally across the street from the airport.

Note: The hotel we stayed at in Puno was not our favorite. We stayed outside of the city a bit and would have preferred staying in the city.

Favorite Eats

All the food we ate in Peru was delicious. We love trying local food and though we never ate “cuy” or guinea pig, a specialty in Peru, we still ate a lot of local food. Our favorites were lomo saltado, chicken in a yellow sauce and stuffed peppers. Our absolute favorite restaurant we ate at was in Cusco. Piedra & Sal was the in-house restaurant at our hotel, and we highly recommend eating there, even if you don’t stay at the hotel. Everything we ate was incredible. We are still dreaming about the lomo saltado and their amazing house-made pasta. We also enjoyed a few delicious meals in Ollantayambo at our hotel there. All of the food was made fresh using produce from their gardens and it was delicious.

One word of caution: Be careful eating anything that has been washed in tap water (potentially lettuce/other fruits and vegetables). Most of our hotels had water filtration systems but some did not. I found out the hard way about this at the end of our trip when I thought the lettuce in my sandwich would be okay to eat. It was not and I ended up with food poisoning the night before we were leaving.

Elevation

This is the most common question we got asked, “How was the elevation?” The elevation is manageable. Cusco is actually higher than the Sacred Valley/Machu Picchu, so it is recommended to arrive 2-3 days before going to Machu Picchu so you can acclimate to the elevation. I had a dull headache for the first two days that went away with some ibuprofen/tylenol but after that was fine. My husband drank the coca tea that they offer everywhere and said that he thought it helped him. All in all, I would recommend spending a couple days in Cusco and the Sacred Valley to help acclimate yourself before hiking on the Inca Trail. The highest point we reached on our trip was 16,000 feet at Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain. We planned this toward the end of our trip so the elevation change wasn’t as difficult, but we took the hike nice and slow.

Don’t Miss This On Your Trip to Peru

We booked all of these “excursions” with Sun Gate Tours. They took us on a private tour; just us, our guide and a driver to all of these sites. Sun Gate Tours will plan exactly what you want your vacation to be and give a reasonable price.

  • Cusco City Tour: This was a great introduction to Peru, the Incas and the Andes mountain region. We visited Qorikancha, a local market (my favorite) and the Sacsayhuaman ruins. Our driver would drop us off, we would walk for a bit with our guide and then get picked up and taken to the next location of the tour.
  • Sacred Valley Tour: We drove from Cusco about an hour down into the Sacred Valley (about 1,000 feet lower than Cusco in elevation) heading toward Ollantaytambo. On our way we stopped for a breathtaking small hike in Pisaq. You can just walk around the site or you can do a small hike from here. We thought the hike was definitely worth it with beautiful views and it helped prepare us a bit for the Inca Trail we would be hiking a few days later. After Pisaq we had a delicious lunch (included in our tour) and then drove the rest of the way to the ruins at Ollantaytambo. The driving time from Cusco to Ollantaytambo was about 2 hours. The Incan ruins and terraces were worth the climb, and we ended our tour in Ollantaytambo.
  • ATV Tour to Moray/Maras Salt Mines: We took this excursion, also booked through Sun Gate Tours. We were picked up from our hotel and drove about 45 minutes away to get on the ATVs. We rode through beautiful fields to the ruins at Moray. Make sure to use sunscreen especially on sunny days, even on your hands (or wear gloves). After the ATV ride, we were driven to the local salt mines and enjoyed learning all about the history of these unique mines. We had such a fun day and would highly recommend adding this to your trip if you have an extra day on your itinerary.
  • Inca Trail One-Day Hike: We woke up early, met a car (all arranged by Sun Gate Tours) who took us to the train station in Ollantaytambo and transferred our luggage back to Cusco. We carried with us all of our things for the 12 kilometer hike and an overnight in Aguas Calientes. After about a 1.5 hour train ride we got off at Kilometer 104 and met our guide (tell the conductor you are getting off at KM 104 and they will help you to not miss it). We spent the whole day hiking up stone paths built by the Incas into the mountain. We hiked through waterfalls and the incredible ruins of Winay Wayna until we reached the Sun Gate, from which we could see beautiful views of Machu Picchu. The hike ended by walking down into Machu Picchu shortly before it closed and taking a bus down to the city of Aguas Calientes, the city closest to Machu Picchu. One of the benefits of this hike is we had the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu twice–when we arrived directly from the trail (close to the site closing time), and then our ticket was valid for the next day to tour the whole archeological site. The short Inca trail was a difficult but very rewarding hike, especially with the higher elevation. We were glad we did not bring kids (teenagers could probably do it) but we were so grateful we did it!
    • Tips: I highly recommend wearing hiking boots (these were wonderful for sensitive feet). They saved my ankles multiple times on this hike! A hiking stick was also invaluable (our guide brought them for us, check with your guide or bring your own). We also liked these ponchos as we experienced a little rain on the trail.
  • Machu Picchu: Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world for a reason! It was absolutely breathtaking. We took a bus from Aguas Calientes back up the mountain to the entry point. You are required to have a guide take you through Machu Picchu. You can find a guide in the city, but we had our awesome guide Richard from Sun Gate Tours. When you arrive you can only enter once (and bathrooms are OUTSIDE the entrance, so be sure to go to the bathroom before entering). It used to be that you could walk wherever you wanted around Machu Picchu. Due to COVID, different paths have been organized to reduce crowding. You now choose a path you’d like to follow (the guides know) and take time walking around on your path. You are not supposed to backtrack on your path. We enjoyed gorgeous views and learning more about the history of such an amazing place. You can also choose to hike up Wayna Picchu directly from Machu Picchu, if tickets are available. We skipped this and just enjoyed a leisurely visit. After our tour, we took the bus back down the mountain, ate lunch and then took the train to Ollantaytambo and a bus back to Cusco. It took us at least 4 hours to get from Machu Picchu back to Cusco. During the dry season the train usually runs from Machu Picchu all the way to Cusco. During the wet season the train only runs to Ollantaytambo and a bus shuttles you the rest of the way.
  • Tip: We rode on the Peru Rail expedition train and on the Vistadome train. The Vistadome train had a “show” specifically for tourists and souvenirs for tourists to buy. In non-Covid times I think they have food too. The windows are a little bigger on the Vistadome train but overall we preferred the expedition train and wouldn’t choose to pay extra for Vistadome.
  • Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain: Talk about a highlight! This is an all-day excursion from Cusco. We left early in the morning, were provided a box lunch and drove about 4 hours to Palcoyo. The last hour of the drive was beautiful going through the Andes Mountains and seeing hundreds of alpaca and local farming communities built into terraces on the mountainsides. Once we arrived, we had a gentle hike (much easier than the Inca Trail hike, though the elevation was much higher about 16,000 feet) to see a beautiful range of colorful mountains. We hiked on an overcast day, but the colors were still stunning. This area is not yet very built up with tourists, but we expect it will become very popular with its sheer beauty and relative ease of the hike. It was cold at this high elevation, so it is helpful to bring gloves and layers as well as water for this hike. In total we spent about 2 hours at Palcoyo before returning back to Cusco. On our drive home, our guide had us stop and check out the local baking area of Cusco. It was fun to see how much of the bread in the region is made.
  • Tourist Bus to Lake Titicaca: I don’t think this is a necessity, but it was a convenient and interesting way to get from Cusco to Puno. We did not have the option of taking a train, and we preferred seeing more of the country instead of flying, so we choose to take the tourist bus. The sites were interesting, but nothing i would go out of my way to see. It included lunch and it was a comfortable ride. The bus goes both directions: Cusco to Puno and back. We only used it one way and would recommend it as a good option instead of flying. However if we had the option to take the train, we probably would have.
  • Lake Titicaca: Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake (elevation of 12,500 feet) and is shared by Peru and Bolivia. It is right near the city, Puno with Juliaca being the closest airport in Peru. Lake Titicaca is home to the Uru who live on floating islands. You can choose to stay on the floating islands or just visit them. We enjoyed a day trip boat tour where we learned about their way of life and how they build and maintain the floating islands. We then took a boat ride to Taquile island where we learned about a whole different group of people, walked along the beautiful island streets and watched people celebrating Carnaval. We also enjoyed a traditional lunch with beautiful views of the lake. Because we happened to be visiting over the Carnaval holiday we got to witness the local festivities including parades throughout the town. This tour was unique and a must-do when visiting Puno. Once again, we booked with Sun Gate Tours. If you’ve learned anything from this post, it’s that we were blown away with our tour company: Sun Gate Tours! One of the best tour companies we’ve ever worked with.

What should I pack for a trip to Peru?

We travelled to Peru at the end of February/March during their “wet season.” This also happens to be summer season, so we had temperatures varying between 50-70 degrees. Pack layers! I packed a few pairs of hiking pants, a few t-shirts, some long-sleeves, a sweatshirt and a rain jacket/shell. I also packed:

  • good walking shoes
  • hiking boots that saved my feet,
  • amazing hiking socks (they were so comfortable and not too hot in any weather),
  • rain ponchos (these were awesome)
  • a hat
  • sunscreen (that sun is STRONG)
  • headache medication to help the first few days with elevation
  • toilet paper/hand sanitizer: carry some toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you–not all the restrooms always had toilet paper/soap

COVID Pre-cautions

This seems to change from day to day. What I will say: If you are fine masking, you will be fine traveling in Peru! Sometimes you are asked to double mask, wear N95 masks or even use a face shield (differs depending on the mode of transportation). It was not difficult for us to mask on our trip. COVID has really decimated the tourist industry in Peru and we felt very fortunate to be able to visit and hopefully help encourage tourism to come back. Currently many places have reduced numbers (Machu Picchu at the time we went had decreased their visitor limit from 5000 people a day to 2500–and still only around 1000 a day were coming…if that). If you are vaccinated and willing to mask throughout your trip at times, you will be rewarded with very few crowds on your trip. Be sure to bring your vaccination card as you will need it throughout your trip (you must also have your booster to be considered fully vaccinated). Check out this website for more information about COVID-19 in Peru. To get back into the U.S. we needed to have a negative COVID test. Many hotels in Cusco can book you an appointment for a COVID test and send someone to your hotel to test you. We ended our trip in Puno, though and our hotel did not offer that service. Instead, we bought the BinaxNow COVID tests and brought them with us on our trip. One day before our flight left Peru, we took the tests with a virtual person watching us. The tests gave us a quick result that we could send to the airline (we flew with Delta) to get back into the U.S. If you do this, make sure to register using your full name on your passport (we had to enter first and middle name in the first name box because there was no box for middle names, but it gives you the best chance of success when submitting the info to the airlines). Overall, it was a very easy process and we would use those tests again. Bring 1 or 2 extra just in case though!

We had an absolutely amazing trip to Peru! I know we only scratched the surface, but Peru blew us away with its beauty, kind people and amazing food. If you have the opportunity to go to Peru, take it! It was a bucket list adventure that we will never forget.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drink the water in Peru?

Most likely no. Some of our hotels provided filtered drinking water but it was always labeled as such. We avoided foods that may have been washed in tap water (think lettuce) and we used bottled water to drink and brush our teeth. The locals are just more used to the water and their immune systems tolerate it better, but as a tourist you should avoid it.

How hard is hiking the Inca Trail?

We hiked the “short” Inca trail which takes 5-6 hours and is 12 kilometers long. The path is carved into the mountain with the first 2-3+ hours being a hike up the mountain side (somewhat gradual but lots of rocky stairs as well). Once you reach the beautiful ruins of Winay Wayna, the trail is fairly flat with a few up and downs until you have to climb up the stairs to the Sun Gate. After the Sun Gate it is all downhill to reach Machu Picchu. This was a difficult hike and we were exhausted by the end of it. All that to say it is worth preparing for and doing if you can. It was the highlight of our trip, despite the difficulty.

Will I get altitude sickness in Peru?

If you live at sea level or close to it, expect to feel some effects from the altitude, but it affects some more than others. Drink the coca tea you are offered and bring some good headache medication with you. I needed it for about 2 days before I acclimated to the elevation. My husband drank the coca tea daily.

If I only have 5 days is it enough for Peru?

If you are coming solely for Machu Picchu, I think it’s worth it. Take a red eye to Lima, spend day 1 in Cusco. Day 2 Sacred Valley. Day 3 Hike the Short Inca Trail. Day 4 Machu Picchu and back to Cusco. Day 5 Head Home. If you’re coming from the U.S. you will likely have little to no jet lag to get over (Cusco was in the same time zone as the Eastern US, but I don’t know if that will always be the case with the US switching to permanent DST). This makes it a lot more do-able for a quick trip than some destinations.

Which Rainbow Mountain Should I Visit?

Most tourists heading to Peru and the Andes have heard of Rainbow Mountain. We did not go to the traditional “Rainbow Mountain” known as Vinicunca. This hike we’ve heard is very difficult where you hike for a couple of hours to get to it and you get one iconic view of a “Rainbow Mountain.” Instead we went to the lesser known Palcoyo Mountain, which was incredible. The hike was considerably easier and although for a lot of the hike you get teased with just seeing one Rainbow Mountain, when you get to the top of that mountain you will suddenly see a whole range of them instead of just one. Ask your tour guide about Palcoyo, lesser known but an incredible experience!

Did you feel safe in Peru?

We felt completely safe everywhere we travelled. People were very kind and helpful, even when we didn’t speak any Spanish.

What is the best time of year to travel to Peru?

We loved traveling during the rainy season. We experienced very little rain, mostly warm weather and low crowds. However, the dry season tends to be more popular with a better chance at dry weather and cooler temperatures.

Should I tip in Peru?

From everything we read and saw, locals don’t tip much if at all. However, tips are somewhat expected from foreigners. We felt it appropriate to tip our guides, drivers and leave a small tip at restaurants.

Did you have cell service in Peru?

You will have to have a plan that allows international roaming, usually this costs a daily fee if you use it. One possibility for a couple is for one person to use it and then turn on a hot spot for the other person when needed. All of our hotels had wifi which we used in the evenings to connect with our kids.


I love writing about our travel destinations and hope that it can help some of you who are planning your own trips. You can read about another of our couple trips here and some of our family vacations here and here.

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a very small amount from qualifying purchases.

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Oahu Family Vacation with Kids

After so many cancelled vacations in 2020, we decided to apply unused airfare credit to go to Hawaii right when school let out in May 2021. We have always wanted to take our kids to Hawaii. Living in the eastern part of the United States, traveling to Hawaii with kids makes a very long travel day, so it’s not something that we plan to do very often. We also lucked out this year because we have family who recently moved to Oahu, and we were able to stay with them for part of our trip, making the accommodation part of our trip less expensive. Our kids (ages 12, 10, 10 and 5) have traveled a lot and had no problem masking and flying for our 12+ hour travel days.

Ko’Olina

Oahu Family Vacation with Kids

We chose Oahu for our vacation to see family there and because it’s a great island to introduce our kids to Hawaiian culture, food, nature and so much history. Oahu is more crowded than the other islands, but with a little planning it didn’t feel like too many people. Everything is easily navigable with a rental car, and we found beautiful beaches, wildlife, surfing lessons, history and culture all on one island. In non-Covid times we may have added another island to our 10 day trip, but due to Covid we decided to stay on Oahu, and there was plenty to do!

Use Jet-Lag to Your Advantage

One of my biggest pieces of advice when going to Hawaii, especially with kids, is to use jet-lag to your advantage. We had a six hour time difference, which meant that our kids were ready to explore at 4 or 5 in the morning and dragging the first few days by 6 or 7 PM. We tried to sleep on the kids schedule and get out early those first few days when our bodies were naturally waking up earlier. Beach parking is generally full by 9 AM every day, so going early to get a parking spot is a must. We spent a few mornings with beautiful beach coves to ourselves, exploring and enjoying all that the North Shore has to offer before the crowds. Plan on going to the Polynesian Cultural Center or a luau later in your trip so you and your kids aren’t as tired at night.

What to Pack on an Oahu Vacation with Kids

We are pretty light travelers, even with a family of six. Whenever we travel to tropical destinations, we seem to need less because we end up wearing our swimsuits most of the time. Pack a couple different swimsuits and try to stay in a place with a washer/dryer to help save on suitcase space. We loved bringing along our snorkel masks to see all the beautiful coral and fish in little coves and Hanauma Bay. The kids enjoy using them at any beach or underwater location and are worth bringing with you (little kid snorkel mask here–great for our 5 year old). I also highly recommend water shoes when you are exploring the reefs. We saw many, many sea urchins hiding in the coral and rocks, and stepping on one is not a way to enjoy your trip to Hawaii. Be prepared and bring some water shoes. Also pack lots of sunscreen.

Ko Olina Beach Villas Resort

We loved staying with family for the first week of our trip, and for the second part of our vacation we rented a condo at Ko Olina Beach Villas Resort. This resort was the perfect place to stay for a family. The condo was beautiful with a large kitchen to cook a few meals. The pools were perfect for our family, complete with a “beach area” and nice hot tubs. The foliage around the resort was tropical and just beautiful. Ko Olina Beach Villas is set on one of four lagoons which makes the water calm and perfect for kids swimming. A walking path goes all along the four lagoons and in front of other big nearby hotels (like Disney’s Aulani resort, the Four Seasons hotel, etc…). For our family, we felt the up-charge at a Disney hotel would not be worth it when we could have the same quality of beaches, beautiful pools and resort feel for half the price. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to Disney’s Aulani resort, definitely check out the Ko Olina Beach Villas Resort.

Favorite “Don’t Miss” Oahu Destinations with Kids

We rented a car and spent most of our days exploring, eating delicious food and enjoying the fabulous beaches of Oahu. Here are some of our favorite “don’t miss” destinations that we would love to go back to. I’m splitting this up by area in Oahu because there is just so much to do and see on the island. We could have spent even more time!

North Shore

  • Sharks Cove: Beautiful cove to explore on the north shore. Get there early as parking will fill up. Bring a snorkel mask and wear water shoes. The features of this cove are worth a stop and a snorkel. Breathtakingly beautiful!
  • Waimea Bay Beach: One of our favorite North Shore beaches. We loved the sand dunes to play in and the way the calm river water met the ocean. The North Shore is known for big waves, so plan accordingly with little children. Parking fills up by around 9 AM.
  • Ka’Ena Point Trail: We wished we’d had more time here and could have devoted a full day or half a day. This area did not seem very crowded and is at the north western part of Oahu. The trail follows along the coast and is breathtaking.
  • Polynesian Cultural Center: If you want to learn all about Island culture, this is the place for you. Our kids especially enjoyed all the hands-on activities, shows and are still talking about the fire-dancing from the evening show. Book your tickets early and enjoy the Ha! Breath of Life show in the evening. 
  • Waimea Falls: The perfect waterfall to go to if you have kids. The road is paved and uphill for part of the way, but the walk through the botanical garden is beautiful and worth visiting in its own right. Once you arrive at the falls, lifeguards have life jackets for anyone who is going swimming. This was the perfect introduction of swimming in a waterfall for kids. Waimea Falls can get crowded, so go first thing in the morning if possible.
  • Surfing Lessons on North Shore: For a fun and unique experience, sign up for surfing lessons on the North Shore. The kids did a semi-private lesson for a couple hours and it was a highlight of their trip to Hawaii. Nothing beats learning to surf in Hawaii! Just remember to apply sunscreen, especially to the backs of your legs/feet, since you will be lying down on your board for a lot of the lesson!
  • Dole Plantation: This isn’t quite on the North Shore, but it’s an easy stop if you are driving to the North Shore from Honolulu or coming south from the North Shore. The Dole Plantation is very touristy but the kids loved riding the Pineapple Train and going through the Pineapple Maze. We all enjoyed eating Dole Whips and seeing how pineapple is grown and harvested.
  • Lunch in Haleiwa: Haleiwa is a small town that is the gateway to the North Shore. It has lots of food truck and restaurant options. We also loved grabbing some Matsumoto Shave Ice after the beach.

East Side of Oahu

  • Pali Highway: To get to the east side of Oahu, take the Pali Highway if you can. The views are outstanding and you could find some beautiful hikes in the area if you are interested.  Parking $ required at the viewpoints.
  • Diamond Head: Hiking up Diamond Head is worth it for the beautiful views of the coast and Honolulu. The hike up is pretty steep, but all four of our kids made it hiking up themselves. It’s not every day you get to hike up a crater in Hawaii. This can be crowded, so be prepared and go early if possible. Parking $ required.