Best of Honolulu 2018: Family

The 5 editorial and reader picks for the best for you and your ʻohana.

Swimming Lessons

PHoto: Karen DB Photography

The first YMCA pool opened in New York in 1885; 30 years later, the YMCA in Hawai‘i opened a pool, too. Today, YMCA of Honolulu teaches more than 5,000 kids, from infants to teens, to swim every year. In addition to the swim classes, you can also sign up your kids for the swim team, lifeguard and swim instructor classes and even courses that teach kids how to stay safe near the water. Looking for your child to pick up skills quickly? Sign up for the two-week summer sessions where kids hit the water every weekday.


Lessons available at: Kaimukī -Wai‘alae, Leeward (Waipahu), Mililani, Nu‘uanu and Windward (Kailua),


Bee-Shaped Dim Sum

Panda Dimsum
Photo: David Croxford

Panda Dimsum serves up bao you’ll have to Instagram before taking a bite. The team at the small takeout counter all the way in the back of the City Square Farmers Market creates smiling panda buns filled with custard, mischievous Minions stuffed with sweet red beans, sweet-potato-filled bees and other cute creatures that go for $2 each or $3.50 for two. The shop will even do custom characters; just bring in a photo at least three days before your pickup date. Our favorite part? No artificial food coloring. Panda makes its own vegetable dyes (pumpkin for the bright yellow, sweet potato for purple) for no-guilt noshing. 


City Square Shopping Center, 1199 Dillingham Blvd., (808) 429-2018.


Place to Buy a Birthday Cake

A Cake Life
Photo: Courtesy of A CAke Life

With more than 500 custom birthday cakes created every year, Kristin Kato and her team have a lot of satisfied customers. A former lawyer-turned-cakemaker extraordinaire, Kato opened  A Cake Life after taking a few cake-decorating classes at Ben Franklin. Nine years later, the cakery offers more than 15 flavors—including the POG, passion-orange cake layered with guava purée and liliko‘i cream filling—and designs ranging from adorable unicorns, topsy-turvy circuses and dinosaurs to characters including Pokémon, superheroes and every character in the Disney universe. Custom cakes start at $60 but now you can also request predesigned looks starting at $45. Order early, especially during wedding season. 


2320 S. King St., 542-0131,


Shaka Teethers

Honi Me Teethers

PHoto: Courtesy of Honi Me Teethers​

Kailua mom Jennifer Flaherty started drawing designs for Honi Me Teethers’ aloha-inspired teethers on her dining room table. Now, you can find her colorful silicone chewables in boutiques such as Eden in Love, Hopscotch Honolulu and online shop Izzy and Luke. The palm-tree, monstera leaf, sunrise shell and pineapple shapes are easy for little ones to grab on to, plus each has a space for tethers so you can keep them off the floor. But our favorite is the friendly shaka with the adorable heart-shaped cutout., on Instagram: @honi_me_teethers.


Cool After-Closing Tour

Avoid the crowds and the heat at the Honolulu Zoo’s Twilight Tour at sunset. The zoo relaunched its after-hours activity last year and our editors have enjoyed seeing animals that are normally snoozing during the day up and photo ready. The guides were fun and always up for questions from curious kids, and we appreciated the cooler temperatures. Do note that you will have to stay with the group and if your kids’ favorite part of the park is the playground, sorry, that’s not part of the tour. 


151 Kapahulu Ave., 926-3191 ext. 114,


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