Have you ever been to Hawaii? Our photographer friends Max and Margaux are lucky enough to travel there for work every year and have discovered the coolest little spots. Here’s their mini guide (and please share your tips, below!)…

What we love about it: Hawaii holds a special place in our hearts. Not only have we traveled there together annually (for both work and pleasure) since we started dating, it’s also where Max proposed. Additionally, he and his family used to live there (for 8 years!) so it’s always been a home away from home. Stepping off the plane and walking into that soft, sweet air is like an instant dose of relaxation. For this particular post we’ll be focusing on Oahu, but each island is wonderful for its own reasons. We recommend you visit them all!

Where to stay: If you’d like to rent a house, one area we’d highly recommend is the little beach town of Kailua. (Here are some airbnb listings.) It’s only a 20-minute drive from Honolulu. Lanikai (arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on earth) is only a stone’s throw away. If hotels are more your scene or if you prefer to be closer to the action, we’d recommend staying at the Aqua Lotus in an area called Diamond Head, where there’s beautiful Kapiolani Park, a zoo, and some easily accessible beaches. And for more of a splurge, the Kahala Hotel would be our first choice for its tucked-away location and quiet private beach.

Where to eat/drink: Andy’s Sandwiches & Smoothies has been a neighborhood fixture for over thirty years. Andy and his wife, Norma, can be found behind the tiny counter whipping up smoked ahi sandwiches and a great selection of smoothies made using local fruits. We also like Tamura’s in Kaimuki for what many people consider the best poke on the island (they also have an amazing wine selection). And another must-stop is Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas (imagine if a churro and donut had a baby!). Our favorite flavor is the cinnamon sugar.

What to do: Lyon Arboretum is great for hiking and exploring the rainforest, and it’s only a 15-minute drive from Waikiki. Lanikai Beach is our favorite beach on the island—pack a lunch and spend the day lounging in the sun, paddle boarding or kayaking to the Mokulua Islands. Visit Kualoa Ranch and explore the valley via all-terrain vehicle, bicycle, or on horseback. Or take a trip to the North Shore to experience the Hawaiian countryside. We could sit for hours watching the spectacular waves in winter, or you can drive over to the charming Haleiwa Town, which is famous for shave ice, surf shops, and aging hippies. Oh, and you must stop along the way at one of the many shrimp trucks. Yum!

When to go: The beauty of Hawaii is that it’s always a good time to visit! But to avoid the crowds we like to go towards the end of September, after schools are back in session.

Insider tips: Whatever you do, please please please rent a car! Oahu gets a bad rap because of Waikiki (an area we’d say you can skip entirely), but there’s so much more to it if you hop in your car and explore a little. Be sure to soak up the Aloha Spirit so you can bring it back with you and share it with everyone back home. Oh, and wear sunscreen!

Thanks, Max and Margaux!

Have you guys ever been to Hawaii? Do any of you live there? Any recommendations or tips to add? I’d love to go one day…

P.S. More awesome vacation ideas. And Max and Margaux also photographed our engagement and wedding!