Paradise Found on Kauai at Fern Grotto Inn

A trip to Kauai, the Garden Island makes for a perfect tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.

During our Hawaiian travels over the years, we’ve enjoyed a variety of accommodations, including condos, hotels, timeshares, and even a bed and breakfast on our honeymoon. None were quite as unique or as enchanting as our home-away-from-home at the Fern Grotto Inn.

This secluded collection of a 1940s-era plantation house and river cottages in the Wailua River Valley is unique and perfect for the right kind of traveller. If you want to enjoy Kauai in your own independent way, Fern Grotto may be the little piece of island paradise you’re looking for.

The Garden Island of Kauai is perfect for a tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path and enjoy paradise at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.

The Fern Grotto Inn

Operating a resort of wooden plantation cottages built in 1942 in a humid, tropical paradise is no easy task. The history of the main plantation cottage – Ohana House – is incredibly interesting. Built for a Japanese widow interned during the Second World War, the house served as her family (ohana) home where she raised her children. Local workers and guests rented out the five smaller river and canal cottages on the property (then known as Fujita Camp), providing family income.

The house and cottages are all fully renovated and updated with modern amenities. The cottages make for charming units for couples or honeymooners. Owner Paul Juma refers to the ongoing effort to maintain the main Ohana House and River Cottages as a ‘labor of love.’ They are certainly worth the effort. We experienced a truly relaxing stay in Ohana House with our family of four.

The Garden Island of Kauai is perfect for a tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path and enjoy paradise at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.

Location

The Inn is tucked away along the Wailua River, a 5-minute drive south of Kapa’a on the Coconut Coast of Kauai. The property is quiet and secluded. You wouldn’t even know it’s here if you didn’t know where to look. The Wailua Beach Park is just a 5-minute walk away. Most of Kauai is quite quickly accessible from here. You can reach Hanalei in 45-minutes, or Poipu to the south in about 30 minutes by car. The airport in Lihue is just 15-minutes away. Though you can get by without one, a rental car on Kauai is pretty much a must have to visit the island’s many gorgeous beaches on the north and south shoreTip: If you head up into the Wailua River valley, you can reach a variety of off-the-beaten path sites, including hiking trailheads, the quasi-abandoned Keahua Arboretum, and Kauai’s unique and peaceful Hindu Monastery.

The Garden Island of Kauai is perfect for a tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path and enjoy paradise at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.

The property has free bikes to borrow if you want to ditch the car for an afternoon. The Inn stocks communal beach chairs, boogie boards, beach mats, toys and coolers. This makes it easy to head to the beach fully stocked to watch the sunset (or sunrise!). Kayaks and paddles sit next to the short canal that leads to the Wailua River. They’re also free for guests to use to paddle up Kauai’s only navigable river towards the scenic Opaeka’a or Secret Falls. Wifi is included and very strong, if you actually need to connect with the outside world. Our teen boys were well-satisfied. I was further delighted by the free laundry facilities on property, detergent provided.

The Garden Island of Kauai is perfect for a tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path and enjoy paradise at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.

Ohana House

I felt like family as soon as stepped up to the front door of this beautiful house. The spacious U-shaped family cottage features three bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. The cottage sleeps six people very comfortably. Each bedroom is in a different part of the house, so privacy is maximized. The bedrooms have their own televisions, AC controls and fans. You can set your own level of comfort. The interior furnishings are complete with local touches of Hawaiian design, including quilts, sculptures and paintings. The wooden furniture contrasts beautifully against the clean, white walls of each room. Original home decor elements like cupboard nobs and the pulley window systems make this home completely unique and special.

The Garden Island of Kauai is perfect for a tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path and enjoy paradise at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.

Great Amenities

The full kitchen and large dining area are completely fabulous. The kitchen is spotless and well-appointed. There were even little flower petals decorating the sink when we arrived. Every appliance you could need is at your fingertips. Including dishwasher, full-sized fridge, gas stove, coffee maker and grinder, blender, waffle-maker, toaster, slow cooker. I could go on. Staff stocks staples like sugar, coffee, oil, salt, pepper and spices as a complimentary service. No need to shlep baggies of salt or sugar from home. or buy a 10-lb box from Costco in Lihue that you’ll never get through.

The Garden Island of Kauai is perfect for a tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path and enjoy paradise at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.I mentioned to owner Paul how I impressed I was about the completeness of the kitchen and cottage supplies in general. He surveys each guest post-stay, and obtains an amenity for the cottages if requested by at least three guests within a three month period. That’s an attention to detail and guest comfort that more boutique hotel owners should heed.

Yes, you’re on holiday and eating out is great. BUT, eating out with a family gets expensive quickly. Having a superb kitchen for preparing easy family meals, snacks and breakfasts is so wonderful! My son and I cooked organic taco dinners together while enjoying our custom musical selections from the Amazon Echo. Bob Marley, in case you were wondering. (We also asked her about the weather every morning – very knowledgeable, this Alexa.) When the surroundings are this comfortable, dining in-house is not a holiday hardship in the least.

Is Fern Grotto Right for You?

A trip to Kauai, the Garden Island makes for a perfect tropical family holiday. Stay off the beaten path at the Fern Grotto Inn in Wailua.

Kauai is my favorite Hawaiian Island. I love it for its authentic aloha spirit, lack of crass commercialism, and its beautiful scenery. It’s not an island for the extrovert needing the whirl of constant activity. I found Fern Grotto to fit perfectly into this assessment, for those of us who enjoy the simple, quiet things.

As you can tell, we loved our stay at Ohana House and Fern Grotto. As in all things travel though, what might be fab for me may not be ideal for you. Fern Grotto has a handy 8 Step Compatibility Test to measure whether you’d enjoy a stay as much as we did.  It’s an honest assessment, no judging, so take a peek.

Compatibility Test

  • If you require room service or maid service or concierge services, Fern Grotto Inn may not be for you.
  • If you are looking for a resort experience with pools and restaurants, Fern Grotto Inn may not be for you.
  • Not comfortable with bugs, geckos, ants, roaches, lizards, spiders, snails and occasional big fat barely able to move frogs? Fern Grotto Inn may not be for you.
  • If you are not comfortable with exploring on your own, asking locals for suggestions, and making your own arrangements, Fern Grotto Inn may not be for you.
  • If you do not like lazy mornings spent sipping coffee in a tropical oasis, leisurely bike rides to the beach, or cruising the river with a complimentary kayak, Fern Grotto Inn may not be for you.
  • Do you enjoy traveling but like to consume mainly brand names that you’re familiar with? Fern Grotto Inn may not be for you.
  • If you do not wish to feel like you are coming home after being out and about all day, Fern Grotto Inn may not be for you.
  • Finally, if you are someone who runs the air conditioner with windows open and/or leave it running while you are out and about, then Fern Grotto Inn is surely, absolutely, definitely not for you.

Hele on to Kauai

As the late, great Hawaiian singer Israel ‘Iz’ Kamakawiwo’ole sang, Hele on to Kauai. It’s a special island, and Fern Grotto Inn is a special place in which to enjoy it to its fullest.

Photos: C. Laroye

Disclosure: The Travelling Mom thanks the Fern Grotto Inn for its gracious hospitality during our stay. As always, our opinions on how much we love Kauai and Ohana House are honest and our own. This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

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22 Comments

  • Tamara says:

    This looks so pretty! I’ve been hearing Kauai is such a great island, with epic scenery and hiking- I’d love to go. I’ll keep the Fern Grotto in mind for when I finally make it there!

  • Free laundry is a nice touch and I love free bikes. Taking a bike excursion to an (quasi) abandoned arboretum sounds like a fun little adventure.

  • Tom says:

    What a lovely looking place you found 🙂 I can imagine it’s a Little paradise if you have to do some Blogging and want some calm as well. I could imagine riding the bike in the morning, work during the day on our Blog with the good WiFi and then have an afternoon paddle board session 😀

  • Kate says:

    Fern Grotto looks like the perfect Hawaiian getaway! I’ve only been to the Big Island but I stayed in a small house there as well, and loved it! I love the amenities that Fern Grotto comes with – the kitchen, bikes, beach chairs, coolers, etc. I would love to paddle up to the falls too! What a great place 🙂

  • amit says:

    This looks like an amazing place to stay, looks so cute. I want to get out to Hawaii sometime. Not sure if my budget will allow it but will keep the Fern Grotto on my list of options to stay at 😀

  • Paradise Claudia! This place looks brilliant. Right up my Blogging From Paradise alley, with blue skies, green surroundings and sweet amenities too.

    Ryan

  • The Fern Grotto Inn looks so adorable. How cool is it that the cottages come stocked. I love how they have free bikes to use.

  • This is so charming! And so off the list of accommodations you’d probably consider when going to Hawaii. I just love how those wooden cottages are still preserved, being more then 70 years old. And bikes! Looks so serene. Love it. 😀

    • Claudia says:

      It is amazing isn’t it? A true labour of love, against all that tropical humidity no less. Cheers!

  • Katie says:

    This place looks like a dream for the down to earth traveler. I may just have to check it out!

  • Eve Kay says:

    Kauai looks beautiful! I appreciate that it’s not so touristy and commercial yet. The cottage is also really lovely although I’ve to be honest that it’s completely not for me after reading the compatibility test. That said, I really appreciate the honesty of you and the cottage itself. It’s important to get the expectations right!

    • Claudia says:

      I’m so glad that you agree. It’s not for everyone, but nothing is in this world! Thanks for your kind comments Eve.

  • Paige W says:

    The Fern Grotto sounds right up my alley. I’m totally okay with all those things that people might not want to “put up with”. I mean, I could put up with a lot to stay in such a cozy spot. Looks fantastic!

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