The Best of Kauai with Kids

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

As my father reminded me recently, there is only one Hawaii. The allure and beauty of the Islands are unique unto themselves, and we’ve been lucky to have travelled to four of the Hawaiian Islands many times over the years. We’ve celebrated honeymoons, birthdays and anniversaries in Hawaii – it holds a special place in our hearts.

As spring break fever hits North America, I’m reminded about the many things to do in Kauai for families. The pictures tell the story in a thousand words, but I have 10 compelling reasons why Kauai is maika’i loa. Aloha!

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

Waiting for that perfect wave at Polihale Beach

1. Beautiful Beaches

Kauai has many outstanding, white sand beaches, some of which are part of well-maintained State Parks with lifeguard stations, washrooms and changing stations.

Poipu Beach Park and Salt Pond Beach are two great, younger kid-friendly beaches on the south shore, with washrooms, picnic areas, and shower facilities. These beaches have reefed off areas with calm, shallow water that is perfect for wading and staying within arms reach.

For the more adventurous, Brennecke’s in Poipu is a very good boogie boarding beach, but with powerful surf and shore breaks, especially in winter. Before running into the waves, observe the surf pattern and read any posted signage (i.e. rip currents, sudden shorebreaks), and chat with locals or other beach goers about conditions (which can change daily).

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

The 17 miles of Polihale Beach are like a private playground, south of the Na Pali Coast cliffs

Polihale Beach (at the end of Highway 50, past Kekaha) is a spectacular 17-mile stretch of pristine sand that sits on the more arid westward side, at the southern end of the Na Pali cliffs. Its surf can be dangerous, especially in winter. The best area to swim or body board is the only slightly calmer Queen’s Pond area, ‘left of the very large tree’, about 3 miles along the dirt road. Safety in the open ocean is a serious matter: never turn your back on the water.

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

The wide open spaces of the red and green Waimea Canyon are a must-see on your visit to Kauai

2. Waimea Canyon

Though Mark Twain did not visit Hawaii, he nicknamed this natural wonder ‘the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.’ The Waimea Canyon is the largest in the Pacific, at over 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3500ft deep. Access is easy, via a spectacular drive from Waimea, along Waimea Canyon Drive (Route 550) to the first major Lookout (at the 10 mile marker). The drive to the end of Route 500 winds through Kok’e State Park and you can choose to visit either the Kalalau or Pu’u o Kila Lookouts for amazing views to the west and the Na Pali coast – if the fog doesn’t roll in. (Pack a sweater in the car as the temperature goes down as you drive up.)

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

Enjoying some tasty shave ice at Jojo’s Clubhouse in Waimea

3. Shave Ice

A sweet treat in the heat – what’ not to like about shave ice? Shave ice is produced by special machines that shave the ice, onto which syrups are poured and ice cream may be added. We found two great shave ice shacks: Jojo’s Clubhouse in Waimea, and the Hee Fat General Store in Kapa’a. The latter had the bonus of real fruit syrups, which were delicious and not quite as fluorescent as the artificial syrups. I recommend getting your shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom. SO yum!

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

It took less than one hour to get up and surf the waves like an old pro, on Poipu Beach

4. Surfing

Kauai has decent surf, even on the calm, south shore of Poipu. The locals say anyone can learn to surf. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do believe that it is easier to learn how to surf when you’re young. There are many surf schools in Kauai, and their services and prices are all pretty much in line with one another. We booked a surfing lesson with Kauai Surf School. A 2 hour lesson cost $75 per person, including a free t-shirt for the kids.

The instructor was a young and hip surfer ‘dude’, and connected well with kids. The Poipu beach where the lessons are located has decent sized swells that won’t prove too difficult to newbies – kids or adults.

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

The beautiful but dangerous Queen’s Bath on Kauai’s North Shore, near Princeville

5. Queen’s Bath

We visited Kauai in winter, and the surf is highest and most dangerous during those months. This meant that we weren’t able to enjoy a dip in the incredible Queen’s Bath, near the Westin Princeville Resort on the North Shore. We hiked down along a jungle trail to reach this natural hot tub, sitting in the rocks just above the surf line. But in winter, larger waves rush in and fill the Bath with churning whitewater. Anyone sitting in the Bath would be 1. seriously injured 2. washed away 3. drowned. A nearby plaque keeps track of the body count, as a quiet warning in case you didn’t think the waves looked so bad.

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

You may get a little damp on your hike up the Na Pali Coast trail on the north shore, but the views will be worth it!

6. Hiking

If you don’t mind a little sweat, the Na Pali Coast State Park is world-famous for hikes of varying length and difficulty. Older kids and adults may enjoy hiking a portion of a trail from Ke’e Beach on the north shore, or planning a longer, overnight hike if you’re properly equipped. Good footwear, equipment and water supplies are very important. Don’t attempt a Na Pali hike in your flip flops.

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

Hibiscus in bloom. Kauai isn’t the Garden Isle for nothing

7. Nature

Tropical flowers and animals like sea turtles and monk seals make Kauai a vibrant and beautiful place to enjoy nature. The warm trade winds smell like flowers and pineapple, and if you purchase a handmade lei at a luau, you’ll enjoy the wonderful plumeria scent for days.

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

The Spouting Horn on Kauai’s south shore spouts again

8. Spouting Horn

The Spouting Horn blowhole is just a 20 minute drive from the main resort area of Poipu on the south shore. The spout and resulting ‘horn-like’ sound is the vestige of an ancient lava tube that channels crashing waves to spout up through this hole. The hiss and roar has a history in Hawaiian legend and involves a trapped lizard named Kaikapu.

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

Fun with the ladies of the Luau, Sheraton Kauai Resort

9. Luau

Every Hawaiian Island features luaus, so it’s not Kauai-specific. But for me, my very first luau after decades of visiting the Islands took place on Poipu Beach at the Sheraton Kauai resort. The beachfront Auli’i Luau was a wonderful evening of music, culture and food. Our kids in particular enjoyed the show, especially the dancing and fire-juggling.

From swimming with turtles to hiking the Na Pali Coast, enjoy the Garden Isle's Aloha Spirit with this list of 10 family-friendly things to do in Kauai. (via thetravellingmom.ca)

Kauai’s Aloha spirit in the air, and in local shops to take home

10. The Aloha Spirit

Kauai offers visitors authenticity in its small towns and beautiful landscapes. It’s a laid-back, friendly island where no one’s in a rush and the chickens roam free (courtesy of Hurricane Iniki in 1992). While adventure travellers have many active options – from helicopter tours to scuba-diving, zip-lining, and river-kayaking – Kauai also rewards those who just want to hang loose and enjoy the beauty and tranquil nature of this Garden Island paradise.

 All photos by C. Laroye.

Have you visited Kauai? What did you enjoy most? Share your comment below.

24 Comments

  • Loved this! Definitely added a few more places to my list- thank you for sharing!!

  • Nat Deduck says:

    Brilliant recommendations! Hawaii is on our bucket list and you mentioned great things for couples too! Kauai seems fantastic!

    • Claudia says:

      Thanks Nat! I’m so glad that Hawaii is on your list – you will love it! And don’t miss visiting Kauai – it’s a special place.

  • You should definitely take advantage of good surfing so you can say you have surfed once in your life. I moved to San Diego with the express intentions of learning how to surf. I did, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The waves here vary day by day. Today, I woke up at dawn to hit the beach because the surf report was just that good. (and it was) However, if you’re traveling to town, you just don’t have that luxury. I have always heard that Hawaii has perfectly consistent waves that are perfect to learn on.

    • Claudia says:

      I totally agree! I tried surfing as a teenager, and similar to your experience. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was in puppy love with my instructor, which explains how I didn’t notice that the underside of my feet were getting burned on the surfboard. A painful travel lesson!

  • We love Hawaii too, been to all the islands many times except for Lanai. Being from San Diego, it’s such an easy vacation. Hee Fat has the best shave ice in all of Kauai.

    • Claudia says:

      I second your Hee Fat recommendation. 😉 I’d love to visit Lanai, one Hawaiian island that still eludes me.

  • As a long time windsurfer I am ashamed to say I have never visited Hawaii. The beaches and landscape look amazing and it would be great to surf somewhere where you don’t need a mega thick wetsuit, gloves, boots and a hood!

  • Rosemary says:

    Looks like a really fun time. I’ve been to Hawaii only once before and visited Maui. My favorite experience was taking the road to Hana. I’ve heard good things about Kauai and this adds to it. Hopefully that will be my next Hawaii destination. Enjoy!

  • Lillie says:

    Ahh, now you’re making me crave shave ice, which I haven’t had since my last trip to Hawaii years ago! I’ve never been to Kauai but Waimea Canyon is now calling my name…

  • Maddy says:

    I have zero knowledge about Hawaii so I’ve learnt loads tonight! I can’t believe I didn’t know it was made up of islands- I’m ashamed at my lack of knowledge!! Anyway looks like you had a fab time- the shaved ice looked yummy and surfing sounds such fun!

    • Claudia says:

      Kauai and the Hawaiian Islands are a paradise unlike any other! I hope you get to visit one day.

  • Chrysoula says:

    What an amazing island to visit. These activities are great both for kids and adults. This Shave Ice looks yummy and it;s the first time I hear of it!

  • Wow beautiful! I’ve done Hawaii a few times, but never Kauii… guess I’ll have to go back 🙂

  • I knew Hawaii had some great beaches but I had no idea about the Waimea Canyon – it’s beautiful! I can see how Kauai is the perfect family vacation!

  • I visited Kauai in December 2015, it was incredible. We were lucky in that we were able to get to Queen’s Bath when the current was having a calm day. The only thing I disliked about the place was how easily those waves can send you tumbling down – you’ve got to be good at holding your breath!!

    • Claudia says:

      Yes, you’re so right! I’m glad you got to dip into Queen’s Bath. A good excuse for us to return when the sea isn’t quite as rough!

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