Don’t let it’s small size fool you, Kauai may look small on a map but it’s overflowing with trails, beaches, and activities. The “Garden Island” will always hold a special place in my heart since it’s the place that introduced me to tropical travel. Below are some of my favorite ways to experience Kauai..
Things to Do:
Anini Beach: Stunning beach on the North Shore. This is a great place for kids to swim since the reef protects it from waves and there is also decent snorkeling. The best snorkeling is further out by the reef so your kids need to be stronger swimmers or you can tow them out on a boogie board. There are some small trees along the shore that offer a bit of shade and parking isn’t as much of an issue as some of the other beaches in the area.
Tunnels Beach: This beach is a little trickier to find and you will need to get there early ( by 8am or 9am) to get parking. The lush mountains rise up behind the sand and it’s breathtaking tropical beauty at it’s finest. It’s also possible to snorkel, dive or surf here depending on the conditions.
Hanalei Bay: The pier is a great place to watch the sunset and there is some kid friendly surfing/boogie boarding next to the pier near the boat ramp. My preschooler loved jumping off the pier and although we were biting our nails watching his little body jump into the deep water, our evening pier jumping sessions are one of our favorite memories from the trip.
Queens Bath: Access to the trail leading down to these natural salt water pools is located in a Princeville neighborhood. Be aware that the trail gets really muddy, slick and buggy if it’s been raining. I wouldn’t advise this as an adventure for people with young children but if you’re sans-kiddos this is a nice place to take a dip at sunset. Check conditions before going because it’s dangerous if there is a high tide/big swell.
Poipu Beach: If it’s rainy in the North head to Poipu for sun. This beach gets packed but with kid friendly snorkeling and fun surf+plenty of surfboard rental shops, it’s got something for everyone in the family. My husband and I took turns catching waves and the kids had blast on their boogie boards.
The Kalalau Trail: This is a bucket list hike. The views of the Napali Coast are absolutely incredible and the towering Hanakapi’ai waterfall is an added perk. Swimming at the waterfall is not advised due to falling rocks but my husband and I took a dip in the cool waters a little further downstream. It’s 8 miles if you plan on hiking all the way to the falls and back and you should be prepared for a grueling 4-6 hour hike. It can be very muddy if it’s been raining and there are several stream crossings in which you can chose to take off your shoes or attempt to successfully hop from rock to rock. Park in the Ke’e Beach Parking lot (get there early for parking), do a little stretching and make sure that you’ve packed plenty of water. Bring beach gear and treat yourself to a post-hike afternoon at Ke’e beach. Steep inclines, cliffs, and mud don’t make this a very kid friendly hike although even just hiking for a mile or so will reward you with great views and a potential christmas card picture.
Wai Koa Loop Trail: Located in the Anaina Hou Commuinty Park on the North Shore, this 4.5 loop is an easy walk for all ages and has plenty of beautiful scenery. Hiking it with the boys we only went as far as the “Stone Dam” but the kids loved the little waterfall. Bring bug repellent because there can be mosquitos in the dam area.
Waimea Canyon: Endless trails for all levels. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the area. If you need a meal the Kokee Lodge Restaurant at the top offers simple, homestyle fare.
Bike Rentals: A fun and affordable option for everyone is to rent a bike and cruise along the Kauai Path, a paved trail, in Kapaa. If you’re feeling romantic you can rent a tandem or there’s the option of renting a bike with a trailer if you have young children. Bring a picnic and swimsuits and explore the various beaches along the trail.There are several bike rental shops in the area. We rented from Coconut Coasters and had a great experience.
Tubing: My mom really wanted to try this so we splurged on the Mountain Tubing Tour with Kauai Backcountry Adventures. While this is a fun activity that allows you to learn a little bit about Kauai’s sugar plantation history, don’t expect an adrenaline pumping adventure. Expect a “booze cruise” type of river float afternoon without the booze. It’s expensive, about $100 per person, and you must be at least 5 years old to participate, but if floating through canals and tunnels is your thing then this is a great option. The guides advise not bringing a phone or camera because it’s easy to lose belongings in the tunnels so I would recommend picking up a cheap waterproof camera to capture your goofy helmet -wearing tubing memories.
Tips and Hints:
- We used Kauai Babysitting Company when we went tubing. This babysitting agency will send a babysitter with toys/activites to wherever you are staying. It’s pricey but worth it to get the opportunity to do a specific activity or simply have a splurge-worthy meal.
- Get a punch card from Lapperts Ice Cream. We ate an embarrassing amount of ice cream on the trip and by using the punch card we earned a free sundae by the end of our trip.
- North Shore Vs. South Shore? The South is sunnier but the North has the classic tropical landscape. It’s a tough decision and a lot of it depends on what time of year you’re going to Kauai and what your interests are. More on this topic later..
- If you’re planning on doing a lot of surfing consider renting a mini van. It costs extra but it’s nice to have a secure place to store your boards when you’re doing an impromptu hike or ice cream stop.
- Stop at the Costco near Lihue to stock up on cheap food/snacks
- There are numerous places to rent snorkel gear, beach umbrellas, boogies boards..
- Beach Bag
- Hiking shoes
- Water bottles
- Bug Repellant
- Sun hat
- Snorkel equipment (or go to a rental shop)
- Ziplock bags for keeping sand out of phones, wallets etc.
- Baby powder for easy sand removal
- Rash Guards