There is a reason they call Kauai the Garden Island. It is truly a lush, tropical paradise full of leafy vegetation and beautiful flowers everywhere you turn. It makes you feel like you’ve finally made it off the grid and into relaxation mode. Kauai is my favorite Hawaiian island for many reasons, but the quiet, “less-touristy” feel is the main reason why I keep returning. Although it is more of an active island, there are plenty of great things to do with your kids.
First off, the island is small enough to be able to travel north to south in an hour, so it is worth renting a car. I highly recommend something with AWD because many of the sights are off the beaten path a bit, and you will feel safer driving your kids around in something with a little more traction control. Whether you choose to stay on the North side or South side, it will be worth it to have a car (the Jeep rentals have removable roofs, just saying).
Being the Garden Island comes with its perks, but all perks have downfalls, which in this case is rain. Expect some showers when you’re on the island. Rumor has it that the South side of the island is the sunny side, but I have stayed on both and have yet to see a huge difference. Just make sure to pack a light rain jacket for each person in the family.
Let’s face it; Hawai’i in general is not cheap. Due to import costs, expect to see inflated pricing on everything from eggs to fuel. However, there is a huge perk to the island that helps alleviate that cost, and that is a miracle store called COSTCO. Located on the east side of the island (and conveniently close to the airport), Costco has everything you need from local Poke, wine, diapers, you name it, all for Costco prices. Take advantage of the savings and stock up for the trip.
What would a Costco trip be worth if you didn’t have a kitchen to cook in? Well, it would still be worth it for the fresh Poke alone. However, if you want to save on eating out and put your culinary skills to work, get a hotel room with a kitchenette in it. Maybe cooking is a chore that you’re taking a vacation from, but if you’re anything like me, being able to thro a bagel in the toaster or whip up a quesadilla on the stove for lunch is worth the extra effort. Keep in mind that most of these units also have washers and dryers, which is gold if you have small kids that require wardrobe changes on a regular basis.
If you’re interested in the North side, Princeville, the go-to spot is the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. Aside from daily activities and a kids club, every unit has a kitchenette, which makes life with kids much easier. Hanalei Bay is also close by and offers cute shops, great food (don’t forget to take a day off from slaving in the hotel kitchen), and beautiful beaches.
Maybe you’re crossing your fingers for sunnier weather and elect the South side. In this case, Poipu has great accommodations as well. The Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu is a gorgeous, kid-friendly resort with some of the largest units on the island. From great beach access to multiple pools with water slides and waterfalls, this resort is a great option for families.
The island also has many affordable rental houses and condos, so if you’re traveling with a group or on a budget, check out some vacation rental websites and see what fits your needs. Some rates can be as low as $90 per night. Airbnb is my favorite to navigate and has some beautiful, affordable options on both sides of the island.
Exploring the Island.
Believe it or not, ninety percent of the island is inaccessible by car, but don’t let that deter you from renting one. You will still need it. However, if you enjoy hiking and have older kids that are bike savvy, the island has endless options for you. Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and boasts incredible views. A cool new way to independently explore is by downloading an app that takes you on turn-by-turn directions to all of the main sights. Don’t worry! You don’t need service to use this, as it is all available offline. Click here to see more details.
Na Pali Coast is equally spectacular in scenery, which is best viewed by water or air. For a more kid-friendly excursion, take them by boat. Depending on the time of year, you will also see humpback whales, dolphins, and turtles, along with other beautiful wildlife. Those of you with children ages three and older, the best tour is by Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures. They offer a variety of tours to meet your needs and are also very family friendly.
Feel like visiting some goats? Kauai Kunana Dairy Farm is a fun activity for animal lovers of all ages. This is a great educational tour about how the farm practices sustainability while making products from goat cheese to honey. Enjoy cheese, organic fruit, and honey tasting as well as refreshments and a souvenir shop.
For some island history, visit the Kilohana Plantation. Equipped with restaurants, shops, and its own railroad, you will definitely find entertainment for anyone in the family. They also feature a theatrical luau that will be sure to entertain the kids and give them some immersion into Hawaiian culture.
Kauai has an abundance of water activities, but for those with kids five and older, try the Kauai Backcountry Tubing Adventure Tour. Hop in an off-road vehicle to the starting point and float down the river while taking in the views of nature, as well as some pretty cool engineering. Some of these canals were even dug by hand back in the 1800s!
Finally, if you’re anything like me, you may or may not FaceTime your dogs while on vacation (yes I’m that person). In this case, take advantage of the open doors of Kauai Humane Society. They offer a special Shelter Dog Field Trip program that gives you the opportunity to take a dog out for the day. That’s a win-win situation if you ask me! Click here for more information.
Porky’s Kauai. Let the reviews do the talking. It is rated number one on the island by TripAdvisor and is in Yelp’s top 100 places to eat. Kids have been known to lick their plates clean here as well. Need I say more?
Bubba’s Burgers. I have a love-hate relationship with Bubba’s because it was so good that I unintentionally left my phone behind. With that said, I was forced to make the hour trip back the next day to pick up my phone, and of course, eat there again (maybe it wasn’t by accident after all?). Kids will love the grass-fed burgers and milkshakes, and it’s also easy on the parents’ wallets. Enjoy the laid-back island vibe, but don’t forget your phone there. That’s unless you want to come back for seconds.
Smith’s Family Garden Luau. What would a trip to Hawai’i be without a Luau? Enjoy what many people say is the best Luau on the island with lots of fun and interactive entertainment. Be sure to look at the schedule based on the month you plan to travel, as the weekly schedule can vary.
Wailua Shave Ice. Hawai’i is known for their shave ice, and this one is not your average Joe. Made with all natural ingredients, this grab-and-go style food truck features real fruit juice and fresh fruit incorporated into their beautiful presentations. You will not be disappointed!
Don’t Forget Your Swimsuit!
Whether you love to dive in and explore the ocean or prefer to stick to drier activities on land, Kauai is definitely the place for you and your family. Enjoy the unique culture and the beautiful scenery, and also don’t mind the resident roosters, which are Kauai’s very own version of pigeons. Bring a camera, pack some hiking shoes, and go for it!