Aloha Kauai! A couple of months ago I planned a vacation to the lush island of Kauai for a family of 15. My family of 15. Including 6 kids all a year or less apart from each other! It was a bit chaotic and always loud. More on group planning later. Today I’m here to help you find family friendly activities to enjoy on this small Hawaiian paradise.
“The Garden Isle”
Kauai is also known as “The Garden Isle” for good reason. It rains a lot. The landscape is gorgeous. The mountains, beaches, how can you not love Kauai?? It’s more rustic and has this great local feel unlike the popular Waikiki. There are lots of adventures for adults – but what about the kids? When researching and planning our trip, I found there wasn’t a lot of kid-friendly activities. At least not ones I was jumping out of my seat to try. The fun, adventurous stuff I would have to do without my kids. So what else is there to do other than beach bumming and lazy pool days? There’s more you can do to keep the kids entertained. Although I’m sure you can spend the entire trip on the beach. Read on for where to stay and how to get around! I hope to inspire your own Kauai family vacation in the future ♥
Before You Fly
The planning and the shopping is one of my favorite vacation activities. It makes a far away vacation all the more real and exciting. To get the kids in the “travel mood”, I like to play them movies that are set in the location we are going to. Kauai meant one thing. “Lilo & Stitch”!!! One of the best Disney films (actually there isn’t a Disney movie I don’t like), I bought this movie years before and would watch it on occasion with my girls. I couldn’t wait to take it out again to say “We are going there next month”! It’s a good way to prepare and hype them up. My daughter was so excited for the beaches. Not only does “Lilo & Stitch” take place in Hawaii, it is specifically set in Kauai. Awesome. In fact, you can visit the historic town of Hanapepe which was depicted in several scenes of the movie. It’s on Netflix along with sequels and TV show spin offs. My daughters and their cousins love this movie so I made sure to pack it with their things for downtime.
Great! Now that you’ve bought the bathing suits, sunscreen, cover ups and hats – you need to plan where you are going to stay.
Where To Stay
Poipu is my number one pick. Please, if this is a kid oriented vacation, you need to trust me. We didn’t stay on the South Shore and instead felt a little isolated in the Princeville area. It didn’t feel too local, rained every morning, and that hour drive just to get to the most beautiful kid-friendly beach was tiring for our already short stay. I’m not hating on the Princeville area in any way. It just gave an overall adult, romantic vibe. A place I would def go back to without my babygirls. Kauai is a lot pricier than Mauai or Oahu. And if you don’t have the money for a beachfront property – it’s all good. When you think about it, will you be spending that much time indoors anyway? No. Hawaii in general is all about being outdoors. Find a budget friendly apartment near the South Shore that can fit your family and that’s all you need. You won’t regret staying in Poipu, or around that area at least. An aunt of mine took my advice when bringing her family and they loved it! It’s also known to get a lot more sun than the North Shore.
A rental car is absolutely necessary. Since you’re not staying in the North shore you can at least make that hour long car ride up and explore the beautiful Hanalei Bay. Kauai might look small on a map but to get anywhere can feel like quite a drive. Assuming you are staying in Poipu, it is a 30 minute drive from Lihue Airport. An hour drive to the Waimea Canyon Lookout. And almost an hour and a half to Hanalei Bay or Princeville. Think of that travel time as good “nap time” for the kids though.
What To Do
It’s an exciting island. Full of adventure! Yet a lot this is geared toward adults (i.e. the hiking, cliff jumping, diving). The minimum age for zip-lining varies but for the one we chose it was 10 or older. The North side of Kauai offers lots of action for adults but to entertain the kids, what is there to do?
- Attend a Luau. At least once! These are always fun. We were short on time and didn’t go to one on this trip. There are plenty to choose from to suit any budget. I would suggest one by the beach or this one set on plantation grounds.
- Fern Grotto River Tour. Although the reviews are a bit iffy, it’s inexpensive and you’re on a boat with live entertainment. Reserve a ticket at Smiths Family Fern Grotto and even do a combination of the tour plus a luau in the same day.
- Visit a botanical garden.
- Ride the train on the Kauai Plantation Railway and feed the goats!
- For kids at least 5 years old, go tubing down an irrigation system with Kauai Back Country.
- 5 year olds can also join an ATV adventure with you on a 2 hour long Jungle Waterfall Tour if you book with Kipu Tours.
- And then of course spend a majority of your time at the beach or closest pool!
Kid Friendly Beaches
My favorite beach of all was Poipu Beach Park for so many reasons!
Safe for kids!
Restaurants close by.
The sea turtles during our visit ;).
It does tend to get a bit crowded so go early unless you are already in the area. In that case no rush! We arrived after lunch and had to drive a bit to find parking. There’s a huge lot across the street from the beach which is good. And having a bathroom available is convenient.
The water was perfect. It wasn’t rough because of the rocks that block the waves. The kids enjoyed chasing the fishes and floating around. I could walk far enough before the water even got above my knee. It was so kid/baby friendly. That was my girls favorite beach. And then, got even better when the turtles arrived 😍 !
I remember my sister pointing out something in the distance. People started crowding around it (in a super non imposing way though) and taking pictures. It wasn’t long before getting all the beach goers attention and we would get a closer look. I thought it was a seal at first but my sister went and came back with news that it was a turtle! I love how everyone at the beach completely respected the sea turtle, some even completely nonchalant about it. This made our beach experience great to an already amazing day. We took pictures, my youngest was scared but curious. My oldest was in more of a “Oh, cool, a turtle! Ok back to the beach,” type of mood. They were huge (another one appeared later on). We found out after our pictures that you must be at least 15 feet away from wild life.
Most of these pictures were taken in Poipu. It looks crowded (and is) but it didn’t feel that way at all. I’ve read there’s a playground somewhere along this beach but I didn’t see it. We were entertained enough by the beach and turtles though!
Other South Shore beaches: Baby Beach, which is less crowded than the famous Poipu Beach Park. This beach is great for babies.
Another beach we loved was Anini Beach. The sand wasn’t as soft as Poipu Beach and can be a rocky. Anini is one of the safest beaches in the North Shore. Great for those snorkeling for the first time and has Hawaii’s longest reef. As we were leaving there was a “mermaid” swimming by and waving. An awesome experience for the kids to have on their first day in Hawaii. They told everyone about it when we got back and how they “Saw a real mermaid”! Below is a picture of the beach and parking lot.
The best family friendly beach here is Lydgate Beach Park. Perfect for children with its 2 man made lagoons. I read it’s great for kids who snorkel because of the many tropical fish swimming around. You can find a playground here as well. It’s about a 10-15 minute drive to Lihue airport so it makes for a nice “one last beach trip” before washing away the sand and flying home. There are clean bathrooms on site.
Another East Shore beach: Kalapaki which is located in front of Marriot Beach Resort. It is partially protected from the open ocean. You can leave your car in the hotels parking lot.
Treat the kids to shave ice! This was my first time trying shave ice. Nothing like what you find on the mainland at all! It took me 26 years before tasting because I assumed it was like a snow cone. I was so wrong, don’t miss out. Your kids will love it too!
Buy beach toys and chairs at Walmart when you land. Toys are cheap here. And when you’re done you can donate to a family just arriving to the island. Or a hotel (our Wyndham timeshare accepted used beach toys). Or if you don’t end up using the beach items simply return it. Beach umbrellas were on the pricier side.
If visiting Waimea Canyon State Park, go early in the day to avoid midday sun. Skip the other view points and go straight to “Waimea Canyon Lookout” which is stroller accessible!
If you’re visiting the Western Shore (on the way to Waimea Canyon), Salt Pond Beach is another great beach option for kids.
For the Lilo & Stitch lovers, visit the small town of Hanapepe. Another Lilo & Stitch location is the Kilauea Lighthouse.
If vacation time and budget allows, you should plan to visit another island as well! I mean, you are already in Hawaii. Inter-island flights are cheap!
I love how there were wild roosters and chickens everywhere! From the beaches, to Safeway parking lot. The rooster has no real predator on the island so it’s overpopulated with them.
Writing this post has me missing Kauai all over again! To be honest, I prefer Oahu over Kauai because I enjoy the city aspect. I’ve yet to take my kids to Oahu but I can’t wait. My daughter told me the other day that she wanted to go on another “field trip” to Hawaii. We went in late April and didn’t find the island too crowded. I recommend 3-5 days depending on how many activities you plan to pack into your schedule. Next time I’ll be sure to stay in the South Shore unless I’m going without the kids. Even though kid friendly activities are somewhat lacking, all you really need is a beautiful, warm and sandy beach.
Mahalo and Aloha ‘oe – until we meet again.
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Are you planning a trip to Kauai? Stay tuned for another guide to the island (for adults) coming soon! Have you been to Kauai before? With kids? What other useful tips and activities would you suggest for my own trip back one day? I would love to hear what you think in the comments below! Or simply “Like” the post .