Kauai is an amazing place to visit – especially with kids. There are so many things to do and much of it is free and outdoors. Check out my favorite Kauai activities.
Beaches & Activities
Surfing at Hanalei Beach
Hanalei is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s so picturesque with the lush, green mountains to the left of the beach and the adorable Hanalei Pier and stunning St. Regis Hotel to the right. I loved taking my kids surfing at the beach break in front of Hanalei Pavilion.
You can rent surfboards and get surf lessons next to Hanalei Pier. There are a ton of surf shops in Hanalei that rent boards. But here’s an even better deal… We bought a foam longboard from Costco for just $120 and used it for nearly 4 weeks. I ended up selling it for $60 on Craigslist the day before we left. This turned out to be much cheaper than renting a board – which would have cost $100 a week. I basically paid $60 for 4 weeks.
Snorkeling and Tree Climbing at Anini Beach
Anini Beach is just 10 minutes from Princeville (and 15-2o minutes from Hanalei). We loved this beach because it was pristine and calm. It was perfect for snorkeling. Both my 4- and 7-year-old sons learned how to snorkel here and became so comfortable they were on their own within a day. I’ve seen a lot of families camp out on the beaches or have family gatherings around the many picnic tables in this area.
My husband had the ingenious idea to have my boys practice surfing out here. They learned how to stand up on a longboard, paddle for a wave (though there wasn’t any), and how to jump off the board safely. Once they were comfortable, we then took them to surf real waves at Hanalei.
Another great perk of this beach is many of the trees are perfect for climbing. These trees beat monkey bars and playground structures any day. I even joined in the climbing fun and jumped into the ocean from the sprawling tree branches that hovered over the water.
Lydgate Park & Kamalani Playground
On the east side of Kauai in the city of Kapaa, there’s an amazing beach called Lydgate Park. It features two enclosed beach swimming areas protected by boulders, so it’s really safe for kids to swim and snorkel. There are quite a few trees to offer shade, public restrooms, and a lifeguard on duty.
Across the street from the beach is Kamalani Playground. This is not your every day, run of the mill playground. It’s really intricate. It’s a massive wooden structure that looks a bit gothic with it’s faded brown-gray exterior and roofs. But it’s loads of fun for the kids. It features swings, balance beams, slides, musical bells (with instructions on how to play songs like Mary had a little lamb), lots of stairs, and even a tot area for younger kids. The playground weaves in Hawaiian culture and landscape (like volcanoes, Hawaiian songs, and animal life with sculptures). My kids pretended they were pirates, then went down the volcano slide. They could have easily stayed all day.
Other Kauai Beaches
Before you go to any Kauai beach, make sure you check out Kauai Explorer. This website has fantastic information on beach conditions, appropriate activities (e.g. surfing, snorkeling, swimming), and whether there’s a lifeguard on duty. Also, make sure you know when the surf will be up in your area. For instance, usually the surf is big on the north side of the island in the winter, which makes it harder to find suitable swimming spots for kids.
As far as my favorite beaches in Kauai, I’ve already mentioned them: Hanalei, Anini, and Lydgate Park. We went to them over and over. Poipu Beach was pretty but in my opinion it’s not worth the drive. I didn’t find much else to do in Poipu other than go to the beach. The North Shore of Kauai is gorgeous, lush and green, and uncrowded.
This adorable playground features swings, slides, rock climbing wall, a huge field, and a fun climbing tree. Across the street is a library. If you’re staying on the north side of the island, be sure to check it out. It’s located at the entrance of Princeville, next to the out-of-place Roman statutes.
St. Regis Beach at Hanalei Bay
Sip a cocktail and enjoy appetizers at the beach-side bar at the St. Regis Hotel in Princeville while the kids enjoy this secluded beach in Hanalei Bay. The beach access is to the left of the guard station right before the St. Regis hotel. The hike down to the beach (and back up) is a great work out. Lots of stairs. But once you’re down to the beach, the St. Regis provides a gorgeous backdrop while the kiddos play in the ocean. There’s an outside shower next to the outdoor bar to wash off. Try the Kona Gold (macadamia nut liquor, kahlua, coconut juice, and pineapple juice) is delicious! Grab a drink on the beachside pool deck at the St. Regis Hotel.
Hike the Kalalau Trail at Ke’e Beach
Keep driving past Hanalei and Haena, you’ll reach Ke’e Beach. It’s literally the end of the road that leads to the famous Napali Coast. The 22-mile Kalalau Trail leads to a hideaway beach that can only be seen by passing boats from the ocean or helicopter tours. We gave it a shot and made it 1/2 mile. It took us about 30 minutes but we did have 3 kids (including a baby in my arms). We probably could have made it another 1/2 mile but not much more. I’d say this hike is better for older kids – though my 4 year old was just fine.
Visit a Dairy Farm
Check out the Kauai Kunana Dairy Farm in Kilauea. I can’t say enough wonderful things about it. The tour was done by a second generation farmer who both worked on the farm, and was a walking encyclopedia about all the plants and animals on the farm. It started with the best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever had, along with banana bread and lemonade. My kids got thirds of everything. We learned about the goats and the process of milking them and making cheese. My sons got to feed the mama goats and play with the baby goats. They were in absolute heaven.
We also learned about and got to sample different fruits and vegetables on the farm, including avocados, oranges, grapefruit, and apple bananas – as well as sample honey and cheese.
Kayak on Hanalei River
This historic town of Hanalei is just further north from Princeville. The town center has a lot of cute shops, restaurants, and a health food store. There are also tons of kayak, surboard, and stand-up paddle board rentals, as well as a few bike rentals. I recommend going with Kayak Kauai. They’re located right on the Hanalei River and can help you get off the dock and into the river. We got a double deluxe, which fit me and my two boys for $60.
Food is really expensive in Hawaii, and even more so on Kauai. I HIGHLY recommend picking up groceries at Costco if you have a vacation rental that has a kitchen. It’s so much cheaper to cook most of your meals at home, especially with a family. We’re trying to limit eating out to one meal a day – but my goal is just 2-3 times a week. I’d rather spend my money on activities than food. Costco is at least half the price of local grocery stores. My jaw nearly dropped when I saw a dozen eggs going for $9 at a local store. It was just a little over $5 for 18 eggs at Costco. And milk… oh my goodness. It’s so darn expensive you wonder what they put in it. But Costco has the best deal hands down. I’ve even had a few friends tell me that they’ve bought at Costco because it was cheaper than buying a smaller quantity at a local grocery store and just donated leftover items to other renters.
Shave ice is a cheap treat for the family. I feel like every 5 miles I drive in Kauai, I hit up another shave ice shop. It might be fun to take the kids to try out several shave ice shops on the island and compare their favorites. A definite stop is Ono Ono Shave Ice in Kapaa. They have flavors I’ve only dreamed about – including strawberry cheesecake, cake batter, guava, and passion fruit. Plus, they offer more ice cream choices than tradition shave ice shops, such as macadamia nut and taro ice cream (I know taro sounds weird, but I’ve heard it’s delicious). I can vouch for macadamia nut. It was divine with banana, passion fruit, and guava shave ice.
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