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Kauai, Hawaii, is my absolute favorite family destination, and I have nothing but awesome things to say about it. There are so many reasons to love Kauai. I believe the main reason that this island, at the top of the Hawaiian archipelago, is so beloved is its diverse terrain. There is literally something for every member of the family. Whether you love tropical rainforests, the beach and water activities, or mountains and canyons – the Garden Isle of Kauai has it all!
[This post on Things to do with Kids in Kauai was originally published in September 2018, and updated in September 2022.]
How to Get Around on Island
On our first visit, we traveled to Kauai to take a break from our busy lives in a major city, and this destination did NOT disappoint. I fell in love with the picturesque mountains and waterfalls, my husband loved every beach we visited, and our son… well, he was all about the wild chickens, and they are literally E V E R Y W H E R E!!
Shortly after that first trip, we found out that we were expecting our second child. I suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of our son, and I was petrified that I would experience it again. I made my mental and spiritual well-being a top priority and I could think of no better place on the planet, to recover and adjust. And that’s how we ended up in Kauai two years in a row.
If you’re looking for the perfect vacation for your family… Kauai is it!!! Here’s a list of fun things to do with your family on the Garden Isle.
Eat Shave Ice
Hawaii is known for its shave ice. There are shave ice shops and trucks all over this island and the available flavors seem limitless. When you have time, pull over and treat yourself and the little ones to one of Hawaii’s sweetest desserts.
Try Vegan Ice Cream
If you’re in the North near Kilauea, stop by Banana Joes Fruit Stand and treat your little ones to a cup of vegan ice cream. It’s a banana smoothie and it is DELISH!!! We loved them so much we went back several times for more, during our stay.
See the Na Pali Coast from the Water
Check out the Na Pali Coast from the water. We took a boat tour with Blue Dolphin Charters and the views of the Na Pali Coast were absolutely spectacular! The catamaran departs from Lihue and the voyage lasted roughly 8 hours. During the tour, we spotted a pod of dolphins and a sea turtle. To top off this amazing excursion, the Blue Dolphin staff found the perfect location to drop the anchor so we could jump into the ocean and take a swim as a family. Even though I was seasick the entire journey, I cannot recommend enough seeing the Na Pali coast from the water.
Check Out Spouting Horn
Spouting Horn is a natural lava tube that, when water is forced into it during high tide, water shoots up into the air, creating a spout. The kiddos will love watching this. If you’re on the South side of the island, I would highly suggest this natural attraction.
Tour Kauai Kunana Dairy Farm
My kids enjoyed every minute of the Kauai Kunana Dairy Farm Tour. The family-owned organic farm is located on the North Shore of the Island, in the town of Kilauea. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the farm tour was one of the highlights of our trip. It included fruit, honey and goat cheese tasting as well as a discussion about agriculture and a day in the life of a farmer on the island.
Visit the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge & Lighthouse
The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge & Lighthouse is protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Wildlife Refuge is open Tuesday-Saturday, from 10am to 4pm. We arrived at the wildlife refuge pretty late in the day and only had about an hour to enjoy the views from the lookout point before the park closed. There was an abundance of seabirds along the rocks. It costs $5 per adult to enter the park, children ages 15 and below are free.
Hit the Beach
There are so many beautiful beaches on Kauai, here are a few of our favorites:
Anini Beach is my favorite. It felt secluded and seemed like a beach for the locals. This beach is located in front of a residential area. The day that we visited there was a low tide and we were able to walk out on a sand bar for nearly a mile. My little adventurer loved it.
Poipu Beach, which is located on the South Shore of the island, has been voted as the #1 beach in America. I, particularly, love this beach because getting to it doesn’t involve any hiking.
This beach, also known as Kauapea Beach, is located along the North shore of the island. The location of the beach is not really a secret, it’s just a bit tricky to get access to it. Getting to the Secret Beach involves a hike down a semi-steep trail that can be a bit slippery after a rain. We did not take this hike with the kiddos but I think it’s doable with little ones. My 4-year-old could navigate the trail while we held his hand, and I could take my toddler in a baby carrier. The seclusion of the beach and views of the lighthouse were well worth the adventure to get to it.
Getting there: To find the Secret Beach, if staying in the North, turn left on Kalihiwai Road off of Kuhio Highway. Drive until you reach the dead end and park your vehicle. There is an opening to a small trail on the left side.
Hanelei Pier is located at the mouth of the Hanalei River in the North. This waterway is in a beautiful location with mountains and waterfalls in the background. This beach is uber popular, which is why it is my least favorite beach for the family. Hanalei Pier area was ridiculously crowded. It took us nearly 40 minutes to find parking. Visitors are allowed to drive and park on the beach which made it unsafe for the kiddos to play in the sand. Additionally, the sand at Hanalei was more like miniature pebbles than fine sand, which made it a bit uncomfortable when some of it got in my son’s trunks. Yikes!! Even though my husband had the time of his life diving off of the pier, it was not my fave!
This beach, located on the East side of the island, has a cool tidepool that’s perfect for the kiddos to play in. Many people use the calm waters in the tidepool to learn how to snorkel.
Zipline and Mountain Tubing
If you’re interested in getting your adrenaline pumping, check out Kauai’s Backcountry Adventures in Lihue. My husband and I, left our small children at the resort with grandma and went ziplining and mountain tubing with Kauai’s Backcountry Adventure. It was a great way to see the Island. To join in on the fun, children have to be at least 12 to zipline and 5 to go mountain tubing with Kauai’s Backcountry Adventures.
Enjoy a Luau and Tour an Old Sugar Plantation by Train
No first trip to Hawaii is complete without attending a luau. There are several luau options on the island. We opted for the Luau Kalamaku because they allowed for us to pay to attend the luau without dining, which was a bit cheaper than the cost of the full luau. The show was beautiful and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Kalamaku Luau is located at the same location as the Kauai Plantation Railway. The train tour was chock full of historical information and fun facts about the island and the sugar industry. Additionally, the train makes a few stops along the route to allow the children onboard to feed animals on the plantation. The train company provides the food for the animals.
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