While Maui and Oahu are more developed, Kauai’s stretches of development are ensconced in rainforests, mountains and farms, creating an idyllic, off-grid ambiance that extends to the island’s small towns.
If you’re seeking secluded beaches, historic sites and sublime tropical delicacies, Kauai, Hawaii, is a must-add to your top travel list. It’s also an ideal destination for many different flavors of family friendly outdoor adventure.
Immerse in Style
Kauai is the sort of island where families often eschew big, generic resorts in favor of lodging with a local feel. With low-key yet luxurious vibes, the Point at Poipu, located on the island’s southern tip, is the perfect place to call home during your Hawaiian getaway. After a day of adventure, you can soak in the lush, majestic mountain vistas while relaxing on porch-front rocking chairs. To top off the tranquil ambiance, the resort features a tiered koi pond with waterfalls and gorgeous landscaping. The pool is also designed to resemble a natural pond, surrounded by sand and lava rocks with the azure ocean as a backdrop.
All rooms are two-bedroom, two-bathroom suites with in-room laundry facilities. Suites also come complete with a kitchen, so you can try your hand at cooking a homemade meal using local chicken, fish and produce purchased in town.
When you’re ready to set out and explore, you’ll want to take advantage of all that this awe-inspiring locale has in store. Below are the top five recommended activities unique to Kauai’s history and landscape that offer something for every member of your crew.
1. Set Sail
You’d be remiss to leave Kauai without taking time to admire the Na Pali Coast on the island’s northwest side, which is renowned for towering sea cliffs and dramatic, volcanic drop-offs.
The coast is lined by a rugged 11-mile hiking trail, and the first two miles are manageable for kids ages 8 and up. (The trail closed in April 2018 after severe flooding, but is expected to re-open soon. It also occasionally closes because of mud, so it’s worth inquiring with locals or at your resort about any trail closures before setting off.)
For a different perspective, consider admiring the coastal cliffs while lounging on a catamaran, which can be booked for private or group tours. This can be a relaxing activity for all ages, and being out on the water allows you to sneak unique peeks of stone arches, caves and secluded beaches, which you’d miss on a land-based trek. Daytime sails often take half a day and may include snorkeling, swimming and a picnic lunch on the beach. Evening rides typically include dinner and drinks along with sunset views. You might also spot dolphins and whales frolicking in the nearby waters during certain times of the year.
2. Go Tubing
An irrigation system that was built in the late 1800s to water the island’s many sugar plantations still weaves through Kauai’s interior. If you don’t mind a little darkness, you can grab an inner tube and follow a guide through the system.
Companies like Kauai Backcountry Adventures organize such tours, providing tubes, helmets, headlamps and lunch. After everyone in your party is equipped and briefed, you’ll float for two miles through narrow, lazy streams and a handful of tunnels. The current is gentle, but one of the tunnels is long enough to leave you in complete darkness for a few minutes. Kids need to be at least 5 years old and 43 inches tall to participate in this activity.
3. Chase Waterfalls
Searching for an epic trek? You’ve got plenty of options on the Garden Island. Grab the whole fam for an invigorating hike to scenic destinations like Waipoo Falls or Uluwehi Falls (known to locals as the “Secret Falls”). A guided tour is recommended for a visit to Secret Falls, however, as you’ll need to take water transport like a kayak to reach the trail head. At the end of these stunning hikes, you’ll be rewarded with waterfalls that are the epitome of what you’d expect hidden Hawaiian oases to look like. Looking for something a little less strenuous? Wailua Falls in Wailua State Park — located somewhat inland on the island’s east side — is an ideal place to view impressive, 140-foot-tall waterfalls from the highway during an island road trip.
4. Sample Local Cuisine
There are numerous ways to explore Kauai’s vibrant food scene. A half-dozen towns have weekly farmers markets (called sunshine markets), where you can find fresh, local produce and coffee, as well as locally harvested salt, taro root, sugar cane and seasonal fruit.
The towns of Lihue and Hanapepe host especially popular markets, and they also boast several local, farm-to-table restaurants. Keep in mind that you’ll want to get to these markets early, as they only stay open for two or three hours and vendors tend to sell out of stock. Hanalei is another town accessible by a one-lane bridge and known for its lively food truck scene. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the town for colorful trucks serving up roast pork, locally caught shrimp, crab and fish, and Hawaiian plate lunches along with foods from around the world.
Lihue is also the focus of a guided food tour, where you’ll get to sample items and talk to local producers and chefs. Outside of town, you can visit the Kilohana Estate or Grove Farm Homestead, sugar plantations that date from the 1930s and 1860s respectively.
For an indulgent treat, take the whole family over to JoJo’s, one of the island’s most popular shave ice stands. For the uninitiated, shave ice is a Hawaiian delicacy — it consists of homemade fruit syrups poured over ice and served atop macadamia nut or vanilla ice cream. If you like, you can opt to top your concoction with vanilla or coconut custard or chocolate syrup.
5. Make Friends with Some Fish
Makua Beach on the island’s north shore is a lesser-known spot, referred to as “Tunnels Beach” by locals. You can find parking at Ha’ena Beach Park, about a 10-minute walk to the sandy shores. (Ha’ena Beach Park recently re-opened in June, 2019 after a year-long closure to repair flood damage; if you’ll be driving here, expect potential delays due to ongoing roadwork.) The beach boasts a massive reef that’s perfect for snorkeling — and it’s a more laid-back, less crowded option than the famous Poipu Beach Park on the south shore. Bring swim vests for kids and tweens if they aren’t strong swimmers; there can be a strong current offshore. Locals recommend staying around the inner reef to avoid the worst of it.
The raw terrain of Kauai is the perfect setting for incredible family adventures. Make the most of your time on this magical island by booking your stay with Diamond Resorts today.
Diamond Resorts International Marketing, Inc., its parents, sister companies, and subsidiaries, make no warranty, express or implied, as to the condition, capacity, performance or any other aspect of the activities, events, or service providers listed herein. No inquiry has been made into the activities or events, or the qualifications or the quality of services offered by the providers. Do not consider this an endorsement of or recommendation for any of the activities, events, or providers.