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Kauai’s Spirit of Aloha, Family-style

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Just saying the word Hawaii evokes sighs of happiness and fond memories for anyone who has experienced the land of Aloha. As the oldest of all the major Hawaiian islands, Kauai (also known as the Garden Isle due to its lush flora), represents the vision of what many people imagine Hawaii to be; green rainforests, white sand beaches, slow island lifestyle.

Poipu, Kauai - South Shore

Poipu, Kauai – South Shore

Kauai Spirit of Aloha

Kauai embodies the Aloha spirit better than Maui or Oahu, in my humble opinion. Its smaller size and population, laid-back way of life, and less developed tourism sector, create a hang loose atmosphere that is very, very desirable for anyone looking for a real getaway and downtime with family and kids.

There is no shortage of great adventures (or relaxing downtime) that you and your family can enjoy on the island of Kauai. Here are seven recommendations to get you into the Kauai spirit of Aloha.

Learning to surf is hard work!

Learning to surf is hard work!

Go to the Beach

It's a given you'll be visiting some beaches during your Hawaiian holiday, or at least you should! Kauai has an excellent variety of white sand beaches, many of which are part of State Parks with lifeguard stations and facilities, adjacent to calmer waters for smaller children to enjoy.

Poipu Beach State Park and Salt Pond Beach

Poipu Beach State Park and Salt Pond Beach are two excellent, kid-friendly beaches on Kauai's South Shore, with washrooms, picnic areas, and shower facilities. These beaches have reefed off areas with calm, shallow water that is perfect for wading and staying close to shore with babies, toddlers and other young children.

Brennecke's Beach

For more excitement for older kids (10+) and teens, Brennecke's Beach in Poipu is a very good boogie boarding beach, but with powerful surf and shore breaks, especially in winter. Kids and adults spend hours of fun riding the waves, and getting churned up in them too. Before charging into the waves, it's always a good idea to observe the surf pattern and read any posted signage (i.e. rip currents, sudden shorebreaks), and chat with locals or other beach goers about conditions, which can change daily and even hourly.

Polihale Beach

Polihale Beach (at the end of Highway 50, past Kekaha) is a spectacular 17-mile stretch of pristine sand that sits on the more arid westward side, at the southern end of the Na Pali cliffs. Its surf is very dangerous, especially in winter. The best area to swim or body board is the only slightly calmer Queen's Pond area, ‘left of the very large tree', about three miles along the dirt road. Water safety in the open ocean is a serious matter, especially where your children are concerned—never turn your back on the water.

Learn to Surf

They say anyone can learn to surf. While I am personally skeptical of this claim (having tried and failed to learn many years ago), I do believe that it is easier to learn how to surf when you're younger and can get up faster on the surfboard. There are many surf schools in Kauai, and their services and prices are all pretty much in line with one another.

Our boys booked a surfing lesson with Kauai Surf School. A two hour lesson included a free t-shirt for the kids. The instructor was a young and hip surfer ‘dude', and knew how to connect well with kids. The Sheraton beach where the lessons are located has decent-sized swells that won't prove too difficult to newbies—kids or adults.

Take a Hike

Just east of the Grand Hyatt resort (which you should totally walk through and linger to enjoy how the other half stays), is a heritage walking trail that is well worth the effort to find. The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail runs four miles from Shipwreck Beach (fronting the Hyatt) to Ha-ula Beach. You won't need to complete the entire trail to enjoy and appreciate the mostly deserted cliffs, secluded bays and beaches, as well as the amazing marble geological formations and sand dunes. It is a spectacular hike. Don't forget to look out towards the sea from time to time, especially in winter, to view breaching humpback whales putting on a free show. You can pick up a free trail map at the Hyatt Conceirge desk.

The Na Pali Coast State Park is also famous for hikes of varying length and difficulty. Tweens and teens may enjoy hiking a portion of a trail from Ke'e Beach on the north shore, but it may be a tougher go for young children. Proper footwear, equipment and water supplies are imperative. Don't attempt a Na Pali hike in your flip flops.

Waimea Canyon, The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

The awe-inspiring view of the amazing Waimea Canyon

Get awestruck at Waimea Canyon

The Grand Canyon of the Pacific, according to Mark Twain (who didn't actually visit Kauai), Waimea Canyon is a must-see. The canyon is the largest in the Pacific, at over 10 miles long, one mile wide and 3500 feet deep. Access is simple, via a spectacular drive from Waimea, along Waimea Canyon Drive (Route 550) to the first major Lookout (at the 10 mile marker). The viewing area is substantial and perfect for photos from different vantage points, though pictures can't really capture the incredible vastness of the Canyon. The drive to the end of Route 500 winds through Kok'e State Park and you can choose to visit either the Kalalau or Pu'u o Kila Lookouts for amazing views to the west and the Na Pali coast—if the fog doesn't roll in. Pack a sweater in the car as the temperature goes down as you drive up to the Canyon.

Yummy shave ice!

Yummy shave ice

Eat Shave Ice or Lappert's Ice Cream

I don't really have to promote the virtues of eating sweet, frozen treats in the hot sun, but in case you were worried, there are some great shave ice places on the island, as well as Kauai-made Lappert's ice cream. Lappert's factory store is on the south shore, just west of Hanapepe, and I humbly recommend their Cocopine, Kona Coffee and Passionfruit flavors. Creamy and delicious, though not cheap. We found two great shave ice (special machines shave the ice, onto which syrups are poured and ice cream may be added) shacks: Jojo's Clubhouse in Waimea, and the Hee Fat General Store in Kapa'a. The latter had the bonus of real fruit syrups, which were divine and not quite as fluorescent as the artificial syrups. DO get your shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom.

Fly in a Helicopter

If you and your kids can stomach a high-flying helicopter tour, Kauai is just the place to enjoy it. The tour of the north shore Na Pali cliffs are of particular note, as the stunning coast cliffs are best viewed from the air or the ocean. There are several helicopter tour operators on Kauai; Island Helicopters has been operating on the Island for 30 years, and Blue Hawaiian is newer to Kauai but has been conducting tours throughout the Hawaiian islands for nearly 30 years. Most helicopter tours lift off from Lihue Airport, though a few use the Princeville airport on the north shore.

Yes, those are chickens crossing the road.

Yes, those are chickens crossing the road.

Catch a Chicken

I wouldn't advise actually trying to catch a chicken or rooster on the island, though you'd have many chances to try. They are everywhere on Kauai, having been scattered and set free years ago by Hurrican Iniki in 1992, and doing quite well ever since. Kids may enjoy seeing the baby chicks running around, but roosters crowing at all hours of the day may lose its charm after day two.

Have you been to Kauai? What were some of your favorite family moments? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons. She started traveling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about the travel experience and the value of traveling as a family. She is the founder of, and contributes to many online and print media publications around the world. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom or Instagram as @itsclaudiatravels.

  1. My husband and I went to Kauai in 2006 on our honeymoon. Now, my 4 year old son is OBSESSED with whales and I tell him all the time that we need to go back to Hawaii in order to see them (and hope he pesters Dad :). I foresee at least one fantastic family vacation in Kauai in the years to come. What a heavenly place. Eden to be sure.

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says

      Thanks Farrah. Yes, he should continue to pester Dad until you’re back on Kauai sipping mai tais and your kids eating shave ice! We saw whales playing in the sea every day of our trip, though it was from shore as we didn’t go on a whale-watching tour. Still amazing!

  2. We have been to Maui and Oahu but not to Kauai yet. The island looks beautiful and I think the laid-back lifestyle would suit me perfectly. That has got to be the biggest shave ice that I have ever seen – looks yummy!

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says

      Time to plan a trip, Lisa! You and your family would love it. And yes, the shave ice was huge and SO delicious. Light and fluffy, with natural fruit syrups that I preferred by far to the liquid sugar ones, pretty and colourful as they are.

  3. Dena says

    Kauai is my favorite place in the world. It is an amazingly “chill” spot that has so much to offer! Thanks for letting me take a mini vacation today when I read your blog!

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says

      Thanks Dena! Kauai is worthy of such love and adoration. It is indeed a special place, and I’m so glad the post took you back there today!

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