sea turtle laying on poipu beach kauai
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15 Amazing Things to Do with Kids in Kauai!

Is Kauai a Good Island to Visit for families?

Kauai is the perfect beach destination with kids! Also known as the Garden Island, Kauai has more beaches than any of the Hawaiian Islands and more hiking trails than any other Hawaiian Island. This beautiful, lush island is the perfect tropical getaway to enjoy incredible beaches and stunning natural sites. So take your little ones to feel the sand squish between their toes, watch the Hawaiian Monk Seals roll along the beach, eat some delicious shave ice, and soak up some of that beautiful Hawaii sunshine!

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10 Things to Do in Kauai With Kids

1. Enjoy Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach is a great kid friendly beach and one of our favorite areas to visit in Kauai with kids. Here you can see sea turtles, Hawaiian Monk Seals, chickens (there are tons of chickens on Kauai!) and more wildlife. Poipu Beach is great place for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the beach. There are also lots of restaurants within walking distance of the beach, so you don’t have to get your kids in and out of a car seat or worry about parking.

TIP: A sand free towel, reef safe sunscreen, and beach toys are a must!

hawaiian monk seal laying on poipu beach

2. Indulge in some Shave Ice

woman with shave ice in front of blue wall hawaii

You absolutely cannot leave Hawaii without getting some shave ice. If you’ve ever had a snow cone at your local fair, I promise the shave ice here is going to be at least ten times better. Some of the best places on the island to get shave ice are Jojo’s Shave Ice (Hanalei), Wailua Shave Ice, Waikomo Shave Ice, Hawaiian Blizzard, The Fresh Shave. I personally love the shave ice with cream and ice cream! When we visit Hawaii with kids, we get shave ice several times during our trip and it’s the kid’s (and our) favorite.

3. Visit Spouting Horn Park

Next, less than 10 minutes from downtown Poipu you will be able to see one of the most photographed places on the entire island of Kauai. This blowhole formed from a natural lava tube shoots water up to 50 feet in the air. This site is even more spectacular at sunset. This affordable tripod will help you get pictures of your entire family without asking someone else for help.

spouting horn at sunset kauai hawaii

4. Shop at an ABC store

The ABC stores are a lot of fun and an affordable and popular place to get souvenirs. They are located all over Hawaii but on Kauai are located on the Eastern side of the island. Here you will be able to find a big variety of hawaiian snacks, clothing, playing cards, other souvenirs, snacks, and other necessities like sunscreen or sandals. I would also advocate for visiting the shops in the downtown areas of wherever you are staying.

5. Take in the natural beauty at Waimea Canyon

Known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea State Park offers unique and spectacular views. There are two roads that you can take to get there. I would recommend taking highway 550 on the way up and highway 552 on the way back for a different view. Stop at the Waimea Canyon Lookout on mile marker 10 for a walking path and canyon views. This was the best view of the canyon in my opinion, but stop at the other lookouts along the way too if you’d like! We didn’t get to do any hiking due to rainy conditions, but I would recommend asking a park ranger about the most family friendly hikes. Additionally, there is a fee of $10 per car and $5 per person (kids under 3 are free) that you pay in the parking lot. This parking pass will work for Koke’e State Park too.

Getting to the lookout is a quick 0.1 mile trail, but you’ll have to go down some stairs. It’s definitely worth walking down here to look into the beautiful Waimea Canyon. See if you can find any waterfalls, and also look for helicopters flying through the canyon.

TIP: The dirt in Waimea Canyon is red and can stain. If you have a nice pair of white shoes you don’t want permanently stained, it may be better to wear an older pair.

waimea canyon views kauai

6. Buy some fresh produce at a local farmers market

Kauai has farmers markets throughout the island. These markets are the best places to get fresh produce and vegetables, for snacks or if you plan on cooking. You can also likely find fresh flowers to display in your hotel or vacation rental for the week. Shopping at the farmers markets helps support local Kauai farmers. Check the farmers market schedule to find the closest market to you. Your kids (and you) will also love the fresh coconut water from an ice cold coconut!

7. See the dramatic Napali Coast from Koke’e State Park

Located along the same road as Waimea Canyon State Park, this park is great to visit in the same day as your Waimea Canyon adventure. Also, if you bought a parking pass at Waimea Canyon, this will be valid for parking in Kokee State Park as well. Stop at the Kalalau Lookout (mile marker 18) and the Pu’u O Kila Lookout (mile marker 19) for stunning vista points. You can also make a stop at the Kokee Lodge & Kokee Natural History Museum to fuel up before heading back down the mountain. Talk to a local or ranger about the best Kauai hikes for kids!

view of napali coast from kokee state park

8. Snorkel with the local fish

We had a great time snorkeling at Poipu Beach. This beach had mostly calm water and a huge variety of fish and even sea turtles that come near the shore. Make sure to stay at least 30 feet from the sea turtles, use reef safe sunscreen, and avoid stepping on coral. Other beaches that are reportedly great for snorkeling are Ke’e Beach, Tunnels Beach, Lydgate Beach, and Anini Beach. Just beware that snorkeling on the North Shore in the winter can be tricky due to large waves and you may have better luck on the South or East Shore depending on the time of year you are visiting.

sea turtle laying on poipu beach kauai

9. Eat Some Delicious Local Hawaiian Food

Hawaii has some of the best and most unique food of any US state. This is a great time to take your kids to try some new and delicious foods. I’ll list some of our favorites below!

  • Puka Dog: This Hawaiian style hot dog shop is located right along Poipu Beach Park and has been featured on the Travel Channel as well as by Anthony Bourdain.
  • Hawaiian Style Shrimp: While Oahu has more for shrimp trucks than Kauai, you can (and should) still get some Kauai shrimp while you are in Kauai. The Shrimp Station is a great stop after spending the day in Waimea Canyon.
  • Spam Musubi: You can find this in so many places. It’s a local Hawaiian snack that consists of a grilled piece of spam with rice and wrapped in Nori. It might sound a little odd if you’ve never tried it, but it’s tasty and cheap!
spam musubi hawaii
  • Hawaiian Plate Lunch: The classic Hawaiian plate lunch is usually made up of rice, macaroni salad, and your choice of meat. You can find a plate lunch at many places including Mark’s Place, Koloa Fish Market, Pono Market, Bobbie’s, and Smiley’s.
  • Fresh Poke: Poke is traditionally pieces of raw fish (usually tuna) over rice with vegetables and different sauces. While the raw fish may be a hard sell for your kids, it is absolutely delicious and you should try it. Our favorite poke place on Kauai appears to be closed now, but there are so many places to get yummy poke. Some of the best poke in Kauai can be found at Koloa Fish Market (we loved this place!), Hanalei Poke (they were featured on diners drive in and dives), Konohiki Seafoods, Pono Market, Kauai Poke Co., and The Fish Express.
poke bowl from umekes on the big island
  • Ube: A personal favorite of mine! Ube is a purple yam, and is used to flavor some Hawaiian desserts like ice cream or cake, cocktails, malasadas, and more. We had some delicious ube ice cream at the Koloa Mill
  • Fresh Coconut Water: You may see some roadside fruit stands or head to the farmers market. Drinking coconut water straight from an ice cold coconut on a hot day is one of the most refreshing things in the world. And your kids will love the novelty of it!
  • Drink a Mai Tai (for the adults only): The Mai Tai is the most quintessential Hawaiian cocktail and it’s delicious. We’ve always had a hard time making a good Mai Tai ourselves so I would recommend getting one wherever you go out to eat or by the pool.
mai tai in hawaii

10. Visit Wailua Falls or one of the other 18 waterfalls on Kauai

Wailua Falls is a powerful waterfall just 3-4 miles from Lihue. You can view this waterfall from the road with no hiking necessary. Another very accessible waterfall is Opaekaa Falls located in Wailua.

wailua falls waterfall kauai

11. Attend a Luau

Attending a Luau when in Hawaii is a great cultural experience and can be one of the most fun things to do in Kauai with kids! The Auli’i Luau in Poipu, the Smith Family Garden Luau in Kapa’a, Luau Kalamaku in Lihue, the Ahi Lele Luau Fire Show in Kapa’a (a more budget friendly option), and the Havaiki Nui Luau in Koloa are some of the most highly rated luaus on the island.

12. Go on a boat ride to the Napali Coast

One of the best ways to see the famous Napali Coast is by boat. There are many different boat tour options with different choices like dinner cruises, snorkel cruises, and whale watching cruises. A few different charter options are Blue Dolphin Charters and Capt Andy’s. During the summer months, the water will likely be calmer and you’ll get a smoother ride. Some of these boat cruises may not be good with very small children if the water is rough.

13. Let the little ones swim at Baby Beach

Visiting Baby Beach is a super fun thing to do in Kauai with a baby! This beach can be a little difficult to find, and we almost gave up because we couldn’t find it. Just look for the yellow pipe on Ho’ona Road in Poipu. Baby Beach has a lot of shallow water that is perfect for babies and toddlers. If your little ones have never experienced the ocean, this is a great place to start to get them used to the water without the scary waves.

mom and baby at baby beach in poipu

14. Explore the North Shore

The North Shore is absolutely stunning and definitely worth visiting if you’re staying on the South side of Kauai. Hanalei is a charming town with a great downtown and shops to explore that I would highly recommend visiting. We spent time at Tunnels Beach which was great as well but had very big waves in January. Be warned that if you are visiting in the Winter, rain storms can come on fast and sometimes the main road gets closed and you could get stuck on the North shore in that case. Make sure to follow the weather alerts closely to avoid getting stuck on the wrong side of the island.

baby on tunnel beach kauai

15. Bonus! Rum tasting at the Koloa Rum Company

This one is just for the adults! The Koloa Rum Company offers complimentary rum tasting every 60 minutes at their location in Lihue. The small batch rum is a fantastic souvenir for your adult friends, and maybe an extra bottle to bring home for yourself – for when you want to reminisce on your Hawaii adventure. They also sell canned and bottled pre-made cocktails if you want to save some money during your trip.

TIP: Rum tasting is the perfect activity if you’re looking for things to do in Kauai when it rains!

Map of Kauai Activities:

How to Get to Kauai:

The only way to get to the Hawaiian islands is via airplane. Kauai has one main airport, Lihue (LIH). Depending on where you fly from, you can fly non-stop into Kauai or make a stop in Oahu first where you will get on a short 20-30 minute flight to Kauai.

Where to Stay in Kauai:

First, you’ll have to choose which region you want to stay in. The four main regions of the island are the South Shore, North Shore, East Shore, and West Shore.

Kauai’s South Shore:

This region is the sunniest and driest of the Kauai regions. This is also where you will find the most resorts and some excellent beaches. We chose to stay on the South Shore in the main town of Poipu because of the beaches and access to kid friendly beaches! Further, you will also have easier access to the west side of the island for hiking or boat tours if you choose to participate in those activities.

  • Suite Paradise – This is where we chose to stay. This company has tons of vacation rentals in Poipu, and we had a great experience! We chose to stay at the Manualoha at Poipu Kai Resort. The location was walkable to Poipu Beach, a pool, hot tub, pickleball courts, and many restaurants. They also had a pack n’ play available for us in the unit.
  • Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club – More expensive, but has access to many restaurants on the property and a great pool.
  • Grand Hyatt Kauai – even more expensive, but an absolutely beautiful resort. If you aren’t staying here, you can still visit the resort and walk around or visit the Tidepools Restaurant
woman on beach at sunrise on poipu beach kauai

The North Shore (Hanalei & Princeville):

This area has some of the most lush landscapes on the island and some of the most charming small towns. Typically up North in the towns of Princeville and Hanalei, you will encounter less tourists than you would on the South Shore. Depending on what time of year you visit, the beaches up North have massive waves and aren’t as friendly for little kids. You also are more likely to encounter rain on this part of the island. However, if you visit in the Summer, you may find calmer ocean conditions. And you will have some beautiful views of the mountains up on the North Shore.

  • Hanalei Bay Resort – This resort sits on 22 acres of lush beautiful land. You can book through the resort, or one of the privately owned units. You’ll have access to a beautiful pool and hot tub.

The East Shore (Lihue, Wailua, Kapaa)

This region is closest to the airport, and is the most populated area of the island. You may be able to find more budget accomodations here because of the bigger number of hotels. If you choose to stay on the East Shore you will be able to access both the North and South Shore pretty easily.

There are many more budget friendly options on the east shore as well!

The West Shore:

The most remote region of the island. This is where you will find Waimea Canyon State Park, Koke’e State Park, and the Napali Coast. If you are planning to spend most of your trip adventuring, this may be the place for you! However, you will be in a more remote area, so finding accomodations or getting to other parts of the island may be tougher.

  • Kokee Lodge – No frills cabins that are truly off the grid with no wifi, cell service, or TVs. They do have kitchens and are located in Koke’e State Park.
  • Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages – this place looks great if you want to stay near Waimea Canyon but still be right near the beach.
view of ocean and coastline kokee state park

Getting Around Kauai:

If you’re planning on adventuring around the island at all I would plan to rent a car. You can use one of the many rental car options at the airport or use a local car rental service like Turo. If you plan to drive from your airport to the resort and stay there, you may not need a car. However, I would highly recommend renting a car if you can swing it. Don’t forget a phone charger, road trip toys for the little ones, and a portable cooler for days at the beach or the state parks!

Overall Thoughts on Visiting Kauai With Kids:

We had a great time visiting Kauai with our little one. Although we did experience a fair amount of rain when we visited, it was still warm and the island was incredibly beautiful and lush! This is the perfect island to visit if you are wanting to do adventurous things outside and still relax on a white sand beach.

sunset at spouting horn kauai

Must See:

Poipu Beach to see the Green Sea Turtles and the Hawaiian Monk Seals. There were several times where they were just sunbathing on the beach in Poipu and we could watch them for a long time!

Would Skip:

I can’t think of an activity to skip because everything we did while on the island was worthwhile. However, make sure you skip getting too close to sea turtles, stepping on coral while snorkeling, and walking off paths while hiking. Hawaii is a special place, and as always make sure to respect the culture and nature of the place you’re visiting.

Next Time:

Because of the rain, we didn’t get the chance to do any of the hiking trails in Waimea Canyon or Koke’e State Park. This and a helicopter tour would be something I would love to do next time we visit.

Make sure you’re prepared next time you leave for vacation! Check out our Ultimate Pre-Vacation Checklist: 31 Things You Need to Do Before Leaving and 7 Family Travel Tips: How to Enjoy Your Family Vacation When Traveling With Young Kids

Looking to plan more vacations with your kids? Here are some other amazing guides we have, so you can have the best vacations ever with your kids!

Happy travels!

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