Did you know Kauai is also called the Garden Isle because it is SO green and lush? The next morning after we arrived I posted several Instagram stories showing the islands gorgeous vegetation. It’s super green and brimming with big bright flowers. Most areas look like an untouched jungle. I got at least a dozen messages of people saying it looked like the scenery from Jurassic Park. Well, that’s because Jurassic Park was shot on Kauai! Good eye, you guys. If you’re thinking about visiting Hawaii with kids, Kauai is a pretty awesome choice.
You’re probably wondering how to vacation in Kauai with kids. A lot of parents also commonly ask, “is Kauai safe for kids?” Let me ease your mind and say yes, Kauai is perfectly safe for kids of all ages. Kauai is basically a circle with one highway stretching along the perimeter. However, the highway ends on the west shore and doesn’t connect to the north shore, so if you want to drive from the west to the north, you’ll have to go 3/4 around the island to get there. This island has four distinct shores, which I discuss below. Read on to discover how to vacation in Kauai with kids.
Kauai with kids
The allure of Kauai is quite unique. It has a slow-paced way of life, with a calm and charming ambiance; this was one of the main reasons we chose Kauai. Marc and I first visited Kauai back in 2014 and we fell in love with it. Being familiar with this island is another reason we chose this spot. Additionally, Kauai is super family-friendly. We saw a lot of families all throughout our 10-day stay. Most families had kids under the age of 5 and the majority of parents had infants. We also saw a lot of couples on their babymoon.
Pros of vacationing in Kauai with kids
-Safe (low crime rate)
-Easy to get around
-Little to no traffic
-Grocery stores open late
-Major retailers like Costco & Walmart
-Super friendly locals
The main goal of this trip was to celebrate Athena’s birthday. Last year, we threw a party for her first birthday which was more for us. We got all the pictures and did the very typical first birthday thing with lots of decorations and a big cake, etc. This year, we wanted her to enjoy her birthday more. Since she loves being in the water, we decided to take her to the beach. The main purpose of the trip was to relax, enjoy our time with Athena, and make sure she enjoyed the trip too. We planned a couple of activities but that was it. Mostly, we wanted to take it easy and relax on the beach while our toddler made sand castles and splashed around. If that’s how you’re looking to spend your vacation too, then Kauai is a perfect choice.
What’s the best time to visit Kauai?
The best time to visit Kauai is in April and May. We visited in the middle to end of March this time around and the weather was excellent about eighty percent of the time. The average temperature was about 75 degrees during the day and it would drop to about 62 in the night time. The other time, we did see a bit of rain and cloudy skies, which we love, but it doesn’t make for a great beach trip. It’s also a bit windier in March. April and May have excellent weather, sunny and warm with only the tiniest bit of rain in small stretches and mostly on the north shore. The humidity and heat really start to ramp up in June and July so be aware of this if you’re traveling with small children and infants.
Family Vacation in Kauai – Where should you stay?
The only airport is in Lihue which is located on the southeast part of the island. The south shore, where we stayed, is a 25 minute drive from Lihue.
The north shore – Princeville
This part of the island has the nicest resorts including the St. Regis. Everything is a little pricier in this area and a is little more ritzy. This is also the rainiest part of the island. While the beaches on the north shore are beautiful, they are not calm. This means, the surfing is great but it’s not very suitable for young children. There are lots of restaurants and shopping available and the landscape is stunning. From some areas, you can see mountains, rainforest, and ocean all in the same view! Princeville is also where you’ll find the magical, swimmable, sinkhole known as Queen’s Bath.
Be sure to stop at the scenic overlook point in Hanalei, it’s breathtaking.
Hanalei Bay beach. It tends to be cloudy and rainy on this part of the island and the waves are not the best for kids but with close supervision, it’s a beautiful spot to relax.
The east shore – Kapaa
Kapaa is the most affordable part of the island. It’s also got great restaurants, especially if you’re looking for vegan food in Kauai. We had a bit of a hard time finding vegan food on the rest of the island, but Kapaa had the most options. One particular restaurant worth noting is Eat Healthy Kauai, it’s 100% plant-based; vegan or not, this place is a gem for foodies. Kapaa is also very family-friendly. One of our favorite kid-friendly beaches in Kauai, Lydgate Beach Park, is here. It’s a treelined beach with a shallow enclosed swimming area, perfect for kids 5 and under. There’s also a huge park area next to the beach with lots of shade where your little one can run around for hours. They’ll also enjoy chasing the chickens that roam free. This area also has lots of spots with tables and benches, perfect for a family picnic. Lydgate Beach Park is a long stretch of land, if you’re looking to get to the kid-friendly swimming area, follow the directions for the Kauai Bike Path, it gets you the closest. Be advised, traffic on this part of the island can get heavy and there’s no way around it.
At Lydgate beach wearing our matching Atocha necklaces. This beach is perfect for toddlers, the water is calm and shallow.
The south shore – Koloa
This is where we decided to stay, mainly because it’s where we stayed last time and we loved it. The south shore of Kauai is the most family-friendly part of the island. It is also the sunniest part of the island. It has two very kid-friendly beaches, Baby Beach & Salt Pond Beach, that are enclosed and have shallow waters, perfect for little ones. Koloa has all the conveniences nearby including, shopping, restaurants of all categories, grocery stores, drugstores, gas stations, souvenir shops, parks, and beaches of course.
Salt Pond Beach is another great beach for toddlers, the water is calm and shallow. This is where all the locals go and it doesn’t get packed like other beaches.
Free hula show at the Shops at Poipu Village.
They even have free hula shows at the Poipu Shopping Village on Mondays and Thursdays at 5 pm, they have the kids join them on stage at the end and it’s really cute to watch. By the way, Poipu Shopping Village has the world famous Puka Dog- featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, and they have a vegan hot dog option! Just a few minutes up the road is another great shopping spot, The Shops at Kukuiula, where you can find a beautiful selection of produce and local foods at the farmers market every Wednesday from 3:30-6. Fun fact: Kauai’s south shore is the safest part of the entire island, it has the lowest crime rate. Traffic on this part of the island is minimal. Lastly, the south shore is home to Kauai’s famous tree tunnel, which you’ll pass through whenever you leave or enter the south shore, don’t worry, you can’t miss it.
The west shore – Waimea
Kauai’s west shore is beautiful and home to the Waimea Canyon State Park. We didn’t find any suitable activities for a toddler in this part of the island but if you’re traveling with your partner or your teenagers, it might be fun to check out the hiking trails. The canyon views from the overlook points are gorgeous.
Where to stay in Kauai with kids
The walk from our villa at Poipu Kai to Poipu Beach. You can see the beach at the very far end. Note the paved sidewalk to the right.
Poipu Beach Park
You’re probably wondering where to stay in Kauai with kids. If you read about the islands 4 distinct shores, you’re probably leaning towards the east or south shore. Of the two, I would highly recommend the south shore. Specifically, we stayed in Poipu, which is the very southern part of the island at The Villas at Poipu Kai. This place was amazing and perfect for families! It sleeps six and would be perfect for a large family, two smaller families traveling together, or, in our case, one small family that just wants a lot of room. This is the exact listing for the place we booked (I got A LOT of questions about this in my Instagram DMs). However, the actual villa that was reserved for us was more like this one. It was a three bedroom (2 masters), 2.5 baths, 1600 sq ft, with a kitchen, living room, dining area, and a patio. One of the most popular beaches, Poipu Beach, is just a 6-minute walk from our villa. It’s such a pretty walk too; there’s a paved pathway that takes you straight there and its surrounded by grass, trees, flowers, birds- it’s lovely. You can see videos of our villa over on my Instagram stories Kauai highlight here.
What do the Villas at Poipu Kai include?
The properties are really large, it feels like being at home. We had a full kitchen with appliances including a blender, instant pot, baking pans, etc. We let them know ahead of time that we were traveling with a toddler and they provided a highchair and pack n play at no extra charge. There was a large dining table and stools lining one side of the kitchen counter. Each unit also has a washer and dryer, which was super helpful. They provided 3 large packs of detergent, plenty of towels, including beach towels and beach chairs. The living room had a huge tv, as did the master bedrooms. The third room also came with a tv, though not as large. Both the master bedrooms had walk-in closets. The larger master bedroom had a huge tub and double doors leading to the patio. We got the best villa, the one right behind the pool, which I loved because we could still see the pool clearly but had a lot more privacy from the plants and rocks partially blocking our patio.
Vegan smoothie cups from Anake’s Juice Bar, a 3-minute drive from the Villas at Poipu Kai. Note all the plants surrounding the patio.
Breakfast on the patio. Note the large boulder providing more privacy to our patio. Behind the boulder is a waterfall that leads into the hot tub.
If you want the exact villa we rented with the more private patio it’s villa number B111. Not all places in Kauai have air conditioning, like the condo we rented during our first visit, but these villas all have a/c and ceiling fans in every room. My favorite part of the villa was the wall to wall glass doors that open up linking the patio with the living room.
The entire resort is not a true resort but does have that resort feel. They have self check-in which means before you arrive, you’ll get a code to enter on the keypad to your villa’s front door. When you arrive, you simply enter the 4 digit code and let yourself right in. The staff that runs the property is very friendly and quick to reply to any problems and concerns. The microwave in our villa wasn’t working so we called to get it fixed. They couldn’t fix it straight away so they bought a brand new microwave and set it up right away. I also appreciated the quiet hours rule from 10 pm- 6 am. There was a large group of people loudly celebrating someone’s 21st birthday at the pool but promptly dissipated at 10 pm. Any parent with sleeping toddlers will really appreciate this too.
The Villas at Poipu Kai also have a clubhouse with a gym. In the center of the property is a beautiful pool with jacuzzi and a man-made waterfall. The pool area is enclosed, offers a grill area, and is surrounded with lounge chairs. I really appreciated how clean the property was kept. Every morning I’d see the staff members out there working to ensure every part of the property was clean and the landscape well manicured. Click here to see details, a full list of amenities, and book your villa at Poipu Kai.
How to save money on your Kauai vacation
Pro tip: I saw the listing for our villa wasn’t booked up like some of the other lower price point villas. Seeing that they were having trouble filling that particular villa due to the higher price point and seeing that we would be staying for 10 days, I decided to call and ask about a discounted rate. A very nice and friendly gentleman helped me and answered all my questions. We ended up getting a really nice deal and we booked it in less than 15 minutes. It was so quick and easy!
The most kid-friendly beaches in Kauai
We spent our entire 10 days hitting up all the kid-friendly beaches. On the first day, we took the 6-minute walk from our villa to Poipu beach. The waves here can get pretty wild but during the mornings it’s typically tame and suitable for children. The rest of the days we alternated between Lydgate Beach, Salt Pond Beach, Baby Beach, and Hanalei Bay Beach (this one being the farthest and least-kid-friendly). On the last day, our flight didn’t depart until 6 pm but we had to check out of our villa at 11 am so we decided that day would not be a beach day.
Baby Beach. This spot is only a 6-minute drive from the Villas at Poipu Kai.
Instead, we took Athena for a train ride at the Kauai Plantation Railway to see the animals. The train ride is a 40-minute ride through Kauai’s first sugar cane plantation which covers 405 acres. You’ll see all types of fruit and flower trees as well as animals. The train makes one stop where patrons can disembark and feed the pigs a snack. Our toddler loves trains and had a blast on this little field trip. Ticket’s for adults are $20 per person, tickets for children 3-14 are $14, and children under 3 ride for free. This is a great activity to do on the last day because it’s close to the airport, just a 10-minute drive between the two spots. You can ride the train, then have a relaxing dinner before heading to the airport. Be sure to check out the shopping at the plantation, they have Atocha jewelry for sale, which is made from real sunken Spanish treasure!
On the train at the Kauai Plantation Railway, stopping to feed the pigs a snack.
Let me know in the comments if I missed anything or if you have any questions about traveling to Kauai with kids. You can also reach me over on my Instagram at @jeanettepadillavega or send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know someone who could use this guide, make sure to share it with them!