By Elizabeth Kang
A guide to exploring Kauai’s South Shore with children-in-tow.
Traveling with children requires research, stamina, and the ability to leave your expectations and Type-A tendencies at the door. So when I began planning for my family’s trip to the majestic island of Kauai, you can be sure I spent many late nights googling, months before the trip.
Doing my research paid off, because I discovered plenty of kid-friendly excursions, breathtaking points of interest, and charming restaurants, as well as a fabulous family friendly hotel to make our home base for the trip. While I mapped out much of our trip, I also left room for downtime and spontaneity, which is also essential for making the most out of a family vacay. Read on to help plan your ultimate family friendly vacation on the breathtaking Garden Island.
Where to Stay
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Stay in style and comfort on Kauai’s sun-drenched South Shore at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, a stunning beachfront resort that the whole family will enjoy. In fact, it might be difficult to explore the island while staying at the Grand Hyatt, because the kids won’t want to leave the property’s exciting 150-foot waterslide and massive saltwater swimming lagoon. There’s also a lazy river for floating, and an adult pool area, along with tucked away jacuzzi’s surrounded by waterfalls and lush foliage. And in those rare moments when the kids aren’t enjoying the pools, there are plenty of fun activities and events to keep them entertained and occupied.
To that end, both children and adults might enjoy learning a traditional hula dance at the resort’s daily hula lesson, or there’s the option to enjoy a professional hula performance, which takes place nightly at the lounge. A professional hula dancer performs various stories told through hula, accompanied by live Hawaiian music. My 5-year-old daughter was thrilled at the opportunity to get onstage and perform what she had learned at the resort.
Adults will find much to do at and around the property as well, from a soothing treatment at the serene Anara Spa, to a game of tennis on the property’s tennis courts. Grownup-time could also include a leisurely swim at the adults-only pool, or perhaps a round of golf at the outstanding Poipu Bay golf course (conveniently located adjacent to the Grand Hyatt.)
Besides a bevy of fun activities, the Grand Hyatt Kauai offers a wide array of dining options, ranging from ultra-romantic and upscale, to casual poolside fare. On our first night at the hotel, we had no issues finding a cozy outdoor spot on the Seaview Terrace, which has stunning views of the beach and ocean — the perfect spot to enjoy a Mia Tai at sunset. The menu offers casual modern American favorites with a Hawaiian twist, and I enjoyed the perfectly cooked Ahi Sandwich.
There is also a sushi restaurant onsite, as well as an Italian-themed spot, along with casual cafes and bars. For a romantic or more upscale meal, be sure to reserve a table at Tidepools, which overlooks a Coi-filled lagoon and manmade waterfall. Kieki’s are welcome, of course, and will be able to find a children’s menu at Tidepools, as well as at every eating option in the resort.
While I found numerous excursions available for adults and teens (whale-watching boat tours, snorkeling, helicopter tours,) it took a little more digging to find some excursions appropriate for young ones. The two I did find, however, were unbelievably scenic and tons of fun.
Kilohana Plantation Railway
Winding through a 105-acre plantation estate, the Kilohana Plantation train tour is a must-ride, especially if you have a train-obsessed child in tow. My girls could not care less about trains, and they had a fantastic time, non-the-less. The 40-minute ride takes through a guided tour of the working plantation and its rich history as a sugar plantation. See fruit orchards, stop and feed wild native boars, and learn about local history, flora and fauna.
Allerton Botanical Garden
Another great excursion option for a family with small children is the breathtaking Allerton Botanical Garden tour, which takes place on the opulent 80-acre garden founded and created by Robert and John Allerton. Choose either a self-guided tour, or a special tour like the sunset tour, which includes dinner, and be astounded by your surroundings of waterfalls, flowers, native trees, gorgeous water features, sculptures and even movie sets (some scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed in the gardens.)
Where to Eat
This fun Hawaiian-themed restaurant has just the right amount of old-school-Hawaiian kitsch, and I loved every moment at it. From the tropical oasis outdoor seating to the live Hawaiian music and mile-high Hula Pie, Keoki’s is a family friendly “must-eat” while on Kauai’s South Shore. It’s located in a great little shopping area, too, so you can work off your meal with a little retail cardio.
Eating House 1849
Upscale but still kid-friendly, famed local chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849 is a beautiful, modern plantation-style restaurant with sweeping views overlooking lush land and ocean. The restaurant is located upstairs in a shopping area with nothing behind it but land and ocean, so the views are incredible, especially at Sunset. The food is just as good as the scenery, especially the Butterfish and Fried Chicken.
Just a 10-minute drive from the Grand Hyatt, Sprouting Horn is an impressive blowhole set at the ocean’s edge. Kids will love the anticipation of the blowhole’s hissing release of ocean water spraying high up into the air, forced through an ancient lava tube. This is a quick, easy and free point of interest, and a wonderful photo opportunity.
It’s just an easy drive (and no walking or hiking required) to view the top of the spectacular Wailua Falls, a 173-foot double waterfall located in Wailua River State Park. Fans of the TV show Fantasy Island might recognize this gorgeous waterfall from the opening credits. Although it is possible to hike down to the bottom of the waterfall, it may not be worth the hassle (or slippery danger) with young ones.
The aptly named Baby Beach is the perfect spot to bring the keiki to build sand castles and test out arm floaties. The swim area is protected from waves by a wall of rocks, and there are trees to provide shade when the sun becomes overwhelming. There are restrooms at the nearby park, and an eatery across the street that sells shave ice for an afternoon treat.
Poipu Beach Park
Poipu Beach Park is a family friendly public beach area for snorkeling, sunbathing, and splashing around, and there’s usually a lifeguard on duty (score!) There’s also a children’s playground, grassy picnic area and small protected swim lagoon for children and babies.
So pack up your sunscreen and swimsuits, and book the family vacation you’ve been daydreaming about! Kauai’s South Shore is breathtakingly beautiful, and the perfect area for families.