Wow! Kauai lived up to our Hawaiian dreams with its lush mountains, dramatic sea cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and stunning beaches. Finally, after 14 months our family took our first flight post our vaccination to the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii. This place is extremely kid friendly and there are so many activities you can do with your kids. Traveling with a kid looks a lot different at age 4. Vir was very excited, comfortable and cooperative on the journey. He wore masks for almost 14 hours non stop one way from the airports , to flights to shuttles to car rental service.
My idea for travel for this family vacation was a combination of relaxation and adventure for total 10 days while being completely logged out of office mails and calls. Kauai checked off every box and that is how we new it was the place to be. We chose the island of Kauai in Hawaii over other islands ( have also visited Big Island in 2010 for our honeymoon) because of its far more relaxed, natural environment. Here is a video on our hikes.
Sailing to Napali coast, hiking in multi-colored canyons and along coastal trails, frequent sightings of whales, dolphins, and snorkeling with turtles (and not forgetting the wild chickens that roam the island) was just what we needed for our souls. We found a real sense of solitude here due to its great outdoors and lack of major developments. You can reconnect with nature, lots of local culture and explore uncluttered sites.
It was such a refreshing and rejuvenating trip and a perfect birthday gift for me.
All my trip highlight and videos are saved on my Instagram page under Hawaii highlights. Click here to see all the stunning hikes, views and memories we made with our son.
Kauai Travel Restrictions
Note on April 5, 2021 Kauai rejoined Hawaii’s Pre-Travel Testing program which allows visitors to avoid a 10-day quarantine by taking a test before arrival. Visitors from the mainland US (and now Canada, Japan and Korea) will be able to avoid the mandatory 10-day quarantine by providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the final leg of departure. The test must be taken with one of these trusted testing partners.
Note: Only kids under 5 don’t need the test. So Vir didn’t have the RT PCR test.
The situation is constantly changing so check the County of Kauai website for the latest news.
Currently, proof of vaccination is not a recognized exemption from quarantine or pre-travel testing, but the state government is looking into it and it is possible that vaccine passports may be used by the summer.
We had to fill in the Safe Travels travel and health form online and upload negative test results before boarding our flight to Hawaii. Everyone will have their temperature taken on arrival.
NOTE : Once screened at airport you will need an updated QR code to get to your car rental and to also enter your condo/ vacation rental. Make sure you have it updated right at airport, as several people at the car rental didn’t have the QR updated and had to go all the way back to the airport to get it checked.
Note wearing a mask is mandatory in Hawaii in indoor public places and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible. Please travel responsibly.
Different islands have their own rules in addition to the pre-travel test so please check accordingly.
For in Island travel you will need a rental car. Most of the car rentals are at the Lihue airport only. There are also island taxis available, but I do not recommend relying on them. The island is not huge—you can drive from one side to the other in a few hours—but there is plenty to keep you occupied. We rented a Jeep for off roading experience.
Also, if you plan to book any tours, I recommend booking them in advance as due to new health protocols on the island lots of tour companies are running on limited capacity and get filled very quick or still not operational.
Our Stay in Kauai.
We split our stay on the island and lived in Poipu on the south shore and Princeville on the north shore to avoid long drives. This was a great decision.
Things to do in South of Kauai.
I chose the South side for first half of the trip as it is sunnier and drier most of the year. The ocean is calm and was swimmable. There was easy access to beaches from our condo. Plus, there is a wide range of accommodation including some of the best hotels in Kauai (resorts and condos). Also, lots of restaurants and cafés to get good food.
We loved our stay in Poipu, our son had such a great time on the beach. The beaches have areas that are perfect for kids and has no waves.
We also saw monk seals soaking the sun.
I had an amazing time snorkeling here. The reefs are very close to the beach, so you do not have to swim too far or get a boat to get to snorkeling spots. The best place to snorkel in Kauai.
The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail at Shipwreck beach is a great hike to explore the otherwise inaccessible coastline. Strong shore break can make this beach a dangerous spot to swim. Best for beachcombing and sunsets.
Go to Port Allen for sailing tours. We did the 4-hour Sunset Napali coast catamaran tour from Captain Andy’s. The sailing experience was not great for us as we three had sea sickness all the time. Yet we some how managed to see a pod of dolphins close to the boat and watch a mama and baby whale breaching. The Napali coast is seriously stunning, and I think it is a must do!
I recommend sitting in the front of the boat and having some Dramamine before and on the boat. (I learned my lesson the hard way).
If you have kids younger than 4 I won’t recommend it, our son is 4 and he threw up a lot and slept 80 percent of the time.
Makauwahi Cave Reserve trail A beautiful hike along a well-marked trailed with stunning ocean views (and access) leads to this ancient cave holding many fossils and delightful history. You do have to crawl through a narrow entry at the base of a sink hole to enter this magical place. I highly recommend this and recommend taking the long route and not short one. There is also a farm right next to the cave where you can go and see the male and female turtles. We had a great experience here.
Glass Beach is not the most spectacular on Kauai but is closer to Port Allen and you can see it on the way. It’s too rocky for swimming and small in size. Right behind you is an oil storage facility that provides a not so pleasing industrial backdrop. We couldn’t find enough glass here so I recommend to skip unless you have time to just have a look.
From Poipu we also drove to the West Side of the island and explored:
- Waimea Canyon State Park. The area is remote and less developed. You can stop at different viewpoints to enjoy the beautiful canyon scenery. Traveling across the Waimea Canyon will take you approximately two hours if you spend some time at each stop. If you are planning to travel through the canyon without breaks, you will finish the journey in an hour. There are several lookouts dotted across the rim of the canyon, providing you with beautiful views throughout the hike.
- The lookout above Kalalau Valley on the Na Pali Coast, provides one of the most fantastic views on the island and considered by many to be a must see. At 4,000 feet above sea level, the Kalalau Lookout is the highest elevation you will reach in Kauai by road alone. The air is much cooler at this level and it’s a good idea to bring a coat or sweatshirt. Kalalau Valley is part of the Na Pali Coast and there are no roads to it. The closest you can get to it by car is this overlook. The valley itself is two miles wide and one the widest on Kauai’s west side.
- Pihea & Alakai Swamp Trail – The start of the Pihea Trail skirts the back of Kalalau Valley offering views into the valley that are incredible. The trail dives into the Alakai Swamp, and eventually intersects the Alakai Swamp Trail.
After 4 days of living in Poipu we moved to the most stunning part of the island the north shore in Hanalei, Princeville.
The North Shore is the most beautiful part of the island and one of the best places to stay in Kauai. We loved the mountain scenery, beaches, and cool town of Hanalei. This was by our favorite place to stay at any destination ever! (Ok close match to Santorini, Greece)
Things to do near in North of Kauai, Hanalei.
Princeville is just stunning. We loved to walk to the Sunset look out point from our cottage on the lush green trails with the backdrop of the Makai golf course and stunning mountains. There is also a beach access, but parking is very tricky as there is no street parking and extremely limited public parking available to go to the beach.
We timed our trips to Hanalei almost daily and visited when the roads were open. In March 2021 there was a landslide which has led to limited road access to Hanalei (single lane at certain times of day). To visit Hanalei from Princeville we kept checking the latest news on the Hawaii Department of Transportation
Hanalei Beach and Hanalei Pier are one of the best places on the island to watch the sunset and enjoy the beach. You can rent SUP boards and kayaks too there. We visited this place thrice on our trip
Limahuli Garden and Preserve– We explored this preserve and enjoyed the self-guided tour on one of our last days in Kauai. A bit off the beaten path, well, nearly the end of the line, by road, this was a great place for a leisurely walk into native and evasive plants found on Kauai.
Tunnels Beach It was my favorite beach. The snorkeling is incredible – the reef is home to a multitude of beautiful fish, and there are almost always sea turtles! The mountains make for a gorgeous backdrop as well for family pictures. The parking can get tricky, so your best bet is to park at the public side and walk to Tunnels beach.
Anini Beach is a great for simply relaxing with a book, fishing from shore or paddle boarding above the lively reef and perfect for kids. The deeper and clearer water can be enticing, and I swam right close to few turtles here and got some great shots on my Go pro. The Beach Park has multiple campsites with permits, shade trees, picnic tables, pavilions, restrooms and showers. We went here thrice on our trip
As we spent almost 7 days at Princeville, we drove to the East side to explore, shop, and eat.
Kauai Hindu Monastery and the Rudraksha Grove –We were overwhelmed with emotions upon seeing the beauty of this Hindu monastery in Kauai. Beautiful outdoor monastery and new temple being built near Wailua River Falls. Statues and grounds are amazing. Make sure you get a reservation if you want to visit the inside of the temples. The Rudraksha grove is very close to the temple and a must visit. We spent over an hour here mesmerized by color and beauty of the holy grove. You should not miss going here.
The Wailua falls can be seen from a viewpoint and cannot be hiked so these 2 locations can be done on same day.
Kauai Plantation Railway in Lihue– We wanted to do the railway tour. Unfortunately, it was closed. Seemed great for kids. You can check them out and call and book in advance.
Luau Feast -A trip to Hawaii would not be complete without taking part in a traditional luau (feast). This luau experience at Kilohana Plantation on Kauai includes the convenience of round-trip hotel transport (if option selected), a lei greeting and champagne on arrival, and a 4-course dinner of local specialties. Unfortunately, all Luau on Kauai, were closed during our visit. You can check ahead of time if you travel.
Local Farmer’s Markets are also great places to go to see the local cuisines, art and fruits. I recommend checking online while or before travelling when and where are the farmer’s market in the are you stay or close by. We visited to one in Hanalei.
In my next blog post I will be sharing our favorite places to eat, and things I packed for our 10-day trip.
Note: Hawaii is not cheap or budget friendly, you will have to decide what to prioritize: ocean views, beach access, fantastic pool, kitchen, onsite restaurants, access to sights or whatever is best for your family. I believe on the East Side, you’ll get the best value for money, but you won’t have the views of the North Shore or as easy access to sights as in the South.
You might also consider splitting your time between two areas to avoid long day trips as we did.
If you plan anytime to travel to Kauai, I wish you have a wonderful time. Do not forget to be updated on local island travel guidelines. You can ask me a question in comments below or DM me on my Instagram and I will reply you as soon as I can.