aerial view of the Hawaiian island of Kauai

 

Plan Your Family’s Best Trip Ever to the Garden Isle!

You’re planning to visit Kauai? Lucky you! You have chosen what many consider to be the most spectacular island on earth. Whether you’re a first-timer or just haven’t been in a while, this guide will help you decide where to stay and what to do — highlighting the three main regions, a handful of the best resorts in Kauai (including luxury, family and beachfront resorts) plus some ideal beaches and activities you and your family won’t want to miss. Now get packing for the trip of a lifetime!

CHOICES GALORE . . . BUT HOW TO CHOOSE?

The Hawaiian island of Kauai is, quite simply, one of the most naturally stunning destinations on the planet. On Kauai, all your senses get involved: the sight of turquoise waters, the scent of pineapple and plumeria, the hushed crushing sounds of the surf, the feel of your toes in warm sand. The only unconquered of Hawaii’s four main islands, Kauai emerged from the sea millions of years before the other islands did, which is why it is graced with softest sands, the deepest canyon, and the oldest rainforest. Kauai remains the least developed island, as well, thanks in part to a rule that no building ever be taller than a coconut tree. (The resorts in Kauai reflect this rule, too.) In fact, most of the island is accessible only by boat or helicopter, so it’s no wonder Hollywood returns to Kauai again and again as its go-to stand in for paradise for such movies as “South Pacific,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Jurassic Park” and “Avatar.” With ideal year-round climate, unrivaled recreation and the friendliest locals, Kauai is a bucket-list maker’s dream.

But how to choose where to stay? How to know which Kauai resort is in the right place for you? Kauai has three main regions from which to choose, including:

  1. The North Shore
  2. The South Shore
  3. The Royal Coconut Coast (Eastern Shore)

(Note: The West Side gets lots of love, too, of course — especially for its unparalleled exotic scenery and endless offerings of adventure, but it is much less inhabited and resort-laden by comparison.)

This guide will detail each of these three main regions and highlight a few Kauai luxury resorts, some of the best resorts in Kauai for families, plus a few best-loved beaches and activities by region. Luckily, Kauai is relatively small, so everything is within easy reach. You can wake up to a tropical rainstorm in Princeville, jump in your Jeep and be on sunny Poipu Beach in just over an hour. In fact, travelers sometimes throw in the towel and split time between them.

Speaking of beaches: Which is Kauai’s best? This is, of course, unquantifiable. The Garden Isle’s coastline is rife with variety, and each beach has a unique personality and set of amenities. One offering fantastic snorkeling might not be the ideal place to unfurl your blanket for all-day relaxation, while a stretch of cove coveted by pro surfers could easily be a poor choice to bring a bunch of kids eager for a fun swim. Also helpful: Most beaches’ traits differ from season to season, and in the wrong conditions injuries (and worse) do occur. Whether you are planning to loll lazily in the shallows or are ready to body whomp it in the wildest waves, always know before you go. Just ask a local!

Ready for the regions? Here we go:

WELCOME TO THE NORTH SHORE

north shore of kauai lighthouse

Beloved first and foremost for its spectacular natural beauty, the North Shore of Kauai is that jaw-dropping, how-can-this-be-real tropical paradise you see in your dreams. (And in plenty of movies, too.) As you steer your rented Jeep up the one-lane Kuhio Highway from the East, there is a perceptible difference: The air starts to feel heavier, the foliage grows more lush and the greens look even more, well, green. Of course, it is perpetual rain (about 85 inches annually) that is creating all of this rich landscape, as it is wetter here than in any other inhabited part of the island. (Only Mount Waialeale at the island’s center gets more.) When you add in loads of sunshine, the North Shore weather becomes predictably unpredictable. If you’re a rainbow lover (and dare we ask . . . who isn’t?) you will be in your element.

An adventurer’s fantasy, as well, the North Shore offers majestic mountain ranges filled with trails, verdant valleys, thundering waterfalls to explore, white sand beaches, rolling waves full of surfers and some of the best snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking in the world. Family friendly activities offer fun for all levels — and are limited only by your imagination. Spinner dolphins play in the water, sea turtles glide along the rocky under-bottom and schools of fish flash right by your face. Since the North Shore features some of the best Kauai beach resorts, too, there will be scads to do at your home base, as well.

The North Shore’s charming town centers are found in the laid-back vibe of Hanalei Town and the slightly more upscale Princeville — both easily walkable from many points. Together, these enclaves offer island-inspired shopping, unique souvenirs, local art galleries, entertainment, gear rentals and plenty of dining options from hip food trucks to five-star restaurants. And don’t even think of skipping the shave ice. (Just resist adding a “d” to “shave”. It’ll say “tourist” as surely as socks with sandals and a sunburn.)

Life’s a little slower here, so take cues from the locals. Look up from your phone, soak in what’s around you, have a Mai Tai, and feel the happiness.

A FEW KAUAI HAWAII RESORT HIGHLIGHTS on the NORTH SHORE

The Princeville Resort (formerly the St Regis Princeville)

Like the aging grand duchess of the Kauai luxury resorts kingdom, the lavish and massive Princeville Resort perches high on a cliff gazing out over Hanalei Bay. A true bucket-list destination, (and equally serious budget buster) the Princeville is considered to be in one of the most spectacular locations on this or any other island, as it was built specifically to provide every guest room with breathtaking views of the vast sparkling Pacific, mountain ranges and unforgettable North Shore sunsets. In fact, this is the only Kauai resort that provides views of the towering emerald cliffs of the Napali coast — one of the world’s unique natural treasures. Conde Nast readers named the Princeville Resort as one of the 25 Best Overall Kauai Hawaii Resorts for 2018. (Note: The Princeville Resort will undergo renovations in 2019 under new ownership so check for possible deals and closure dates.)

Westin Princeville

A relative newcomer to the North Shore, the gorgeous 10-year-old Westin Kauai resort enjoys many Princeville-adjacent amenities without the crazy-high price tag of its grander neighbor. And though some balk at its lack of beachfront access, a complimentary shuttle whisks guests to and from the Princeville Resort’s golden shores all day long. And what the Westin does not have in the way of sand, it makes up for with fantastic multiple pools and a breath-taking high-cliff view over Hanalei Bay and Mount Makana. Whale watching in your own backyard, anyone?

Hanalei Bay Resort

This show-stopping Kauai beach resort feels more organic to the landscape than most, blending seamlessly with the natural environment rather than resembling a ritzy building plopped into paradise. The lush grounds meander down the mountain, making the property feel expansive and less populated. If you prefer a more homey, laid-back vibe, the Hanalei Bay Resort is that perfect combination of true Hawaiian luxury and easy comfort — without the fancy fuss. A little less amenity-dense than some of the best Kauai resorts, it has a more sensible price tag to match — plus warm and friendly hospitality. Situated in the tony enclave of Princeville facing north, the stunning HBR overlooks the massive blue expanse of Hanalei Bay.

Wyndham Ka ‘Eo Kai

In glorious Princeville and overlooking Anini Bay, the Ka ‘Eo Kai is perfectly situated for families to take advantage of all the North Shore has to offer. Known as a golf-lover’s paradise (in paradise) this Kauai family resort offers up a variety of activities including swimming, running and lots of golf. Flanked by a Makai fairway on one side and Princeville’s historic tree lane on the other, you will find idyllic walking/running paths that curve through the resort, down to the bay and into the picturesque town. Ready to relax after all that activity? The main pool is nestled in a particularly tranquil tropical setting — ideal for kicking back and enjoying a little down time and a big Mai Tai. Guest rooms are not as fancy as some but are spacious and many offer kitchens and private lanais.

NORTH SHORE BEACH HIGHLIGHTS:

Hanalei Bay

Enjoy a two-mile crescent of unadulterated bliss. The sands are vast and white, the mountains envelop you, and the scenery is just what you hope for in a tropical beach. The best part is that there is something for everyone here. Great waves abound to satisfy even the most experienced surfer, and the waters near the reef are great for those seeking a calmer swim in small waves. Summer turns the bay even gentler, and it becomes a haven for stand-up paddle boarders. Because the sand is so vast it is a favorite playground for picnics, lounging, and families with kids of all ages. And if you look closely enough, (or take a hit of the local pakalolo) you just might see “Puff the Magic Dragon” napping in the mountains that encircle the beach.

Ke’e Beach

Ke’e (pronounced “keh-AY”) means the “end of the road” and that is exactly where you’ll find this spectacular point with incredible views. Parking is tricky around Ke’e (even with the overflow parking lot) and people come year round to enjoy it, so arriving early in the day will serve you well. Coral reefs just off shore are a haven for sea creatures, making this a great spot for snorkeling and diving. The waters are usually calmer/safer than at the reefs in nearby Tunnels. Of course, as with any Kauai beach, high surf should be noted as the currents here can get dangerously rough. (Note: The highway may end here but it also where the world-famous Kalalau Trail begins. See “North Shore Activity Highlights”).

Tunnels Beach (aka Makua)

The oohs and aahs start the moment you step through the dark jungle of trees and into the great wide open that is Tunnels. A convex crescent-shaped beach, the ocean here is more turquoise than you imagined, and the shallows (on the east side) seem to go on and on to the horizon. Named for the underwater lava tube formations found remarkably close to shore at the center of the crescent, Tunnels also offers a massive reef to explore, making it a favorite of divers and snorkelers.  However, it is rugged and not recommended for the inexperienced — especially in the colder months. A great shore to kick back on and gaze dreamily, contemplating the benevolent life that led you here.

Ha’ena Beach Park

Just west of Tunnels is a gorgeous tropical cove anchored by the recognizable head of Mount Makana (which makes a stunning backdrop for Instagrammers). If you obtain a permit, you can pitch a tent and stay a while, as the large grassy stretch dotted with coconut palms makes a comfy campsite. You will also find a lifeguard station here (not always a given) and restrooms with showers. HBP is ideal for picnics, beachcombing, shell collecting and swimming in the calmer months. Not protected by a reef, the strong winter currents here can prove hazardous for swimmers, and the waves tend to be shorebreakers, suitable for only the most seasoned surfers. Pull up a beach chair, wrap your hands around a mug of local coffee and watch these skillful athletes work their magic. (Note: The Maniniholo Dry Cave, another popular North Shore attraction, is right across the street.)

NORTH SHORE ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHTS

Hike the Kalalau Trail

This unforgettable 11-mile trek starts at Ke’e Beach, follows a rugged stretch of the majestic Na Pali Coast and deposits you at pristine Kalalau Beach. The terrain is accessible only by foot, kayak or air so you feel like you’re in on a local secret. And if these unbelievable vistas look like something right out of Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”, well . . . it’s because they are.

Look out! It’s the Hanalei Lookout!

Hunter, jade, olive, moss, kelly: It seems as though every shade of green is on display in layer after layer of taro fields, riverbank and mountain foliage. The best part? These staggering views can be yours with just a quick stop along highway 56 in Princeville, and they deliver that quintessentially Hawaiian setting you crave. Perfect for jealousy-inducing selfies.

Snorkel at Tunnels (see beach description above)

The coral reef at Tunnels is so massive you can see it from space. Currents are strong and parking scarce but if you’re a good swimmer with good gear you will be regaled by a rainbow of sea life. Make friends with sea turtles, boxfish, unicorn fish, grouper, moray eels and of course the humuhumunukunukuapua’a — Hawaii’s shimmer-golden state fish.

WELCOME TO THE SOUTH SHORE

travelers enjoying Poipu beach

The glorious South Shore of Kauai deeply satisfies what you crave most from a beach vacation: abundant sunshine, golden sands, twinkling waters — scenery so lovely you think you’ve wandered into heaven. In fact, the moment you steer your Jeep into that unmistakable tunnel of trees on Maluhia Road you feel the magic. A gift to Kauai from a pineapple baron more than a century ago, these Eucalyptus trees form a fluttering green entryway that whispers “aloha” to all who visit. Among the most pristine coastlines on earth, Kauai’s South Shore is known for its long, wide, stellar beaches and unforgettable adventures. From the calmer-gentler Kalapaki all the way to exclusive little Lawai, each beach along this coast offers something unique. (See South Shore Beaches below for a few highlights.) With about 35 inches of annual rainfall (versus the North’s 85), the South Shore sees more bright, warm, picture-perfect days than anywhere else on the island. Showers here are usually quick and refreshing — disappearing as quickly as your last Mai Tai did.

The South Shore offers some of the best Kauai family resorts with plenty of shops and restaurants within an easy stroll — especially around Poipu. The world-class Shops at Kukui’ula Village offer gift and clothing stores, art galleries, and some of the best eateries on the island including the not-to-be-missed Lappert’s ice cream parlor. Nearby Old Koloa Town is home to quaint plantation buildings that house art, music and clothing shops, as well as mom-and-pop cafes. Here, too, is a post office, grocery store, farmer’s market and the Koloa Fish Market — where the mahi mahi is so fresh it nearly jumps into your bag.

A FEW KAUAI HAWAII RESORT HIGHLIGHTS on the SOUTH SHORE

Grand Hyatt Kauai

Grand, indeed. With the property clocking in at some 50 acres, this tropical wonderland is one of the largest and most luxurious resorts on the island — like a small town unto itself. The guest rooms here are remarkably spacious, each with understatedly elegant Hawaiian decor, captivating views, and private lanais. This Kauai beachfront resort runs right along the shoreline, but unfortunately, the waters here are usually too rough for swimming. Those eager to take the plunge will instead enjoy multiple freshwater resort pools, a massive saltwater lagoon (and we mean massive), a water slide and little connecting rivers. Of all the best resorts on Kauai, none beats the swim action here. Though alarmingly pricey, you will find a full ten dining choices onsite, with everything from a poolside quick bite to truly upscale dining. The high resort fee stings, but the Hyatt offers a wealth of activities: A full-service spa, a luau, entertainment on the terrace, championship golf access, tennis, self parking and the best kids club in town.

Koloa Landing Resort

Of all the top Kauai resorts, Koloa Landing offers the largest villas on the island. Like having your own Kauai beach home, these villas are beloved for their elegant, comfortable furnishings and long list of amenities like over-sized private lanais, ensuite washer-dryers and stocked gourmet kitchens with Sub-Zero refrigerators. If you’re traveling with family, a villa is ideal for you — and can be a cost-saver, too. Located in the heart of the South Shore, this Kauai luxury resort boasts 25-acres of lush tropical paradise with stunning ocean views, and some of the friendliest staff anywhere. Three pools include a serenity adult pool, a family pool and a spectacular 350,000-gallon, multi-level extravaganza — complete with infinity edge, swim-through waterfall grotto and two slides. (The Los Angeles Times recently tapped this as one of the “Best Pools in Hawaii”.) Guests enjoy a world-class spa, fitness room, seasonal luau and outdoor yoga classes, and they love the recent addition of the Holo Holo Grill — a not-to-be-missed collaboration with celebrity chef Sam Choy. (Because Poke tastes even better poolside. . .) While there is no direct beach access, you will find amazing snorkeling right out front, with beautiful Kiahuna Beach just a ten-minute stroll down a paved road. Take a five-minute stroll in the other direction to the Shops at Kukui’ula Village for some of the region’s top dining and retail therapy.

Kauai Marriott

Checking all the “fantasy beach vacation” boxes, this Kauai beach resort is ideally situated in a protected bay making it perfect for swimming and surfing. The gorgeously landscaped property is lush and the buildings quite opulent. And the amenities just keep coming, including an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, six tennis courts and one of the largest pools in all of Hawaii — albeit a little ostentatious for the environs. In fact, other sections of the resort’s architecture feels a little too grand for the quaint Garden Isle, but if that doesn’t bother you, this place has it all. Multiple enormous ballrooms are a draw for weddings and conferences, and the five on-site restaurants include Duke’s, one of Kauai’s most popular eateries.

SOUTH SHORE BEACH HIGHLIGHTS

Poipu Beach

Who loves Poipu Beach? Water sports enthusiasts, families with little children, beach-chair dreamers, adventure seekers and plenty of lazy monk seals. In fact Poipu (which means “crashing waves”), was dubbed “the best beach in America” by the Travel Channel partially for its curved, lush beauty but also for its rare tombolo. What the heck is a tombolo, you ask? It is a naturally occurring sandbar that in this case splits the waters here into two smaller bays. To the west is Baby Beach, so called because it is a protected cozy cove perfect for even the youngest children — like a gigantic bathtub. On the other side you’ll find a sports-lovers haven with great snorkeling and fun waves. All this is banked by a grassy park dotted with coconut palms, and includes showers, restrooms, picnic tables, nearby restaurants and easy parking. If you’re not staying at a Kauai beachfront resort, you can enjoy the best of the South Shore all day here.

Kiahuna Beach

Though this idyllic, golden-sand beach stretches along the Kiahuna Plantation condominiums, it is open to the public. Rough waters make this a better spot for experienced swimmers, though it is calmer inside the reef. A favorite beach for beginning surfers, you may, too, want to take a lesson here — but be aware of occasional and dangerous “sneaker waves” that can come out of nowhere, crashing down with great power and possibly even tossing you onto the rocks. Park at Poipu Beach and walk over as parking here is scarce for non-residents.

Shipwreck Beach (and Mahaulepu Beach)

Shipwreck Beach is a dreamy tropical locale: golden sands are surrounded by trees and cliffs. Thundering waves pound the shore. The beach’s sobriquet comes from a 100-foot wooden boat that ran aground long ago and remained lodged there until it was obliterated in 1982 by Hurricane Iwa. Though it may appear idyllic here, dangerously strong rip currents, rocky terrain, and a sharp shorebreak make the waters notoriously treacherous. This doesn’t keep advanced swimmers, surfers, and body-boarders from hitting the waves in droves, however, but every year there are serious injuries. Shipwreck is a fine place for beachcombers, picnics, sun worshipping, wet-sand strolling, sunset gazing, turtle spotting, monk seal selfies and whale watching.

A golden cliff to the left of the beach towers some 40 feet above the surface of the ocean. Harrison Ford and Anne Heche famously leapt from this peak in the 1998 movie, “6 Days and 7 Nights.” The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail begins here at the north side of Shipwreck Beach and meanders all the way along the sea cliffs for several miles landing in pristine Mahaulepu Beach on Kawailoa Bay — a seriously popular destination for windsurfers, snorkelers, swimmers, fishers and sunbathers made all the more precious by its hard-won accessibility.

SOUTH SHORE ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHTS

Go ziplining in Poipu

Don’t you love those dreams where you can fly? How about right through a gigantic rainforest? With ziplining you can enjoy speeds of up to 50 miles per hour on lines as long as half a mile. Fly backwards, in tandem with a friend, and even upside down. And the views? Your goosebumps are not just from those occasional rain showers . . .

Visit Waimea Canyon

The so-called “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” may pale in size to its mainland cousin but this natural wonder is no less spectacular. With dramatic gorge views, colorful hiking trails and thundering waterfalls, you almost wonder if Mother Nature was just showing off here. Don’t forget to stop at JoJo’s for shave ice on your way back.

Whale watch along the Napali Coast

Kauaians do not believe in keeping sea life captive, so the only way to glimpse Hawaii’s finest creatures is in their natural habitat. Hop on a comfortable catamaran that flies across the turquoise waters of the Na Pali coast. Pods of spinner dolphins race alongside you and Humpback whales can breach close enough to look you in the eye. A Napali Coast catamaran tour with Captain Andy’s is an adventure you will rave about for years.

Take a helicopter ride

When’s the last time you buzzed a waterfall or hovered near a rainbow? With 70 percent of Kauai inaccessible by foot, a helicopter escort is the only way to get an insider’s look at vast stretches of the island’s hidden natural beauty. A truly splurge-worthy adventure to check off your bucket list.

Spend a day-into-night at Poipu Beach

An aerial shot of this “Best Beach in America” (so-called by the Travel Channel) is the best way to truly appreciate Poipu’s unique shape and splendor. You can’t help but sense the divine in its design. No wonder families, dreamers, surfers, napper-readers and sea turtles flock here. Stay into the golden hour of early evening and be rewarded with some of the grandest sunsets on the planet.

Hula Dance at a Luau

Koloa Landing puts the “wow” in luau with their seasonal extravaganza of music and fun: This elegant evening under the stars riffs reverently on Hawaiian culture and is paired with a dazzling array of island delicacies from celebrity chef Sam Choy. Enjoy another glass of champagne and join the dancers on stage to test out your hula skills for the crowd.

WELCOME TO THE ROYAL COCONUT COAST  (aka the EAST SHORE)

east shore of kauai image

Everyone talks about the North Shore versus the South Shore on Kauai, but the East Shore — aka the Royal Coconut Coast possesses every bit as much to recommend it. In fact, one of its main towns, Kapaa, was named “The #1 Trending Destination for 2018” by TripAdvisor. “If you want big resorts,” says the travel site, “go to Honolulu, but if you want the gems of Kauai, our favorite Hawaiian island – this is the spot. Kapaa is set amongst hills that look photoshopped, with some of the best hidden beaches in Hawaii not far at all. For beating the Hawaii crowds, it doesn’t get better.” Additionally, Forbes magazine named Kapaa as one of America’s prettiest towns. And Kapaa is just one of many on this unforgettable coast! Some of the best Kauai beach resorts are here, too.

Beloved for its welcoming, homey vibe, built-in adventure, and long stretches of palm-speckled, golden-sand coastline, the East Shore is ready to make your wildest island dreams come true. Golf in paradise, rent tandem bikes for the whole family, hit the shops, take a zipline adventure through a rainforest, or go mountain tubing. Breathtaking and easily accessible hikes through green mountains lead you to cascading waterfalls. Commandeer a kayak on the only navigable river in the Hawaiian islands, or attend one of the many festivals, art walks and farmers markets. Or do absolutely nothing just because you can.

The Royal Coconut Coast took its name from its history as the home of Hawaii royalty and as a coconut plantation back in the day. What the east coast has done so well is preserve the beauty, culture and lifestyle of early Kauai. Here you’ll find ukulele makers and true folk art shops rather than ritzy brand-name goods for resort hoppers. The towns here retain the original Hawaiian charm of bygone days, and yet because this area holds the biggest residential population on the island, they also offer good professional services and conveniences: medical facilities, a full-service library, post office, several places of worship, public bus lines, and a wonderfully wide spectrum of eateries. Not to mention, some of the best resorts on Kauai, which bring us to:

A FEW KAUAI HAWAII RESORT HIGHLIGHTS on the ROYAL COCONUT COAST

Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort and Spa

At the heart of this casually elegant Kauai beach resort is a beautiful soft-water river pool that lazily meanders throughout two acres of foliage-covered grounds. A family favorite, the pool is accented with waterfalls, lava rock, curvy water slides and three sand-bottom whirlpool spas — all of which keep guests firmly and happily in vacation mode. Situated between the historical towns of Kapa’a and Wailua with beachfront access, the Waipouli touts itself as a land where Hawaiian kings dwelled, Hollywood movies were shot, and where Papa Hemingway found writing inspiration. With lots of amenities throughout including a spa and fitness center, the condo-style guest rooms have gourmet kitchens and upscale furnishings. The Oasis Beach restaurant is a local fave, providing tasty island-inspired comfort food and even tastier views.

Kaha Lani Resort

Old school in the best possible way, this perfect-for-families Kauai beachfront resort sits right on idyllic Lydgate Beach and Park, so if the multitude of activities onsite aren’t enough for your crew, you have a world-class tropical playground right outside your door. Many units have views and lanais and face the coast. Fully equipped kitchens let you create easy or elaborate meals from the local farmer’s markets, grocery stores or the Coconut marketplace — just 2 miles away. This comfortable Kauai resort includes a heated pool, tennis court and putting green, all of which make it an extra user-friendly spot for families to just relax and bond.

Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy

A lovely oceanfront property, this Kauai beach resort may not be quite as picturesque as some, but it offers many comforts of home and is well situated. Covering eight acres along the eastern coastline, its central location is ideal for exploring both the North Shore and the South Shore and all their charms, as well. Another bonus is that it is right next door to the popular Coconut Marketplace, an outdoor shopping center filled with eateries, quaint boutiques, and a weekly farmers market. An onsite spa, firepits, barbecues, fitness center and private lanais round out its resume of fun.

ROYAL COCONUT COAST BEACH HIGHLIGHTS

Anahola Beach Park

Anahola is just plain perfect for families, especially those with smaller children, as it has some of the calmest waters on the island. High surf is kept at bay (so to speak) by a protective reef. The center section has a no-board rule so surfing is allowed on the north side of the beach only. And though snorkeling is relatively calm here, the waters near the mouth of the Anahola River can get rough. The grassy park is tree-lined for shade making it great for picnics, and it provides one of the only overnight campgrounds on this side of the island.

Lydgate Beach and Park

Children are in heaven at Lydgate Beach and Park. Break walls were built to create two pools that are as calm and warm as an oversized tub and are a pleasure for parents, too. The larger pool is full of fish perfect for little snorkelers and the smaller pool is the go-to spot for infants and toddlers. The rolling grassy area is filled with trees, barbecues and picnic tables, and an enormous deluxe playground nearby provides plenty of shade. A true family-friendly beach and park that includes a lifeguard service, your kids may never want to leave.

EASTERN SHORE ACTIVITY HIGHLIGHTS

Fall in Love with Opaekaa Falls  

That 90s girl-band who sang, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” must have never visited Kauai. With a little adventurous spirit you can find yourself face-to-face with some of god’s loveliest handiwork: Opaekaa Falls is an easy-to-access major Kauai waterfall. Found just off Route 580, this 40-foot wide spectacle thunders down 150 feet into a hidden pool. Have a picnic with just about the best views of your life. “Opaekaa” means “rolling shrimp” but there is nothing shrimpy about this baby. You, too, will be gushing.

Wailua River Kauai

Kauai’s largest navigable river offers an embarrassment of riches to adventures of all skill levels, meandering past waterfalls and dense tropical foliage along the East Side of the island. (Is this a Disneyland ride?) The 20-mile river flows from massive Mount Waialeale (one of the wettest spots on earth) at the island’s the center and feeds both Opaekaa Falls and Wailua Falls. Cruise it by kayak, paddle board or outrigger canoe. Boats also tour the Fern Grotto, a lava rock cave completely enshrouded by (you guessed it) fern. Check out the beloved Nounou Mountains which create a formation between Wailua and Kapaa resembling an enormous native taking a nap and snap a few photos of this “Sleeping Giant.”

Smith Family Garden Luau

Arguably the most popular luau on Kauai, the family-run business has been in this gorgeous 30-acre tropical garden since 1946. Bursting with vintage island charm, this luau looks straight outta “Blue Hawaii” — the Elvis Presley cult classic. The Smiths serve a fantastic feast and put on an international extravaganza by the Golden People of Hawaii featuring traditional dancing from Polynesia and Asia. Get your hula on — and dance with your loved ones under the stars.

Your family is so ready for a Kauai vacation together . . . and Koloa Landing Resort in sunny Poipu can help make it happen. With the largest villas on the island, seasonal deals, the friendliest staff, and easy access to all these shores have to offer, our resort welcomes you. Click here and book today. We’ll keep a Mai Tai in the shaker for you. . . .

by Erica Karlin — Koloa Landing Resort