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35 Best Things to in Kauai with Kids (2023)

Kauai gets a lot of attention for being a romantic destination (which it absolutely IS that too!). But it’s truly an unforgettable family vacation that has just as much to do for Mom and Dad as for the kids. It is SUCH a special place and we can totally see now, why people come here over and over. Here’s 35 best things to do in Kauai with kids– broken up in the North, East, and South side of the island.

If you’re dreaming of going to Hawaii, but just have no idea how you could afford it – don’t miss our Hawaii on a Budget Step by Step Guide HERE!

best things to do in kauai with kids

Best things to do in Kauai with kids (South Shore)

1. Hike the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

This is a super accessible and easy trail on the South shore of Kauai. Bonus if you are staying at the Grand Hyatt Kauai, because the trailhead is essentially on the Hyatt property.

If not, there is a small parking lot right next to the entrance to the trail you can park in. Keep in mind there are parts of this trail that go along the edge of a “cliff” of sorts, so be mindful of kids at the wandering age 🙂

My oldest daughter and I woke up early one morning together and did this trail at sunrise- what a memory. This would also be the perfect little trek for a sunset hike. Put it on your list!

2. Don’t miss açaí bowls at Anakes

We had a loottttt of açaí bowls while in Kauai, and these surpassed ALL the rest. The flavor, the size, the price. Anakes is at the back of the Kukui’ula Supermarket and a true Kuaui hidden gem. We loved the Sunrise bowl and The Hulk. I will be dreaming about Anakes for months to come…GUARANTEED.

3. See the sea turtles at Poipu beach

When people ask our girls what their favorite part of Hawaii was, they both quickly say “the sea turtles.” 🙂 This is maybe the very best thing to do in Kauai with kids.

Head to Poipu Beach later afternoon/early evening around dusk and you will get to see these beautiful creatures up CLOSE and personal. They do have volunteers roping off the area to ensure no one gets too close to these endangered turtles.

sea turtles at Poipu Beach

A local there told us what we saw (maybe 8-12 turtles total) was actually 1/4 of what is normally on the shore. They said, fascinatingly, during COVID the turtles stopped coming to shore all together. They are just now seeing a slow resurgence the past year now that visitors are returning. How beautiful is that?!

4. Get a Puka Dog

Finish up watching the sea turtles at sunset and walk across the street to Puka Dog for an infamous Hawaiian style hot dog. I know, I know, it may sounds strange- but they actually were much better than we thought!

Take your hot dogs back over to the park at Poipu beach. Let the kids play on the playground there or play in the shallow, calm waters. The PERFECT Hawaiian night.

5. Go see spouting horn

This is a super quick stop! Spouting Horn is a blowhole located on the southern coast of Kauai. This area is known for its strong crashing waves (dangerously so in the winter). These waves erode lava rocks on the coastline which can create narrow openings, hence the Spouting Horn.

Plan for no more than 10 minutes really to swing in, see the sprays, and then be on your way. The kids got a kick out of the water spewing out of the ground for sure though!

6. Enjoy the water slides at the amazing resort pools

I mean what kid isn’t crazy for a resort pool slide?! We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kuaui (for nearly free! See exactly how HERE) and it was the resort pool(s) of ALL resort pools! Our girls spent each afternoon after our morning adventures swimming and sliding and hot tubbing for hours on end. Something just hits different about that hotel pool in Hawaii. 🙂

A potentially underrated, but crowd favorite thing to do in Kauai with kids.

7. Walk Hanapepe Swinging Bridge

The Hanapepe Swinging Bridge is one of Hanapepe’s most popular attractions. In the early 1900s the bridge was originally built as a way for residents to cross the river. After a hurricane though, it was restored and reinforced. Kids love this suspension bridge because it rocks and swings (a little bit scary, a little bit fun!).

While in Hanapepe Town, visit the eclectic galleries and shops, or enjoy the Art Walk on Friday evenings, where all the galleries are open to view the works of local Kauai Artists.

8. Drive Waimea Canyon

Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this is truly a site to see. (Not technically on the South shore, but most accesible from there!) Waimea is Hawaiian for “reddish water”, a reference to the erosion of the canyon’s red soil. About an hour drive from the South shore, but worth it for a morning trip!

NOTE: The drive does get quite winding towards the end. So make sure to pack some dramamine for anyone that is sensitive to motion sickness (me!).

You can drive all 13 miles (26 miles RT), or just stop at a few scenic lookouts as you want. You will park and pay at the first main lookout via a self standing pay to park machine. It is $10 per car + $5 per person. The views were breathtaking! The best views of the waterfall are actually just on the road pullovers around markers 10 and 13.

9. Hike Waipoo Falls Trail

While in Waimea Canyon, carve out sometime for the best hike for families in Kauai. The Waipoo falls trail is famous for birdwatching, wildlife, rainforests and beautiful views.

The trail is 3.6 miles round trip and moderately difficult. But for your efforts you will get two striking Waimea Canyon viewpoints and a memorable hike through the forest.

Waimea Canyon waterfall

Though this is a decently easy hike, the hardest part is finding the trailhead (though the area is well signed). To access the Waipoo falls trail-head, keep looking for a dirt road towards the right that leads down to the Waimea Canyon, past mile marker 14. Once you are on this dirt road, look for a dirt parking spot on the left. This is where the trail head is located!

10. Hang out at Shipwreck beach

Another super family friendly beach on the South Shore of Kauai. (Again, bonus if you’re staying at the Grand Hyatt like us, because this is the beach right in front of the resort). Although, the water isn’t as calm as Poipu beach, it isn’t overcrowded and a great stop if you are hiking Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail.

11. Enjoy ALL the food trucks

If you want to do Hawaii on a budget, food trucks are hands down the way to do it. I think we only had one sit down meal our whole trip! Honestly, many times, it seemed like the meals at the food trucks were the MOST delicious meals we had…and cheapest! Our favorites were Kickshaws, Kauai Poke Co., and Taco Libre on the South shore.

12. Wander through The Shops at Kukui‘ula

In the heart of Poipu, The Shops at Kukui‘ula is an upscale area for shopping and dining. Wander through the charming little strip with restaurants and boutiques to meander through. Make sure to stop in Lappert’s for the most delicious ice cream on the South Shore! The flavors are out of this world good.

13. Explore Old Koloa Town

Downtown Koloa Village is another great place to stop in for lunch or dinner and do some boutique hopping. The kids loved searching for their souvenir amidst all the shops and popping in all the art galleries. Don’t miss shaved ice at The Fresh Shave afterwards!

Best things to do in Kauai with kids (East Side)

14. Stop at Lydgate State Park

Although you will find far prettier beaches in Kauai, this one was a HIT with the kids. We stopped here on our drive from the South to North shore and the kids could have played for hours at the massive wooden playground here.

The beach across the parking lot is covered in driftwood remnants big and small. Our girls were so happy to spend time in the sand building forts and hiding in driftwood tents. Simple and maybe not the picturesque sweeping views that YOU love, but consistently a child-favorite thing to do in Kauai with kids :).

Don’t miss the very best beaches in Kauai for swimming here!

15. Kayak or SUP the Wailua River

There are loads of companies that offer kayak and SUP rentals for the scenic Wailua River. Many of them will even included a guided hike or lunch along with the excursion.

The river is about 17 miles long and flows from the Wailua Reservoir in the eastern mountains of Kauai to the Pacific Ocean. Along the course, the river passes through tropical rainforest, including the Wailua River State Park. The not so secret, Secret Falls, is here and only accessible by water.

Note- the only place to start your kayak or paddle board journey is at the marina!

16. Take Surfing Lessons

We really thought about doing this with our girls…how fun for your older kids to learn to surf in Hawaii?! Poipu Beach in Kauai is the most popular place for first surf lessons because of the ideal waves for beginners and the beautiful water. However, there are also some options at Hanalei Bay Beach as well.

Poipu Beach Surf School has some great options for children as young as six years old! When pulling together things to do in Kauai with kids, surfing lessons cannot be missed!

Tunnels Beach with kids

17. Go to the Smith Garden Luau

This is definitely the most famous Luau in Kauai….and for good reason. Music, an epic feast, and Hawaiian culture at its finest. Most people like to add on the Wailua River Cruise to the Fern Grotto before their Luau slot, to get a real taste of the area.

Make reservations before you arrive, as things get booked up weeks in advance. This iconic Hawaiian Island experience doesn’t come cheap though. Adults tickets are $140 and children’s tickets are $25-35! Pricey but certaintly tops the list as most iconic things to do in Kauai with kids.

18. Have a pizza picnic on the beach

Is there anything better than an care-free, barefoot dinner where the kids can run around and you can enjoy some beautiful scenery? Scorpacciata in Lihue (the Hawaiin Pork is a winner!) and Koloa Pizza Kitchen + Bar on the South shore are both solid options. Grab a pizza to go, pick up some canned wine (Aloha Juice for the kids!) and set to the shore for a perfect night.

19. See some Hawaiian Falls

There are a ton of waterfalls across the island of Kauai, but unfortunately a good number of them are only accessible by a pretty decent hike. (HARD with young kids in tow). Two of our favorite, easily accessible, waterfalls were ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls and Wailua Falls (the famous double-tiered waterfall). Both were on our drive from the South to the North shore and had a parking lot right by the viewing area.

ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls overlook

20. Bike the Ke Ala Hele Makalae

The east side of Kauai has a bike path that stretches from Ahihi Point to Lydgate Park. You can start the bike path in the center, in Kapa’a. Pick up bikes from Hele on Kauai and bike for miles in each direction. The path is mostly flat and well paved, however note there are some small hills that little bikers might need help getting up. 

If you’re traveling with very young ones in tow, rent a bike trailer for your kids!

21. Enjoy the famous shaved ice

Ohhhhh Hawaiian Shaved Ice! First of all, 100% get your shaved ice with ice cream, this is a non-negotiable. Hawaiians do shaved ice differently, in the best possible way. There are dozens of places you can get the infamous treat across the island, but our very favorites were JoJo’s, Waikomo Shave Ice, and Wishing Well on the North Shore.

Best things to do in Kauai with kids (North Shore)

22. Visit Anini beach

Anini Beach is a family friendly beach that is known for its calm waters ideal for snorkeling and wind surfing. Even in the harsh waves of the winter, Anini tends to stay relatively calm. As well, the sighting of sea turtles coming close to the shore makes this a favorite with littles!

A long narrow beach, Anini is a bit out of the way, so it’s less busy than Hanalei Bay or Ha’ena Beach. It’s also lined by palm trees and kamani (Indian almond) trees, so it offers a lot of shade (perfect for families with young kids!). Of the beaches, Anini definitely = best things to do in Kauai with kids.

Tunnels beach on north shore Kauai

23. Splurge on a helicopter ride

This was one thing we didn’t get a chance to do in Kauai that I really wish we would have. The Na Pali cost is only really viewable by three means: helicopter, boat, or a very long strenuous hike. Although they can be pricey ($150-350 per person), there is no better way to experience the natural wonder of the Garden Island than by flying above the landscapes in a Kauai helicopter.

Just make sure to read the details on your booking, because some allow very young children and others do not. The doors off helicopter ride will give you the most up close and personal experience to Kauai’s beauty, but may be a bit too thrilling for the littlest of ones.

24. Take a Na Pali Coast Boat tour

Like I mentioned above one of the ONLY ways to get your eyes on the infamous Na Pali coast is via boat. Captain Andy’s is one of the most popular options. They have options ranging from raft tours to yachts, prices varying from $79-245 per adult and $59-205 per child.

Don’t forget to pack that dramamine! Or even give some to the kids preemptively, those water are ROUGH. And no one wants to add a sea sick boat ride to their Hawaiian memories.

25. Visit and hike Ha’ena State Park

This is a MUST on the North Shore…and also you MUST make reservations in advance. Due to Kauai’s efforts to preserve the natural beauty and ecosystem of the island, they have started an initiative to limit the number of cars driving through the park. There are 3 options for getting into the park: by foot (for Hawaiian residents only), via the VERY limited parking lot right at the park entrance (these reservations are snatched up in literal seconds), and via shuttle (how most people enter the park).

Reservations open up 30 days in advance. Set an alarm on your phone and snag a park reservation before they are gone! This was the only reservation we made ahead of our trip and we paid $120 for the entire family (2 adults, 2 children, and a baby).

What I love about Ha’ena State Park is it is completely choose your own adventure. You can just enter the park and spend the morning at Ke’e beach for a relaxing (yet expensive) beach day. Hike the Kalalau Trail and just do the first 1/2 mile to viewpoint #1 and get a taste of the Na Pali coast. Hike the 4 miles round trip to the second beach. Or you can do the 8mile RT hike to the waterfall.

Whatever you choose keep in mind this is a very challenging hike! It is steep, rocky, and very (VERY) muddy for much of the trail. We ended up doing the 4 mile trek with our 8 and 5 year old and baby in a carrier and PHEW. Our girls have a decent amount of hiking experience, and it was an incredible challenge, but so worth it for those views! If you are going with kids younger than 4, I would highly recommend a carrier of some kind.

Kalalau Trail viewpoint

26. Go Snorkeling

Kauai has some of the best snorkeling you can find! Without a doubt, one of the top things to do in Kauai with kids to give you a true taste of the beauty of the island. Get a front row seat to the colorful tropical fish and sea life such as the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (the state fish of Hawaii…say that 3 times fast), angelfish, and sea turtles.

There are tons of places around each town center that offer snorkeling rentals. As well, if renting a car from Turo, many hosts offer snorkeling gear as an add on for your trip! Anini beach is well known as a snorkelers paradise. It is the largest reef of all the Hawaiian islands and stretching 2.5 miles in length!

27. Head over to Hanalei Bay Pier for sunset

Hanalei Beach during the day is a beaut…but at night?! She SHINES. Head back into town to Hanalei Pier right before sunset, for some of the truly most unforgettable views. Let the kids run around and play in the sand, grab a few Christmas card worthy photos. This was one of our favorite things we did. Afterward we headed to Tahiti Nui for dinner (don’t sleep on that coconut shrimp!)- the perfect outdoor Hawaiian dinner vibes in Hanalei.

Hanalei pier at sunset

28. Go Parasailing

When I went to the Hawaiian Islands in the 5th grade, parasailing is one of the activities me and my Dad did. And it is still one of my core memories as a kid. If you have an adventurous little one, this is SUCH a fun way to see the island from a unique perspective together.

I LOVE activities that get kids (and you!) out of your comfort zone, all the while bonding in a beautiful place. Note- typically the minimum age on this activity is 5 years old!

29. Visit Tunnels Beach

This was our FAVORITE beach in Kauai. It has the mostttt incredible mountainous palm lined backdrop, warm shallow waters, and a shady area at the back of the beach to set up camp. (If beach vacations with kids is your thing, don’t miss this round up!)

Accessibility and parking can be a bit tricky, but it is more than worth it. The earlier you can get there the better!

Put Tunnels Beach into your phone. As you get close to the pinned location, start looking on your right for an alleyway that is lined with a wooden fence. A line of 8 or so cars will usually park here to get direct access to the beach. If you can’t snag one of these spots, you have to park at the Ha’ena Beach parking lot and make the 1/2 mile walk down the shore to Tunnels.

See our round up here of the best beaches in Kauai for swimming here!

30. Go horseback riding with a view

There are a couple of horseback riding companies that offer guided tours ranging from 90 minutes to five hours. This includes stops for photo ops, picnic lunches, snacks, swimming and time to take in the views. Bonus, many of the tours take you into their privately owned ranches with waterfalls and secret viewpoints seen by only few.

CJM Country Ranch, Princeville Ranch, and Silver Falls Ranch are the most popular. Just make sure to check the age limitations- each company has different age minimums!

31. Explore downtown Hanalei

Hanalei is honestly such a special little spot in the world. Truly quaint, perfectly laid back Hawaiian town at its FINEST. There are a few shops and lots of restaurants and food truck options. Grab a pastry at Hanalei Bread Company, an açaí bowl at Aloha Juice, some shaved ice at the Wishing Well, a snack at one of the many food trucks.

You cannot come to Kauai and NOT go to Hanalei- it’s a must!

Exploring downtown Hanalei

32. Ride a Train Through Kilohana Plantation

Get tickets for an authentic conductor narrated train tour of the historic 105 acre Kilohana Plantation. It’s a 2.5-mile rail line (40min) passing stands of island crops like taro and sugarcane – the staple of ancient Hawaiians. You will also pass groves of mango, banana, papaya, and pineapple.

In the heart of the plantation, get out to spend time feeding the sheep, goats, pigs, and the resident donkey Stiney. They just assed a train and lunch tour option too (3.5 hours)! The Kilohana Train is consistently recommends as one of the top things to do in Kauai with kids.

33. Explore Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens

What began as a landscape project in the founders front yard, has grown to 240 acres that have been developed into a plethora of gardens, complete with one of the largest bronze sculpture collections in the US.

There are a variety of guided tours offered. Guided tours are on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Self-Guided tours are on Thursdays. Reservations are required!

34. Brave the Koloa Ziplines

Koloa Zipline is Kauai’s longest zipline course. The course consists of 8 lines and lasts approximately 3.5 hours long. There is a minimum age restriction of 7 years, so keep that in mind as you plan your family’s adventure time in Kauai.

Such a unique way to explore the beauty of Kauai’s South Shore as you glide across the water on 22,000 acres of Hawaii’s first sugar plantation.

35. Explore the Maniniholo Dry Cave

Legend says the cave was formed when Polynesian settlers were chasing the Menehune from Waimea Canyon. The Menehune supposedly escaped into a tunnel that connected to the North Shore. When exiting the tunnel, they collapsed the ceiling making the dry cave. 

The cave is very easily accessible and across the street from Ha’ena Beach (not to be confused with Ha’ena State Park), so don’t miss this little landmark as you arrive at or leave the beach.

Kauai is truly SUCH special place. This was a total bucket list trip for us (that wouldn’t have been possible without points) and we are already mapping out how we can get back to Kauai. We hope this list of 35 best things to do in Kauai with kids gives you a starting point for an unforgettable family vacation!

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