Going to Kauai, Hawaii was a trip of a lifetime! We had the best time and thoroughly enjoyed our adult only time away. Let me share a bit of what we did, and what I recommend.
Where We Stayed in Kauai
Without having been to Kauai ever, we based our hotel on 1 Price, & 2 Rating and I would say just we lucked out with beautiful hotel accommodations in a great centralized location: Sheraton Coconut Beach Kauai
Kauai is really split up into 3 areas where you can stay. The Northside of the island is known as Princeville. This area is absolutely STUNNING, but also the wet side of the island getting over 400″ of rain a year. I wish we would have spent more time here. The area has a large number of airbnb’s and I would say it felt like a lot of vacationers were there.
The south side near Poipu has a few hotels and a few timeshares. This side of the island is considered the dry side getting 10″ of rain a year. It’s still beautiful and where we saw lots of sea turtles up close.
We stayed on the east side of the island. It was a 15 minute drive from the airport. Towns, restaurants and shopping are more sparce and spread out, BUT staying here felt like we were centralized in the island and it was a 20-40 minute drive to anywhere we wanted to go allowing us to really experience the full island. Our hotel was oceanfront which made for the most beautiful sunrises, but the water on the east side is a bit rough so I wouldn’t say it was a beach I would have my kiddos playing in.
We loved the food at the poolside bar. Delicious fish tacos and sweet potato fries. The hotel had it own Luau, sunrise yoga, and a few different pools. Our favorite part were the tiki torches around the pools, and entrance. They even had bikes that you could borrow for free and cruise around. One morning we took the bikes a mile up the road to breakfast. It was a fun spontaneous adventure.
I would say the hotel was very kid friendly, but had a sophisticated ambience. Most kids played in the pool (I don’t think I saw anyone actually playing in the ocean at our hotel).
Day 1 Adventures
We were pretty determined to find the best shaved ice on the island and in our opinions we stumbled upon it day one, Wailua Shaved Ice! It has this foam thats on top that is unlike any cream I’ve ever had + chunks of fresh fruit
All the other shaved ice locations we tested tasted like regular shaved ice, nothing too special. If you are looking for something unique, try Wailua Shaved Ice.
Our first big adventure was driving up to Wailua Falls. I did quite a bit of research trying to figure out how to hike to the bottom of the waterfall, but there wasn’t a clear place to stop and hike so we ended up just driving up to the top and taking a rather steep climb down the mountain. At the top of Wailua falls there is a small parking lot for the scenic overview. This parking lot gets crowded around lunch so to beat the crowd plan to go there after breakfast. I’ve also heard if you get there early enough in the morning as the sun is coming up there will be a rainbow in the waterfall.
From the parking lot walking down past the scenic overview theres a brick retaining wall and a wire fence that meet. This is where we found dozens of people hopping over the wall and starting their decent down the mountain. So we followed suite. It was an intermediate hike down I don’t think I would allow my 5 year old to do it even with our help, but maybe a 10 year old and teenagers would be ok. There are lots of huge tree roots to climb over and down and it can get muddy.
WEAR INSECT REPELLANT. This is where I got eaten alive by mosquitos even though it was only a 15-20 minute climb.
The view from the bottom was well worth the trek down. I would say this was our absolute most favorite activity we did in Kauai. We went behind the water, swam a little in the cool fresh water, and just enjoyed how absolutely beautiful is was.
That evening we decided to drive up to Poipu to catch the sea turtles. From the various blogs and websites I read that you can see them in the daytime between 11am-3pm when the sun is shining bright (which is totally true! We saw a bunch in the water the next day), but if you want to see them come onto shore go at sunset! We pulled up right on time to see 8 sea turtles come into the cove right outside of Brennecke’s Beach Broiler (which by the way has delicious food).
Day 2 Adventures
Day two we ventured back down to Poipu and swam in that same cove snorkeling and seeing some HUGE fish. We wrapped up the day by taking a scenic drive through Waimea Canyon. The 2nd largest canyon in the United States, behind the Grand Canyon. Be sure to stop at all the scenic lookouts. It was a stunning view!
Day 3 Adventures
Our busiest day on the trip and in hindsight we should have broken things up among multiple days, but a las when in Hawaii, you make it happen. We started the morning Queens Bath. This was one spot so many people told us to visit. It is on the North side of the island in Princeville. There’s a small parking lot near the end of Punahele Road and Ka Haku Road. It only fits 8-9 cars so you either have to wait for a spot or park up at the golf course and walk down. The trek to Queens bath was more family friendly than the trek to the bottom of the waterfall. It is a designated path, but still bumpy as you walk through what looks like matted down clay and tree roots. Be sure to check high tide and the weather before coming. You do have to walk over a bunch of lava rock and I could see it being unsafe during poor weather.
After Queens Bath we met a Catamaran which took us to the west side of the island. The west side can only be viewed by Helicopter or boat. We were really glad we took a larger catamaran instead of a small little blow up boat because the waves were rough. The Catamaran experience was a lot of fun. We went through several caves, saw a great deal of valleys and mountains that were in famous movies, and snorkeled right around Lumaha’i Beach. It was a 4 hour adventure and for us the last hour seemed a bit long. It’s definitely worth experiencing but word of warning on the length.
We cruised back to our hotel just in time to shower quickly and run downstairs the the Luau. The food and entertainment was pretty good! We were just exhausted from our day. I have heard great things about the bigger Luau’s on the island. Ours was small since it was just for hotel guests.
Things I would do again/next time.
- Rent a convertible / Jeep where you can take the top down! It was an extra $12 a day for our convertible and it was SO MUCH FUN driving it around the island top down all week.
- Go to Wailua Shaved Ice again and again
- Wailua Falls – seriously stunning
- Spend a day in Princeville and Hanalei Bay
- Golf in Princeville
- ATV Jarassic Park Tour