We enjoyed living on Oahu but when my parents came to visit last September we decided to island hop over to Kauai for a few days just to mix things up. I had quite a few people tell me Kauai was their favorite island and we were curious to see the differences. Our top activities were to hike a section of the Na Pali Coast, and kayak up Wailua River to Secret Falls. Everything else we’d just play it by ear one day at a time. It worked out pretty perfectly if I do say so myself.
When We Visited: September 22-28, 2017
Ages of Kids: 12, 10, 7
Where We Stayed
We don’t particularly enjoy staying long term in hotels and resorts get pricey so we opted for an AirBnb rental in Lihue. I looked into staying at different parts of the island but with a $200 cleaning fee we opted to not move around. That meant we had to drive a little further for some things, but overall it was worth it.
Our rental was fabulous! We were on the top floor with an amazing view of the ocean. The condo was well cared for, we had what we needed in the kitchen (maybe a little cooking oil would have been nice), fans in all the rooms, and they had a chest full of boogie boards and sand toys for the kids to use at the beach. Peter was responsive as host and sent over shampoo/conditioner and extra beach towels when we asked.
We’d often come home from the days activity and more often than not jump in the pool for an hour. It was lit up pretty at night, and there was something soothing about swimming in the water while it was dark out. We definitely loved having easy access to a pool!
“Out of the ocean and into the pool. Sometimes its nice to take a break from the salt! We absolutely loved this @airbnb property we stayed at on Kauai. As a recent host ourselves, we know how hard it can be to keep things in tip top shape, and these guys totally nailed it. ” -Currentlywandering
We were also just a few minutes walk to the ocean. There is no swimming, but the sunrise was totally worth getting up for!
We’d definitely recommend his place if you are planning a vacation. If you’ve never used AirBnb but want to give it a try use our link to earn $40 towards your first trip!
The Island of Kauai
If you imagine the island of Kauai like a clock, Na Pali Coast is at about 11:00, Lihue & Wailua is at about 3:00, Poipu Beach is at 6:00, and Waimea Canyon is at 9:00. You can’t drive entirely around the island, so Lihue is a perfect middle spot to create a base camp. Its also where the airport is located and since we had to drop Sam off early so he could fly back and teach it was quick and easy.
——-Day 1: Friday——-
The flight from Oahu was only about 30 minutes, so we were barely in the air at all before landing at Lihue airport. We picked up our rental car and stopped by both Costco & Walmart to pick up groceries before heading to the condo. Once there we dropped the kids with a movie (don’t worry they were extremely excited) and the four adults headed off for our first adventure: a helicopter ride.
Helicopter Ride with Blue Hawaiian
My dad had been looking forward to this for weeks and it did not disappoint. Most of Kauai is wilderness (both privately owned and state land) and there are many places you can’t see except by air. The raw majesty of the cliffs were amazing and I love seeing the Na Pali coast from the air. My only disappointment is that I feel my photos didn’t even come close to capturing the experience. Next time we’ll have to go doors off just to see if I can do better!
There are a few companies to choose from, but since my parents were graciously gifting us the trip they had the honor of choosing. My mom had heard good things about Blue Hawaiian from friends so that’s who we went with.
Our pilot was great at explaining the geology, history, and other interesting facts about the islands. Plenty of movies were filmed here (Jurassic Park anyone?), and we also flew over Tunnels Beach where Bethany Hamilton had her shark attack while surfing (If you’ve never seen Soul Surfer its a definite must!).
——-Day 2: Saturday——-
Sleeping Giant Hike
I desperately wanted to hike this, but knew that our kids probably wouldn’t enjoy it so I convinced Sam to go early with me on Saturday morning. It was steep but luckily it hadn’t rained recently so the trail was relatively dry. Even though it was 8am the sun was still up and we became hot and sweaty fairly quickly. So, totally normal Hawaiian hiking experience.
“Sam and I got a little exercise early Saturday morning by climbing to the top of Sleeping Giant. Within 30 seconds we were dripping sweat and not just because of the elevation gain. Hiking in humidity is no joke.” – @currentlywandering
All Trails does a great job with trail descriptions and maps for pretty much all of Hawaii so we followed their route. Once you get to the picnic shelter its a bit of scramble up to the point with a view. If you aren’t scared of heights it is pretty spectacular.
Wailua River Kayaking
Everything I researched mentioned kayaking up the Wailua River and then hiking up to Secret Falls. Traveling the river is the only way to get to these falls, and we enjoy a good paddle anyway so this adventure was top on our list. We rented boats from Wailua Kayak Adventures who were fantastic.
They helped us load 2 double kayaks (that can seat a small child in the middle) and one single onto our rental minivan with no problem. Our rental included the boats, paddles, life jackets, and really cool dry bag backpacks. We had a few dry bags of our own, but theirs were way better. They also gave us a map of the river, explained where to tie up our boats for the hike, and gave us directions to the put in on the river.
The paddle up the river was a lazy 45 minutes. We splashed each other and just enjoyed the scenery.
“We kayaked the beautiful Wailua River last week on Kauai and had a blast! We managed to fit three people on these two person kayaks by having a kid sit backwards in each one. It made for some entertaining conversation during the 45 minute paddle, especially when Cara decided she wanted to paddle backwards!
Unfortunately, on our way back she was a little bored and ended up playing with her glasses just above the waterline. Yep. You guessed it. They slipped from her fingers and despite Rachel’s valiant snatching attempt, and me bailing out of my kayak after them her glasses sank into the murky depths. ” -@currentlywandering
We took a little side detour on the way back and found a spot to do a little cliff jumping. The paddle back is always the worst with kids, so we were prepared with snacks but we were all still pretty excited to get to the take out.
Secret Falls Hike
Once we arrived at the trail head, we pulled our kayaks out of the water and onto to the muddy bank. We were advised to not leave any personal items with the boat, so we grabbed our packs, and our Ice Mule Cooler with lunch (this dry bag cooler has come in handy SO many times!) and set off up the trail towards the falls. We’ve learned that hiking in Hawaii is best done in Chacos, or other similar sandals. Its frequently muddy, there are usually stream crossings, and sandals are great for keeping our feet protected once we get to the falls and want to swim.
The hike was fairly flat, 1 mile trip to the falls. There is a stream crossing with a rope but be advised there can be flash floods here so just be careful! Stick to the trail and before you know it, you’ll arrive at the falls! The water was cold(er than the ocean!) but we enjoyed swimming, had lunch, and then started the trek back to the boats.
Dinner at Verde Restaurant
We didn’t eat out frequently (it adds up when you factor in kids) but we had heard good things about Verde Restaurant and since it was already 5:00pm by the time we brought the boats back we went for it. Really great Mexican food, casual enough we didn’t feel out of place in our swimwear, and not overly pricey. The portions were large, so Cara ordered off the Keiki menu, and Rachel, Andrew, Sam, and I split two burritos between us. It was perfect.
——-Day 3: Sunday——–
Going to Church
We are in the habit of attending all three hours of our Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint meetings every Sunday while traveling and this was no exception. I’ve found that church is a great way to meet some of the locals and get a feel for the culture, plus its nice to just rest. Even on vacation. We definitely weren’t the only visitors as the chapel was packed, but we enjoyed the services. We did attend at 9am so that left the afternoon free for exploring.
Waimea Canyon Drive
We decided to have a big lunch since we knew we’d be out later. Waimea Canyon was about an hour drive from our condo, plus driving in the canyon itself and I wanted to be out late enough to catch the susnet. Luckily our kids can read in the car and are used to driving.
We had heard mixed reports about the canyon – some said the roads were too windy and they ended up getting car sick, others raved about how beautiful it was. Our opinion is probably somewhere in the middle. We didn’t really hike anything, but mostly just stuck to the overlooks which was just fine. Definitely drive all the way to the end of the road as the view over the Na Pali coast was one of my favorites.
“Driving Waimea Canyon and stopping at the overlooks was the perfect Sunday afternoon activity. Its like the Grand Canyon, only GREEN. So, not really?” – @currentlywandering
“Remember how I said that every mountain range is unique and I love it? Hawaii has taken that to a whole new level. I can’t get over these ridges and how the greenery just grows right up these vertical slopes. Blows. My. Mind. .” @currentlywandering
On our way back down out of the canyon we caught that sunset.
——-Day 4: Monday——-
Na Pali Coast Hike
Originally we planned to visit Kauia I was set on backpacking this trail. I had heard it was downright spectacular, but after some initial research we decided that it wasn’t feasible with our kids. Then I thought we’d do the 8 mile round trip to Hanakapi’a waterfall, but in the end we decided that staying with my parents was more important and just went to the beach. Parking was rumored to be a nightmare so we tried to get there early, but even so we barely managed to squeeze into a spot.
The trail has quite a bit of elevation (both up and down) which kept us entertained, and luckily it wasn’t too muddy. Much of the trail was in the shade, but there were sections that were unprotected and got quite warm. We were with my parents so we kept a slower pace which was totally fine with me as we were pretty out of hiking shape ourselves!
The beach was okay. It is not advised to get in the water, so we walked along the sand, Cara collected rocks, and we at our picnic lunch before starting back along the trail.
Ono Shave Ice
After a good hike, I’m pretty sure everyone needs a little shave ice. We found Ono Shave Ice in Kapa’a. They had a great selection of flavors, large portions and weren’t terrible expensive. We may or may not have come back at least 2 more times before we left the island. If you’ve never had Shave Ice (not ShaveD ice) our favorite way to eat it is with ice cream on the bottom and condensed milk on top. So delicious!
We spent the evening at the condo cooking dinner and swimming in the pool.
——-Day 5: Tuesday——-
Today was a rest/logistics day. I had to drop Sam off at the airport so he could teach class at BYU-H by the afternoon and since Cara lost her glasses kayaking I took her to the local optometrist at Costco to get her a new prescription (it was about time anyway) and get new ones ordered.
The kids lazed around the house playing games with grandma and grandpa until Cara and I returned and then we meandered down to the local beach.
Lydgate Park Beach
Lydgate Park Beach is a man made beach so its protected from riptides and rocks. The rock wall surrounding the swimming area attracted fish, so we enjoyed a little bit of snorkeling in addition to playing in the sand and throwing around a frisbee. Perfect Hawaiian vacation evening.
“We had a totally relaxing, calm evening on the beach tonight at Lydgate Park. Little bit of snorkeling, lots of digging in the sand (Cara), and Rachel let me use her as a model. Just couldn’t pass up this gorgeous evening light.” -@currentlywandering
“Found a way to shower post snorkel without getting water in his eyes. .” -@currentlywandering
By the way – coolest snorkel masks EVER. We could breath through our noses (such a huge plus!) and they had great vision. Also we never had to blow them out – the tube stops up when you dive under water. Check them out on Amazon.
——-Day 6: Wednesday——-
My mom requested a beach where we could snorkel AND body board. Now, if you are familiar with either you’ll know they generally don’t go together (one is better in calm water and the other you need waves) but it just so happens that Poipu Beach had great snorkeling and the neighboring Brennecke’s Beach deliver a powerful 1 -2 punch. I had packed over our Wildhorn snorkel gear (can’t leave home without it anymore) and we rented gear for my parents at Snorkel Bob’s in Koloa. They had prescription masks which my mom was excited about so she could actually see the fish!
“A family that snorkels together totally rocks! Cara is my little fish, and it was fun to have grandma & grandpa experience the joy of snorkeling with this girl. She gets so excited and its contagious! Poipu Beach is also one of the BEST snorkeling spots I’ve been too. So many fish and beautifully clear water!” -@currentlywandering
We snorkeled for a few hours at Poipu and then grabbed our stuff and wandered over to Brennecke’s where the surf was coming in. Its a small area but we all managed to catch some waves.
“She doesn’t like to snorkel, but can ride a pretty mean boogie board. ” -@currentlywandering
We had our fill of the beach by early afternoon and stopped by Puka Dog for a late lunch/dinner on our way back to Lihue. They are Hawaiian style hot dogs which were highly recommended by a friend and oh – so -yummy! Add in a freshly squeezed lemonade and we were in heaven!
——-Day 7: Thursday——-
Our final day on the island we chose to zipline as a birthday present from my parents to the kids for birthdays/Christmas. They are not many places that will let 7 year old kids zip, but Koloa Zipline was awesome. Not only did all my kids get to zipline, they went by themselves almost the whole time. The restrictions are weight dependent and also factor in wind and length of the zip. Totally up to the guides in the moment, and ours were fantastic.
After a short stop for more shave ice, we headed to the airport and them home to Oahu! We packed quite a lot into our 7 days on the island and it was fabulous! I felt like for the first time in a LONG time we were on vacation. Sam took work off, I didn’t worry about blogging and the kids didn’t bring school. We played hard, ate good food, and watched movies or played games together in the evening. We definitely loved our Hawaii vacation and can’t recommend it enough!
The post A 7 Day Family Vacation on Kauai, Hawaii appeared first on Currently Wandering.
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