Just in time for Spring Break, it’s Hawaii Week on Ciao Bambino! Although I’ve been to beautiful beaches and islands around the world, Hawaii remains one of my all-time favorite tropical venues.
Kauai from above
The culture and landscape is exotic, yet you are in the United States. Translation: Families experience no travel hassles around language and hygiene. It is touristy, although this means there is a wide array of accommodations and family-friendly infrastructure. Despite this, however, each island has ways to get off-the-beaten-path to your own little slice of paradise. The only consistent downside is that Hawaii is expensive. The handful of carriers that get you there seem to charge a premium throughout the year and meals (as well as groceries) are pricey too.
Although I’ve been to every island except for Molokai, I thought it would be best to invite Hawaii locals and experts for tips this week. Every island has a very different landscape and character and we’ll highlight the best things to do with kids on each one of them. Our portfolio of Hawaii family resorts is growing and we’re actively adding a few new wonderful options right now. I’ll note what they are at the end of each post.
Our guest author is Kris Bordessa, a Hawaii-based travel writer. She is the co-founder of Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap, where visitors and residents discover life, culture, and fun in Hawaii – for less. She travels as often as she can with her husband and two boys.
Napali Coast. Photo Credit Kris Bordessa
Kauai, known as the Garden Isle, is draped with lush tropical rainforests and cascading waterfalls, all surrounded by sapphire seas. But don’t just stand back and look! Dive in and enjoy what the island has to offer: hiking, swimming, and kayaking is plentiful for active families.
There’s a lot of history here, too. You’ll find Hawaiian cultural presentations at various venues around the island, giving you and your ohana (family) the chance to try their hand at dancing the hula or weaving lauhala. Visit a sugar cane plantation or drive by the abandoned Coco Palms Hotel, where Elvis Presley filmed Blue Hawai‘i. Of course, if you’d prefer, Kauai’s beaches offer parents the chance to sit back and relax while the kids play in Mother Nature’s sandbox. There’s plenty of contentment to go around!
These family favorites are a great start to a memorable Hawaiian vacation:
Koke‘e State Park and Waimea Canyon
If your family likes to hike, your first stop should be the Koke’e Natural History Museum. You’ll enjoy the interpretive exhibits providing an overview of the natural and cultural history of Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks, but for hikers, the bigger value here is the knowledgeable staff. They’ll be able to point you to just the right hike for your family – there are many to choose from. The steep Halemanu – Koke‘e Trail reveals some amazing scenery, but the Kaluapuhi Trail is probably a better choice for families with young children. No matter where your hike takes you, make certain to stop at the Waimea Canyon Overlook for a glimpse into the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Allow a full day for exploring the area and all it has to offer.
Kilauea Lighthouse. Photo Credit Kris Bordessa
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
Kids will zoom toward the Kilauea Lighthouse, visible as you approach Kilauea Point, but expect them to get sidetracked as soon as they realize that the path is lined with an assortment of seabirds. Tucked amongst the native vegetation you’ll see nesting birds, and if you’re lucky, eggs or chicks, too. The refuge was established to protect threatened and endangered species and by all appearances, it’s working. Stop in at the visitor center to borrow a pair of binoculars for better viewing.
Ride the Sugar Cane Train
Step into Kauai’s past at Kilohana Plantation where you can ride the rails on a former sugar cane train. The Kauai Plantation Railway takes passengers on a 40-minute ride steam train ride through a 70-acre plantation. When you’re done with your ride, explore the plantation grounds and take a walk through time in the 16,000 square foot historic mansion, now home to restaurants and shops.
With its gentle waves and white sands, Kalapaki Beach is the perfect spot for your keiki (children) to enjoy the blue Pacific Ocean. Bring your sand toys and beach chair (you can rent basic beach – and baby – equipment from Ready Rentals and kick back for a fun, relaxing day in the sun. Please don’t forget the sunscreen!
Dining at Duke’s Beach House
Duke’s Beach House
When you’ve had your fill of sand and surf, head to Duke’s, adjacent to Kalapaki Beach. Named for the iconic Hawaiian surfer – and Olympic gold medalist – Duke Kahanamoku, the restaurant serves local favorites, steak, and fish, along with kid-friendly dishes like mac-n-cheese. Make reservations, or expect a long wait. If you do find yourself waiting, you can stroll the oceanfront grounds of the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club. Kids will quickly become distracted by the assortment of statuary, and you might even squeeze in a romantic moment or two!
The Grand Hyatt Kauai is not in our portfolio but it is a well-known family favorite for those seeking luxurious accommodations who don’t care about condo-style amenities. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, but the setting and beach are gorgeous.
Princeville on the North Shore of Kauai must be one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas offers condo-amenities in a resort setting. Stay tuned for the complete review on Ciao Bambino.
Maui with kids – favorite activities
Maui with kids – fun photos and special activities