Kauai could be the closest thing to heaven on earth. Also known as ‘The Garden Isle’ Kauai boasts the lushest landscapes in the entire Hawaiian archipelago. Overshadowed by the more popular islands of Maui and Oahu, Kauai misses out on the fanfare of its neighboring islands. We think the island is amazing, and these are the best things to do on Kauai with kids.
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Where Kauai might fall short in terms of nightlife and energetic vibes it more than makes up for it with adventure opportunities. Whether it’s hiking the trails and scaling the mountain peaks, trekking to secret beaches, enjoying a helicopter ride, or snorkeling in crystal clear waters, Kauai offers excitement for families of all kinds.
Hang on tight because we are going to cover the best adventurous things to do on Kauai with kids with an appetite for off-the-beaten-path fun!
Table of Contents
Getting Around Kauai
First, though, let’s chat about the best ways to get around the island with a family. Kauai is quite small, about 25 miles wide and 33 miles long.
It essentially has one major road that winds around the coast of the island. The exception is the northwest part of the Napali Coastline which prohibits the construction of roads.
Private shuttles, a public bus system, taxis, ride-sharing services like Uber/Lyft, and self-drive car rentals are all of the transportation options available on Kauai.
Each option has its pros and cons. To fully maximize your precious Kauai vacation time and seek out the best family adventure activities you will want to rent a car. The car rental process can be a bit confusing. Be sure to research everything you need to know about renting a car in Hawaii.
Top 10 Best Kauai Adventures for Families
Kauai is arguably the best Hawaiian island for families because of its slower pace, beautiful beaches, and generous activities geared toward young kids.
As promised, here is our top 10 list of the best adventurous things to do on Kauai with kids.
1. Hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls
One of the more adventurous hikes on Kauai, Hanakapi’ai Falls is about an 8-mile out-and-back trail. The first two miles are along the Na Pali Coast spoil you with beautiful ocean views all the way to Hanakapiai Beach. This initial stretch is doable for little kids and toddlers in backpacks.
The final two miles up to the falls will have you traversing 5 different river crossings. This is a much more difficult section. In some parts, you will need to climb over boulders and through muddy sections of the trail.
Make sure to take plenty of water as there are no facilities on this trail and wear appropriate shoes! If you’re feeling extra brave, then don’t stop at Hanakapi’ai Falls. Instead, continue on the trail and it will lead you to Hanakoa Valley.
2. Rafting Expedition Down the Napali Coast
Calling all thrill seekers! A rafting tour of the Napali Coast is not for the faint of heart. This 12-mile journey will take you on waves up to 20 feet high, through sea caves, and past towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast State Park.
You don’t just have to limit your experience to an adrenaline-packed ride. Take a break from all the waves and enjoy snorkeling and a picnic lunch in the calm waters of the sea caves.
This is an experience like no other, you’ll be able to explore the best places and waterfalls that are otherwise inaccessible by land.
3. Zoom On a Zip-line
There’s nothing better to get your heart pumping than a good zipline. Kauai’s south shore is home to Koloa, one of the best ziplines in Hawaii.
The 3.5-hour tour will take you through a lush tropical jungle with 8 separate lines that have heights ranging from 300ft to 900ft above sea level. The elevation drops will have you zipping down 30+ miles per hour at times!
This family-friendly adventure meets the highest safety standards so your family will feel secure. To make things sweeter there is also a treetop suspension bridge and ATV rides available for the adrenaline junkies in the family.
4. Explore Queen’s Bath
Once a secret spot known only to locals, Queen’s Bath is a natural tidepool on Kauai’s North Shore. A steep and rocky but short 15-20 minute hike down the cliff will get you to the edge of the clear blue pool that is often full of marine life.
Taking a dip in Queen’s Bath is a total trip but make sure to only get in when the conditions are safe (especially with young children). There are some other little tidepools with shallow water in the same area. This is an ideal place for the younger kids to play.
Make sure not to go too close to the edge and keep an eye on the little ones when conditions are not right. Strong waves have been known to sweep people off their feet and into the sea!
5. Hike Waimea Canyon
Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon State Park is a must-see, popular spot for any family vacation. The 10-mile-long, 3,000 feet deep canyon was formed by a collapse of a volcano in the area.
There are several lookout points along the rim where you can take in all of the beautiful scenery that this incredible place has to offer. There are also lots of trails that will take you further down the canyon.
A fun hike is the canyon trail to Waipo’o Falls, a magnificent 800-foot waterfall. The trail can get quite muddy in the rain so be mindful and bring the proper footwear.
6. Tube Down the Mountain Ditches
Another exciting Kauai adventure for families is floating down the historic plantation ditches.
You can get a unique 3-5 hours tube ride down the winding mountain ditches that were used for irrigation in the 1800s. This mountain tubing tour will take you through old sugar and pineapple plantations, past beautiful waterfalls, and lots of wildlife that make their home in this beautiful place.
The whole family will enjoy this unique experience but it’s recommended that children over 6 and adults ride in their own tubes. Life jackets and helmets are provided so you can stay safe while you enjoy the ride down!
7. Whale Watching Tour
If you’re trip lands during whale season, then you should definitely book a whale-watching tour.
Kauai’s waters are home to Humpback whales from December until April. These reasonably priced tours will get you close to the whales so you can get an up-close look at these gentle giants.
You may also be lucky enough to see dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine life. If you haven’t been whale watching in Hawaii then this is the perfect Kauai activity for the entire family.
8. Off-Road Adventure
Get dirty on an off-road ATV or UTV adventure in Kauai.
This fun family experience will take you through remote trails and open pastures with epic jungle scenes straight out of Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This is a great way to learn about the local culture from your knowledgeable guides and explore places that can only be reached on foot or ATV. There are also plenty of opportunities to spot horses, goats, and other animals on the land.
9. Kayak to Secret Falls
Get off the beaten path with a kayaking adventure to the incredible Secret Falls. Though it’s not really a secret anymore, it is still quite secluded.
You’ll paddle up the Wailua River taking in the lush tropical scenery. Then after a short but slippery hike, you’ll explore a hidden valley and reach the falls where you can swim, and play in the pools below the waterfall.
The crystal clear water is perfect for kids to splash around or just relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. This is truly a unique experience and a family memory maker for sure!
10. Hideaways Beach
Pali Ke Kua, also known as Hideaways Beach, is a private beach paradise tucked away out of sight-as the name would suggest.
This stunning white sand beach with crystal-clear water is perfect for swimming and sunning and is a gem of a snorkeling spot when the waters are calmer.
The adventure part comes in when you are trying to locate Hideaways Beach, which is not an easy task. It requires some scrambling down steep steps that involve sketchy handrails and tattered ropes.
It’s a great option for older kids but toddlers are not recommended. However, kids aged 10 and up should be totally fine with a little care.
Best Things to Do on Kauai with Kids FAQ
Now that we’ve covered some of the adventurous things to do on Kauai with kids let’s get to some of the frequently asked questions.
What time of year is best to go to Kauai?
The best time of year to visit Kauai is from April through May and September to November. This is shoulder season when the crowds slow down a bit. This time period is the best for finding deals on flights and accommodations, and you can take a guided tour without it being too crowded.
Also, note that whale season is from December through April if that is something on your list.
Is Kauai a good place to vacation with kids?
Yes, Kauai is a great place to vacation with kids. As you’ve seen if you made it this far there are many different adventures and activities that the whole family can enjoy. It truly is a great spot.
What is Kauai best known for?
Kauai is best known for its breathtaking natural beauty featuring lush rainforests, rugged coastlines, and stunning waterfalls. It is also known for being the home of Napali Coast, one of the most iconic landmarks in Hawaii.
What side of Kauai should I stay on?
If you’re looking for more of the beach-vacation vibe then the South Shore is where you’ll want to be. It’s home to some of Kauai’s best beaches and attractions like Poipu Beach, Spouting Horn, and Old Koloa Town.
If you’re looking for a less touristy vibe and more of a local feel and Hawaiian culture then the North Shore is your best bet. The area offers amazing views, fantastic hikes, and plenty of outdoor activities.
Is Kauai expensive?
Kauai isn’t the most budget-friendly destination in Hawaii but it’s not as pricey as you may think. If you’re traveling on a budget there are still plenty of ways to have a fun and memorable vacation without breaking the bank.
Try using VRBO for accommodations, renting an economy car or moped for getting around, and eating at local eateries. These are all great ways to save money while still experiencing the best kind of Kauai family vacation.
In a Nutshell – Best Things to Do in Kauai with Kids
Kauai is an amazing destination for families seeking adventure and unique experiences. With so many fun things from exploring waterfalls to kayaking upriver or snorkeling at Hideaways Beach, your visit to Kauai will be filled with fun and adventure that your family won’t soon forget. So if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii this year make sure you add some Kauai adventures to your itinerary!
About the author: Griff is a former marketing manager that ditched his high stress lifestyle for the world. In 2019, he sold everything and set out on a full-time travel adventure around the globe with his crew The Runaway Family.