The 9 Best Family Friendly Resorts in Hawaii

Who says you have to leave the kids at home to enjoy a magical Hawaiian vacation? Nowadays it is incredible easy to pack up the whole family and whisk them off to a vacation of a lifetime, with warm sun, white sand beaches and enough activities to keep everyone in the family entertained. Explore the following nine resorts, with their epic waterparks, awesome kids clubs and enough kid-friendly menu options for the pickiest of eaters, and you will understand why these are the best of the best in terms of family friendly resorts in Hawaii.

9. Hilton Waikoloa Village, Big Island

Often referred to as the “Disneyland” of the Big Island this resort promises to be one of the most family friendly, and indeed feels more like a small village rather than an overcrowded resort. A tram and canal boats are actually located throughout the property, ensuring that guests can get around quickly and easily, a bonus for parents who don’t feel like giving one more piggyback. Kids under the age of four eat for free around the resort and there is even a spa package just for kids. Don’t forget about the comprehensive daily children program that runs for ages 5-12. With three large pools areas, including one adult only and featuring a 175-foot water slide and waterfalls, along with a huge ocean-fed lagoon with a white sand beach and plenty of beach activities, the kids will find it hard to complain about being bored here.
Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay, Lanai

Photo by: Hilton Waikoloa Village
Photo by: Hilton Waikoloa Village

8. Marriot’s Ko Olina Beach Club, Oahu

If you are looking to avoid the large, noisy and often overcrowded mega-resorts, make sure you head to Ko Olina Beach Club. What you won’t find here is screaming children and long lines. Instead you will find snorkel boats and sunset cruises, four different pools with two of them being extremely kid-friendly, and four-man made lagoons perfect for young ones wanting to snorkel. Most of the rooms here are apartment style which means full kitchens, a helpful addition when it comes to toting kids along, as an added bonus cribs are provided free of charge. One of the coolest features about this resort are the MAZE huts; poolside huts that provide everything from towels to swim diapers to shave ice, in order to make your day run as smoothly as possible. Kid-friendly menus, childcare options and a resort where you don’t feel overrun with other guests makes this one awesome choice in Hawaii.

Photo by: Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club
Photo by: Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club

7. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Maui

Part zoo, part hotel, part waterpark, part food court and part mall is how this large resort can be described. Essentially what this means for families is that the kids will never run out of things to do! On-site you will find parrots, penguins, flamingos and cranes to admire, along with beach activities such as kayaking and snorkeling. But it is the pool complex that is perhaps the most impressive of all. The children’s area features a rope bridge and a 150-foot water slide, along with two free form swimming pools with waterfalls and a bar for the adults. There are a total of five restaurants with many kid friendly options and the large standard rooms are big enough to accommodate a roll away bed for the wee ones.

Photo by: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort
Photo by: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort

6. Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay, Lanai

The location can hardly be beat, built on the cliffs above the pristine Manele Bay; this resort blends family-friendliness and luxury. Don’t expect too many screaming children or long lines here. Standard beach and pool activities include surfing lessons, paddle boarding and games. Along with these activities guests here are privy to the beautiful protected reefs that are full of marine life including dolphins and whales, and an absolute delight to snorkel in. If that isn’t enough to keep the kids interested why not sign them up for tennis lessons, horseback riding or even cooking lessons. And don’t worry if it rains one day, this resort offers hula dancing, lei making and ukulele lessons for kids. Leave them at the awesome Pilialoha Keiki Camp, the daily kids camp while you go enjoy the day at the spa.

Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Lanai
Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Lanai

5. Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Kauai

It is easy to understand why the Grand Hyatt is rated as one of the top family friendly resorts in Hawaii, considering its bursting with activities for the little ones. Kids who attend Camp Hyatt, the daily kids program will not only get to play the typical games and participate in activities but the program is designed to teach kids about Hawaiian culture, thus turning this fun activity into a learning opportunity. Kids menus are available at most of the restaurants on-site as well as there is a special kids room service menu. Free roll away beds and free babysitters are just a couple of the perks here. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, consider the four pools that are open 24 hours a day, the saltwater lagoon to kayak in, the lazy river to float in and the water slide to go down.

Photo by: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort
Photo by: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort

4. Sheraton Waikiki, Oahu

It is the second largest hotel in Hawaii, which means lots of people as well as a ton of amenities. Even better for families, children under the age of 17 actually stay here for free! The Helumoa pool complex is where kids seem to spend most of their days, splashing in the two freshwater pools, sliding down the huge water slide and playing in the interactive fountain area. The kids club here is among the best in Hawaii and offers full days programs that include trips to the Honolulu Zoo and Aquarium and Hawaiian arts and craft lessons. Families won’t go hungry at this hotel, as the opportunities are endless. Make sure to check out Hapas Pizza who does kid sized dishes and the Kai Market where kids under 5 eat free.

Photo by: Sheraton Waikiki
Photo by: Sheraton Waikiki

3. Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Maui

It is one of the best family friendly resorts on Maui, in part due to the one-of-a-kind pool system that offers some pretty incredible features. Here families will find a lazy river, four water slides, a rope swing and a water elevator at the center of a faux volcano. The kid’s camp is another thing they are proud of, a 20,000 square foot space offering a video arcade, Ping-Pong, a movie theater and activity room for kids 5-12. The rooms are spacious and many of them connect, giving families with older children space and privacy. The beach has incredible waves for body-surfing and boasts calmer waters for snorkeling. Families will appreciate the kid’s menus throughout the resort restaurants and special treats like homemade ice cream.

Photo by: Grand Wailea
Photo by: Grand Wailea

2. Four Seasons, Maui and The Big Island

The Four Seasons certainly know how to do family friendly resorts, while breaking the mold of the typical crowded, noisy and bustling kid-friendly hotel. On the Big Island the Four Seasons offers a whopping seven swimming areas including one especially for tots. Other free activities here include rock climbing, canoeing, crafts, beach games and more. The Resort in Maui sits on one of the best beaches on the island where kids love to body board, snorkel and paddle board. It is here where kids under 5 eat free at two of the resort restaurants and all restaurants provide kids menus, right down to the room service menu. The free children’s program is boasted as being one of the best and adults can relax while the kids attend. The whole family can even head to the video game room, basketball nets or tennis courts for a wide range of family fun.

Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Photo by: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

1. Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Oahu

This resort deserves to be at the top of the list, hands down when it comes to being family friendly. Offering a lazy river, two water slides, kids-only pools, a man-made reef and a carved in lagoon it is easy to understand why families of all kinds flock to this resort. Classic movie characters constantly roam the grounds stopping to have their picture taken alongside guests of the resort. Along with daily dance parties at the pool, this resort boasts an extensive menu of activities, shows, entertainment and excursions. The restaurants at this resort are extremely kid friendly, whether families are looking for a quick snack or a sit-down meal. The rooms here help push this resort to the top of the list, extremely family-friendly with spacious layouts and a mini-fridge in each room, perfect for stashing snacks for the kids. Enjoy spa treatments for the whole family, a plethora of activities and a gorgeous resort for both the kids and the adults.

Photo by: Disney Aulani
Photo by: Disney Aulani

The 7 Best Beaches for Winter Surfing

Surfing is truly a year round sport, especially with the advances in wetsuit technology, making it easier than ever to stay warm and surf any temperature of water. Surfing is challenging enough on its own, but throw in huge winter swells and this sport becomes even more exciting. From the warm waters of Hawaii to the especially cold waters of Canada, these 7 places are the ultimate for winter surfing. Some of these beaches have waves meant for the experts while others are good for all levels, but they all have one thing in common, they are absolutely awesome in the wintertime.

7. Black’s Beach, California

Black Beach is a two-mile long beach that is perfect for winter surfing. On the southern edge of this beach is where you will find the best waves. The reason this beach puts out such good waves is that it sucks in north swells and manages to spit out A-frames and shimmering walls. Local surfers flock to this beach but it is well worth the walk down the trail to catch a few of these epic waves. Make sure you bundle up in that wetsuit as the water in the wintertime is quite chilly. If you look high above on the cliff tops you can be sure to spot some resident peregrine falcons.

"Blacks-Beach-View-South-La-Jolla" by Abeach4u - Licensed under GFDL via Commons.
Blacks-Beach-View-South-La-Jolla” by Abeach4u Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

6. Hanalei Beach, Hawaii

This two-mile long beach in Hawaii boasts white sands and an incredible background of mountains and lush green vegetation. It is known not just as a romantic beach but also a surfer’s paradise. From September to May is the best time to head to this beach as the current is sturdy and the waves break right on the beach. A sand bottom makes this beach is even more appealing to surfers. Make sure you are an experienced surfer as the strong current and huge waves in the wintertime can be dangerous for beginners. The nice thing about surfing in Hawaii is the year round warm water temperatures and weather.

Hanalei Beach, Hawaii

5. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

The north shore has been called Europe’s answer to Hawaii and surfing in the winter has been happening here for years and years. Locals call Fuerteventura “the Rock” but unlike the sand on most of the other Canary Islands which is black, the sand here is a charming pale yellow. The sun often shines all day in the wintertime here and the water is a sparkling royal blue. Surfers head to Playa Morro to ride long gentle waves into shore in the bath-warm water. For a bigger wave head to Playa Cotillo where the waves descend onto the shores with a deafening crash, or head to the famous Acid Drop or the Bubble, two north shore breaks that make this island famous. There are plenty of accommodations, delicious places to eat and more than enough helpful locals to point you in the right direction of the best winter waves.

Esmerelda Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

4. Morocco, Africa

The best time for surfing, hands down, in Morocco is the wintertime. From September to April you will find bigger swells and mild weather, the perfect combination. The waves here generally break over flat rock and sand with great point breaks and surfers come from all over the world to experience these waters. Boilers is Morocco’s most challenging surf spot, named after the boiler of a shipwreck that can be seen as the waves form. This awe-inspiring surf spot is meant for experienced surfers only, especially in the winter with those big swells. Anchor Point on the other hand is known for its consistent waves at all tide and waves normally start at 3 feet and can reach up to 15 feet. There is no better time to experience the famous right hands than the wintertime in Northern Africa.

Surfing Morocco, Africa

3. Tofino, British Columbia, Canada

It is here where you will find 35 km’s of surf-able beach breaks, perfect for beginners or experts, although big winter storms will have beginners watching from shore. Prepare to bundle up when you hit these cold Canadian waters, as you will need a warm wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. Although this is a year round surfing destination with thousands flocking in the summertime to try their hand at this sport, its winter that offers the strongest and most consistent swell. The surfing town of Tofino has an array of shops, places to eat and off-the-wall accommodations. Most surfers head to Long Beach where 16 km’s of sand await any level of surfer. Chesterman Beach is also a popular hot spot, located just 8 minutes from Central Tofino and offers one of the best beginner breaks in North America. As for the cold, you hardly notice it when you are zipping along some of the best winter waves in the world.

Tofino surfing

2. Baja, Mexico

Baja can be divided into two major surf regions; Northern Baja and Southern Baja with both offering excellent winter surfing. If you want the really big swell though, you will head to Northern Baja, but be prepared to bundle up. It’s much colder up here and its not uncommon to need a full wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood. The Northern area is also where you will find great breaks without big crowds, although some of the areas have become more developed with vacation homes and rentals. Head to San Miguel for some of the best winter waves, although surfers need to be aware of sea urchins and sharp rock bottom. For some of the biggest waves in the Pacific during the winter head to Todos Santos (The Killers), an island accessible by boat or Jet Ski. There are a variety of breaks around the island including Killers, one of the original big break surfing spots. You won’t find many beginners here, just great waves and great surfers.

surfing Baja Mexico

1. Maine, USA

The water is never particularly warm in this state but that doesn’t stop surfers from flocking here in the winter months. You won’t get the towering swells of Pacific hot spots but you will get unspoiled landscapes, desolate waters, a tight community of local surfers and consistent surf-able waves. Beginners and vets often head to Long Sands Beach, which offers a clean beach with waves breaking over a sandbar. Some of the biggest waves in the state are located at the exposed beach called Higgins Beach. It here where fifteen-foot swells are not unheard of and there are a few rocks to watch out for, so beginners should be very cautious. In the summer this beach is actually closed during the day to surfers so this remains a popular winter surfing destination.

Photo by: Youtube/DaveIn NH
Photo by: Youtube/DaveIn NH

10 Destination Races Worth the Trip

Any runner will tell you that there are few greater moments than when you cross that finish line during a race. It’s not just about having completed the race, but marks the achievement of all of the training that you’ve done to get there. If you feel like you may have plateaued a little in your training, or want some extra incentive, here are a few destination races that will make you want to get those feet moving.

10. Big Sur International Marathon -Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

This April race has the tagline of “running on the ragged edge of the western world”, which is a pretty apt description of the vistas that runners will take in during their race. Runners understand uniquely the effort/reward relationship in training, and they’ll take full advantage of some spectacular ocean views after tackling the challenging hill that spans almost two miles about a third into the race up to Hurricane Point. This race winds its way along the Pacific Highway, and is closed for the most part to vehicular traffic, providing for a serene, scenic run experience.

Photo by: Big Sur International Marathon
Photo by: Big Sur International Marathon

9. Not Since Moses -Five Island, Nova Scotia

Wanting to change your run routine up a bit? How about going for a run on the ocean floor? That’s exactly the terrain that runners get to cover in this August race at Sand Point, Five Island, Nova Scotia. Runners can choose between 5km and 10km distances, and will get to run across the Bay of Fundy at low tide. While the tide is out, runners run alongside scenic, ragged cliffs.

Photo by: Runner's World
Photo by: Runner’s World

8. Swiss Alpine Marathon -Chur, Switzerland

This 30-year old race began as “a race for the insane”, most likely named so for the number of height inclines and uphill portions in the races, as well as the extra challenges that are present when running at higher altitudes. It has evolved over the years to appeal to a wide variety of runners abilities and also promotes itself as a family friendly event by offering several different distances from a grueling 78km ultra marathon to a 500m kids fun run. It takes place in and around Davos in the Swiss Alps in July.

Photo by: Swissalpine Marathon
Photo by: Swissalpine Marathon

7. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend -Orlando, Florida

Who couldn’t use a little magic to carry them through the tough times in their next big race? How about magic from the Magic Kingdom and surrounding parks? The Walt Disney World Marathon weekend offers several different distances over a single weekend, including a full marathon that winds its way through four of the Disney parks, and the Goofy Challenge (which is truly goofy) that involves running a half marathon on the Saturday, followed by the full marathon the following morning. This race weekend occurs in January every year.

GSPhotography /
GSPhotography /

6. National Capital Marathon Race Weekend -Ottawa, Ontario

The Ottawa Race weekend is Canada’s largest race weekend and several of the races consistently sell out every year. This particular race weekend usually takes place during the second last weekend in May before the summer heat really sets in. Distances include the full marathon, half marathon, 5km and 10km as well as a Kids Marathon. Runners are treated to some great views along the Rideau Canal, Parliament Hill and other famous landmarks as they wind their way through downtown Ottawa and over the bridges to Gatineau, QC. Almost the whole route is accessible for spectators, so runners can expect lots of fan enthusiasm, beginning to end.

Photo by: Ross Dunn via Flickr
Photo by: Ross Dunn via Flickr

5. Reggae Marathon -Negril, Jamaica

Sun, surf, Reggae music and cold beer when you’re done running? Sounds like a runner’s delight (although the beer may not usually be part of post-run recovery, but when in Rome…). Set for the first weekend in December every year, the Reggae Marathon goes in Negril with a full marathon, half marathon and 10km distances. This event is promoted as having “good vibes and irie spirit”. Once you’re done, there is a party on the beach with Red Stripe Beer and lots of live music.

Photo by: Jamaica Experience
Photo by: Jamaica Experience

4. Great Wall Marathon -Tianjin, China

The Great Wall of China may already be on your bucket list, but what about combining that visit with a once-in-a-lifetime run at the same time. Promoted as “5,164 steps into history”, this race offers full and half marathons, as well as an 8.5 km race. This course is challenging, with lots of steps and inclines, but the views are reportedly worth the work. Runners will wind their way through towns and villages as well. This race takes place on the third Saturday in May every year.

Photo by: Great Wall Marathon
Photo by: Great Wall Marathon

3. The Polar Circle Marathon and Half Marathon -Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

If running in one of the most remote, yet scenic spots on the planet appeals to you, then this is your race. Otherwise known as “the coolest marathon on earth” (for obvious reasons) these races take place in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland in October. Runners will run through glaciers tongues, along ice caps and along some more forgiving gravel-based terrain. This route takes them just north of the Polar Circle.

Photo by: Polar Circle Marathon
Photo by: Polar Circle Marathon

2. Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon -Kauai, Hawaii

After running through the Polar Circle, runners may want a more temperate climate, namely the islands of Hawaii. Held annually in September, these races let runners wind their way through tropical rain forests and stunning views atop oceanside cliffs, the kind that lessen the burn in your thighs as you climb those hills.

Photo by: The Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon
Photo by: The Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon

1. Bay Shore Marathon -Traverse City, Michigan

This May race offers a full marathon, half marathon and 10km distance run. As far as scenery goes, this run is tops. Runners will be treated to lovely views of Lake Michigan on one side and Traverse City’s orchards and cherry trees on the other. This course is known for being fast and flat which is popular for runners seeking those elusive personal bests.

Photo by: Bayshore Marathon
Photo by: Bayshore Marathon

The Best Cities to Travel with Kids in North America

With so many amusement parks, zoos, beaches, water parks, and museums; it has never been harder to choose where to travel with your kids in North America.  From the beautiful Islands of Hawaii to traveling back in time to Williamsburg, VA; we have dug deep to find the top ten cities in North America that offer the best for family vacations. Kid-friendly hotels, ease of access to destinations, entertainment factor for both parents and kids and maybe even some learning opportunities were all taken into account (but don’t tell the kids about the learning one). North America is a wonderful place for all ages to explore and we have just touched the tip of the iceberg with our suggestions on activities in these destinations. We invite you to dive in, explore more and discover what makes these ten cities the most kid-friendly vacations in North America.

10. Kauai, Hawaii

Anywhere you go in Hawaii is a great place to travel with kids, and frankly we could have made a whole other list of places to go just in Hawaii but we chose Kauai for a few reasons. Fewer crowds, beautiful weather and affordability pushed this island to the top of our list. Condo rentals are in abundance on this island while still having resorts to choose from if you wish. With lifeguarded beaches, short driving distances between destinations and activities for the whole family to enjoy; you will never want to leave. Stay all day on the beach with a picnic, zip line through the jungle or bike along the coastal path; the possibilities are endless.

Kilauea Point lighthouse

9. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Smack in the middle of a 60-mile stretch of beach is the budget-friendly, family-friendly, city of Myrtle Beach. Known to have some of the best body surfing waters around, you can spend all day watching the kids play in the ocean. Don’t miss out on walking the boardwalk and promenade that stretch a mile along the sand with the carnival like atmosphere. Family-friendly hotels with on-site pools, waterslides and so much more make this city one hot spot. Kids will love the bigger amusement and water parks just a short trip away. Be sure to check the average annual temperatures before you book your trip as this destination is best enjoyed in the summer months.

Myrtle Beach South Carolina

8. Williamsburg, Virginia

Visiting Williamsburg is to step back in time to the 18th century where this living history museum is sure to thrill the little ones. Let the kids travel back through time with a costume rental and traditional chores and farm work opportunities so they can really feel the part. Free guided tours that take you through town encompass the right amount of history and interaction, and the best part is they’re led by kids for kids. When the feet grow weary from exploring, be sure to hop onto a carriage ride where the driver will delight you with stories of who once owned that very same carriage.  Once you are done living in the past; head to Busch Gardens or Water Country USA for some modern thrills.

Stephen B. Goodwin /
Stephen B. Goodwin /

7. Toronto, Ontario

Kids like nothing more than to climb to the top of things (and truth be told so do most adults) and where else can you find something as tall as the CN Tower to climb! Toronto is a vibrant buzzing city that has so many family friendly activities we can’t name them all. To start you off on your next Toronto vacation here are just a few of our favorites. The Science Centre, Canada’s Wonderland, Ripley’s Aquarium (the largest indoor Aquarium in Canada), The Toronto Zoo, Royal Ontario Museum and the list could go on forever. Don’t miss out on the chance to ferry across to Centre Island where the kids can burn off their energy in wading pools, endless green space and antique rides.


6. Washington, D.C.

Loaded with free museums, a free national zoo and The White House; Washington is not only a great place to visit as an adult but surprisingly very kid-friendly.  While the Museum of Natural History is perfect for the dinosaur lover and the National Museum of Air and Space will get any rocket crazed kid excited; Washington’s official travel website offers a printable activity book for kids. Loaded with contests, take a “selfie” ideas and scavenger hunts; the kids won’t be bored. Washington also offers many free walking tours and make sure you watch that white house lawn; the president’s helicopter lands there several times a week. Finally, a trip to Washington wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the National Mall to ride the carousel.

Museum of Natural History Washington

5. Vancouver, British Columbia

Known for its moderately warm temperatures in the winter, Vancouver is a city you can visit any time of the year. The famous Stanley Park is made up of 1000 acres and lets families explore the seawall and jungle like sanctuary. Tired of walking through the park; pop into the Vancouver Aquarium where the indoor and outdoor exhibits let you get up close and personal with the animals.  Granville Island, located just a short ferry ride away has emerged into a family friendly oasis. Markets (including a children’s market), live entertainment, shops and the largest free water park in North America make up this unique little island. For the adventure seeker, Grouse Mountain is just a short trip away or visit one of the suspension bridges located outside the city.

Grouse Mountain Vancouver

4. Chicago, Illinois

It’s not a question of whether Chicago is a kid-friendly city but a question of where to take the kids first. Do you venture to one of the many museums that offer free admission to kids? Or do you check out the famous Millennium Park to visit the sculpture known as ‘The Bean’? For budget activities, Lincoln Park offers one of the few free zoos in the country. You’ll also want to head down to Navy Pier to visit the Children’s Museum and the famous 150 foot high Ferris wheel. If you have a little sports fan, be sure to catch a game or take a tour at Wrigley Field. With hot dogs and deep dish pizza being the top food choices, your kids will have nothing to complain about.

navy pier

3. San Diego, California

San Diego is filled with family fun activity and luckily you can enjoy the sights just as much as your kids will. The world famous San Diego Zoo is a must see on any trip to the city. As a bonus the zoo has opened a Safari Park which allows you to tour an enormous wildlife reserve with animals from Africa and Asia. Looking to relax while in San Diego?  Head on over to Point Loma and let the kids explore the trails, lighthouse and tidal pools at low tide. If you’re craving some adventure after a relaxing beach day, head on over to Belmont Park, the only beachfront amusement park in San Diego.

littleny /
littleny /

2. Niagara Falls, Ontario

Not only will the view of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water rushing down over the rocks thrill your little ones but there is so much to do in Niagara Falls. Geared towards tourists, this town is one big amusement park for kids and adults alike. Take in the neon signs, haunted houses, arcades and restaurants that line Clifton Hill. Travel as close to the falls as possible on the boat tours, take a helicopter tour to get the best view or hit up the largest indoor water park in North America. Stay up late to watch the falls illuminate and watch the spectacular firework display over the falls. If that isn’t enough; discover the zoos, aquarium and bird kingdoms nearby.

Niagara Falls

1. Orlando, Florida

What would a top ten list of cities to visit with kids be without Orlando? Besides the obvious Disney World which encompasses all four different theme parks plus two water parks, Orlando is filled with kid-friendly activities. Pay a visit to International Drive where the kids can discover an upside-down house, laser tag, Ripley’s Believe it or Not and many other family focused activities. After splurging on all of the above take a quick drive to the coast and relax on one of the many beaches or take a dip in one of Orlando’s freshwater springs. If that isn’t enough to keep your family occupied; take a trip to LEGOLAND, SeaWorld or stroll through downtown Orlando and hop into a paddleboat at Lake Eola.

Orlando downtown welcome sign with tropical scene

12 Things to See and Do in Kauai

Known as Hawaii’s Island of Discovery; Kauai certainly doesn’t disappoint with its towering mountain cliffs, lush green jungle like landscapes and stunning waterfalls. From the magnificent Waimea Canyon to some of the best snorkeling in the world; this island offers visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty and learn more about Hawaiian history. Rich with culture and legends you will feel invigorated once you have visited this island.  From small towns to white sand beaches, whether you are looking for romance, adventure or relaxation; Kauai delivers memories that will last a lifetime. Discover our favorite twelve things to see and do in breathtaking Kauai.

1. Waimea Canyon

Often called “The Great Canyon on the Pacific”; Waimea Canyon should definitely be on your list of places to visit while on Kauai. Stretching over 10 miles long the canyon treats visitors to spectacular colors of deep red soil paired with lush green foliage and blue skies. The 40-mile Waimea Canyon Road will take you twisting and turning all the way to the top. To take full advantage of all the panoramic views be sure to pull off at the official and non-official look out points.  Start early in the morning to avoid the clouds that tend to roll in during the afternoon and make sure you have a full tank of gas; as there are no gas stations along the road. If you plan on hiking one of the amazing trails within the canyon, be sure to pack a picnic lunch and stop off at the ranger station for a map. Whether you choose to drive the scenic route or hike through the striking landscape; Waimea Canyon will exceed your expectations.

Waimea Canyon

2. Kilohana Plantation

After a drive up the Canyon we recommend heading to the Kilohana Plantation to stretch your legs, educate yourself and sample some excellent rum. This mansion was built in 1935 for an extremely wealthy family and has since been restored to include a working farm, first-class restaurants, boutiques, tropical gardens and an old plantation village. Take the 40-minute train ride through the plantation grounds and through the rainforest to learn more about the history of this breathtaking plantation. Browse the boutiques which are housed in the mansion and learn what the original rooms were used for. Eat lunch or dinner at Gaylords; a first-class restaurant that lets patrons dine outside and enjoy the scenery. And finally don’t pass up on the chance to learn about rum-making at the Kōloa Rum Store where free samples are always found.

Hawaiian Rum

3. Indulge in Shave Ice

Let’s be clear: when we talk about shave ice; it is SHAVE not SHAVED and the locals from the island are most passionate about that. They are also passionate about making the best shave ice you will ever taste. Shave ice is like a snow cone except with shaved ice instead of crushed and is infinitely more delicious. A scoop of ice-cream is covered with the shave ice that has been mixed with your choice of flavor. It’s often drizzled with condensed milk and is in a cone or tub like container. The best place in Kauai to get shave ice is often debated. We recommend checking out Ono Ono Shave Ice or The original Jo Jo’s Avenue Shave Ice and Treats where visitors and local’s line up to get this delicious icy delight. We do suggest stepping out of your comfort zone and ordering some of the local flavors such as lychee, taro and coconut.

shave ice

4. Limahuli Garden and Preserve

For the garden and plant enthusiast there is no better place to visit on the Island than Limahuli Garden and Preserve. This 1000-acre garden is nestled deep into the mountains where some of the gardens and terrace systems date back to the earliest Hawaiians. Choose to take a self-guided tour with a booklet that explains each site and the history and mythology that goes with it. You can also choose a guided tour if you want to learn more about each site. Follow the lookout paths for some higher views of the gardens and be rewarded at the top of the climb with a stunning view into the bay below; as well as a bench to relax on. Know that every visitor to this non-profit garden helps preserve native Hawaiian plant species. This is one place that every visitor to Kauai should stop in and admire.

Limahuli Garden

5. Makua Beach (Tunnels)

Rated as one of the most premier dive spots in the world, Tunnels is an absolute must for anyone wanting to dive or snorkel while on Kauai. This crescent shaped golden sand beach offers amazing views of Bali Hai and lush green jungle mountains. The ironwood trees provide plenty of shade and the calm waters offer safe swimming conditions. There are two reefs at Makua Beach; the first is the inner reef which is perfect for the beginner snorkeler with plenty of caverns, tunnels and marine life. The outer reef is where most divers tend to explore the lava tubes, arches and thousands of different marine life species. For the surfer there are plenty of breaking waves to be found beyond the reef.  Plan on spending an entire day at Makua beach exploring in and out of the water.

Makua Beach

6. Take a Trip to Hanalei Town

This lovely picturesque town is framed by the north shore mountains one side and the shimmering blue water of Hanalei Bay on the other side. Lined with art galleries, restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining, boutiques and surf shops; this town is a lovely place to spend the day. Tour the Mission House built in the 1800’s or take a few photographs of the impressive Waioli Hui’ia Church with its unique architecture and beautiful stained glass windows.  Discover the fields of Taro at the base of Hanalei’s mountains; these heart shaped plants grow in patches and are used to make traditional Hawaiian poi, a staple starch. Visit the historic pier where locals come to fish, play music and swim in the calm bay waters. From Hanalei it’s only a short trip to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge; the next place to visit on our list.

Hanalei church

7. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

If you’re a photography buff and looking to snap that perfect vacation photo; Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is where you’ll want to head. A sparkling picturesque lighthouse stands amongst dramatic towering cliffs with lush green foliage in the distance. A haven to the endangered monk seals, the infamous green sea turtle and humpback whales in the winter; this is the perfect viewpoint for any marine life lover. Witness the huge gathering of birds that see refuge at Kilauea Point and use the telescopes and binoculars to catch a closer glimpse. Explore the lighthouse and learn about the history of it from the displays throughout. Plan on spending about an hour here to admire the beauty, learn about the wildlife you are witnessing and take plenty of photos.

Kilauea Point lighthouse

8. Poipu Beach Park

With two great snorkelling sites, frequent sunshine, calm waters for swimming and lots of grassy areas for picnics and play, it’s no wonder this is perhaps the most popular beach on the South Shore. Beginner snorkelers will love the protected inlet that still offers plenty of fish and the more experienced ones will head out into the open area where the swells might toss you around a bit but the abundance of fish and sea turtles will be worth it. Located just up from Poipu Beach is the famous Spouting Horn Blowhole. Perhaps the most photographed place on Kauai; this natural spectacle releases huge spouts of water into the air with a legendary hiss sound. Legend has it a giant lizard once guarded the coastline and is stuck inside the lava tube roaring and hissing and that is what you hear as the water erupts from it. Head here during sunset for some breathtaking views and keep an eye out for humpback whales from December to May.

 Spouting Horn Blow hole

9. Sunset Cruise

Speaking of sunsets, there is no more romantic place than Kauai. Head out on one of many sunset cruises for an unforgettable time. The choices are endless; from a snorkel and sunset tour, to an adult’s only romantic catamaran, to a raft like cruise. Most offer lunch, dinner, appetizers and all beverages. We suggest travelling with a cruise up the Na Pali Coast that offers views of the panoramic coastline bathed in rich hues of green, red and orange. Ever present are the never-ending rainbows that add magic to the already fabulous views. A good place to start your search is Capt Andy’s; a company that has been offering cruises for over thirty years with first class service and beautiful boats.

catamaran cruise

10. Hike to the Hanakapi’ai Falls

Not for the faint of heart, this challenging 8-mile round trip hike takes you deep into the mountains over slippery rock terrain, uneven footing and deep river crossings. What awaits you hidden in the mountains is a stunning 300-foot waterfall that cascades into a swimmable pond. Take an exhilarating leap into the water but beware it is cold! About halfway into the hike to the falls is Hanakapi’ai Beach. Only visible during the summer as large winter swells wash it completely away leaving only boulders; this beautiful untouched beach is a great stop to marvel at the cliffs and punched out caves. If you do choose to take a dip be very careful of riptides as this is a dangerous swimming spot. A safer choice is to swim in the pristine stream water that you cross. Whether you choose to hike to the beach or the waterfalls; the magnificent scenery will stick with you for a lifetime.

Hanakapi'ai Falls

11. Kayak the Wailua River

The Wailua River winds its way through lush rainforests, majestic mountains and breathtaking waterfalls and is one of the most navigable rivers in Hawaii. Choose to rent a kayak and make sure to grab a waterproof map that will guide you to the Secret Falls, swimming hole and other stopping points. If you choose a guided tour; they will lead you and educate you on the surrounding fauna and wildlife. Be prepared to dock your kayak and hike up to a few spots. Something not to miss is the Fern Grotto; a beautiful wet cave with fern growing inside of it upside down. Kayak past the Fern Grotto to reach a gorgeous swimming hole. The secret waterfalls involve a muddier hike but once you reach the falls the beauty will be worth it. Take a dip in the falls to cool off and take a picnic to enjoy. Rugged mountain coastline, sparkling water teaming with marine life and the chance to spot wild boars onshore makes this kayak well worth it.

Wailua River

12. Take a Helicopter Tour

Perhaps the best way to really see Kauai is by air; and there is no better exciting way than to take a helicopter tour of the Island. Hover over the Waimea Canyon, fly up the Napali Coast and discover the hidden landscapes that you can’t reach by car. Experience Manawaiopuna Falls, as seen in the movie Jurassic Park which sits on private land and is only available to view by helicopter. Take in the lush green jungle like landscapes, the towering cliffs and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. With awe inspiring views around every corner this is one thing we encourage splurging on. There are many companies that offer tours and most operate out of Lihue, we encourage doing your research to see what company best suits you. Plan on spending almost an hour in the sky experiencing one of the most beautiful places on earth.

tunnels beach aerial view