Aloha! Kauai is our family's favorite island - it's quieter, less developed, and oh so tropical (it is dubbed the Garden Isle after all). On our recent trip last month we took our 20 month-old son (eek!) and my husband's mother (thank goodness!). This post will focus on the sunny south shore in Poipu & Koloa. Here are some of our travel tips and takeaways.
Family - The #1 tip is to try and travel with family or friends with children. It's more fun, and everyone can take turns caring for the kids during nap time and early morning wake up calls (our son got up every day at 4:30 am - not fun!). Having my mother-in-law there also meant that we got time on our own to go snorkeling, out for drinks, and stargazing.
On the Plane
Fly Hawaiian Airlines - Extending the Aloha spirit a little bit longer is a nice way to start and end the trip. The crew are usually from the islands or very familiar with them, so they can offer great local tips (like where to get the best Lilikoi Chiffon Pie on Kauai, which is definitely Hamura's Saimin - thank you flight attendant, Lucy). They are one of the last airlines to offer a meal in coach, and they have a great film that highlights local Hawaiian events, culture, and locations. They are very accommodating to families with kids - HUGE!
Toys - We try and limit media in our family so no iPad for our son - who is still under 2. We brought a bag of toys that he had not yet seen including: TOOBS - a collection of animal figures with different themes. We also brought a huge stack of his favorite books, and lightweight Waldorf felt toys, colorful silks, and finger puppets.
Milk - If your toddler is still drinking milk, ask for a carton as soon as you get on so that it'll be room temp when you're ready for it (vs. trying to juggle hot water and a bottle - big mistake on our part). Also, if you're flying late at night, ask for a carton to take off the plane for night time/next morning when you get home.
Sleeping - Make sure to bring your little one his or her favorite lovey along with a muslin blanket. They are easy to pack, and perfect for extra warmth. When baby is falling asleep, I put it over my head to create a little tent for privacy. Of course, don't forget his or her lovey. These from Angel Dear come in a 3-pack ("A Pair & a Spare") and are super soft.
Hotel vs. Condo - There are pro's and con's to both, but with a toddler I can't imagine not having a condo. The washer and dryer alone made it. Being able to make breakfast or slice up some fruit for a snack is so much better than ordering expensive room service. Try and get a condo with a pool. It can be a nice break from the beach and is a great activity right before bed. Check out Parrish Collection for condo rentals - they seem to dominate the island. Our condo was fabulous and literally a two minute walk from the beach. We went the last week in May right before the rates jumped up for prime season, which saved a lot!
Grand Hyatt Kauai - We had our honeymoon here and it is a magical, magical place! If you're looking for a hotel, look no further. Exquisite grounds, award-winning restaurants, spa, and Luau...the list goes on! The salt water lagoon is perfect for smaller children with rafts and floats available. For bigger kids, there are water slides, kayaks, snorkeling/scuba lessons, a lazy river, and Camp Hyatt (which we will definitely take advantage of in the future). For grown-ups, there's an adult pool and two hot tubs. Live music is featured every night in the breathtaking lanai off the main lobby. Koi fish feedings happen in the morning outside of the award-winning Tidepools restaurant and the main lobby features an assortment of exotic birds - perfect for kids of all ages.
Activities & Eats (mostly just good eats)
Beaches - Poipu Beach is perfect for wading, along with Lydgate Beach Park, which is not far from the Lihue Airport. Lydgate also features a playground and lots of picnic tables. Wake up early (surely your kiddos will have no problem with that) and head to Poipu Beach - there's usually a sea turtle or two taking a nap on the beach and a monk seal in the water. Lifeguards are on duty, which is always an extra comfort with kids. Stay close to the rocks and look for fish and black crabs. Directly across from Poipu Beach is Brennecke's Beach Broiler, a great oceanfront spot for casual fare upstairs and a takeaway deli down, along with Nukumoi Surf Shop for everything sun and swim.
Snorkeling - Kauai is home to some amazing snorkeling spots including Poipu and Lydgate Beaches (more for beginners). We've only scratched the surface with these, along with Tunnels and the breathtaking Ke'e Beach in Hanalei. Regardless of where you go, try and get out earlier in the morning before it gets crowded - you'll have a better chance of seeing honu (sea turtles) and you'll beat the harsh sun. Head to Snorkel Bob's (all over the Hawaiian islands), and their friendly staff will hook you up with the best rental gear along with info on day trips, snorkel spots, and weather conditions.
Mai Tai - Ahh - the ultimate island beverage (although the drink originates in Oakland at Trader Vic's). My husband and I are always in search of the best and we found our favorite on Kauai at Merriman's Fish House located in the Kukuiula Shops. Merriman's is owned by famed chef Peter Merriman's who's known for being one of the original chefs to develop Hawaiian regional cuisine. His restaurant group is also responsible for the popular Monkeypod in Maui and you can find this Mai Tai there as well. With Lahaina Rum, Orgeat, and Honey-Lilikoi Foam this drink was strong and so refreshing! I also loved the thinly sliced pineapple garnish that slides right into the glass. Happy Hour is from 5:30 - 6:30pm at the bar and this runs $8 - making it a great value.
Poke Bowls, Acai, and Crossfit? - The Kukuiula Store is a mom and pop market operated by the Kuribayashi family for over 50 years, and it's still reinventing itself with three very on-trend kiosks/businesses. Anake's Juice Bar features local fruit smoothies and juices and amazing acai smoothies and bowls (pictured right). Makai Sushi has the best poke bowls on the island. We had the Ahi poke bowl with sushi rice, shaved dykon, ocean salad, wasabi, aioli, sesame seeds, cucumber and avocado. And in the back of the store is a Crossfit. The store also offers organic products, local foods and desserts, home-made lunches and salad bar, local grass fed beef, fresh-caught seafood, and a variety of vegan and gluten-free foods.
Da Crack - The name is odd (and of course there's a story behind it), but this place is a solid pick for super fresh Mexican. Good luck finding a menu (I should have taken a pic), but trust me - just go and you'll find something delicious. It's also right next door to the Kukuiula Store so you can't miss it. Everything is done in house and they feature fresh seafood daily. Expect a line, so divide and conquer and have someone else do a little shopping next door while you wait.
Farmer's Market - Every Wednesday the Kauai Culinary Market is hosted at The Shops at Kukuiula from 3:30 to 6 pm. This is the perfect family outing. Live music, locally grown produce, pies, jams, and the most delicious pineapple dessert you'll ever taste! No dairy, no anything, except sweet, frozen Kauai-grown Sugarloaf Loaf pineapple from Paulie's Pineapple Phrosty. Frozen pineapple is put through a commercial Champion juicer right before your eyes. It was AH-mazing! Everyone is friendly, and my son was even given a mini pineapple from one of the farmers.
Poipu Shopping Village - This is a great outdoor shopping area - perfect for letting little ones run around and chase the local chickens (literally). We hit up a couple spots including the uber hip Kauai Juice Co., along with Anuenue Cafe (get there early for their Banana Pancakes), and Keoki's Paradise. Keoki's is part of the T S Restaurant Group - home to restaurants such as Duke's, Kimo's and Jake's Del Mar. Keoki's features live music every night of the week in their bar area which is better for kids running around and hula dancing. They had the most beautiful copper pineapple rain chains on the lanai - I want them for my house. You can actually find them pretty easily online.
Overall we had an amazing trip and were so glad that we were able to bring our son and experience Kauai through his eyes. I can now see why Kauai is such a popular second home market. The median single family price this year at $625K, $301K for condos, and $350K for vacant land. Click here for more market stats. If you're thinking about buying a second home in Kauai, email me. I'd be happy to talk with about your needs and refer you to a great agent in Kauai. Aloha.