Blog of Rob Galanakis (@robgalanakis)

Kauai vacation tips

My family (wife, 3 year old, 1 year old) completed a 2 week vacation to Kauai, Hawaii in April, but I never published this post… I figured I’d write up a few things we learned, hopefully it’ll help others planning a family vacation.

First some random thoughts, then some suggestions:

  • Fly Hawaiian. A few other airlines go to Hawaii, but Hawaiian is so much nicer. The few hundred in savings isn’t worth it to fly United.
  • Some of the seats- in particular, the rear of the section- were three, not four, across. IIRC the seat selector shows 4 (with one ‘occupied’). Choose the last 4 (?) rows of the section if you are flying with three, like we did. This was a 2-4-2 aircraft, can’t remember which.
  • Honolulu airport is great. We had a 3+ hour layover, it was very pleasant. Great outdoor area, we played for a couple hours. Birds flying around inside distracted my kids well.
  • We were in Hawaii from March 30 to April 13. I guess this is still technically “winter” weather. This means the winds blow from the north. The weather in the west/south/east was great most of the trip, in the north was pretty bad.
  • The beaches in the north and northeast are amazing.
  • The “Ultimate Kauai Guidebook” is great, but the author is not very well versed in food. Do your own food research.
  • Lihue has a Costco. Use it (if you have two kids and no Costco membership, what’s wrong with you?).
  • Key learning: If you have two kids, you’re not doing any real swimming or snorkeling anyway. This means almost all the beaches- even those “bad for swimming”- are fine, as long as they aren’t totally unprotected. You and your kids are probably just playing in the waves.
  • This gives you a) a huge number of places to stay, and b) wonderful savings.
  • We stayed a week in Poipu (south shore), and a week in Princeville (north shore).
  • In Poipu, we could walk to Poipu beach. It’s a nice beach, but just being able to walk to a beach was the main perk, and because it was winter, the weather was quite good in the south.
  • In Princeville, we could not really walk to a beach (it was extremely difficult to get to Hideaways with two kids and with things as wet as they were). The place in Princeville was beautiful but I would not stay here again. It’s all resorts.
  • The north shore is a bit of a locals desert, it’s all tourists. No decent supermarkets. The food options are mediocre. I mean, Poipu is all tourists too, but you’re pretty close to Lihue and some other populated places.

If I could do things over again:

  • If I had another two week trip, I’d not change anything about the first week in Poipu. If we just had a week or ten days, I wouldn’t stay in Poipu.
  • One option would be to stay in Kapaa:
    • It’s centrally located, so a short-ish drive to many great beaches.
    • Lots of great dining and shopping options.
    • It’s a place locals live, so good grocery shopping, more reasonable prices, etc.
    • Beaches are supposedly less desirable, so housing is much cheaper.
  • Another option would be Kilaeau:
    • Close to north beaches and east side shopping.
    • More reasonably priced I think?
  • Stay somewhere that is either close enough to walk to a beach (and hit that beach basically every day), or is far enough from a beach to be cheaper, there are so many great places to explore you may as well get in the car each day and go somewhere different.

All the beaches we tried:

  • Poipu Beach: Excellent beach. Huge variety of waves. We saw a half dozen monk seals and 2 sea turtles in a week. Great beach to be able to walk to. If you’re in the south, you’re there for Poipu.
  • “Baby Beach” (north of Poipu): Um, why did we go here, I don’t know.
  • Shipwreck Beach: Not worth it, though the Grand Hyatt pool and salt water lagoons are worth a visit!
  • Glass Beach: Just stopped by, was a waste of time.
  • Salt Pond Park: Fantastic beach, one of the nicest we went to. Would come here every day.
  • Lydgate Beach: Very nice, worth a visit.
  • Anini Beach: Fantastic beach for kids. There are a couple great spots east of Anini proper which are very secluded, easy to spend a day here. The only north shore beach we went to twice.
  • Hanalei Pavilion: Very nice, cannot stay on the north shore without going here.
  • Larsen’s Beach: So isolated and nice! Worth the hike down (ignore what the guidebook says, take the left path in private property, much easier that way). Avoid if you don’t want to see nudity, though.
  • Haena Beach: Huge beach, was fine.
  • Aliomanu Beach: We were the only people here! Great for the seclusion.
  • Hideaway Beach: We went when it was raining and didn’t make it all the way down. Go when it’s dry, and be prepared for a really steep hike (I did it carrying my son and loaded down, but my wife is a little afraid of steep climbs and had more trouble).
  • Um, we went to more beaches, but I just need to publish this post, basically do what the guidebook says.

Food places:

  • I don’t really remember. I should have finished this post in April.
  • We went to Costco twice. The fish there is very good and affordable, and they have types I didn’t find in the fish markets. Stock up on fruit and everything else when you arrive.
  • Poke is really affordable, often the same price as raw fish.
  • There are some very good spots, but most of what we found was good, not great, few bad things. Also, since this is a vacation heavy place, everything is sufficiently reviewed on Google/Yelp/TripAdvisor.
  • There is a mushroom farm in the south, Lawai Valley Nursery, you get there by continuing across 530 when it crosses 50. It had great mushrooms and apple bananas and other goodies, all super cheap. It’s a scenic but short drive, you’ll be passing by if you go to Waimea, so stop by.

Hope that helps!

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