Kauai is an unforgettable destination for families looking to embark on a one-of-a-kind adventure. While you'll find plenty to do throughout the Hawaiian Islands, the opportunities for fun in Kauai are particularly unique, thanks to the diversity of things to do and experiences kids and adults alike can enjoy. You'll find crystal-clear waters and soft, golden sands right alongside expansive natural vistas and trails. To get the most out of this tropical paradise, you'll need an itinerary with all the top spots your family will enjoy. Find out the best things to do with kids in Kauai.

Explore Kauai kid activities on the pristine beaches

No trip to Kauai is complete without a trip to the island's beaches. Kauai kid activities by the water are particularly exciting due to the sunny tropical climate and refreshing waters surrounding and running through this island. Whether you're looking for a way to relax by the water or want to embark on an experience that's a bit more adventurous, you won't have to look far to find fun in Kauai that the whole family can enjoy.

Hanalei Bay

When you visit Hanalei Bay, you'll find that special sweet spot in wave intensity where you can both do some surfing of your own and teach your kids how to ride the waves. This crescent-shaped bay offers 2 miles of beachfront with a scenic backdrop of towering mountains. If your family isn't quite ready to take on the surf at its highest, avoid visiting during the winter. In the summer months, the surf is calm enough to be exceptionally safe for kids who are looking to learn paddleboarding. Additionally, you'll find a pier if you're interested in fishing.

Poipu Beach

If you're looking for calm waters perfect for relaxing, Poipu Beach may be your best bet. The waves are relatively weak, and there aren't any serious rip currents to worry about. In fact, the waters are patrolled by lifeguards every day, so you and your kids can swim with peace of mind. As if that wasn't enough, this beach area also has a designated playground area for kids, making it one of the most popular destinations for visitors traveling with their entire family.

Lydgate Beach

Lydgate Beach is one of the more popular beaches in Kauai, and that's no accident. You'll find a wide variety of activities available here that kids and adults alike can enjoy. You'll find opportunities for swimming, fishing, and even diving. Windsurfing is also popular when the winds are favorable. The reason the waters are so relatively calm here is that the beach is protected by a lava-rock wall, which blocks it off from the open ocean. The abundance of tropical fish in the area also makes this an ideal spot for snorkeling.

Maha'ulepu Beach

If you're looking to get away from the crowds, then Maha'ulepu Beach may be exactly what you're looking for. The beach is actually divided into 3 parts: Gillin's Beach, Kipu Kai Beach, and Kawailoa Bay. All are relatively secluded and require a bit of a hike to reach in the first place. If your family can handle the hike, you'll be met with stunning vistas and scenic views as the calm waves touch the sandy shore. Swimming and snorkeling are the most popular pastimes here, but you'll also find a fascinating geological formation to explore called Maha'ulepu Cave. Just note that there aren't any lifeguards here.

Kalapaki Beach

One of the ultimate family destinations on the entire island is Kalapaki Beach. With protected and calm waters touching its sandy shores, you'll find the perfect opportunity for swimming. From the shore, you'll often see cruise ships passing by. Beach volleyball is available along the shore, and families can also teach their little ones watersports like paddleboarding and surfing here. In fact, this beach is home to professional lessons your kids can take regardless of their skill level.

Find thrilling adventure

If your family is looking to get active in Kauai, you'll find no shortage of opportunities. Kauai family vacations of any kind often include some thrills alongside the more relaxing attractions, so it's important to take note of the variety of things to do on the island. Whether you're looking to venture down a river in a kayak or soar through the air on a zip line, you'll find adrenaline-inducing activities the whole family can enjoy all across the island. Discover the ultimate family vacation in Kauai that offers thrilling adventures.

Kayak through Wailua River

While Hawaii has plenty of rivers, only a few, like Wailua River, are actually navigable by visitors. Along this majestic river, you'll find tropical beauty that you can enjoy from an entirely new perspective. Taking a kayak out into the water is a great way to take in the sights and venture through the running waters of the river. You won't find the water too rough or a kayak too difficult to control, so it's a great destination for children to enjoy as well. You can also opt for a professional kayak tour in which a guide will take you through the gentle current.

Embark on an ATV tour

There are plenty of ways to explore the vast countryside of Kauai, but nothing offers an experience quite like the back of an ATV. You'll find ATV tours throughout the island, though some of the most popular can be found around the Kola Plantation. These tours tend to last about 3 hours in total as you traverse paths through a lush jungle and dormant volcanic crater. Other top spots include a lava tunnel and an old movie set. Some of these tours will even take you as far as the iconic waterfall that was depicted in the "Jurassic Park" film.

Hike the Heritage Trail

If you're looking for a satisfying hike, you might enjoy the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail. This trail will take you from Shipwreck Beach to Punahoa Point, covering a full length of 3.7 miles. Of course, you may not want to take the whole family along its entire length, though the difficulty of this trail is notably easy with well-maintained paths. Along the trail, you'll have scenic views of the water and the local wildlife. Keep in mind that dogs are welcome along this trail as well, though they must be kept on a leash at all times.

Explore Makauwahi Cave

Adventurers more inclined to see geological features won't want to miss out on Makauwahi Cave. As part of a half-mile long hiking trail, this cave is easily accessible and offers a nice place to find yourself secluded from greater Kauai. If you're looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the island's cities and popular attractions, this cave can be a relaxing respite. Plus, the trail to the cave is notably easy to travel, so it's appropriate for the whole family.

Sail through the sky or tube down the stream at Kauai Backcountry Adventures

With Kauai Backcountry Adventures, you'll find a wide variety of things to do that will get your adrenaline pumping with unrivaled experiences. The zip-line course is particularly appealing, thanks to the scenic views and high speeds past mountains and a bamboo grove. If you're looking for a more relaxing adventure suitable for young kids, however, you can tube down a lovely stream made from the irrigation system of an old sugar plantation. Some of the tunnels and canals here date back to the late 19th century. Throughout this adventure, you'll find guides who can teach you and your little ones about the local nature, history, and culture around Kauai.

Visit Kola Ziplines

If zip-lining in on your must-do list, Kola Ziplines offers some of the best on the island. You'll find a notably long course available that can stretch your time having fun out longer than you might expect. You'll find it on the south side of the island with stellar views of the Waita Reservoir and surrounding vibrant forest. In total, you'll have more than a mile and a half of zip lines to explore. Some of the zip lines even allow for zip aerobatics if you're feeling particularly adventurous, but there are still more standard experiences for the little ones as well.

Go on a snorkeling tour

The clear waters around Kauai offer pristine opportunities for snorkeling tours, especially along the Na Pali Coast. Just keep in mind that the spots along that coast are generally inaccessible by car. Instead, you can book one of the local tours and find them that way. Additionally, you'll find plenty of rentals in Wailua that let you enjoy a bit of snorkeling after a mere short walk from your accommodation. If you want a variety of snorkeling experiences, however, embarking on a professional tour is always going to be your best bet.

Take in the pristine nature

When you visit Kauai, you won't have to look far to find vibrant natural features, whether it's lush flora, towering mountains, or verdant valleys. People often flock to the beaches of this island, but the natural beauty found inland is one of Kauai's defining features, and the area is packed full of fascinating destinations to explore that the whole family can enjoy. Take a look at some of the best inland destinations and spots around the island that show off the stunning aesthetic of this one-of-a-kind Hawaiian island.

Waimea Canyon

Few sites in Kauai can match the awe invoked by the legendary Waimea Canyon. You can think of it as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, as it features an iconic red hue that often reminds visitors of its counterpart in Arizona. This canyon is a mile wide and 12 miles long and reaches depths of 3,567 feet. To get a good look, you'll need to stop off the nearby road or hike the trail down into it. Of course, helicopter tours can always give you a stunning bird's-eye view if you prefer that.

Na Pali Coast State Park

Na Pali Coast State Park is fairly remote and showcases a lush array of natural splendor you won't find anywhere else on the island. While the coast and beaches are certainly appealing, its inland wonders are worth a visit as well. You'll find towering cliffs and spectacular waterfalls throughout the park area. The mountain range is impressive, though the sheer scale is best appreciated with a helicopter tour of the area. When you visit, you'll find a variety of unique vegetation that has been allowed to prosper due to the park's isolation.

Wailua Falls

There's something undeniably tranquil and relaxing about seeing a serene waterfall, and Wailua Falls is one of the best options on the island for it. It's a double waterfall that reaches heights of 80 feet from the pool of water underneath. While it's mostly quiet these days, local legends say that old Hawaiian chiefs would jump off the top to prove their strength and will. To reach this waterfall, you'll have to go through a small hike first that lasts for about a mile, but even at a relaxed pace, it should take less than half an hour to reach it. The path is well maintained and easily traversed as well, so your little ones will have no problem making the journey.

Nounou Mountain

When you visit Kauai for the natural features, you'll need to stop by Nounou Mountain, also known as the Sleeping Giant of Hawaii. Getting to this mountain is fairly easy from Haleilio Road in Wailua, so kids don't have to embark on the long hike that's also available. From this mountain, you can see out into the distance for miles, with the mountain range taking a unique shape. When you look at the mountain range from a certain angle, it'll appear as if it's a man sleeping on his back. According to local legends, the giant here treated himself to a school of fish, then laid down for a nap from which he still hasn't awoken.

Explore local historic sites

To truly immerse yourself in Kauai, you'll need to explore the local history and culture. Fortunately, there's no shortage of historic sites around the island that the whole family can enjoy. Even if the meanings of the sites are lost on younger kids, they can still enjoy the wide variety of activities available throughout each that will make their experience unforgettable. Explore the history of this iconic Hawaiian island and see vibrant examples of the local culture and everything quintessentially Hawaiian.

Grove Farm Homestead

The Grove Farm Homestead was a sugarcane estate that was established in the mid-19th century, and it was one of the first of its kind on the island. When your family visits, you can explore several different buildings, including the main manor house and homes for the workers. You'll even find a cottage that was the private domain of owner George Wilcox. When you embark on a tour of this homestead, you can gain valuable insight into what life was like in the 19th century, complete with period-appropriate furnishings and artifacts throughout the property. Just make sure to book your tour at least 24 hours in advance.

Kilohana Plantation

When you visit the Kilohana Plantation, you can enjoy a 20th-century sugarcane plantation with a massive Tudor-style home as its focal point. The sprawling 16,000 square foot house has been completely restored, and you'll find period-appropriate furniture and artifacts as well as a comprehensive art gallery. There's even a working train on-site from which you can take in the sights of the grounds during a ride. Several shops are set up on the plantation as well, and they primarily offer handmade crafts and souvenirs created by local artisans.

Kauai Museum

Kauai kid activities are easy to find with a trip to the Kauai Museum. This museum has an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits showcasing the history of the island back before Western contact all the way through the plantation period. It's one of the largest and most elaborate museums on the entire island, and it's home to stunning items like royal garments, exotic shells, and model ships. You can tour it at your own pace, of course, but your kids may enjoy a guided tour, which is available as well.

Koloa

The town of Koloa is one of the oldest and most significant towns on the island. It was the first town in Kauai dedicated to sugarcane production, and that made it a major player in the island's development during that period. When your Kauai vacation with kids takes you to this town, you'll find a wealth of historic structures alongside modern-day attractions like shops and restaurants. Plantation Days in July are a popular annual event with numerous celebrations throughout the area. Of course, you'll be impressed on the way in, as the entrance road is lined with eucalyptus trees that create a tunnel over the path.

Kilauea Lighthouse

The Kilauea Lighthouse is one of the most iconic landmarks along the Kauai coast. Built in 1913, this lighthouse had the impressive ability to cast light a full 90 miles into the night's darkness. While the original lens has since been replaced, you can still visit the impressive lighthouse itself to take in this piece of history. The viewpoint is stunning, and the native wildlife will surely delight kids and adults alike. Birds are the most common form of wildlife you'll find here, but you might also see seals along the coast.

Kamokila

Kamokila Hawaiian Village is one of the best destinations if you're looking to explore the history of Kauai from before it made contact with the West. This modern-day village sits on the site of an ancient village and comes complete with replicated buildings reminiscent of those you'd have seen all those centuries ago. You and your kids can also see live demonstrations of cloth-making, poi-making, and agriculture using methods unique to the ancient native Hawaiians. It's a remarkably educational Kauai kid activity, so keep that in mind if you want your family to have lasting knowledge alongside the memories they bring home.

Kaulu Paoa Heiau

Kaulu Paoa Heiau is one of the most important historic sites on the island. This is where gifted hula dancers would show off their abilities and a place where ancient storytellers would hone their craft with both oral and visual techniques. The remnants of the temple here still offer a sense of serenity and importance despite being long separated from its initial use. When you bring your family here, be sure to respect this ground, as it's considered sacred to Hawaiians.

Best restaurants for Kauai family vacations with kids

With so much to see and do throughout Kauai, it's important that you keep your family fed throughout the experience. You'll find quite a few different options throughout the island, but if you want to get the most out of your family vacation in Kauai, you'll need to check out the top restaurants in the area. These restaurants let you enjoy a taste of the local fare while still offering items that picky little ones can still enjoy. Check out the best restaurants that let you get a taste of Kauai in a way that nothing else can match.

Tip Top Cafe

When you visit the Tip Top Cafe, you can enjoy a staple in Lihue that's been around for more than a century. Doubling as a motel, you don't have to book your stay here to enjoy their delicious food. You'll find a wide variety of options available, though it primarily caters to those looking for breakfast. Their macadamia-nut pancakes are especially popular, but it's hard to beat a freshly baked malasada, one of Hawaii's most prominent foods.

Brennecke's Beach Broiler

No trip to Brennecke's Beach would be complete without a stop by Brennecke's Beach Broiler. This iconic restaurant is a casual eatery known primarily for its hamburgers and fresh fish. Adults and kids alike can enjoy what they have on offer, as kids can choose from nachos and peppers, build-your-own burgers, and fish sandwiches, among other items. The laid-back attitude here makes it the perfect stop for beachgoing adventurers before heading back out to the splendor of Kauai.

Brick Oven Pizza

When you need to please the whole family, it's hard to go wrong with pizza. At Brick Oven Pizza, you'll find a delicious pizzeria that cooks in an old-fashioned stone oven and offers a massive variety of toppings. Even the pickiest eaters tend to love pizza, so it's the ideal place if something more obscure doesn't strike the interest of your kids. Plus, you can easily get a 15-inch pie that can feed a family of 4 while likely still having some left over. It's notably affordable as well, especially if the whole family opts to share a singular pizza.

Tropical Taco

Kids tend to love tacos and burritos, and you'll find plenty of both at Tropical Taco. This restaurant is one of the best destinations along the North Shore to find a fish taco. All the ingredients are prepared fresh, as this restaurant has built relationships with local North Shore fishermen. You'll find small plates available as well if your little ones aren't interested in taking on an entire taco or burrito. The baby versions are available with quesadillas and nachos.

Pink's Creamery

Pink's Creamery is one of the top destinations on the island for a delicious dessert. You'll find a variety of offerings like smoothies, ice cream, and tropical ice. Of course, you can also find several meal items, too, like their famous Hawaiian grilled cheese with pork and pineapple. Some of the ice cream flavors are exotic and exciting, like Kona Mud Pie, Hanalei Sunrise, and Aloha Cherry Truffle. This is the place to go to get a taste of Hawaii without getting too far out of your kids' comfort zones. They even offer dairy-free gelato for visitors who have certain dietary restrictions.

Porky's

If your family loves meat, no family vacation to Kauai would be complete without a trip to Porky's. This iconic food truck offers a wide variety of pork items to enjoy, such as pulled pork, pork sausage, and hot dogs. Each item is prepared with care and topped with delicious ingredients, like the pineapple pork sausage topped with fried onions and sweet barbecue sauce. You'll find several picnic benches nearby with canopies to keep the sun away while you enjoy your meal.

JoJo's Shave Ice

One of the most iconic foods of Kauai is shaved ice, and one of the best places on the island to find some is JoJo's Shave Ice. This positively Hawaiian experience offers fluffy shaved ice flavored with sweet syrups that include classic favorites alongside more unique choices. You'll find flavors like bubblegum, guava punch, cappuccino, and boysenberry. Of course, you're free to try mixed flavors as well, with options like root beer float, tropical breeze, and banana split. There are 2 locations, with 1 in Waimea and 1 in Hanalei, so it's not too far no matter what side of the island you're on.