The oldest of the eight Hawaiian islands, Kauai has had centuries to grow into its nickname, the “Garden Island.” From dramatically steep mountain peaks and dense rainforests with roaring waterfalls to lush valleys and unspoiled shores, nature’s beauty leaves its mark everywhere on this northernmost island.
With 50 miles of pristine coastline emerging amidst a rugged backdrop, the best things to do in Kauai involve its gleaming white-sand shores. So whether you want to snorkel in reef-protected lagoons, watch Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles bask in the sun (just like they do on the Big Island beaches), or are a beginner learning to surf, know that there’s a beach to suit every vacation mood.
Here are five of the best kid-friendly beaches the Garden Isle has to offer.
Located within walking distance from top resorts in Hawaii, the golden-sand shores of Kiahuna Beach are a family-friendly dream. An extension of Poipu Beach, one of Kauai’s most popular south shore destinations, Kiahuna’s crescent shape and outlying reef make it especially ideal for little ones to learn the art of surfing or body-boarding. The calm, crystal-clear waters are also good for snorkeling and swimming.
Lydgate Beach Park
With over 10 miles of scenic coastline and a bevy of beaches for sunning, the Royal Coconut Coast offers visitors plenty of outdoor things to do in Kauai. Located south of the Wailua River is Lydgate Beach Park, arguably one of the island’s most popular beaches for those with kids in tow. Two saltwater lagoons shielded by lava rock keep the rough ocean waves out, allowing toddlers and small children to safely swim and snorkel among Hawaii’s diverse marine life. The family-friendly location, complete with a lifeguard on duty, restrooms and showers, is also across the street from the gigantic playground at Kamalani Park.
Located in front of one of the top resorts in Hawaii, Waipouli Beach is perfect for a day of rest and relaxation. Quiet throughout the day, this pristine stretch of white-sand shores on Kauai's east side is known for its unforgettable sunrises, tranquil swimming waters and plenty of sunshine. And, if lucky enough, you might find yourself having your very own family-friendly local experience: sharing the beach with the ever-elusive Hawaiian monk seal! Remember to keep your distance as monk seals are an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts.
Salt Pond Beach Park
Named after the natural salt ponds that lie adjacent to it, Salt Pond Beach Park is a beloved west side beach. Snorkeling, surfing, bodyboarding, beachcombing and BBQing are just some of the outdoor things to do in Kauai along its shores, and this family-friendly beach offers them all. Known for its calm, protected lagoon and tide pools that are teeming with Hawaiian marine life—expect to discover whitemouth moray eels, lion fish, sea turtles, and more. Salt Pond is also a quick drive from the island's most renowned ice cream company, Lappert's Hawaii, located in the historic town of Hanapepe (and if you go island-hopping, there’s one in Maui, too).
Anini Beach Park
The island's North Shore area—much like the one on its sister island of Oahu—may be far from your choices of where to stay in Kauai, but its rugged 3,000-foot tall sea cliffs, verdant valleys and idyllic beaches are most certainly worth the drive. While most visitors flock to Hanalei Bay, for something a little quieter, head east to Anini Beach Park, where secluded sands and shallow waters await. A stroll at low tide will often reveal tidepools with hermit crabs, sea urchins, and starfish, while snorkeling in the clear waters—the lagoon is protected by a large reef—unveils a plethora of reef fish like flounder and flying gurnard.
Heading to the Garden Island with kids in tow? Check out these family-friendly vacation condos.