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Brightly lit attractions and big-city excitement can certainly captivate kids on vacation but, when it comes to a trip to Kauai, sometimes the simple things in life turn into the best memories.
Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director Sue Kanoho should know. She and her husband raised their son Justin, now 21, to appreciate the island’s unique no-frills gifts. Today, the entire family holds special memories of easygoing days on the beach, backyard barbecues, school programs drawing on the Hawaiian culture, the annual farm fair with its petting zoo and similar Kauai-style moments.
“Here on Kauai, everyone enjoys the emphasis on ohana [family],” said Kanoho. “Kauai gives youngsters and their parents a glimpse into our island’s incredible natural beauty, as well as a chance to learn more about the host culture.”
Homespun Fun In the Great OutdoorsWhen Justin was growing up, one place that Kanoho used to take him was Lydgate Beach Park in Kapaa, on the island’s east side. These days it is still a popular spot for safe swimming in a shallow pond as well as snorkeling in protected waters. Adjacent to the park is Kamalani Playground, a community-built wonderland for kids that features a volcano slide, ocean-themed ceramics, Hawaiian wood carvings and a one-of-a-kind interactive bridge that ends up on a sand dune.
Another spot for kids that is surrounded by nature is Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, located to the north in Kilauea. Its Under the Rainbow children’s garden lays claim to a 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture and fountain inspired by the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Families can spend hours enjoying the attraction’s pond, maze, treehouse, slides, pint-sized railroad train, log cabins and covered wagon.
Nearby, a new outdoor attraction scoring points with young visitors is Kauai Mini Golf. A far cry from the stereotypical course, guests can forget about shooting through clown mouths and windmills; instead, this 18-hole green is set amid gorgeous tropical gardens representing the different eras of Hawaii’s culture. With water hazards, pipe shots and other obstacles offering challenges, clients play their way through time, learning about island history and nature in an entertaining fashion.
Hotel Programs with a Sense of PlaceHotels around the island offer Kauai-style opportunities for young guests and families to savor what’s special about the destination.
At the St. Regis Princeville, for instance, ongoing presentations focus on the distinctive pastimes and traditions of Hawaii. One day clients can take a snorkeling lesson and learn about tropical reef creatures, while other days bring surfing demonstrations and beach games. Evening programs are especially magical, from a bonfire with s’mores and nighttime tide pool explorations to stargazing while hearing about Hawaiian legends and lore. The St. Regis Princeville also offers its Young Voyagers Club for kids, who experience meaningful activities that incorporate science, culture, adventure and fun.
Children ages 5 to 10 staying at Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation, Outrigger at Lae Nani and Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort gets a free Island Explorer Kit at check-in. It’s designed to help kids and their parents discover Kauai’s environment, whether they are learning how to determine wind directions and read cloud formations or identifying nature’s gifts that wash up along the shoreline. Containing a guidebook, backpack, sunglasses, pen and binoculars, the kit encourages families to take all six lessons covering the ocean, reefs and shoreline.
Meanwhile, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa puts its own spin on the kids’ program with its Camp Hyatt. Along with hula lessons and Harts and crafts, kids can meet the resort’s chefs and pick out vegetables that are grown in its organic garden. They can learn about the exotic birds perched in the hotel’s lobby and find out about the island’s endangered species. Another youth-friendly diversion awaits at the Hyatt’s Anara Spa, where young guests can enjoy tropical treatments such as pineapple-coconut mani/pedis and Hawaiian princess hairstyling with fresh flowers.
Keeping Active or Just Kicking BackA lot of families visit Kauai during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as well as the busy summer months, said Kanoho.
“Much of our marketing emphasizes all the amazing activities that families can do together on the island, like Na Pali Coast boat tours, kayaking, mountain tubing, hiking, ziplining, horseback riding and luaus,” said Kanoho. ”I also encourage families to learn something about Kauai’s culture at one of our great museums and discover the island’s landscape and history during a tour.”
But for Kanoho, her favorite way to let a kid enjoy Kauai is to keep it simple.
“It was wonderful watching Justin and his friends grow up around the water and enjoy the simple things in life,” she said. “Now, he and his dad still go out surfing for those quality Kauai moments together.”