Exploring the Enchanting Island of Kaua’i: A Family Adventure Like No Other
In the heart of our summer journey, with the anticipation of Japan ahead, we found ourselves captivated by the alluring landscapes and enchanting experiences of the Island of Kaua’i, Hawaii. We used our time on Kawau’i to soak up the beach but we did book a few activities on the island that you shouldn’t miss: tubing with Kaua’i Back Country Adventures, sailing with Captain Andy, and a Luau with Smith Family Garden Luau.
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A Secluded Haven: Our Stay at Barking Sands
We spent most of our time on Kaua’i at Barking Sands, a hidden gem known for its breathtaking beaches and exclusive access. Barking Sands offers beachside rental cabins for those with a DOD ID. The cabins are your typical military lodging – nothing particularly fancy and largely sparse – but they do have washers and dryers and a large kitchen. The location though was perfect.
You can hit up outdoor recreation to rent anything you need for your stay. We rented some beach chairs, an umbrella, and a boogie board. The kids never wanted to leave the beach, which we had largely to ourselves. The small NEX-run shoppette has everything you need at reasonable prices, including some baked goods!
We also ate at the on-base restaurant “Shananagans” twice. It has beachfront dining with good food and the best drink prices on the island. We did pizza one night and ordered off the menu another night. The kids could run around on the field and beach while we waited for our food.
The only disadvantage to staying at Barking Sands is how far it is from everything else on the island. Just prepare to make a drive anytime you want to leave.
Tubing Through Time: Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures
A day spent tubing with Kauai Backcountry Adventures unveiled a world of enchantment within the old irrigation ditches of a sugar plantation. The tubing journey, punctuated by the echoes of hand-dug tunnels, was a symphony of laughter and thrill. As our tubes spun and bumped, each twist and turn brought us closer together in a unique and exhilarating adventure.
My sister and I did this tubing adventure when we visited pre-kids and I couldn’t wait for the littles to experience this with me! It did not disappoint they all loved it.
The big thing to note is that you cannot stay with your people on this tubing. Most of it is single file and it can be dangerous to try to hook up together. The ride feels sort of as if the small world ride met the teacups and bumper cars. Know that the guides keep everyone safe. We were often separated from the Little Little, only to find him happily hanging out with one of the guides.
You should know the water is really cold. You are only going to be in the water for one hour and once you get going you don’t really notice the cold. The water is the same temperature year-round because it is coming from the mountains.
After the tubing, you are bussed to a picnic location where you can swim in a swimming hole. They also set out a sandwich buffet which was a great lunch. We all changed into dry clothing here. There is no actual place to change, so we prepped to change under our towels and that worked great. We were glad to be going back in dry clothing.
Hot Tip from Jeff: The opening parts of Tropic Thunder were filmed on the property. He wishes that he would have watched it before we went on the tour.
If you are a bit early to your tubing reservation just up the road is the Kapaia Swinging Bridge. It’s free to visit and a quick, fun, historical adventure.
We also popped into Sunrise Coffee and Doughnuts. Tip: You should order your doughnuts first as they are made to order. Everything was delicious!
A Night of Cultural Revelry: Smith’s Garden Family Luau
Amidst the captivating landscapes of Kauai, our journey extended to a night of cultural immersion and culinary delight at Smith’s Garden Family Luau. The allure of a lush botanical garden embraced us, inviting us to stroll amidst vibrant flora, a prelude to an evening of festivities. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we found ourselves drawn to a sumptuous buffet dinner, a symphony of flavors that celebrated the island’s bounty.
Smith’s Garden Family Luau proved to be a treasure trove of unique experiences that set it apart. You’ll want to arrive right at 5 pm so you have time to explore the garden before the festivities start. The line to get in can be long as they lei everyone and put everyone on a shuttle to take the garden tour. (You can bypass the quick tour but we enjoyed getting an overview of the garden.)
They run everything very efficiently at Smith’s Garden Family Luau, but it is not an intimate experience. Tour buses and cruise ships send people here. They let those groups in first. They did seat parties over 4 people and those with kids in reserved seating.
The moment that stole the show, was witnessing the traditional “imu” ceremony, as the roasted pig emerged from the ground, an embodiment of cultural heritage and culinary artistry. When this is done they open the bar with juice and drinks, all included with the luau. Dinner is served by the buffet, but they do a great job of getting everyone through quickly. It was some of the best-pulled pork I’ve ever enjoyed.
The night’s crescendo arrived with an enthralling show, a mesmerizing fusion of music, dance, and storytelling that illuminated the rich history of the Polynesian islands. As we watched the performances unfold, we couldn’t help but feel a profound connection to the island’s past and its vibrant present. As a note the benches for the evening show are very uncomfortable and at a strange pitch.
If you are trying to kill some time before the luau, just across the street is a great beach park and playground. The Kamalani Kai Bridge playground is an amazing wooden playground right on the beach. Park in the beach parking lot and walk down the camp road until you find it.
Sailing the Napali Coast: A Tryst with Nature’s Majesty
A large part of Kaua’i is difficult to access. The elusive Napali Coast beckoned, a treasure trove of nature’s grandeur awaiting our eager exploration. Embarking on a sailing voyage with Captain Andy, we set our sights on the horizon, tracing the contours of cliffs that seemed to touch the sky. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The seas however are quite rough. We were there on a very calm day and still a number of people on the boat were sick. No matter how calm it looks I suggest taking sea sickness precautions before you venture out.
It seems that they set the agenda for the tour based on the weather conditions. We did our sightseeing first and our snorkeling after with lunch served on our cruise back to the harbor.
Captain Andy’s crew provided us with all the essentials, ensuring a seamless snorkeling experience. The snorkeling spot wasn’t great. We saw a few fish and a turtle but were largely disappointed. Getting in the water after being in the sun on the boat though felt great. Emerging from the waters, a delectable sandwich lunch awaited us.
The boat has lots of great places to sit, though all of them are in the sun. I was glad to have packed a coverup that provided some sun protection. The back of the boat has a long bench that was a great place to take in the scenery and bounces the last in the waves. The boys also loved sitting up on the “trampolines at the front of the boat. Though you run a splash risk there.
A Glimpse of History: Kilauea Lighthouse
For those seeking a glimpse of history and the breathtaking coastal vistas of Kauai, the Kilauea Lighthouse beckons. Secure your reservations via reservation.gov – we managed to grab ours on the same day. Keep in mind that the visit is likely to be short, with two quick walks with lighthouse views. Shade is limited, so sun protection is a must. The lighthouse’s allure extends to its avian and aquatic neighbors – a plethora of birds and turtles await your gaze. To enhance your experience, consider borrowing binoculars from the lighthouse visitors center for up-close spotting.
Planning Your Kauai Adventure:
When crafting your own Kauai escape there is no shortage of activities on the island. Whatever the plan is make sure you check out some of the great Shave Ice places on the island. We particularly loved The Fresh Save and JoJo’s.
We were glad to have taken it easy most days playing in the sand and waves. If we find ourselves there again we would love to do a bit more hiking and perhaps explore the northern shores. (We found a great kayaking/camping/hiking experience to try but the littles would need to be older.)
As the sun dipped below the Kauai horizon, we returned to our cabin each evening, hearts, and minds brimming with the magic of the island. The beauty of Kauai, its hidden corners and thrilling encounters, had woven itself into the fabric of our family’s story, an adventure that would forever hold a cherished place in our memories.
Planning your next trip to Kauai, Hawaii? If you’re seeking personalized assistance and handpicked experiences for your family adventure, Get Your Guide has you covered. Click the link below to explore our recommended family-friendly tours in Kauai with Get Your Guide. We didn’t use Get Your Guide for this trip but have used them in other locations. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a booking, at no extra cost to you. Your support helps us continue sharing valuable travel insights and tips