Best Places to Stay in Kauai for Families

Hotels Near Lihue Airport Kauai

Kauai is small compared to the other islands, but there are optimal areas to stay depending on where you’re planning to explore. Here are my recommendations on where to stay:

Where to Stay on the North Shore of Kauai?

The north shore of Kauai is a perfect place to stay if you’re planning to hike the Na’Pali coast via the Kalalau trail. The most popular places are Hanalei and Princeville and there’s lots to do beyond Na’Pali (See my guide to what to do with kids on Kauai’s north shore). 

We stayed at one of the resort complexes in Princeville. It was reasonably priced, clean, with a kitchen and laundry. The location was also convenient – about 10 minutes from Hanalei Bay and 15 minutes to Kilauea Lighthouse.

You can learn more here.

Where to Stay on Kauai’s South Shore

If you want to be near the beach and also accessible to Waimea Canyon, you should stay in Poipu. The famous Glass Beach is nearby as well as the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail (learn more on my favorite Kauai hikes for kids).

We didn’t stay in Poipu – we opted to do a day trip from our hotel in Kapa’a to Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail (which took about 30 minutes).

Best Places to Stay in Kauai for Families: Kapa’a

pink orange and yellow hibiscus

Kapa’a is the best place to stay if you’re trying to “see it all” and you don’t want to switch hotels. This works well if you don’t mind a little extra drive time to your day time excursions. 

You’re really close to Wailua River State Park and Wailua Falls. This is a quick overlook hike you can squeeze in.

wailua river
wailua falls

We stayed at the Aston Islander on the Beach. It was very convenient to our FAVORITE Kauai Beach and some great vegan restaurants.

This hotel didn’t have a lot of frills – it’s a little bit dated. But it was clean, convenient and it fit our budget!

Click for Aston Islander on the Beach’s website.

Unique Places to Stay in Kauai: The Garden Island Inn in Lihue

This was by far the cutest place we stayed on Kauai. The Garden Island Inn is located in Lihue and it’s very close to the airport.

I chose this hotel at the last minute – our flight got in late so I wanted to stay close to the airport the first night after a long day of traveling. It only took 10 minutes to get the hotel from the rental car lot.

The grounds of the hotel are beautiful. There’s lots of flowers and trees, little sculptures and artwork. When we arrived, our room had fresh plumeria flowers in it, which smelled so beautiful, especially after being in an airport all day. 

door painted with plants and beach theme
pink bromeliad with water
pink and white flowers in hawaii garden
turtle tile in rocks

We woke up before sunrise and walked about five minutes down to Kalapaki Beach to watch the sunrise and jump some waves before breakfast. 

palm tree silhouette at nawiliwili beach
kalapaki beach

The Garden Island Inn also has a complimentary breakfast, with homemade baked goods, fresh fruit and local coffee. I’d stay there again for sure.

Looking for things to do in Kauai? 

See my posts on: 

Vegan Restaurants in Maui: Acai Bowls and more

Vegan Restaurants in Maui Hawaii

Just like Kauai and the Big Island, Maui has plenty of fresh, locally-sourced vegan options to choose from! Here are the places we had the chance to sample.

Vegan Ramen in Maui: Whole Foods in Kahului

I know what you’re thinking… I’m going to go all the way to Maui to eat at Whole Foods?! However, the location is convenient to the airport, which makes it a great spot to stop and pick up some essentials. Here are some favorites: 

  • Vegan ramen option at the noodle shop in the store
  • Vegan food items in their hot bar 
  • Vegan Chocolate Mochi ice cream in their freezer section
  • Fresh and local produce. They have pre-cut options that you can eat in-store if you want to enjoy them with your meal or just don’t have access to a kitchen or cutlery.

We did most of our food shopping here while we were on Maui. 

There’s also fountains for kids to splash in, a Long’s Drug Store, an arcade, a movie theater and a really great surf shop in the same shopping center!

For more, see the Whole Foods website for information on the Maui Store.

Vegan Sushi for Kids: Genkhi Sushi in Kahului 

This is not even close to being the best sushi you can get on the island, but it’s a fun place to get sushi with kids. Back in the day, Genkhi Sushi used to have conveyer belt that had plates of sushi that you could take off yourself. You could order off the menu if you didn’t see what you liked. I used to eat there all the time when I’d visit my mom on Oahu. There’s something fun about picking your food off a conveyer belt, even for adults.

Things have changed at Genkhi – now, instead of a conveyer belt and waitresses, you have a tablet at the table and you can order from there. There’s a conveyer belt that comes from the kitchen and drops the food at your table. You click the button to send it back when you’ve removed your plate. 

Again, this isn’t the best sushi, but it’s cheap, quick, easy and was one of my son’s favorite restaurant, just for the experience alone!

See more on Genkhi Sushi here.

Vegan Lahaina: Choice Health Bar in Ka’anapali, Lahaina and Paia

Choice Health Bar has three locations, including a kiosk in the Whaler’s Village food court. This was our breakfast (and sometimes lunch) spot for the three days we were staying in Ka’anapali. They had great smoothies and smoothie bowls, all made with local ingredients. 

See more on Choice Health Bar.

Vegan Banana Bread: Ono Gelato in Whaler’s Village in Ka’anapali 

The gelato isn’t vegan, but they do have vegan sorbet options that are delicious. As a bonus, they carry a vegan banana bread that was really good. Banana bread is in ample supply on the islands, but most are not vegan, so this was a nice surprise!

For Ono Gelato’s location and contact information, click here.

Vegan Restaurants in Hawaii

There are so many great vegan options on ALL the Hawaiian Islands. See my guides:

What to see in Haleakala National Park with Kids

What to see in Haleakala National Park with Kids

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to take my son to the Haleakala Summit. I was here on my first trip to Maui in 2000 and again in 2017 with my sister where we came early for the sunrise, which was beautiful (post coming soon!). This time around, I was hoping to do a little hiking. I wanted to stay nearby to minimize the drive to get up the mountain. 

Makaweo Upcountry Maui: Where to Stay if you’re visiting Haleakala National Park

After a little research, I decided to stay in Makaweo in Upcountry Maui. It flies a little under the radar due to the fact that it’s not on the beach. However, it’s up the mountain and about a 20 minute drive from the coast. So, once we arrived, I realized it’s actually really convenient to the beaches on both sides of the island as well as Haleakala National Park. 

From Makaweo, we could easily get to:

  • Kahului and all the shops nearby
  • Paia and Ho’okipa at the start of the road to Hana
  • Baby Beach and other local beaches along the coast
  • Maui Ocean Center (which we did not make it to because we ran out of time)
  • Haleakala National Park 
surfboard gate

What to see in Haleakala National Park

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Haleakala: Leleiwi Overlook

From Makaweo, we made the drive up to the summit at Haleakala National Park. It’s about an hour drive from Makaweo along a winding curvy road. At one point, we literally drove through the clouds so visibility was low, which was a little treacherous. But at long last, we made it!

We made a stop at the , a scenic point, on the way up. There’s parking and it’s an easy 5-10 minute stop. 

Haleakala Leleiwi Overlook
Haleakala National Park Leleiwi Overlook
Ōhi`a lehua at Leleiwi Overlook

Get Acclimated at the Haleakala Visitor Center

When we arrived at the summit, we made a stop into the visitor center to get recommendations. It’s worth noting that the summit visitor center closes at 12:30pm, because the park opens before sunrise. So if you have questions, or want to get your national parks passport stamped, plan to get there early! 

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Haleakala: Pā Ka’oao overlook

They gave us some tips and we did the (very) short hike to Pā Ka’oao overlook.

Haleaka Crater
Haleakala crater
Haleakala National Park Summit view
Haleakala hiking trails
Ōhi`a lehua

Haleakala Summit

After that we drove to the summit (10,023 feet above sea level). 

At the top, you can see the Hawaiian Silversword plant (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum). This plant ONLY grows at the summit and can live up to 90 years. It’s important to respect the park and NOT pick or take the silversword plants. They’re rare and take a long time to grow. You can learn more about them here.  

Haleakala Summit
Haleakala National Park Summit
Hawaiian Silversword Haleakala

Altitude Sickness at Haleakala National Park

Unfortunately, despite hydrating throughout the drive and eating a big breakfast, as SOON as we got to the summit, my son started complaining about a headache. I had done enough research to know that he was experiencing altitude sickness, so we immediately headed back down the mountain to eat lunch and hydrate.

I’d recommend doing some research into altitude sickness if you’re planning to visit, or talking to your doctor who can give professional medical advice (I’m not a doctor). I had done some research prior to our trip to learn that the symptoms can be subtle and come on quickly.

Haleakala Crater with Kids

The park entrance visitor center is only located at 7000 feet above sea level. So that might be a good place to stop and acclimate a bit before heading to the top. We stopped on the way out to get my son’s national park passport stamped. In hindsight, I would have made this my first stop! 

Despite our abrupt exit, the views we experienced at the top were amazing and worth the two hours round-trip drive. 

For more on Haleakala National Park, you can read my post about our visit to the coastal portion of Haleakala and our hike along the Pipiwai Trail.

Road to Hana Guide: Pipiwai Trail, Waimoku Falls and Haleakala’s Bamboo Forest with Kids

Waimoke Falls at Pipiwai Trail

I always thought the road to Hana ended at Hana. Spoiler alert: it does not. 

It continues on. There are a lot of great stops along the way, including Hamoa Beach and the Coastal Portion of Haleakala National Park, which includes the Seven Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o and the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls. 

We stayed the night before in Hana, so we were able to get up early and drive 45 minutes to the park’s entrance. There’s an entrance fee of $25 per vehicle (see here for other options), but the ticket is valid for three days, so we were able to use it for admission into the Haleakala Crater two days later.

Hana has food trucks, where we stopped for smoothies, banana bread and coffee before we headed out. 

The Drive to Haleakala National Park, Kīpahulu District

The drive was about 45 minutes, and the road is a lot less well-maintained than the road leading up to Hana. Parts are very narrow and not as well marked. We left around 8:30am and hit very little traffic. There was lots of parking available at the Haleakala National Park visitor center. When we left around 3:30pm, the parking lot was packed and it took us about an hour and a half to get back to Hana. So leave as early as you can to enjoy the park! 

Haleakala National Park: Stop in the Visitor Center

We stopped into the visitor center to talk to the park rangers about the park’s current conditions and recommendations. Certain areas of the park are prone to flash flooding, so it’s good to check in before leaving.

Click to see the National Park Service’s website on the the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park.

Maui Hikes with Kids at Haleakala National Park: Pipiwai Trail and Seven Sacred Pools

When we visited, there were two options: the Seven Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o, which is a shorter loop trail, and the Pipiwai Trail that takes you through a bamboo forest, past two waterfall overlooks to the massive Waimoku Falls. It’s about 4 miles round trip. 

We chose the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls. Four miles roundtrip is a little ambitious for a six year old, but totally doable.

If you’re setting out on a long hike with kids, make sure you bring:

  • LOTS of water. The trail is hot. It’s mostly under cover of trees, but it’s still hot and humid, so stay hydrated.
  • Bring plenty of snacks – or maybe even some lunch. Kids are always hungry – especially on an uphill walk. Even if your kids don’t eat along the way, a snack at Waimoku Falls can give them the energy they need to make the hike back.
  • Sunscreen. The trail is mostly undercover of the forest, but the sun is strong and bright when you’re in it. 
  • Bug spray. At certain parts of the trail, the mosquitoes are relentless.  

Our Favorite Parts of the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls

landscape at pipiwai trail

Haleakala National Park Waterfalls: Makahiku Falls

There are two spots along the trail that are scenic overlooks to smaller waterfalls, including Makahiku Falls. This a nice spot to sit and enjoy the view – or maybe have a drink or a snack. 

Makahiku Falls on pipiwai trail
view from pipiwai trail

See the Giant Banyan Tree on the Pipiwai Trail

There’s a beautiful banyan tree along the trail. It’s another great place to stop and sit. 

banyan tree maui

Explore Haleakala’s Bamboo Forest

Part of the trail is a boardwalk path through a beautiful bamboo forest. The bamboo is massive, and as you walk through, you can hear the tap-tap sound of the bamboo knocking against each other.

bamboo forest on pipiwai trail
Bamboo Forest
Bamboo Forest Pipiwai Trail
Bamboo Forest at Pipiwai trail

Waimoku Falls on the Pipiwai Trail

This waterfall is well worth the hike. Even my son – who asked me “are we there yet?” – was thrilled with the final destination. The pictures, I think speak for themselves. 

Waimoku Falls
Maui waterfall

Haleakala National Park: Pipiwai Trail Review

Roundtrip, the hike probably took us about 4.5 hours. Our pace was steady, but we took breaks along the way. 

Once we got back to the visitor center, we opted to skip the shorter loop to pools at ‘Ohe’o, mainly because my son was exhausted after the hike. If you are traveling with older kids – or happen to visit the park on a cooler day, you could easily squeeze both in.

After our day trip to Haleakala National Park’s Kīpahulu District, we drove the Road to Hana back to Makaweo where we explored upcountry Maui (post coming soon!).

Want more information on traveling to Hawaii with Kids?

Maui with Kids: Best Stops on the Road to Hana

Road to Hana with Kids Maui Family Activities

I’m a nervous driver. I get nervous on the highway, I get nervous over bridges and I get nervous on narrow roads. So driving the Road to Hana was a HUGE step out of my comfort zone. 

We flew in from the Big Island and headed right to Hana. I planned to explore the coastal portion of Haleakala National Park, so I wanted to stay two nights in Hana to spread out the driving we would do each day. Even still, it was a LOT of driving compared to the other islands. 

The road to Hana is twisty and turny and NARROW. We stopped at a few spots along the way. I had driven the road before, so I didn’t want to stop at every place along the way – and, since we had time, I wanted to split up our stops so we stopped at a few on the way there and a few on the way back.

Kid-Friendly Road to Hana Tips:

Road to Hana Guide: You don’t have to stop at every stop on the road. 

There’s a point, where every trail, every hike, every overlook, every waterfall starts to look the same. To keep kids engaged and interested, sometimes it’s better to pick a few highlights and spend some time exploring and enjoying them rather than try to see everything.

Road to Hana Guide: Watch out for crowds!

Depending on the time of the year you are traveling the road to Hana, some of the stops can be crowded and the parking lots fill up fast. It’s good to be flexible about where you stop, especially on the drive there. You’ll waste time waiting for spots to open up, when you could be enjoying another – quieter – spot along the Road to Hana.

Road to Hana Guide: Fill up your tank before you leave!

Gas is also crazy expensive in Hana, so fill up your tank before you head out on the road to Hana!

Road to Hana Guide: If you’re staying the night, plan ahead and bring some food!

If you’re staying in Hana, there aren’t a lot of restaurants or stores. I’d recommend buying groceries in either Kahului or Paia if you have a kitchen/fridge where you’re staying in or near Hana. I did not do this and I wish I had!

Road to Hana Stops for Kids

Kid-Friendly Beaches in Maui: Ho’okipa Beach Park (Mile Marker 9)

This is right at the start of the Road to Hana. We skipped it on the way out, but visited on our way back. It was one of my favorite spots. You can park either at the lookout and walk to the rocks and get a great view. If you’re ambitious, you can walk around on the rocks and check out some of the little tide pools (I don’t know that they’re actually tide pools by definition, but my son loved this!). 

You can also park down by the beach. There is snorkeling (which we did not partake in) and there were five or six sea turtles on the beach. 

The ambiance here is amazing. I’d recommend making this stop at some point on your trip.  

Hookipa Beach
rocks and fence at Ho'okipa Lookout
cows in a field and rainbow
waves at Ho'okipa beach

Maui Hikes with Kids: Waikamoi Ridge Trail (Mile Marker 9.5)

If you’re looking for a quick trail to break up the trip, this is a great stop along the way. There are two loop trails with some nice views. It’s definitely worth a stop if there’s parking. 

quiet trees at work sign
person next to a huge tree

Maui Hikes with Kids: Kaumahina State Wayside Park (Mile Marker 12)

I’ve driven the road to Hana twice and stopped here both times. It’s got decent bathrooms and a beautiful view. There are trails in case you want to do a little exploring, but I have not had the opportunity to explore them.  

kaumahina state wayside park
tree at kaumahina state wayside park

Black Sand Beach in Hana: Wai’anapanapa State Park (Mile Marker 32)

This is my favorite spot along the road to Hana. We stayed the night in Hana town and got an early start the next day, so we were some of the only people on the beach.

There are a lot of different things to do here, but each time I’ve gone I’ve just come and enjoyed the black sand beach. My son jumped waves and (tried to) skip stones into the ocean. If you’re more ambitious, you can hike some of the trails, explore caves and even see pictographs and other interesting artifacts. 

The nice thing about this spot is there’s a ton of parking, so you don’t have to fight (too much) for parking spots.

black sand beach at waianapanapa state park
black sand beach and green palm trees
clouds and tropical beach
waianapanapa state park
black rocks at beach

Eat in Hana: Maui Food Trucks

We stayed overnight in Hana town, so we had some time to explore. There’s not a lot to do in Hana – many of the restaurant shut down early. There’s a food truck spot, but many don’t have definitive hours. They close down when the food runs out for the day! 

We ate mostly at the food trucks. In the morning, they had coffee, banana bread and smoothies and I was able to get a vegan bean burrito from a food truck.

(Stay tuned for my post on vegan restaurants in Maui!)

Kid Friendly Beaches in Maui: Hana Beach

We also stopped at Hana Bay Beach Park a few hours before sunset. The water is pretty calm so my son was able to jump some waves and we enjoyed the sunset before heading home!

hana beach park
footprints in the sand
hana beach at sunset

The Red Sand Beach in Hana: Something to Note

One of my “must-do” items for the trip was to see the Red Sand Beach in Hana. However, after a conversation I had with a Hana resident, I opted to skip it. Why? 

The beach is actually very dangerous to access, and a number of tourists have had to be rescued. With that information, I decided that it was not appropriate for us to visit the Red Sand Beach. I’m including this, because I hope other people will take that information into consideration when planning their trip!

Hawaii with Kids

Want more on Hawaii with kids?

See my posts on:

Road to Hana with Kids: Kid-friendly Beaches in Maui + Family Activities

Kids Hawaii Volcano National Park: Best Hikes for Families

Kilauea Iki in Volcanoes National Park

About 10 years ago, I did a quick trip through Hawaii Volcano National Park with my mom and my sister. We stopped at the visitor center, drove to a couple of overlooks and walked through Thurston Lava Tube (which is closed now from the recent 2018 eruption). We didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, so it’s always been on my list of places to go back and visit and really spend some time exploring. 

We stayed in the town of Volcano, which is about a 5-10 minute drive from the park. It happened to time that there was a tropical storm hitting the coast the day we arrived at Volcano National Park, so the weather was rainy but there weren’t too many crowds, which was lovely. It was totally worth staying nearby to save us all the drive time and give us a chance to spend more time enjoying the park.

One con of staying in Volcano is there’s not much there in terms of food or (affordable) restaurants.  (see my favorite Vegan restaurants on the Big Island here).

Hawaii Volcano National Park is one of the Coolest Place to Take Your Kids

Volcano National Park is one of the coolest places I’ve been. Why? Well, first of all, it’s a volcano. They have warning signs for cracks in the earth. Which is insane.

Caution sign at Hawaii Volcano

Second, the plant life up here is really incredible. They have plants unique to the volcanic landscape, including the Ohi’a tree, which is the first plant life to appear after a volcanic eruption.

Ohia Tree

Third, the landscape is constantly changing. Of course, ALL landscapes are constantly changing, but because it’s an active volcano, you’re almost able to really see the changes in real time. Many trails were closed due to the 2018 eruption – including Thurston Lava Tube, which I had kind of assumed we would get to see.

When You Visit Hawaii Volcano National Park

When you get there, I recommend going to the visitor center first thing. They have exhibits for the kiddos to look at, a gift shop (we bought sweat shirts because the park is located at 4K feet above sea level and gets CHILLY compared to the coast).

You can also talk to the park rangers to find out what trails are open and recommended. I had done a ton of research up front, but since the landscape and conditions of the park are constantly changing, it’s important to know where is safe to go and open on the day that you’re there.

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Hawaii Volcano National Park

Best Hikes in Volcano National Park: Kilauea Iki Crater

If this is open when you’re visiting, definitely check it out. There’s an overlook that is breathtaking that lets you look down into the crater.

Kilauea Iki Crater overlook
Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook

There’s also trail you can take that brings you into the crater. The landscape inside is amazing – it’s covered with lava rocks and there’s slow growth coming from the cracks. The Ohia trees, ferns and other plants. The trail into the crater was challenging downhill going into the crater and uphill going out.

Click here for the National Park’s current conditions on the trail.

Wild Ginger and Kilauea Iki crater
Wild Ginger on the Kilauea Iki Crater Trail
Rock pile marker at Kilauea Iki crater
Rock piles mark the trail in the Kilauea Iki Crater
Unfurling fern at Volcano
Unfurling fern on the Kilauea Iki Trail
Cracked lava rock and Ohia tree at Kilauea Iki Crater
Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Ohia tree and cracked lava rock
Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcano National Park
Ohia Tree in the lava rock cracks
Growth in the Lava Cracks. Kilauea Iki Crater
Kilauea Iki crater
Kilauea Iki Crater

Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in Volcano National Park: Sulphur Banks Trail

This is an easy trail you can do from the visitor center. The smell is not great (and the smell can be dangerous for young kids/people with respiratory problems) but the landscape is breathtaking. 

You can visit the NPS website for current conditions.

Sulphur Banks Trail
Sulphur Banks, Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Sulphur Banks Trail
Sulphur Banks
ferns and landscape at Sulphur Banks Trail
Ferns on the Sulphur Banks trail
ōhelo flower
ferns unfurling
Ferns in Hawaii Volcano National Park

Best Hikes in Volcano National Park: Crater Rim Trail Hawaii

We did a portion of this from the visitor center. It gave a great view of Kilauea Caldera. We hiked via the steam vents hike from the visitor center, but you can also do a loop trail via the Sulphur Banks.

See the National Park site for up-to-date trail information.

Trees along Crater Rim Trail
Trails at Hawaii Volcano National Park
purple wildflower in Hawaii volcano
Purple Wildflower, Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Steam Vents at Hawaii Volcano National Park
Steam Vents
Kilauea Caldera
Kilauea Caldera.
yellow wildflower at hawaii volcano
Yellow Wildflowers

Big Island with Kids: More Things to Do

After Volcano, we headed to Punalu’u Beach and the Kona coast. See my post on more things to do on the Big Island with kids here.

Vegan Restaurants on the Big Island Hawaii

Hawaii with Kids: Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island has a similar vibe as Kauai (see my post on vegan eats in Kauai for more) – there’s a lot of LOCAL vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants. Here are my favorites:

Hilo Hawaii Vegan Retaurant: Sweet Cane Cafe

This. Place. Was. Awesome. It’s very farm-to-table and vegan-friendly. They source local fruits and vegetables, make their own bread, sauerkraut and vegan treats (among other things!).

One interesting element to the menu is they offer sugar cane juice, grown locally from their family farm. The menu has fresh juices and smoothies, local coffee, plant-based burgers and cassava crust pizzas. We tried a few of their smoothies, and I tried the Pickled Pepper Sandwich, which includes HOUSE MADE pickled peppers and a homemade macadamia nut spread. 

They also have a kids menu, which includes kid favorites like cassava crust pizza, keiki pancakes and the classic PB&J. 

It’s not on the menu, but in the restaurant there are also baked goods for sale, with many vegan options. We purchased local vegan banana bread (a local specialty that’s hard to find vegan!) and vegan chocolate chip cookies. 

For more, see the Sweet Cane Cafe website.

Hilo Hawaii Vegan Restaurant: Hilo Bay Cafe

There are some good vegan options at Hilo Bay Cafe, and as a bonus, it’s right on Hilo Bay with a beautiful view. It’s close to Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens, which makes for a nice before or after dinner walk. 

Hilo Bay in Hilo, Big Island Hawaii.

The menu is a little pricey – we opted for take out instead of eating in. They note clearly on the menu which meals can be made vegan, which makes me feel more confident about ordering from them.

We tried a few different menu items including their hand cut french fries, the warabi specialty sushi roll, made with fiddle fern, avocado, cucumber and quinoa (it turns out I’m not a big fan of fiddle fern in sushi, but it was too unique not to at least try it), and the ‘aina poke, with vegetable poke, nori, macadamia nuts and sushi rice (definitely my favorite). 

The only downside is the vegan kids menu is not as great, however it does have some classic vegan sushi options. 

You can see the full menus here: 

Vegan Kona Restaurants: Barefoot Zone

The theme of our Hawaii trip was smoothies, and Barefoot Zone in Kona was a standout favorite! They have delicious smoothies with all local ingredients, and a lot of vegan options on their menu, which features fresh, locally grown Big Island fruit.

The smoothies are all sweetened with dates and use local almond milk or macadamia nut mlk. We came here every day we were in Kona for smoothies, and sometimes lunch. From the menu, we sampled the smoothies, Super Fruit Bowls and their Plant-Based Sushi Rolls (the Lava Chili Roll was my FAVORITE). 

For the full menu and options, see here: 

Vegan Kona Restaurants: Laulima Food Patch

This is another great, local restaurant with vegan options. Like most of the vegan-friendly restaurants we visited, many of the ingredients are locally sourced. 

They have bowls and bentos available. There are vegan options on their signature bowls menu. You can also make-your-own bowls and bentos, so you can easily make it vegan.  Everything is made-to-order and delicious!

Full menu and location:

What are you favorite places to eat vegan on the Big Island?

Comment below with your favorites 🙂

Stay tuned for my next post about our favorite vegan spots in Maui, coming soon!

vegan big island Hawaii

Big Island Hawaii Activities for Kids: 6 Fun Things To Do

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Big Island Hawaii

The Big Island is amazing. You can start your day in the rainforest, drive through a volcano and end your day with a sunset on the beach.

It’s the biggest of the islands (hence the name), so it’s hard to really see everything in just a week. We did the most driving on the Big Island. Everywhere we went, there are lots of great things on the Big Island for kids to do.

Rainbow in Hawaii
Rainbow in Hilo, Hawaii on the Big Island.

We flew into Hilo from Kauai, but had to skip our plans to visit Waipio Valley and Akaka Falls State Park because my son came down with a fever. It actually timed out really well, because there was heavy rain both days from a tropical storm off the coast. From there, we headed to Volcano and then onto Kona before we flew to Maui for our final week in the Hawaiian islands.

Here were my favorite things on the Big Island for Kids: 

Things to do in Hilo Hawaii: Visit Rainbow Falls in Hilo

This is an easy hike on the Big Island for kids to see a really cool waterfall. This is the second time I’d been – we went after three straight days of rain from a tropical storm that was coming in so the waterfall was bigger and almost muddier than it was the first time I’d seen it. This is more of an overlook than a hike.

See Hawaii’s State Park website for current conditions and directions.   

Rainbow Falls on the Big Island Hawaii.
Rainbow Falls in Hilo on the Big Island Hawaii.
Tropical forest at Rainbow Falls
Forest at Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Hawaii (Big Island)

Big Island Volcano for Kids: Hawaii Volcanos National Park

We spent two days in Hawaii Volcano National Park and it was one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen. There are really cool hikes and the eco system is so unique, you’re able to see plants and landscapes you can’t see anywhere else.

See post on our two full days in Hawaii Volcano National Park for more details.

Kilauea Caldera at Volcano National Park
Kilauea Caldera in Hawaii Volcano National Park
Ohia Trees at Kilauea Iki Crater
Oheo Tree in Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcano National Park
Forest trail at Hawaii Volcano National Park
Hike to the Steam Vents, Hawaii Volcanos National Park, Big Island
Caution Sign at Hawaii Volcano
Hawaii Volcano National Park
ōhelo flower
ōhelo in Hawaii Volcano National Park

Black Sand Beach on the Big Island for Sea Turtles: Punalu’u Beach

Black Sand Beaches aren’t as rare on the big island as they are in other places, but they are still some of my favorite beaches to visit! Punalu’u is a great place to see sea turtles sunning themselves. Spotting sea turtles on the beach was one of my son’s favorite experiences of the trip.

We came to Punalu’u on our way to Kona from Volcano National Park. As soon as we arrived, we saw sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach. We also saw some turtle heads poking out from the waves. The surf is a little rough, so we hung out on the beach, jumped some waves and explored along the rocks.

As a bonus, you can check out Punalu’u Bakery nearby for malasadas and other local treats!

IMPORTANT: Hawaii green sea turtles are federally protected and it’s illegal to touch them. You are required to stay 6-10 feet away from them for the safety of the turtles. Please, protect the turtles and RESPECT THIS BOUNDARY! See more here.

sea turtle on punalu'u black sand beach
Sea Turtle on a Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (Big Island, Hawaii)
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Big Island Hawaii

Best Beach for Kids on the Big Island: Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) // Near Kona

This beach was described as “white sugar sand” and it was one of the prettiest beaches we visited. It has a very carribean look compared to the surrounding coast. We came on a Sunday, later in the morning, and parking was very limited. But it was worth the effort.

The waves were a little rough for my six year old son, who doesn’t fully swim yet, so we stuck to the shore and jumped some waves. There are also bathrooms and showers here, which is a plus. 

There’s a great a great guide to this beach on

White sand and turquoise water at Manini’owali Beach
Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) on the Big Island Hawaii
Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay)
Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) Big Island, Hawaii
rocks and plants overlooking turquoise water
Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay), Big Island Hawaii.

Family Friendly Hikes on the Big Island: Kona Cloud Forest Tour // Kona

Kona Cloud Forest made the top of my to do list as soon as I found out it existed. It’s the only cloud forest in the United States and it has an abundance of Rainbow Eucalpytus Trees, also known as the Painted Trees of Hawaii. The bark of the trees peels off in strips, and leaves behind trips of different colors – red, green, brown, orange or purplish brown. 

In order to visit, you have to do a tour, which supports the care-taking of the forest. The tour was led by a really informative guide, who explained the different trees, plants and pointed out some of the painted eucalyptus trees. The oxygen levels in a cloud forest are higher than they are on the ground, which is a fact that’s been stuck in my head ever since. This was a splurge for my budget, but kids are free and it supports a good cause. 

For more, visit the website:

Trees with winding roots at Kona Cloud Forest
Kona Cloud Forest, Big Island Hawaii
Green leaf on the ground
Forest Floor, Kona Cloud Forest, Big Island Hawaii
tree bark in shades of gray
Kona Cloud Forest, Big Island Hawaii
green and white leaves growing next to tree roots
Kona Cloud Forest, Big Island Hawaii
pink ginger flower
Painted Eucalyptus Tree, Kona Cloud Forest, Big Island Hawaii
Kid Friendly Hikes Big Island: Kona Cloud Forest
Pink Flower, Kona Cloud Forest, Big Island Hawaii
pointy tree bark at the Kona cloud forest
Kona Cloud Forest, Big Island Hawaii
Bamboo at the Kona Cloud Forest
Bamboo in the Kona Cloud Forest

Kid-Friendly Snorkeling on the Big Island: Manta Ray Snorkel in Kona

This was my son’s favorite thing from the whole trip. Kona is the only place you can do this manta ray snorkel. After a hotel was constructed in Kona, they discovered the light from the hotel was attracting krill, which was in turn attracting manta rays.

The manta ray snorkel trips are at night. Once you get to the site, the whole group holds on to a surf board with a light on the bottom with your body and legs extended back and look straight down. The manta rays swim up to the board and they come SO close you can’t put your legs down, because you might kick them. It was amazing. 

We’ve never snorkeled and my son was still learning to swim, so I was a little nervous to try this. The company we used – Kona Ocean Adventures – was really great. They made me feel like it would be safe for him and made sure we had a good experience! They have other snorkel trips on their website, including swim with the dolphins. Click for Kona Ocean Adventures website.

Pacific Ocean water and sky at sunset
Kona Sunset on the water, Big Island Hawaii

Things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii for Kids

The Big Island is huge and there are so many great things to do beyond this list! What are your favorite things to do with kids on the Big Island? Please share in the comments 🙂

Want more on Hawaii for kids? See my posts on Kauai + Maui (coming soon!)

Hawaiian Island for Kids - 6 Family Friendly Activities on the Big Island

4 Fun Kid-Friendly Activities on Kauai’s North Shore

Things to do with Kids in Hanalei

Kauai to me is like the quintessential tropical island experience. It’s smaller than the Big Island and more remote than Oahu. One of my favorite spots in Kauai is the north shore. It’s quiet and beautiful. We stayed in Princeville and from there explored Hanalei and Princeville. It’s a great place to stay if you’re planning to hike the Na Pali coast (which we did not do this time).

Here are my favorite Kids Activities on Kauai:

Things to do with Kids in Hanalei: Hanalei Bay Beach and Pier. 

If could choose anywhere in the world to live, I would pick Hanalei. It’s this teeny tiny little beach town nestled in the valley surrounded by mountains. (unfortunately, real estate prices start in the millions so I’ll have to settle for my Philly rowhome.) We got up early and spent the morning at Hanalei Bay. There’s lots of stuff to do there, such as surf lessons and paddle boarding, but we opted for a simple hangout at the beach.

The water is calm – because it’s a bay – so it’s perfect for kids who want to splash in the water and waves but aren’t quite strong enough swimmers to handle the current. As a plus, the town of Hanalei with all its cute restaurants and shops is just 5-10 minutes away by car. (see my post on vegan eats in Kauai).

Hanalei Bay Pier

Mountains at Hanalei Bay
Mountains at Hanalei Bay

Kids Activities on Kauai: Kilauea Lighthouse

Kilauea lighthouse is on Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a refuge for birds, including the Laysan Albatross and the Hawaiian Goose known as a Nene. You can either drive down to the Refuge’s visitor center and walk around (there’s a small fee) or you can just enjoy the view from the overlook.

There’s a board with a list of the birds to spot, and if you have binoculars, you can spot some birds from here. We skipped visiting the visitors center due to jet lag and having no cash, but it’s worth a look to see the view. 

For more, click to visit the Kilauea Lighthouse Natural History Association website.

Kilauea Lighthouse
Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai

Spotting Chickens + Geckos

This was a highlight for our trip to Kauai. There’s a lot of chickens walking around – my son loved spotting them putzing around the side of the road. We were able to spot some mama chickens with their babies. Make sure you give the chickens a respectable distance and be sure not to bother them.

There are also plenty of geckos around the island. They come in all shapes and sizes. It made for a fun, ongoing game to try and spot them.

Gecko on the Rocks
Gecko on the rocks.
Kauai wild rooster
Rooster roaming around in Princeville, Kauai.
Green Gecko on Kauai
Green gecko on Kauai.

Taro Fields Overlook on Kauai

Taro is a Hawaiian staple. It’s a root vegetable plant that’s used to make Poi – a common Hawaiian dish. The taro fields are beautiful – they have a patchwork quilt vibe to them.

There’s a great overlook that’s worth a visit right near Princeville. If you’re traveling with your kids to Hanalei Bay, it’s a nice place to stop for a view.

Taro Fields in Hanalei Valley
Taro Fields on Kauai’s North Shore.

Kauai’s North Shore with Kids… what’s next?

We spent three days in Princeville, and then traveled down the coast to stay in Kapa’a. For more on Kauai, see my post on our favorite Kauai Beach and our three favorite hikes!

Kids Activities on Kauai

Vegan Restaurants in Kauai: Best Places for Healthy Food in Kauai

vegan-friendly kauai ramen at Saimin Dojo Kapa’a restaurant

There are a lot of vegan options in Kauai. There is a lot of emphasis on local food – including local pineapples and other produce. So if you’re looking to eat clean, healthy and local foods while you’re on vacation, you don’t have to look far. 

Kauai is a pretty small island. We stuck to the north shore area, which includes Hanalei, Princeville and Kilauea, and Kapa’a, on the east side. Usually, when we travel, I try to educate myself on the different vegan restaurants or vegan-friendly restaurants in the area, so that we can easily find something when we’re hungry. Since I’m traveling with a kid, convenience sometimes wins out. But the more research I do in advance, the better. 

Here are my favorite spots to eat vegan in Kauai:

Vegan Restaurants Kauai: Sushi: Foodland // Princeville, Kapa’a  (or any locations)

One of the things I’ve learned from spending a lot of time in Hawaii is that some of the best food you can get is at the grocery store. Foodland on Kauai is my favorite for avocado rolls – it saves me the trouble of having a sit-down dinner, it makes for a great to-go picnic and it’s very budget friendly. Bonus: You can pick up local, affordable produce while you’re there!

Vegan-Friendly Kauai: Vegan Ramen at Saimin Dojo // Kapa’a 

Ramen is one of my favorite comfort foods that I associate with Hawaii. Ramen is really tricky, because even a vegetable ramen often uses a broth that’s made from pork or another type of meat. I had to be very careful to call in advance to ask, and many places do not offer a vegetarian broth base.

The most convenient option I found in Kauai was Saimin Dojo in Kapa’a. They have a lot of really delicious add-ins, like sweet potatoes and mushrooms and it’s a coconut base. It’s a little creamier – and I almost prefer more of a broth base – but it definitely satisfied my craving, and we made a second trip before we left the island. 

This restaurant is really convenient to Lydgate State Beach Park and makes for a great post-beach lunch!

For more see here:

vegan ramen at Saimin Dojo
Vegan Ramen from Saimin Dojo on Kauai

Vegan Restaurants Kauai: Eat Healthy Kauai // Kapa’a, HI

This was one of my favorite meals on the island. I was really into acai bowls during this trip, so I had one of the smoothie bowls and my son ordered a smoothie. We also had one of their homemade chocolate chip cookies, which received two thumbs up from my son.  

Everything is fresh and local. There is outdoor casual seating, which worked well with my son. It’s got a really great, local vibe, which is awesome. We loved it so much, we tried to go back. But we ate here on a Saturday, and realized it was closed Sunday and Monday, so unfortunately we could not. So keep the schedule in mind.

For more info, see the website:

Vegan-Friendly Kauai: Harvest Market Hanalei // Hanalei, HI

This is a market, but it’s a great spot for vegan food options. They have a great salad and hot bar with take away items. They also make smoothies, which was our daily ritual during our time in Hanalei. My son still asks for a “Hail to the Kale” smoothie, which we spent the rest of the trip trying to replicate for him at every other smoothie places we visited.  

There’s outdoor seating outside, as well as some other shops and restaurants. It’s also about a 10-minute drive from Hanalei Bay. 

For more information, click to see the Harvest Market Hanalei website.

Vegan-Friendly Kauai Smoothies: Java Kai // Kapa’a

This is a cute coffee shop/restaurant in Kapa’a. We came here out of convenience, but came back because we liked it so much. They have decent vegan options, like their acai bowls and avocado toast, but definitely not as many. Java Kai has great smoothies and lots of local coffee options.

As a bonus, the merchandise they have is also super cute! 

For more information, see the Java Kai website.

Vegan-Friendly Kauai: Shave Ice at Wailua Shave Ice // Kapa’a

Vegan Shave Ice
Vegan Shave Ice at Wailua Shave Ice in Kauai

This was my favorite dessert spot on the island. I wasn’t able to find a convenient vegan ice cream shop, so I was craving something creamy. It’s food truck style with outdoor seating. There are lots of interesting combinations – I had the triple coconut, which includes a haupia cream. Which was amazing. 

See the Wailua Shave Ice Website for more information.

Eating Local in Kauai

Hawaiian Pineapples
Local pineapples in Kauai.

If you do happen to have access to a kitchen while you’re traveling, I’d recommend hitting some of the local grocery stores or farmers markets to pick up some produce. There’s a lot of items grown in Hawaii that are fresh, local and amazing, including:

  • Avocados – Bigger and, I think, creamier than the ones you find on the mainland
  • Pineapples (Maui Gold are delicious. My son doesn’t like pineapple that I buy in Philadelphia, but he ate a ton of fresh, Hawaii-grown pineapple during our trip)
  • Mangoes 
  • Bananas 

Anytime throughout our travels we had a kitchen, I bought fresh fruit. It’s a budget-friendly breakfast, but there’s also nothing tastier than eating a freshly cut pineapple! 

There are lots of other vegan friendly spots in Kauai, but these were the places we had the opportunity to try! Send your own suggests in the comments.

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Vegan Restaurants in Kauai: Best Places for Healthy Food in Kauai