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Escape to Kaua‘i for family-friendly fun and good food

Coconut Beach Resort Break from the daily grind with a relaxing stay at the Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort in Kapa‘a. | Photo courtesy Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort

If driving into Honolulu via the H-3 Freeway instead of the Pali Highway was your latest stab at a change of scenery—ah, look, the beautiful Ko‘olau mountains, only different—now might be a perfect time for a getaway on Kaua‘i. Trade in city traffic for the small-town vibe of Hawai‘i’s northernmost island, where, suitably relaxed, you’d swear the trade winds blow even softer and sweeter.

Here are some top picks for fun things to do, places to shop and stay, and ‘ono eats on Kaua‘i. These spots are great for the entire family, so feel free to invite any aunties, uncles, or cousins who live there and might be stuck in their own rut.

What to do on Kaua‘i

Pedal along the Coconut Coast

Ke Ala Hele Makale Bike Path

Take in Kaua‘i’s stunning coastline with a family bike ride along the Ke Ala Hele Makalae bike path in Kapa’a Town. | Photo courtesy Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau

Kaua‘i’s Ke Ala Hele Makalae bike path (“The Path That Goes Along the Coast”) is the perfect route for a family bike ride. Starting in Kapa‘a, where you can rent electric bikes at Eco e-Bikes Kaua‘i’s open-air stand (the rental company’s main location is in Līhu‘e), ride to the path’s north end, ‘Āhihi Point, before turning back around (an 8-mile round trip). Toggle between using pedal power or pushing a button to travel the flat, wide cliffside path (sharing nicely with the joggers, walkers, and baby strollers) and enjoy the views of the rugged coastline.

Or, ride from Wailua Beach Park in Kapa‘a south to Lydgate Beach Park in Līhu‘e and back (3.4 miles round trip). Rates start at $79 (24-hour rental).

Broaden your ali‘i IQ

Deepen your knowledge of Hawaiian culture at the Kaua‘i Museum in Līhu’e. | Photo by Ryland Balbin

The story of Kamehameha the Great is taught extensively in classrooms throughout the state. Visit Kaua‘i Museum in Līhu‘e to learn more about the fascinating history of Kaumuali‘i, the last ruling chief, or ali‘i nui, of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. Popular among and fiercely protective of his people, the young warrior king (c. 1778–May 26, 1824) kept the 2 islands from Kamehameha I’s rule for more than a decade, until a peaceful unification in 1810.

A wing of the lava-rock museum houses an exhibit of photos and paraphernalia of the waves of Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino, and other plantation workers who once toiled in Hawai‘i’s sugarcane fields.

Special exhibits this year include “From Kapa to Quilt” (through September 28), which spotlights treasured Hawaiian quilts; and “Pupu o Ni‘ihau” (October 4–December 28), a rare display of exquisite shell lei. Ask in advance about a possible tour with the museum’s executive director, Chucky Boy Chock, who’s been known to perform a Hawaiian chant for guests. Adults, $15.

Mālama the land

Surfrider Foundation Kaua'i beach cleanup

A beach cleanup led by the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i. | Photo by Heather O’Donnell

Hunt for plastic bottle caps and empty soda cans in the sand. Who knew ridding the land of rubbish could be restorative? Spending a couple of hours participating in a beach cleanup with the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i can be a positively Zen-like experience.

Surfrider Foundation volunteers

Surfrider Foundation volunteers remove thousands of pounds of debris each year. | Photo by Barbara Wiedner

The trash collected is then weighed on a scale, allowing your crew to feel the satisfaction of doing mālama—essentially, giving back to Mother Earth.

Read more: 5 eco-friendly activities across the Hawaiian Islands

Where to shop on Kaua‘i

Support island artisans

Warehouse 3540

Browse the shops at Warehouse 3540 in Kalaheo. | Photo courtesy Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau

Because kama‘āina don’t collect only Hawaiian heirloom name bracelets, Warehouse 3540 in Kalaheo makes a great stop on the way to or from Po‘ipū Beach to the south or iconic Waimea Canyon to the north. The converted warehouse and small-business incubator has 11 small, artisan-centric shops and 3 food trucks.

One shop, Hanako, located just inside the warehouse entrance, carries statement pieces like chunky, rose gold–plated rings along with sweetly charming monstera plant–shaped gold-filled earrings. Hanako also sells camo-patterned “Aloha Friday” jackets, great to wear in a sudden rain.

Where to eat on Kaua‘i

Make a truck stop

Take a break from browsing at Kalaheo’s Warehouse 3540 with a cup of joe from Kind Koffee Company’s cream-colored trailer, located inside the building. Or order lunch from one of the marketplace’s food trucks. At Kauai Poke Company, try the spicy ‘ahi poke bowl topped with bubu arare, or the ‘ahi katsu steak. Uncle Stoney’s serves Mexican street food, and there’s bánh mì and egg rolls from Kauai Coconuts.

Have a picnic

The Fish Express in Līhu‘e is a mainstay on the poke-bowl circuit. The food is made to go—there’s no seating at the shop—perfect for a picnic at Spouting Horn Beach Park in Kōloa, on Kaua‘i’s South Shore. Dig into spicy ‘ahi with crab, which gets rave reviews, then enjoy the hiss and roar of the spectacular blowhole.

Dine in style

Munch on appetizers such as pork wontons and Okinawan sweet potato chips with roasted poblano cheese sauce at the oceanfront restaurant Oasis on the Beach in Kapa‘a. For dinner, consider trying the malunggay-and-furikake–encrusted fresh catch of the day, Sakura pork chop, or Braddah Dave’s taro burger. For dessert, spring for the apple-banana spring rolls. Appetizers, $9–$17.90; sides, $3.50–$9; entrées, $19.80–$41.90; desserts, $12.

Read more: 4 fun foodie neighborhoods in Hawai‘i

Where to stay on Kaua‘i

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort

Poolside at the Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort. | Photo courtesy Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort

No need to bunk at Auntie’s place, despite her insistence. Keep your style uncramped in a spacious, breeze-filled room at Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort in Kapa‘a. The hotel is located about 6 miles north of Līhu‘e Airport. 

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort Beach-Facing Room

A beach-facing room. | Photo courtesy Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort

Choose an ocean- or garden-view room, or book an oceanfront suite with its own living and dining area with wet bar. Eating at the open-air Daybreak Restaurant, one of several eateries on-site, is especially relaxing after a rain. Rates start at $359.

Koloa Landing Resort

Amenities at Kōloa Landing Resort at Po‘ipū include swim-through waterfalls, water slides, and a grotto. | Photo courtesy Kōloa Landing Resort at Po‘ipū, Autograph Collection

Want a real splurge? There’s no shortage of smiles on guests’ faces at the AAA Four Diamond Kōloa Landing Resort at Poi‘pū, Autograph Collection. Accommodations include Deluxe Studios, which are nearly twice the size of a standard hotel room. Upon check-in, kids of all ages gravitate to the far end of the open-air lobby to gaze at the terraced pools. The 350,000-gallon main swimming pool boasts waterslides and a swim-through waterfall and grotto. Extend the vacay vibes with a breakfast of macadamia nut pancakes from the resort’s Holoholo Grill, a collaborative venue with James Beard Award–winning chef Sam Choy. Rates start at $587.

Read more: 8 resorts in Hawai‘i perfect for couples, families, and solo travelers

Honolulu-born writer and editor Lorna May Corpus soaks in the Pali view whenever she travels to or from the Windward side.

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