Kauai with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

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Kauai with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Of all the islands of Hawaii, the most family friendly is Kauai. Kids and tropical vacations don't always mix well, but here island life is very casual; residents are laid-back and the abundance of nature activities allows families to move at their own pace. Turn your vacation into one you'll always fondly remember with this itinerary that will help you make the most of a day on Kauai with tweens.

Morning

When visiting Kauai with tweens, your vacation's schedule is sure to be dictated by mealtimes. In the morning, stop by Java Kai for a quick breakfast to refuel the entire family. They have excellent fresh fruit smoothies, freshly brewed Kona and Kauai coffees, as well as a number of cold coffee drinks. Java Kai has the most incredible Aloha Rolls which are actually cinnamon rolls covered with coconut and macadamia nuts. They also have muffins, Belgian waffles, coffee cake, quiche, granola, and a breakfast burrito – enough choices for picky tweens.

Java Kai, 4-1384 Kuhio Hwy #105, Kapaa, HI 96746; 808-823-6887; Mon-Sat 6AM-5PM, Sun 7AM-1PM

Just a short drive from Java Kai, you can enjoy paddling up the Wailua River with Ali'i Kayaks. Paddling the Wailua River is one of the best things to do on Kauai with the whole family. You don't need any kayaking experience because your guides will teach you how to paddle before you get in the water and they will also provide you with a life jacket and dry bag to keep your belongings dry during the trip. You won't encounter any dangerous obstacles to paddle around or rapids so even the kids will feel comfortable paddling. The river is slow and meandering so you will only spend about an hour paddling up the river to your destination – the trailhead for Secret Falls.

Insider Tip: Don't forget to bring bug spray and sunscreen or you will be sorry!

Ali'i Kayaks, 174 Wailua Rd, Kapaa, HI 96746; 808-241-7700, 877-246-2544; Mon-Sat 7:30AM-7:30PM; From $39.95 per person

The route to Secret Falls is not really a secret anymore as many people have visited this secluded waterfall. The trail is only about 1.5 miles each way with little elevation gain, so you won't be huffing and puffing the entire way, which is especially nice if you're exploring Kauai with tweens who might complain if the walk gets too long. The scenery is fantastic, and although you won't see any sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, you can listen to bird calls, see enormous Koa and Ohia trees, and smell wild ginger. After 45 minutes, you will reach Secret Falls where you can rest, go for a swim, and take photos of the beautiful 125-foot falls. This is also the perfect time to eat lunch. Rainbow Kayak Tours offers lunch, water, and snacks as part of the tour which can be helpful if you are staying in a hotel and don't have a way to make lunch before the excursion.

Insider Tip: Wear Teva (or similar) sandals or athletic shoes for hiking because your feet will most likely get wet during the hike. And don't wear flip-flops! My husband's flip-flops once fell victim to the mud on this trail and he had to continue on without any shoes.

Rainbow Kayak Tours, Islander Shops, 440 Aleka Pl, Kapaa, HI 96746; 866-826-2505, 808-826-2505; Confirmed reservations (in advance) Adults (13 and older) $22, Children (5-12) $10

For a slightly different experience, contact Kamokila Hawaiian Village to ride in one of their Outrigger Canoes. Kamokila's intimate experience is different because they do most of the paddling for you, the canoes are more stable, and you will spend less time on the river because they launch off their property, which is much closer to the Secret Falls trailhead. Kamokila is run by a Native Hawaiian family that has a wealth of information about the Wailua River, the ancient fish village that sat on their land, and Kauai.

Kamokila Hawaiian Village, 5443 Kuamoo Rd, Kapaa, HI 96746; 808-823-0559; Daily 9AM-5PM

Afternoon

If you still have energy left, head over to scenic Kuamoo Road in Kapaa. At the corner of Kuhio Highway and Kuamoo Road, you will see the decaying Coco Palms Resort where Elvis filmed the finale of "Blue Hawaii." Unfortunately, the resort was hit hard by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and has since closed. If you are an Elvis fan and want to see the grounds of the resort, you can give the management a call to let them know you want to enter the property. When you walk the grounds, it is an eerie, but unique, experience because it is probably the only time you will find yourself alone at a resort in Hawaii.

Continuing on Kuamoo Road for approximately 1.5 miles, you will want to stop and take a look at Opaekaa Falls. Finding the view from this lookout point is one of the best things to do on Kauai. If you cross the street, you will be able to view Wailua Falls from another lookout area. Wailua Falls is best known as the waterfall featured in the opening credits of Fantasy Island. If it has rained recently, the waterfalls will be gushing and probably muddy. Both waterfalls are beautiful, and it is also a nice stop if you want to clean up a bit in the restrooms located in the parking area.

Evening

To make the best of a family vacation on Kauai, end the day on a good note with some tasty food. After visiting the sites on Kuamoo Road, head to Kauai Pasta for dinner. Everything on the menu is fresh and homemade, and they make all their pasta from scratch and bake their own focaccia bread. My favorite dish is the Greek Pasta with kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, feta cheese and pine nuts.

Insider Tip: Ask to sit near the back of the restaurant. It is often quieter, the decor is much nicer, and it always feels cooler than the front of the restaurant.

Kauai Pasta, 4-939 B Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746; 808-822-7447; Daily 11AM-9PM

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