Visiting Hawaii is a family affair, writes David Fleishhacker, with three generations embracing sun, surf and snorkelling on the famous islands.
For our family, which currently ranges from three year-olds to 73 years-olds, a visit to Hawaii is an annual affair. By 'Hawaii' I mean Kauai, the least changed and unspoilt of the major islands. Kids love the gentle beaches here, and adults will appreciate the uncrowded, relaxed atmosphere by the water.
Flights arrive at Kauai’s main airport, Lihue Airport in the southeast corner. Here you'll find everything from B&B's to luxury resorts in the areas of North Shore (Princeville), East Side (Coconut Coast), Lihue (Kalapaki), South Shore (Poipu), and West Side (Waimea).
It’s easy to spend a day or even a week in the Poipu region. The waves are gentler than on the north or eastern shores, especially in the winter, when those areas are likely to have heavy surf and a great deal of rain. Poipu has rain, too, which is why Kauai is known as the “garden island.”
There are good hotels if you want luxury (try the recently reopened Princeville, now operated by St Regis, or the Grand Hyatt or Sheraton at Poipu Beach), but if you're bringing a family a better choice is to rent a condo. You can find three-bedroom rentals all around the Princeville area from between $150 to $200 a night, most with small shared pools. We spent five nights on the island’s North Shore with beach chairs, snorkel equipment, and bikes provided along with the rental house.
In summer, a monk seal or two is likely to be sunning on the shore, and turtles also like to hang about here
Worth checking out is Kalihiwai Bay (the eastern part), with its great shaded areas, small surf, and lack of intrusive visitors. For snorkelling, Tunnels Beach is the best choice for safe adventures with fascinating corals and fish (though parking can be difficult). Alternatively, Hanalei Bay is great for little kids and you can park almost at the water’s edge.
On the South Shore at Poipu you can find even more fish, and just below the Marriott’s rock wall frontage is an little-used but rewarding spot if you're a confident snorkler. After this rocky stretch, there's another sandy spread from the Kiauhuna Plantation to the Sheraton, not great for snorkelling but fine for sunbathing and swimming. Boogie boards, surfboards, fins and masks are available to rent nearby. In summer, a monk seal or two is likely to be sunning on the shore, and turtles also like to hang about here.
A short drive up Lawaii Road, further to the west is Spouting Horn, a great spot to see geysers of sea water erupting as the pressure forces waves through holes in the igneous rock. Adults may prefer to visit the National Tropic Botanical Garden, slightly pricy adventure but worth it if you fancy yourself as an amateur botanist. Kids will probably prefer Na ‘Aina Kai Gardens on the North Shore, with a maze and other delights. Be sure to make tour reservations and check the garden opening times on the website.
If your children are old enough to appreciate great scenery, it’s worth the drive up to Waimea Canyon. On a clear day you'll be rewarded with a fabulous view, but don’t count on the weather - as you're not far from Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on the planet, things can be a little unpredictable.