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6 Days in Kauai with Kids and Chickens

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Of the famous Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is by far our family’s favorite. We’ve been traveling to Hawaii since our oldest daughter was just a little chickadee, and she’s now 13. Together with her younger sister, age 11, our family recently returned from our 12th visit to the Garden Isle. In the process, we’ve uncovered some great things to do in Kauai for families. And get ready for every activity to be accompanied by a flock of chickens. Think of them as your friendly, Hawaiian tour guides.

Hawaii is pretty chill in general, and Kauai is arguably the chillest island in the chain. With the greatest amount of rainfall in the world, it’s also the greenest place I have ever seen. Don’t worry, it doesn’t rain that much across the entire island, mostly in the interior where the ancient volcanic craters meet the trade winds from the sea in just the right way. The result is a spectacular array of greens and blues, lush jungles dense with ferns and orchid flowers, and more wild chickens than you could possibly imagine (more on that later).

Best things to do in Kauai Hawaii - Beautiful Orchids

Beautiful orchids abound in the lush landscape of Kauai.

Here is a six-day itinerary of the best things to do in Kauai for fun with the kids (and the chickens too):

DAY ONE – Swim Poipu Beach

A renowned spot for surfers and snorkelers, the warm waves at Poipu Beach break perfectly for body surfing and boogie boarding on both outer sides. The interiors break on reefs that form protected beachside pools perfect for the little ones and also offer a great place for snorkeling among a rainbow of tropical fish and coral. It’s one of our family’s favorite places. If we get bored of the ocean views, we can always watch the parade of hens with baby chicks picking their way along the sandy beach. When hunger calls, we break for lunch and stroll across the lawn to Brennecke’s Beach Broiler, grabbing some fresh fish or a juicy burger.

After we’ve had enough sun, we like to take an afternoon shopping stroll through nearby Old Koloa Town, one of the historic original settlements on the island and home to a number of sweet clothing and gift shops. We always enjoy a very picturesque and authentic feeling of Old Hawaii — plenty of Instagram-able moments here. The chickens here oblige us a few photo memories as well.

Best things to do in Kauai Hawaii - Admire the chickens

Kauai has more wild chickens than you could possibly imagine.

DAY TWO – Hike Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is Hawaii’s version of the Grand Canyon, and you’ll be shocked to see how similar they look. Red earth outcroppings and jagged canyon walls dip steeply into low valleys, all seemingly arid and dry. We like to hike along the miles of paths and walkways, and we’ve often come across wild mountain goats and a harmless boar or two. There are short and easy paths suitable for kids, and as our girls have grown older they can scramble with us down the longer paths to discover hidden waterfalls, where we like to swim in the chilling pools and cool off from our hike.

Best things to do in Kauai Hawaii - Hiking Waimea Canyon

Hiking Waimea Canyon is one of the best things to do in Kauai, Hawaii and fun for the whole family.

Don’t forget to marvel at the chickens! Yep, they’re up here too, pecking around like they own the place.

On the drive back, we make the inevitable stop in Waimea Town at JoJo’s Shave Ice for the best on the island. It doesn’t look like much outside or in, but they serve up the most delicious shave ice combinations you will ever taste. My kids are still asking us when we can go back to JoJo’s; it’s become one of their basic food groups.

DAY THREE – Stroll Hanalei Bay

Over on the other side of the island, Hanalei Bay beckons as one of the most beautiful places on earth. Many films have featured this famous coastline and jagged green mountains, including Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tropic Thunder and South Pacific. Locals say the song Puff the Magic Dragon was written by Peter, Paul and Mary after viewing what looks like a dragon’s back outlined in the crest of the green mountaintops. (Okay, it was the ’60s, so…)

If all that beauty is not enough, our kids love the burgers and shakes at Bubba’s in Hanalei. We once tipped the sweet girl at the order window and it triggered an impromptu thank-you song by her coworkers that had my kids in stitches. Try it!

Sitting at an outside table under a shady umbrella, we enjoy our meal while feeding crumbs to the…chickens.

DAY FOUR – Navigate the Na Pali Coast

Unreachable by car, an enormous portion of the island is dedicated to the much-photographed cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. We’ve explored the coastline by boat several times, and have found Captain Andy’s to be our favorite excursion company. Their boats leave from Port Allen, very near Poipu. It’s worth the few extra dollars to take the bigger catamaran tour. The smaller pontoon boats from other tour companies are a super bumpy ride that may cause little tummies to rumble. (I know mine did.)

Best things to do in Kauai Hawaii - NaPali Coast

The green cliffs of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast are legendary for their dramatic drop into the sea.

In addition to the gorgeous cliffs and hidden caves along the coast, our captain sailed us over to snorkel in tucked-away bays unspoiled by the masses. Sea turtles, Spinner dolphin and tons of colorful tropical fish were our playmates.

Okay, so no chickens on the boat. But they really are scattered all over the island, from the highest peaks to the sands of every beach. Legend has it that in 1992, Hurricane Iniki blew across Kauai with such force that the chickens kept by locals were strewn all across the island. When things settled down, they made friends with an indigenous guinea fowl and formed a whole new breed. Without natural predators these chickens have flourished, and now have entire t-shirt companies dedicated to their omnipresence. Go figure!

DAY FIVE – Shoot the Flumes

One of the most fun activities we enjoy on Kauai is tubing on the old waterways, or “shooting the flumes.” These flumes were hand dug nearly 150 years ago to provide irrigation from the rainy Mount Waialeale down to the island’s growing sugarcane business. An enterprising company called Kauai Backcountry Adventures puts you inside a giant inner tube and floats you down the flumes, traveling several miles through forests and fields. It is SO fun and totally safe for kids five and up.

With no control over my tube, I am forced to let go of my issues and just float on the lazy river. Bouncing into family and new friends along the way, none of us can help but laugh as we spin and bump along in the refreshing water. The best part is going through the tunnels carved though solid volcanic rock. The kids love wearing the protective helmets with lights attached, which the guides instruct us to turn on upon entering the tunnel to illuminate the way. It isn’t scary at all; just really fun and a little eerie, particularly when the kids’ wails of laughter echo inside those rocky walls.

Our chicken friends meet us at the drop off point, seemingly uninterested in our fun activities as they make their own fun by chasing bugs around the parking lot. Poor bugs.

DAY SIX – Horseback riding to the waterfalls

Every day in Kauai brings a rainbow, and the kids loved seeing more than one as we rode horses through a jungle trail near Princeville on a recent trip to Silver Falls Ranch. Gentle horses were chosen specifically for each of our riding abilities, and the girls giggled as they steered their new friends along the path. We passed by thousands of orchids blooming, colorful birds and all kinds of tropical flora and fauna.

Best things to do in Kauai Hawaii - Horseback riding

Riding horseback to the jungle waterfalls of Kauai.

Toward the end of the ride, we came up on a waterfall where we let the horses rest and took a swim in the pools. After a delicious lunch of Hawaiian pulled pork and rice, we rode a short way back to the stables to be welcomed back by — you guessed it — the chickens!

Have you visited Kauai with your family? Any tips to add? Have any good recipes for chicken? I kid.

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Island hopping? For wonderful family resorts on the Big Island and Oahu, consider Hilton Waikoloa Village and Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.

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A Cali boy his entire life, Jon prefers to be near the water at all times. He grew up in San Francisco and now lives in San…

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