Pause for a moment. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, hold and exhale. Your senses explode with tropical, fruity, and floral scents. Waves crash in the distance, and the roosters which rule the island crow. Now, your Kauaiian vacation has officially begun.
It’s no mystery why they call Kauai the Garden Island. When you open your eyes upon your first relaxing breath in this tropical paradise, even the open-air baggage claim will overtake your senses with the aroma of plumeria. This tiny island on the western outskirts of the Hawaiian archipelago boasts plentiful vegetation and outdoor activity. Hosting all sorts of adventures from hiking to scuba diving, Kauai will set the stage for an action-packed trip for the whole family. As a benefit for a family vacation, Kauai has yet to develop much in the way of chic nightlife as has, for example, Oahu. The plethora of physical activity is the perfect way to engage the young and curious- especially teenagers. There is so much to do to explore the natural Hawaiian environment on Kauai that other distractions, like modern American entertainment, iPods, DVDs, and video games become a memory of the mainland. In fact, this vacation will even inspire the least athletic types, as the lush environment and overabundance of things to do make Kauai a true adventurer’s playground.
For beach novices, consider surfing lessons at one of the island’s many peaceful beaches. Aloha Surf School teaches group and private lessons everyday on Kauai’s south side at Po’ipu beach near the Sheraton. If surfing is not your bag, hit up one of Snorkel Bob’s various locations to rent snorkel and beach gear. Virtually every swimming-accessible beach is snorkelable, given the variety of lush sea life in the islands. At the Northwest end of Highway 50 at Ke’e beach, beginners can find a calm snorkeling lagoon. More experienced swimmers may enjoy Tunnels beach just up the road for a vivid reef which extends into a deep and gorgeous shelf.
A country drive to the end of the highway will lead to Hanalei in northern Kauai, where a secluded beach breathes the essence of paradise. The Hanalei River Trail resides at this point as well, where hikers can experience the rainforest and beautiful views of the gorgeous island. Or, for a restful but still adventuresome day, opt for a helicopter ride over the green valleys and “Grand Canyon” of Kauai, Waimea Canyon. Such sights as the Na Pali (Forbidden) Coast -which is inaccessible by car- and the Manawaiopuna Falls (made famous by the film Jurassic Park) can be seen in a breathtaking way sure to entertain travelers of all ages. The Na Pali coast can, perhaps, entertain more impressively yet by boat. Consider a cruise up the forbidden coast to see the world’s tallest sea cliffs with Na Pali Explorer or Kauai Sea Tours. Here, the variety of blues in the water and the power of the cliffs can calm the mind and spirit. Sea turtles, spinner dolphins, and whales (in the winter) will likely cruise with you.
More seasoned outdoorsmen may be interested in the challenge of hiking Kalalau Valley. Without a permit, hikers can enjoy a 1-day/8-hr. hike to a 300 foot waterfall and natural fresh water pool. The water temperature chills to the bone but the opportunity to swim beneath the majestic falls is truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many. Other falls to be sure to see include Kipu Falls, where travelers can jump alongside the falls into a natural pool or brave a 40 ft. rope swing into the natural pools below.
Of course, if there’s any energy left after playing in Kauai’s natural playground, of course traditional Hawaiian fare and cultural events are not to be missed. A luau at the Po’ipu Sheraton with poi and roast pig, hula dancers, and fire breathers will captivate adults, kids, and teens alike. Of course, wearing a traditional sarong, sandals, and lei will allow any traveler to engage in the true aloha spirit. Try the local flea markets in Kapa’a where precious gifts such as Kauaiian black pearl jewelry -a mall outside of Lihue on this gem island may be hard to find.
A Kauaiian vacation will truly captivate the whole family with age-appropriate activities for all. The important thing to remember while traveling with teens is to encourage them to try everything that the island has to offer. Without distractions of nightlife, urban tourism, or city-style entertainment, breathe in the natural stimuli through the body, mind, and spirit in ways other destinations in the United States can never compare to.