What I Wish I Knew Before My Kauai Family Vacation

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Recently, our family traveled on our first trip to Hawaii, and I really wanted to share this post all about What I Wish I Knew Before My Kauai Family Vacation, because even with all of my research, there were still some things that would have been helpful to know!!

What I Wish I Knew Before Our Kauai Family Vacation

When I’m researching what to do on my trips, I go to two social media sources: Pinterest and Instagram. On Pinterest, I do the general research, but on Instagram, I poll the people!  That’s how we landed on going to Kauai (out of all the Hawaiian islands) in the first place. Kauai stuck out as a favorite for people.

I also purchased the book Kauai Revealed, which I later found has an accompanying phone app. We used heavily while on the island. I tasked my husband and son to do the research about what they wanted to do while there, so they did a little research.  Also I got the itinerary of my good friend Caroline who went to the same island just two weeks before us, and our kids are all pretty much the same ages. SHE did her research and I rode on her coat tails!

Best Advice for a Kauai Family Vacation:

Pack light:

My friend told me this, but I didn’t believe her! I wanted to have clothing outfit options, but we went to the beach nearly every day. I brought 3 swimsuits, and a few coverups, and I’m glad I did. For years, I’ve had just one swimsuit, and I could have survived with just that, but I splurged on 2 Walmart suits this year, about $25 each, and I’m glad I had a little variety. I only really “got dressed” maybe 2 times, so the “just in case” outfits I brought (7), really didn’t get used.

Bring Cash:

This might be obvious to anyone who travels, but not to me. I love the simplicity of swiping my card. MOST places do take the card, and these days with an iPad signature, it’s becoming much easier, but there were still some places that were cash only.

Rocky Beaches:

My husband had read about sandals that are sold at the local Walmart that would be perfect to wear at rocky beaches, and we planned to do that, then forgot after a somewhat stressful food shopping trip (just tired and ready to BE THERE already). We drove an hour away from Walmart, and when realized we forgot, I was bugged, but after walking on several rocky beaches, I was ANNOYED!  I wish I knew that a LOT of the BEACHES on Kauai are rocky in the water. My baby wimpy feet couldn’t handle it, so I wore my flip flops and crossed my fingers they didn’t get ruined. I got lucky, but I really wished I had water sandals that I could easily walk around in. (The non-rocky beaches that I liked were: Anini and Polihale and Mission)

Kauai rocky coast

No AC in Kauai:

Because the weather is so moderate on the island, there aren’t a whole lot of places that have air conditioning, including our home rentals. Being from Texas, which doesn’t survive without AC, I was worried about this. Especially at night where I need it to be chilly to sleep! Well, turns out the night air cooled enough, and with ceiling fans, I slept ok.

Motion Sickness:

One of our scheduled trips was a boat tour to the Napali Coast. My husband is susceptible to motion sickness, but I’ve always been fine. He took precautions, I didn’t, but I wished I had!  I should have just assumed it would be rough, and taken something anyway. Watch for my Napali boat tour post, to see about that adventure.

Shop at Costco in Kauai:

Upon landing at the Lihue airport, (on the east of the island) we headed straight to Costco to get food for the week. Though I had a few local food stops I wanted to try, we mostly planned to eat our meals at the home rental. I also heard that Costco prices were similar to the mainland prices, while Walmart and local grocery stores were Hawaii prices—MORE!  The gas was also a good 50 cents less than anything on the island, which was nice to fill up just before returning our rental car.

It’s hard to shop at Costco for just one week, but we managed to do it. Here are our staples:

  • Breakfast—cereal, milk, eggs, bananas
  • Lunch—bagels, croissants, lunch meat, yogurt, cucumbers, peaches, goldfish, chips
  • Dinner—salmon to bake, chicken to grill, prepared chicken alfredo, freezer taquitos

Pretty simple!

Kauai Costco

Moldy bread:

With bagels and croissants as our main daily staples, I figured they’d last a while like they do at home, in my controlled air conditioned home. Most of the locals keep the windows open all the time for breeze, so we followed suit, but our bread got moldy fast. In hindsight, I would have put the bread in the fridge. Though it tends to not feel as soft/fresh after day 2, that would have been a good option. It was really on day 4 that the mold came.

Check Social Media:

I used my google maps not only for getting me places, but to check on the open and closing times. There was a certain shave ice place we were going to try, and I decided to jump onto their Instagram account just before, and they shared there that they decided to close that day and the next, which was really helpful. I was bummed to miss this treat, but happy they posted online about their closing.

Kauai with Kids

I had heard some people tell me that Kauai was more of a vacation spot for couples, and not to plan on Kauai with kids, but I’m not sure why that is the case. My kids loved it! Maybe it’s because of the more rocky beaches, or the lack of “landmark” places to visit, but it was just as much for for the kids as it was for the adults.

However, below are a few tips that if you are traveling with kids, its helpful to know!


I’m not prone to bug bites, but my son is. Wished we had it on our jungle hikes, but he survived.

Travel around:

No transport system there, we rented a car, and from the top of the island to the bottom of the island, it was about a 1.5 hour drive, and really just one main highway. No one is much in a hurry, but we didn’t feel too hurried either, so it was ok. It was helpful for me to know to just chillax!

Shave Ice:

Not all Shave(d) Ice is created equal! I was surprised that there were so many, and with different options. We’d heard about JoJo’s, a favorite of my friends Caroline’s family, it had Macadamia nut ice cream on bottom. Uncle’s was good on the South shore because it had shaved ice cream (seen here), but those were the only two we tried.

Kauai shave ice


The two activities we had planned had some restrictions, and I’m glad I read the fine print. My kids really wanted to do a zipline tour, including my youngest, but most of them had age/weight restrictions! I was so glad we found Koloa zipline, because we had a tandem option for my daughter, to ride with an adult on some and solo on others. She would have been so bummed not to be able to go! (More on that in another post)

Then on our boat tour, we wanted a speed boat to see the Napali Coast, but with my husbands recent knee surgery, it prohibited him (also those pregnant or small children). I didn’t want a slow catamaran, so I looked around and found a company that had a great middle option. I’ll post about both the boat and the zipline tours soon!

Watch for these posts from the same trip:

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