A week in Kauai? Kinda sorta.

Lucky me
I just got back from a week on the North Shore of Hawaii with my husband, two sons, mom and step-dad and I’d be totally lying if I said it wasn’t great. It was awesome. The weather was in the mid-eighties all the time; when it rained it was fun or refreshing; nobody was wacked in the face with a surfboard; and both Milo and I stayed relatively pale and un-sunburnt.

Hanalei Bay is a giant sandbox
Hanalei Bay is a giant sandbox

And did I mention that we were there with grandparents? Wow. Alec and I enjoyed a full day away from the kids, one afternoon, one after-dinner dessert, and one dinner (but who’s counting?!).

Right before we realized we missed the morning boat
Right before we missed the morning boat ride

Ok, but seriously, what am I doing wrong?
Now that I have all that mushy gratitude out of the way, let me get right down to it. What is the secret to having a fun vacation with a 3 year old and a 1 year old? Does it even matter where you go and what you do? At this age, they don’t have any patience or common sense.

Too rainy to hike Waimea Canyon. Oh well.
Too rainy to hike Waimea Canyon. Oh well.

I resisted my impulse to plan the crap out of the trip in advance and fear I lost my chance to be prepared. In the effort to go with the flow, we missed boats, mis-timed lighthouse open hours and drove back and forth a TON between various activities and attractions.

Best stuff of the trip
I know if you ask Milo what he liked best, he would say “roos” — his favorite thing was clearly chasing chickens and roosters. He wouldn’t go to bed until you assured him that the fowl was no longer frolicking.

If you ask Holden what he liked best, he would say the airplane. He was afraid to go in the water, even up to his ankles, until the last day preferring instead to dig in the world’s largest sandbox (AKA the beach).

As for kid-friendly activities and restaurants, I would be hard-pressed to give you much advice, but let me try anyway:

Best beach: Lydgate Beach with it’s waist-high on a 3 year old rock enclosed fish filled enclaves.
Best burger: Bubba’s Burger in Kapa’a. I thought it was fine, but Holden liked his first dining experience the best and kept wanting to go back.
Best tourist trap experience that’s better with kids: Boat-ride to Fern Grotto. This is a very lame boat ride with a short hike through plants with some traditional Hawaiian singing and dancing… which is good especially if you’re too young for luaus. Also, we enjoyed feeding the birds for $.50 at the Smith Nature Preserve when we missed the boat the first day.
Best of the best: Wild chickens running everywhere. Find an open lawn away from driving cars and let your clueless toddler run themselves straight for an early nap.

I never did find a particularly kid-friendly swimming pool. Anyone else have any (young) family favorites on Kauai?

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RookieMoms co-founder & mom to 3 boys in Berkeley, CA. Bossy big sister and project manager turned blogger helping moms enjoy their first years of motherhood. Find me on my other site on 510families.com or hiding in my minivan eating dark chocolate.