Hawaii is a dream destination for many, and can seem out of reach for most people. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can even take your kids with you! We are a family of four and have been to Kauai three different times as a family; as well as several times as a couple and solo. It’s one of our favorite destinations because it allows you to escape, but still have resort style amenities if you want them and the convenience of staying in the states.
How to get there using points & miles
Kauai has a small airport located in Lihue. It is very convenient to a lot of resorts and has a small town feel, but most of your major airlines fly into it. Southwest, Alaska, American, United, and Delta to name a few. This makes for a great selection of points options depending on where you live and what is most convenient for you. (Southwest just recently started operating flights to Hawaii so you may be able to find a cash fare deal that can’t be beat). Alaska has many hubs on the West Coast like Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle that offer flights daily, so it is easy to connect into other places if you’re in the West. United, American and Delta are more national carriers so you’d have more options for central and eastern states. We could talk points all day so to best help you shoot me a message and we can look at specific circumstances. For this post I’ll just give you the basics of how we got our family there and some ideas of things not to miss.
We live in Utah, so for us we use Alaska Airlines quite often to get around. They have a credit card with reasonable annual fees that includes an amazing companion pass offer that is valid to use for Hawaii. It allows you to purchase a ticket and take a companion once a year with you for $121 ) ($99 base fare plus applicable taxes and fees from $22 depending on your flight itinerary). With the four of us this works out to paying for the two adults and taking the two kids for $121. It is really amazing but you could do more with airline points if you have them. Alaska’s point redemptions are fair to Hawaii, but you need to book in advance to get the best deals. Typically it is somewhere between 30-40K round trip for a good deal using Alaska miles.
Hotels and ways to pay
Once you figure out how to get there, where to stay is the next exciting part. Kauai has a north shore (Hanalei and Princeville) that is lush and green, the east side or the “coconut coast” is beautiful as well and has the main city of Lihue at one end and several towns including the bigger Kapaa as you wind around to the north. The south shore including Poipu and Koloa is usually less rainy and has more of a drier landscape once you drop off the mountains. Many resorts are located here as well as some wonderful family beaches. The west side includes the military base Barking Sands and Waimea city, as well as Waimea Canyon. You really can’t go wrong no matter where you stay but we prefer the East side that is more central to everything given that you have a rental care, which I highly recommend.
There are many options for paying for your accommodations. There are several Marriott properties all over Kauai, Hilton now has a Hilton Garden Inn located in Wailua, Hyatt has a property and there are plenty of VRBO and Airbnb options. For points you will want to look at your respective cards and decide where they transfer (Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, travel portals or ones that “erase” travel purchases). If you’re a newbie might I suggest looking at the Kauai Beach Resort as it is our favorite. We use our Chase Travel Portal linked to my Sapphire Reserve to typically book rooms here from 10-14k a night depending on the time of year. You can also transfer points to Marriott and Hyatt if the deal is worth it and stay in one of their resorts. With Marriott’s merger to SPG properties you can also stay at places like the St. Regis located on the golf course in Princeville. To check this make sure to look at both the portal and the respective chain’s website to ensure it is the best use of points.
Things not to miss in Kauai
You have got to see the Napali Coast! Whether by helicopter, boat or foot you need to get out and explore a little. If you decide to take a boat tour check out Captain Andy’s or Holo Holo Charters for an amazing trip. Holo Holo charters also offers and snorkel coast combo tour that takes you to a crater near the small island of Niihau located off of Kauai. It is a fun ride out there and the snorkeling is amazing compared to what you get along the coast.
The Kalalau trail is world famous for ending at one of the most beautiful beaches you will find. It starts on the north end of the island where the roads ends past Hanalei and winds along the Napali coast for 11 miles before ultimately reaching Kalalau beach. You don’t have to do the whole thing to appreciate the beauty, and you can’t unless you have a permit. The first 2 miles of the trail to Hanakapiai Beach and Falls can be hiked without a permit but you will need to secure parking or a shuttle ride to the trailhead as it lies within Haena State Park. There are new parking regulations and a pass system in place to protect this beautiful area from over tourism.
Waimea Canyon also is very popular, and is located just before Kokee State Park; which includes some beautiful panoramic views of the and valleys of the Napali Coast if the clouds will cooperate. Waimea Canyon is usually a little clearer and is nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” because of it’s deep canyon and red coloring. There are several waterfalls falling in the gorge and the views are spectacular. The lookouts offered are great places to spend some time and stop off before heading on to Kokee- many people turn around at Waimea and don’t realize what is up the road so make sure to keep going.
Beaches are one of the main reason most people go to any Hawaiian Island. The beaches of Kauai are no exception and are just as beautiful as any on Maui, Oahu, etc. Some of our favorite beaches include Polihale at the very end of the road on the west side (beware it is a dirt road through some crop fields), Anini beach just before reaching the north shore, Haena Beach/Tunnels area for snorkeling and bigger waves, Lydgate Park for the kids because it has a rock ring protecting the beach and swimming area, Poipu for the seals and turtles, and lastly Salt Ponds near Port Allen on the west side for the fun boogie boarding and family friendly environment. Honorable mentions would be Ke’e Beach at the end of the road on the north where the Kalalau trail starts, Mahaulepu Beach near Poipu, and any along the east side to watch the waves.