Kauai has many choices for family adventure

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Kauai has long been known as a top choice for romance travelers in search of quiet spots and magnificent scenery. But Kauai is also a good choice for a family vacation, as the Garden Isle offers a wide range of activities that travelers of all ages can enjoy.

On land

 

" All-terrain-vehicle adventures: Three Kauai companies take riders out into the open, skirting the island's cane fields and pastures to hillside lookouts.

Safety is foremost, so all tours are preceded by a training session. Helmets must be worn. Drivers must be over age 16. Riders must be over age 5.

Most tours last two to three hours and are priced from $100 per person. 

Most of the ATV tours are guided and traverse dirt roads. The Gay & Robinson tours are on private land and include a swim and lunch. 

" Hiking: There are three major hiking options to be considered. Each offers a memorable, inexpensive way to spend a day on Kauai. 

Kokee State Park has dozens of trails suited to every hiking ability. This is the top spot for hiking on Kauai.

Hikes offer a multitude of magnificent panoramas, including the canyon and the Na Pali coastal valleys. There are quiet, streamside trails and boardwalk hikes into the misty realm of the Alakai Swamp.

There are park rangers available if visitors need a trail update or recommendation. Meals, including take-out picnic lunches, are sold at the Lodge at Kokee, which also has a small museum. Cabin rentals are available.

The trail takes visitors to 4,000-foot elevations, with misty rains that usually come and go. Temperatures can drop into the 40s.

The nearby Na Pali Coast is another hiking option. This 14-mile stretch of wild Kauai coastline is nothing short of magnificent. An 11-mile trail called the Cliffs leads to Kalalau Valley and allows for several hikes that include coastal panoramas and a lush landscape of rocky pinnacles and steep hillsides. The best views are at the half-mile marker. It's another 1.5 miles to the next milestone at Hanakopiai Valley.

In the summer, a sand beach allows for swimming when the water is calm. In winter, much of the beach is washed away and the surf is too rough for a swim.

For those with stamina and plenty of drinking water on hand, a side trail makes a two-mile loop that ends with a view of one of Na Pali's many waterfalls.

The trail should be hiked with caution when wet, as portions are rocky and steep. Going beyond Honakopiai on a day trip is not recommended. 

There are other coastal hikes, including easy trails along the south coast at Mahaulepu that not only offer beautiful vistas but a long, sandy stretch of beach.

Several miles of old sugarcane plantation roads have been opened to hikers along Kauai's east coast just past Kapaa. The rewards are long views of the coastline, tide pools and access to several beaches, although caution is advised if the surf is breaking. 

For guided hikes, contact local tour operators such as Kauai Nature Tours, which offers escorted treks in Waimea Canyon, over Sleeping Giant (or Nounou Mountain) and along the Na Pali and Mahaulepu coasts.

By sea

 

" Kayaking: Vacationers can rent a kayak for the day and go it alone or join a group for a kayak paddle along Kauai's north, east and south shores, heading inland on one of the many streams fed by rains falling over the island's mountainous interior.

Kayak rentals are available in solo and two-person models. They come with life jackets and car racks.

Kayak Kauai, in Hanalei and Kapaa, and Outfitters Kauai, in Kapaa and Poipu, both offer escorted kayak tours and rentals.

" Na Pali coast sailing: The view from the water of the grand sea cliffs and isolated valleys of the Na Pali coast is magnificent. Catamaran and Zodiac raft tours are available.

In winter, whales may be sighted, along with the dolphins, turtles and flying fish that are here year-round.

Some tours include snorkeling and a beach landing.

Most boats depart from Port Allen on the south coast, taking about 45 minutes to reach Na Pali's cliffs.  

In the air

Kauai was made for flightseeing, and about a dozen companies take advantage of that fact.

Helicopter and airplane tours depart Lihue Airport on 50- to 90-minute air tours that take in the island's remarkably diverse and dramatically eroded landscape. Plane tours are the cheaper option at $100 to $130, compared with helicopter tour rates that start at $200. 

To contact reporter Allan Seiden, send e-mail to [email protected].

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