Thanks to everyone in this forum for helping us plan our trip. Esp, martik. We had a fantastic time, and hope that our trip experience can help others plan. Reading other trip reports really helped us, esp b/c this is our first big trip with our baby. We visited Kauai late August.
Background about the type of travelers we are:
We are a young-ish couple with 2 babies, one 2 years old, and one 5 month old baby. We last visited Kauai 10 years ago, when we were still dating. Prior to that, we had separately visited with our families, for me, that was 15 years ago.
For this trip, my parents accompanied us for the first 4 days, then we stayed for additional 5 days.
We come from camping/hiking families. Last time, my husband and I did the Kalalau trail (and camped in Haleakala crater too). Earlier, With my family, we did the zodiac drop off for hiking out Kalalau (one way), and the Nualolo/Awa awa apuhi loop--it was not popular then, and the trail was totally overgrown, we were weed wacking.
Post-babies, our vacations are now pretty different. We now stay in rental condos with our babies. We are pretty out of shape (esp me). We stay quite a bit at the resort and venture out much less. We last visited Hawaii last December, when we stayed at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club, in Oahu.
We flew United with Freq flier miles. Wow, the flight was packed. I tried to upgrade to Economy plus, but could not get seats together. I was able to upgrade my parents for their flight back, and they said it was well worth the extra cost for the 5 extra inches of leg room (no other benefits).
Overall the flight was fine with the BIG exception of our flight back. Initially I had all our seats together for my husband, son, and myself (with my lap baby). United changed the plane (even though it was still a 757) and so we were all separated. Since we each had separate confirmation numbers, United didn't know we were a family (even though I had called them twice). And we weren't notified of our seating change. In the future, I will check my seat numbers more diligently. We couldn't do anything about changing our seats until we got to the gate, and since the flight was FULL, they could only get my husband and son together. AFter the plane took off, a really nice couple switched seats so we could sit together. I am really grateful to them. I have to boast that our kids were great on the flight--they both slept over 2 hours and were very pleasant--no tantrums/fussiness, at least on the plane.
In Kauai, we stayed at the Waipouli Beach Resort in Kapaa. We went through vrbo. We had a ground floor unit, 2 bedroom, 3 bath. When my parents were there, they used the sofa bed. I would recommend ground floor b/c our older child could go outside easily onto the lawn to play. Also, very easy to get to/from the pool/beach. WBR is a pretty good value. Very nice to have washer/dryer, full kitchen, separate bedrooms. We did laundry almost every day--not to sound wasteful, but we had to pack really light b/c of all the baby gear we had to bring. And our older child is quite messy! There is free wireless internet, so we did some work too.
Car: minivan, through Hawaii discount car rental--Thrifty. We brought our own carseats.
We don't mean to stay at home to eat the whole time, but it just ends up that way. It is hard for us to go out to eat--I know other families can do it, but we find it really hard to coordinate naps, cranky kids fighting carseats, etc. So we stopped at Costco from the airport. We spent about 250$, and that lasted us most of the trip. We bought fresh fish, rib eyes, local veggies/salad, fruit (cut up papayas and pineapples were very sweet and easy--worth the extra cost), frozen pizzas, deli meat, potstickers, bagels, bread, chips, and a rotisserie chicken.
We supplemented the above with essential stuff like Milk from Safeway in Kapaa, random stops at fruit stands, shrimp trucks, and at Pono Market in Kapaa.
Trip: we didn't plan much, b/c our sched/itinerary depended on naps/feedings, but ended up alternating more strenuous activities with more laid back ones. Some highlights (and a fewlowlights) for us:
1. NOrth Shore: We drove to Kee but never got out of the car (babies sleeping). Instead we headed to Limahuli garden, but my son had probably the worst tantrum I have ever seen (the other visitors were chuckling and looking sympathetically at us). He was really tired, as we had just arrived the day before. So we had to nix the garden. Instead we parked at Anini and had a wonderful, beautifulafternoon at the beach. We felt very comfortable with my son swimming there, even with small waves and winds. My husband snorkeled a bit there, but the water was somewhat murky.
We returned to Anini on another day as well. It is a wonderful beach for little ones. Our car was so close to the sand--didn't have to lug our stuff far. There are no bathroom facilities though.
2. Waimea canyon. We tried the Pihea trail. Quite a few people there. It was tough with carrying the 2 little ones b/c the trail is pretty bumpy, muddy, slippery, and steep going down. Meaning that going up would be even tougher! Our son is a pretty good hiker for 2 yo, and he was able to go down, but then my husband had to carry him uphill in the child backpack carrier. Walking sticks helped. We were not able to get to the Pihea lookout. We walked past the 0.75 mile marker, but then turned back. For us that was enough!
3. Salt pond beach (visited after Waimea canyon). Great for playing in the waves. More crowded than our other beaches.
4. Lydgate beach/Kamalani Playground. Convenient and close to Kapaa. A little further of a walk to the sand from the parking lot. We were surprised at the numbers of fish we saw at Lydgate. Even my son could see fish in the water. Downside was I got stung by a Portugese Man o War in both hands and my hip. Not too painful, but I must have been unlucky as I was the only one stung, of the many beach goers there! Last time, I got the "sea beather's eruption" from the jelly fish babies getting caught/stinging under my swimsuit! That's an itchy red rash that lasts for weeks!
5. Kuilau trail in Wailua. This is beautiful, and our son walked the whole trail which is 2 miles round trip. But I would rate this as pretty hard for a 2 yo. It is uphill all the way and a little muddy. So it takes some convincing for a little child. Very pretty, lush views and a nice, covered picnic table for lunch. We missed the Hindu temple garden, but my kid probably wouldn't have tolerated it either--he was completely tired out from the hike.
6. Kapaa paved walk along the coast. This was a lovely walk, quite empty except for some fitness walkers/joggers. We started with Manju (filled pastries) from Pono market, found the path, and turned around at Kealia beach. Our son was content to ride in the stroller.
7. Resort, WBR. We played a lot at the resort. My son loved the waterslides and waterfalls. It's a salt water pool, apparently less stinging to the eyes (I can't tell). The pool was pretty empty when we were using it, probably b/c most people were out visiting the island. I liked that there was some shade covering the water earlier and later in the day, so our little baby could get in the water. We also walked along the resort's beach and played just at water's edge. They also do a koi fishing at 9am daily.
1. we brought a large pop-up sun cabana, (3 sided tent) from Amazon. This was useful to get out of the sun/wind, eat lunch, nurse the baby, change clothes, etc. It fit 4-5 people. Instant set up and collapsible. A lot of people at the beaches would ask us about this.
2. We also brought the Kelty child carrier. As above, it is easier to hike around with the hiking poles b/c the center of gravity really shifts. We compressed it and was able to have it as a carry on. OUr son does NOT like sitting in the stroller, so we only brought the cheap umbrella one. I saw other families gate-checking larger strollers (like the PHil& Teds, and the Bob).
3. For the baby, I used the Ergo. WE also have a baby bjorn active, but she is still a little young/small.
4. There were some mosquitoes, esp at Waipouli Beach Resort. Still I was the only one bitten (it is ALWAYS just me, in my family). We used ex officio Buzz off clothing/hats.
5. We didn't want to rent a crib (mostly we are lazy and unfortunately, our unit didn't have one), so we had the baby sleep in our suitcase! Open, of course! We lined the bottom with towels and then a quilt from home. The suitcase was beside our bed on the floor. We can't co-sleep b/c I get too nervous.
When our kids are a little older, we think we may rent a house at Anini or Poipu (which we didn't get to visit), esp Baby Beach as recommended by Martik. We thought our little one might need a/c this time since she is still so small, and our older one loves the swimming pools.
Everyone we met on the island was so so nice! I'm envious of everyone who lives there or gets to visit!