Waimea Plantation Cottages, Kauai, Hawaii

#hosted by Waimea Plantation Cottages; all opinions are my own

What a wonderful week our family had in Kauai, Hawaii! This was our family’s first trip to Hawaii and I spent lots of time researching which island was best for us. After narrowing it down to the least tourist-visited islands, we landed on Kauai, the Garden Island. Lush vegetation, impressive hikes and the beautiful Na Pali Coast made this an easy decision for our family. We aimed to “live like locals” for the week and while we did some tourist activities, we mainly laid low in the sweet area of Waimea (west side, best side!) where our hotel was located. It was a really great family trip and we absolutely recommend Kauai!

The Hotel

What a gem I found in Waimea Plantation Cottages! This plantation-style village of cottages on the west side of Kauai was our favorite part of the trip. These cottages were built between the late 1800’s-early 1900’s and still have the same historic charm. Each cottage is named after the sugar cane plantation worker that once lived there – so sweet! We had the best time in cottage #77, an adorable blue cottage with a large back porch ideal for watching the sunrise with ocean views and walking distance from the pool.

What we loved most about Waimea Plantation Cottages was that our boys had green grass to run around in and adventure: there is nothing better than letting our bros roam! In between activities or on days that we hung around the cottage, the bros would happily play beach volleyball, kick around a ball or find other visiting children to run around with. It was so sweet to see them enjoy the gorgeous hotel grounds, filled with palm trees and sunshine!

A home away from home, Waimea Plantation Cottages offered a full kitchen which was super useful for us. With a local grocery store just down the road, we were able to eat many meals at the cottage, whether indoors in the kitchen or on the out back patio. We also had access to complimentary laundry services while there. For times that we wanted to grab a quick bite, it was nice to have the on-site Chicken in a Barrel restaurant there for us to secure pizzas, wings or a light snack or drink.

Waimea & Businesses that Gave Back

While Waimea Plantation Cottages do not currently have a give back program in place, several local Waimea businesses gave back in a big way. Our favorite was Kekaha Crossfit, one of the locations affiliated with Keala Foundation in the nearby town of Kekaha, a mission-driven non-profit that helps build healthy communities for youth in Hawaii. From offering free CrossFit kids classes to local youth to offering an ocean safety program, Keala Foundation is doing so much good for youth and teens in Hawaii. We visited Kekaha Crossfit multiple times during our trip and our visits there felt like being with family.

Another Waimea-centered business that gave back that we loved to support was JoJo’s Shaved Ice. What makes this delicious shaved ice stand special is that it gives all of its profits to fund free camps for Hawaiian youth who would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience such a camp. This camp enables children with few opportunities to have a free holiday in a tropical environment and to experience God’s love and the love of others. It felt so special to support this special business and it was SO good!

Waimea Canyon

Referred to as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii, Waimea Canyon stunned (I actually liked it better than the real Grand Canyon ;))! We were so blessed to have our hotel located less than thirty minutes from the canyon and we enjoyed a day spent exploring at this beautiful site. What we loved about this state park was that it offered several kid-friendly viewing areas and some light hikes ideal for young kids.

One tip is to avoid paying the entrance fees to the state park (a steep $20 per car and an additional $5 per person in the car) and just drive a little bit further from the entrance. There you can find several great trailheads and other beautiful viewing areas that are less tourist-filled.

Griffin captured the sweetest picture of Logan and I hugging overlooking the canyon and it’s one of my most treasured photos. The whole family thought the canyon was beautiful and we really enjoyed the sites there. Another way to see the canyon is through helicopter which many travelers choose to do.

Na Pali Coast

It was such a gift to be hosted by Capt Andy’s, a well-known catamaran tour that explores the beautiful Na Pali Coast state park. Explorable mainly by boat or helicopter, this coast is an absolute beauty! The greens and rigid lines of the coastline mountains are unlike anything we have ever seen. It was such a treat to experience the Na Pali coast and to do so with the comforts that Capt Andy’s offered our family.

On their luxury 65′ catamaran, we took the Star Dinner Sunset Sail, a 4-hour downwind cruise with freshly prepared dinner and cocktails and amazing views of the sunset. The bros enjoyed the family-friendly aspects of the boat, interacting with another young family who was visiting, and ran all over the boat looking to spot whales and dolphins. We saw lots of wildlife from afar and even had several dolphins swim under our catamaran! The family-friendly staff really made the experience, with the sweetest staff members helping the kids spot wildlife and helping them navigate the ship.

One note: I unexpectedly got sea sick on the catamaran right as we got to the coastline. I’ve been on several boats including a large yacht and I have never gotten sea sick before. Be aware that this coast is known for rocky seas and can cause seasickness. Thankfully my illness passed quickly and I was able to enjoy this beautiful experience otherwise.

Salt Pond Beach

Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches and Kauai is no different. We visited several wonderful beaches but definitely had a local favorite. We visited the famous Poipu Beach and while the water colors were absolutely gorgeous and the homes and hotels near the area were super luxurious, it was very busy with tourists. We were grateful to have the opportunity to experience this beach in-person and were even able to see some large sea turtles taking naps after their long swims in the ocean.

Another beach we visited was Glass Beach, a unique beach full of washed-up sea glass in many colors and forms. This beach was once a collection site for local’s trash which led to several bottles and glass items becoming sea glass. The bros (and I!) had a ton of fun searching for unique sea glass and we would recommend making a quick stop by to this beach but not choosing it for an afternoon of lounging.

Our favorite beach by far was Salt Pond Beach! Located nearby to Waimea in Hanapepe, Salt Pond Beach Park was kid-friendly, not super crowded and the best vibe. We loved that they had lifeguards and little tide pools ideal for our bros to splash in safely, with calmer waters and reefs in place to keep swimmers away from deeper waters. We met several locals on the beach and one afternoon our bros played for four hours straight with a local child their age from Kauai. It had easy parking and bathrooms and was hands-down the best beach on the island. We even saw a sleeping Hawaiian monk seal on shore!

Our Favorite Food in Kauai

Our favorite smoothie and açaí shop in Waimea (or maybe the world :)) was G’s Juice Bar located walking distance from Waimea Plantation Cottages. We all daily desired to visit G’s and to enjoy their healthy and delicious offerings. We loved the location and the friendliness of the staff and couldn’t recommend G’s Juice Bar more!

Local to Waimea was also The Shrimp Station, offering laid-back dining and fresh shrimp in different variations. Turns out Landon, our oldest son, is a shrimp monster! We think he ate at least two dozen shrimp this week.

For sushi, we recommend Japanese Grandma’s Sushi located in nearby Hanapepe. We aren’t big fans of uncooked sushi (although the poke there is highly recommended!) but we did enjoy a takeout order of some delicious veggie and tempura sushi rolls. We recommend the Tiger Roll and taking a stroll in cute Hanapepe while you wait on your order.

In the morning, I love to try a new local decaf coffee when we travel so the bros surprised me two mornings with a delicious latte from Aloha n’Paradise. Highly recommend this local coffee bar while in Waimea.

While visiting the Poipu area, we planned for a nice sit-down dinner on our last night in Kauai. We chose Keiko’s Paradise, a true dining experience. Our bros loved the live-music and lush gardens at the restaurant and we enjoyed trying local cuisine. We all chose a local fish and enjoyed tropical cocktails, chatting about our last week spent in Hawaii. The most special part of the dinner was their delicious Hula pie! This specialty pie in Kauai is made up of macadamia nut ice cream, chocolate and whipped cream. It’s a must-get item on their menu!

How to Budget for a Trip to Kauai

A visit to Hawaii is expensive! Compared to other luxurious areas we’ve visited recently from the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador to a Tanzanian safari, we found Hawaii to be the most expensive! I have some tips, though, on how families could visit Kauai on a budget, saving some money to make for a doable experience for many:

  • Choose hotel accommodations that include a kitchen: one of the best parts of our stay at Waimea Plantation Cottages was that we had a refrigerator, stove and oven. We went grocery shopping also daily to cut back on our expenses while there and enjoyed many breakfasts and dinners back at the cottage.
  • Open a travel credit card for a rental car: rental cars are essential on the island of Kauai and we secured a free rental car through the bonus points of opening a credit card. What should have been a $1000 rental car was free for us for the week.
  • Search out free activities: a hike in Waimea Canyon and a visit to the swinging bridge in Hanapepe were two of our family’s favorite free activities. We also liked the Wailua Falls and would have spent more time there if the rain held off. And in Hawaii, a visit to all state beaches are free!

We had a great first visit to Hawaii as a family! The west side area of Kauai, specifically Waimea, was our favorite and we highly recommend it for families. The outdoor activities and quaintness of the cottages truly made our experience spectacular. When considering a stay in Kauai, do not miss out on Waimea Plantation Cottages.

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