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I’m not sure it gets more beautiful, and at the same time laid back, than on the North Shore of Kauai. I was in love from the moment we got there until the moment we sadly had to leave the green covered mountains behind. So far I have focused on the flight and hotel aspects of our trip, but all of that plays second fiddle to the North Shore itself.
Eating on Kauai:
I like to experience travel with my taste buds. I may not always go for the fanciest or most refined food, but I love fresh and local food. In fact, if it comes from a hut or a stand I probably like it even better than if it is served on a silver platter. We only had two nights on the North Shore so didn’t get to try as many joints as I would have liked but we loved the places we did visit.
The Dolphin was a quick lunch stop for us after surfing in Hanalei Bay (more on that in a minute). They have both indoor and outdoor seating and are advertized as a restaurant, fish market, and sushi lounge.
We ate outside overlooking the Hanalei River and enjoyed the heck out of a poke bowl. The service was very quick and I could have eaten that meal every day for the rest of my life. The prices were also reasonable for Hawaii
We continued my search for fresh fish by having a meal at SushiGirl Kauai and we tried the “Action” poke bowl and a sushi burrito. The menu at SushiGirl is very short, so it may not be a joint that can please the whole family. There are also no tables, and most problematic for us…no restrooms. In fact, that was a theme on Kauai that resulted in some, um, improvisation for our four year old…
Sushi Girl herself was so friendly and the fish was indeed very fresh as advertized (and local). There is a kid’s menu there, but just keep in mind the choices are quite limited. We loved it and ate the fish sitting in on a rail in the parking lot.
No trip to Kauai is complete without several servings of shave ice. On the North Shore we went to “Kauai’s Best Shave Ice”, which may not be the best, but was pretty good. The ice tastes more like snow and the three of us all shared one huge bowl of rainbow colored shave ice to conclude an awesome day on the North Shore.
On the way to or from the North Shore you can stop at Ono Char Burger in Anahola, but be sure to pack a bag full of patience and no need for a restroom because again, there wasn’t one. We enjoyed our Local Boy and Local Girl burgers of teriyaki, cheese, and pineapple. The onion rings were also quite impressive!
The downside here was the hour long wait for food….seriously. They said about 35 minutes when we ordered, but that was really an hour. They do have outdoor tables, but that was just too long to wait with a four year old (and hungry husband) for food, especially with no bathroom. We did see locals coming to pick-up orders that they seem to have called in, so I’m not sure if that works for tourists, but it looked like a much more efficient way to get a burger than the massive wait we had.
Surfing Hanalei Bay:
My husband and I went surfing in Hanalei Bay with a surfing lesson at Titus Kinimaka’s School of Surfing. The beginner lessons there are just $65 for a 90 minutes and that includes the board rental and a long sleeve rash guard to borrow, both of which you are able to keep the rest of the day if you wish. The class size is a max of three, but there were just the two of us in our class. They also offer stand-up paddle board lessons if you are so inclined.
In North Shore fashion, the lesson didn’t start on time and there were no frills. You had to carry your own board, walk a fair bit, and just be laid back about the whole process. We had lessons last year in Waikiki and found learning at Hanalei Bay to be much better for beginners. The waves were very gentle and the water was very shallow. It would have potentially been boring if you were a good surfer the day we were there, but for us it was great. We saw many kids just a couple years older than Little C having a great time learning to surf in this calm bay.
Helicopter Tours from Princeville:
One of my favorite moments from my trip to Kauai with my daughter last summer was the helicopter ride that we took together to see the island. My husband wasn’t with us on that trip, so we wanted him to be able to get the same amazing views of Kauai that we did. Since we were already on the North Shore we took advantage of flying out of the Princeville Aiport with Sunshine Helicopters.
They offered a $50 discount per person if you flew before 8:30AM or after 2:00PM, but when we called to make a same-day reservation (not necessarily recommended) the only flight time they had was 1PM. However, since it was same day and close to 2PM they gave us the $50 discount per person anyway. This is still far from an inexpensive activity, but I think doing it once is well worth it. It wasn’t as magical the second time for me, but I was glad we were there to experience it with my husband because there is just no better way to see the lush green of Princeville, the waterfalls, the Waimea Canyon, and the Napali Coast in a short amount of time.
Even our four year old gets a real thrill out of helicopter rides, but we did purposefully not select some of the “open door” helicopter options due to her age. I’m not going to lie, there is an element of “scary” on helicopter rides, but my gosh you get one heck of a view.
More Family Friendly Things on the North Shore:
In our limited North Shore time we only scratched the surface of cool family-friendly things to do. We will be back, and with more time on that side of the island. On our future to do list on the North Shore includes:
Saturday Morning Hanalei Farmer’s Market: we actually saw this going on as we went to/from surf lessons in Hanalei Bay, but didn’t have a chance to stop
Princeville Ranch Adventure: Most of the hiking, horseback riding, and motorized vehicle activities are best geared for kids a little bit older than our daughter, but I love the variety of different activities tailored to different ages and activity levels here.
What I love about this ranch is that in addition to having what looks like being located in a spot filled with tropical flora and views of the Makaleha mountain range is that young children can also participate in the horseback riding. I contacted them and found out that they will take 5 and 6 year old who have a guide assigned to them with a line attached to their horse so they stay safe on the group trail rides for an additional charge.For families on their “Ride, Swim & Picnic” tours they offer transport to the waterfall in their 4 wheel drive “gator” for children under 5, or for those who do not choose to ride, so that they can join the group for the swim and picnic portion of the tour. During the time at the waterfall guides are happy to lead the tiny tots around on horseback so long as an adult is willing to walk alongside.
The North Shore has hippies, rain, roosters, fresh fish, laid back attitudes, hitchhikers, magical sunsets, green mountains, a calm bay, and more beauty than I will ever be able to fully appreciate. It is the perfect spot for a family vacation and I will be devoting much more time to the North Shore on our next trip than I did on this one. There are few places in the world I love more than right here.
Stay tune for our adventures on the East and South side of the island, as well as our review of a suite at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
Special thank you to Mommy Points reader Geoffrey for some great North Shore recommendations!