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With a world famous “swell” drawing surfers from around the globe in winter months, you might not think of Kauai’s north shore as any place you’d want your young children playing in the water. Spring through early fall, however, a few of the spectacular north shore beaches here are met by waters so calm that you’ll see toddlers and even babies playing in certain sheltered stretches along golden sand.
While you should always respect the daily surf and swim advisories at these and any other beaches, here are three best-bet beaches for pleasurable snorkeling, swimming, and splashing with toddlers and young kids on Kauai’s north shore.
1. Anini Beach
Often called “Kauai’s safest beach for swimming” and a favorite of many families, the sandy shore of Anini Beach actually stretches on for about 3 miles with plentiful trees for shade sprinkled along the way. Here you can wade into calm waters made still by the large Anini Reef just feet from shore. Making it all the more popular, Anini Beach is also the closest of the three beaches to many nearby resort properties, and the first of these three you’ll come to if making a day trip north from Lihue or Poipu. As you can see here, high tide leaves little beach for lounging, however, so in peak seasons and on weekends it may feel especially crowded on the beach nearest the picnicking area and showers. Just stroll on down the sand until you find a place that suits, or watch for various beach access points from the road as you drive in.
Tips: Go early or avoid weekends when it may be extra crowded by locals, watch out for prickly tree debris if you walk around in the shady areas.
Bring: Snorkels and/or goggles for kids, charcoal and something to throw on a barbecue for lunching in the picnic area, small cooler with your own refreshments so you can make the most of your trip to this beach.
2. Tunnels Beach (Ha’ena State Park)
When you first arrive at the parking area for Ha’ena State Park, you may be startled by the waves rolling in beyond the lifeguard tower here. Relax: This is not where you’re staying. Walk west along the beach two minutes and you’ll suddenly realize you’re at the start of a 2-mile stretch of sand and calm waters that parallel a thriving reef. There is not much shade to be found along the beach, and schlepping your kids and gear from the parking area across the hot sand can be a challenge–but one that will prove well worth it when your keiki spot their first humahumanukanukaapuaa within moments of sticking goggled faces in the water here.
Tips: Go early for the best parking, use the restrooms by the parking area before setting out on your hike; get there early to avoid having to park too far down the road when the parking lot fills; and get some fresh cold coconut, hot dogs, shave ice, or other snacks from the food truck on your way out; and don’t miss a quick visit to the giant cave across the street.
Bring: Snorkels and/or goggles for kids, plenty of water and snacks in a soft-sided cooler with a shoulder-carrying strap, pop-up sun tent or beach umbrella to make your own shade; good sandals for walking the distance on hot sand (for the kids especially).
3. Ke’e Beach
You’ll know you’ve reached Ke’e Beach when you run out of road – and parking. This popular beach is at its best in summer months when the north shore waters are at their calmest. As with Tunnels Beach, you’ll want to make your way down the beach toward your right for the calmest water and safest wading / swimming conditions along the sheltering reef. The left side of the main lagoon actually has a channel through the reef that can have dangerous currents. If you get there any time but early, you will likely have to park along the road before the small parking lot for Ke’e, so plan ahead and be prepared to carry all of your gear in one trip (you won’t want to double-back to the car for a forgotten item) and to carry any children you won’t want walking alongside the road. If that’s doable for your group, you’ll enjoy gazing up from this beach to the lush Na Pali mountains that jag upward from the lagoon while your tots splash at the water’s edge and you contemplate easy snorkeling just feet away while your partner takes his shift building castles with the keiki.
Tips: If you are hungry on your way in, or hot and thirsty on your way out, watch for a possible food truck in the parking area at Haena Beach Park (where you would park for Tunnels Beach, by the dry cave) or get fresh smoothies from the Juice Truck at Hanalei.
Bring: Plenty of food and water for your visit – you’ll have to drive out to find anything else and, with the lack of parking, that means your visit to this beach is over for the day. Also: Pop-up sun tent and other items you’ll want in a large tote-bag that requires only one hand to carry so you can keep a firm grip on your child’s hand if you must walk along the road, and/or the Ergo or other child carrier to make hands-free baby-toting a little easier on yourself.
What’s your favorite beach on Kauai? Have you visited any of these three? Here’s a map to help you get there, and don’t miss the related Kauai posts and pages listed below for more help planning your family’s vacation.
View Kauai’s best north shore beaches for kids in a larger map
Related posts and pages:
- Kauai’s best beach for babies and toddlers
- Kauai’s best playground – and off-airport waiting area for families
- Salt Pond Park – Kauai’s beach haven for little kids and little critters
- Review of Aqua Kauai Beach Resort
- Review of Castle Kaha Lani Kauai vacation condos
- Tips for visiting Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Gardens
- Pack This! Pop-up sun tent for shade
- Follow my Kauai with Kids board on Pinterest
Has this happened to you? After a 5+ hour flight from the mainland, we arrived on Maui at only 9:30 a.m. We weren’t guaranteed check-in at our first accommodations until 3 p.m. And we were, to be certain, fully saddled with all of our gear and feeling more than a little punchy.
As I mentioned in a recent post on Kauai’s Kamalani Playground at Lydgate Park, a family sometimes needs a good place to decompress between a long flight and that hour when they can (finally) check in to their accommodations. I knew this trip would be no exception for us and packed prepared for a quick and easy change to beach mode with my sites set on the more elusive of Maui’s “Baby Beaches”–that of the north shore.
If you’ll soon be flying to Maui with a baby, toddler, or young kids (or without for that matter), take note: This sheltered beach, with ocean waves stopped short by a natural shelf, can be reached in under 10 minutes from Maui’s Pinkberry (OGG) airport. If you find it on the first try. There are no signs pointing you to this beach–or even hinting that you’re on the right path to one–which makes it all the more enticing, don’t you think?
My tips for finding Maui’s Baby Beach on the north shore:
- Follow the signs to Highway 36 and the “Hana Highway”
- Watch for the realty office at the corner of Nonohe Place (as in, “No, no,” he said, arguing it had to be the next turn)
- Turn left onto Nonohe Place, then follow to the right, and follow your instincts there
- When the road suddenly turns to red dirt and ends by the ocean, you’re on the west end of the beach
- Park, and don’t advertise you have a full trunk when leaving your car (shuffle everything you can at the airport first). We lucked out and got this front row space where we could see our car from the beach.
- For best results, look at this satellite map to see where you are going (stay right, drive north, and you’ll continue to where the sand begins just above the west end of the golf course).
Hints: If you see the golf course from the highway or the country club, turn around, you’ve gone too far. If you find yourself at Baldwin Park, turn around, but use the pit toilets first if you need to!
Unlike some other beaches tucked in along this stretch as you venture toward the “Road to Hana,” which do have signs pointing you to them, there are no lifeguards here. Also, no showers. And no toilets. Keep the last point in mind before setting out from the airport in your rental car.
Still, this north shore “Baby Beach” is stunning, as you can see. And a great payoff for the whole family after a pre-dawn departure from home and several hours of airplane time. Oh, one more thing: YES, you can expect to see plenty of babies, toddlers, and kids of all ages romping at this beach.
Pack: Sun block, a spare towel from home, full water bottles, snacks.
Previous post: Maui’s Ulua Beach: Today I am a Mom
It was one of those humbling days – what? You think I’m exempt? I thrive on adventure and change and novelty while, well, some others in my brood could be content sitting behind a device developing the world’s best dinosaur park on a screen no bigger than a Belgian waffle.
Personally, I have no problem with that when we are home in July and the fog wafts by and all we can do is put on wool socks, build a fire, and look forward to another sunny October. But when we’re in Maui? Steps away from what many have declared the world’s best beaches–particularly for families? You bet I’m going to insert myself with an exclamation point and a full bottle of waterproof sunblock 50.
Let it be known: My family has no problem once it HITS the beach with being at the beach. In fact, you could say they are better at managing salt, sea, and sand in all of its–and all of our–extremities than I’ll ever be. It’s just getting them there.
So today, once we arrived, it was time to walk the walk. Sure, THEY were having fun with the boogie boards at one of Maui’s best–if not Maui’s best–beach for teaching kids to boogie board as well as snorkel. Was I going to merely sit by with snacks and water bottles ready? A sandy beach towel?
“Give me that boogie board, kid…” I said to a kid who was in no way used to hearing herself addressed to as such from this matron of the school lunch pail.
Let me say: I had some awesome rides. And although I may still be trying to get the sand (and water) out of my left ear, this may well go down in the annals of Rivoli history as the day that I–embarrassing sunburn down my thighs (yes, I’m the sunblock Nazi of the family), incredibly flattering new rash guard on my top, and sand packed everywhere possible in between–showed the kids just how to ride the short break on Maui. Again and again.
Being a good mom is as much about going beyond your comfort zone when needed as it is finding your way back to the kid you once were–at least once in a while. Here’s wishing you all a chance to do both on your next family excursion.
How about you?
When did you push beyond your comfort zone as a parent? Do a little more than you had to in order to show your kids the real you? The something they may have missed otherwise? Please share below!
If you missed my previous post, let me know if you have a guess!
What? This photo doesn’t show enough of the beach to guess? Come on, for some of you here that would have been WAY too easy. I’ll give you a hint though: You can be there in under ten minutes when leaving Maui’s Kahului Airport (provided you find it on the first try). One more hint: There are no signs to this beach.
Of course, the only hint you may need is that it’s the first place WE went after collecting our rental car.
Got a guess? Leave a reply below (and no, you don’t have to fill in all those fields if you don’t feel like it). Have a favorite beach in Maui you think we should check out while we’re here? I want to hear from you!
Well, time for a hand of UNO. Jetlag seems to have left the building only one day in to this trip!
On the surface, a first getaway with baby may seem more about what the parents want and need–and if you’ve been doing battle with the evening fussies, various post-partum adjustments, and slaying pile after pile of laundry on a severely limited sleep schedule, I think that’s perfectly reasonable, don’t you?!
However, no one should underestimate the benefits of a weekend’s vacation for baby as well: more attention from a more relaxed, more smiling mom and dad. To that end, this question comes from Mae of the San Francisco Bay Area:
First of all, I love your website. I’m a new mom, and your website is very informative. It helped me pick out the baby stuff I need
Anyway, my husband and I would like to take our baby to a mini getaway for a few days in late January. I know it’s going to be cold, so I’m wondering where is the best place to go in Northern California (we live by San Francisco, CA) – we don’t really know where to go…or where to begin to look, or how to plan it. Please help!
Thank you so much,
Mae, as you know, there are so many great destinations just a few hours away from San Francisco (or fewer). But with a new baby along for the adventure and a desire for relaxation probably topping your wish list (along with a change of scenery and escape from thank-you notes?), I’d point you to Bodega Bay–just a short drive up the coast toward the many small beaches of the Sonoma Coast–for a weekend getaway.
We’ve enjoyed vacation rentals in the area, which still have some short-notice availability and reasonable rates during this low season (try vrbo.com for starters), but I’d encourage you to also consider a stay at the Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa in a room with a view (or even a partial–that was perfectly pleasing for us).
Rooms have balconies, minibars with just enough room to keep leftover baby food, and fireplaces, so even in inclement weather you can enjoy your view and stay toasty beside your own blaze. The lodge also provides pack ‘n plays free on request. There is a restaurant on site for breakfasts and dinners–but with baby along, I highly recommend having dinner delivered to your door and eating it by your own fire (ah, room service…).
Best of all, you can slip into your lodge robe and slip off to a massage or other spa treatment while your partner keeps an eye on the baby. You can read more about Bodega Lodge & Spa in my review here and check for their latest specials and packages online (and while I’m not a stranger to sponsored travel, I received no compensation for my review or this recommendation).
Of course there is also Monterey and Santa Cruz to the south… but IMHO you should save those entertaining options for when your tot is ready to take in the aquarium and Dennis the Mennis Park, or build sand castles and conquer the boardwalk.
For more ideas on where to go and what to do with babies, toddlers and young kids, see Travels with Baby Destinations. Thanks for the question, and good luck with your getaway!
Parents, other recommendations for Mae?
Related posts and pages:
- Cheap & free Bodega Bay – with kids
- Ask Shelly advice
- Sand in my Robeez: 6 tips for a great weekend at the beach from a savvy 12-month-old
If you’ve ever stumbled onto something so great while traveling that you can’t wait to tell all your friends, but then you pause to think, well maybe just my best friends, you’ll have a good idea of how much we enjoyed our visit to Kauai’s Salt Pond Park. Well, friends, here’s what we found. (You’re welcome.)
While Kauai’s best known beaches lie on its north, east, and southeast shores, Salt Pond Park is located in the southwest of the island off Highway 50, just past Hanapepe Bay. The park is named for the still-active “salt farm” near it, which you can see from the entrance to the parking area.
If you plan to drive to Waimea Canyon during your stay in Kauai, Salt Pond Park makes a great stop along the way with easy swimming in fairly calm waters–particularly during low tide. Just be sure to bring your snacks and essentials as it’s off the track and away from any restaurants, shops, or resorts (part of the magic).
With jetlag on our side, we were able to time our first visit to Salt Pond to coincide with an early morning low tide. This was absolutely the best timing we could have had, as there was only one person, a camper, at the beach when we arrived.
We discovered that the large rocky formation that broke the small waves coming in was like its own small planet teeming with marine life. We immediately spotted banded coral shrimp, crabs, pipe fish, anemones. We discovered three types of sea cucumbers within a couple of feet of each other. And as I tried to stay ahead of the kids taking pictures all the while, I suddenly froze in my tracks.
I realized this harbor seal was snoozing peacefully behind me in the sand! We hurried away to leave him alone.
As the tide slowly turned, it brought in more and more little fish and a perfect waveless wading area began to deepen between the rocky ledge and the sandy beach. To the kids’ delight, a small waterfall began trickling of the rocks into their private swimming lagoon.
As the morning passed and the tide crept in, more people arrived on the scene, mostly local families coming to enjoy a beautiful Sunday at the beach. It had become one of those lovely places you can sit in calm water beside your splashing toddler and little kids afloat on their “looky boards” (highly recommended – available at Snorkel Bob’s) watching for fleeting fish.
You should note that when we returned later that day, during high tide, the scene was quite different. Nearly every parking space was taken. The cove beside this lagoon was dominated by water sports enthusiasts, and the lagoon itself was awash with small waves and bobbing swimmers, while bigger waves splashed over the rocky ledge. Still, it was a beautiful place, and calm enough for mediocre swimmers. If possible, I strongly recommend visiting Salt Pond Park on a low-tide morning. Bring your kids, bring your snacks, bring your beach goodies, and definitely… bring your camera.
While Kauai is blessed with a number of kid-friendly beaches (Anini, Kalapaki, Ke’e, Baby Beach, and Lydgate to name a few), there is one little beach that’s the best hands-down for letting babies enjoy the ocean.
Poipu Beach Park, located just across the street from Brennecke’s restaurant and beach deli, offers a sandy little nook built into the side of a small cove, where lava boulders reach out to block the already minimized waves coming in over coral reef. While it should be noted that swimming or snorkeling out in the center of the larger cove can have its hazards and it is always wise to check with the life guard in attendance before doing so, this portion to the east side is more like a saltwater wading pool which, at low tide, has virtually no waves (yes, that’s my little guy lying down on his stomach in it).
During low tide, the water can be so calm in the “baby zone” here that you may see babies bobbing in their float boats while parents sit waist-deep in the water visiting beside them. It’s one of the few places you may be comfortable enough to actually open a book while your toddler toddles in and out of the water beside you. With golden sand spread like a velvet blanket beneath the shallow water, there is no need for water socks or shoes in this sheltered nook.
As the tide comes in, small fish flush through the large rocks to the delight of curious parents and children. We saw crabs scuttle over the rocks as well, and one of my children even spotted a small striped eel hiding deep in a rocky nook. Tide conditions can vary throughout the month and the year, however, and they tend to be strongest along Kaua’s south shore in the summer months, so always approach new beaches with caution and common sense, especially with kids.
Poipu Beach Park also has restrooms with a family-size changing stall and bench that can be used for diaper changes, plus outdoor showers, and this playground:
Better still, you’ll find carry-out deli sandwiches made to order, cold drinks, and shave ice right across the street at Brennecke’s Beach Deli (on the ground level of the blue restaurant building). Grab your lunch or shave ice and stroll on over to enjoy them right on the sand or at a covered and shady picnic table.
If you are staying elsewhere on Kauai and would like to make a day trip south, exploring the island, Poipu Beach Park is an excellent place to stop for lunch or a cold treat (or both!) and enjoy some great family beach time with all the facilities you may need.
Do you have a favorite beach on Kauai? Do you plan to visit this gem on your trip?
|The sand beach and picnic area at Crissy Field, San Francisco.|
By the time we walked onto this beach at the Crissy Field picnic area (shown above), with the Golden Gate Bridge looming to our left, the lovely view of San Francisco with the Palace of Fine Arts dome and Marina District to our right, and stream of sailboats racing before us, I realized this is one place I simply have to bring everyone who comes to visit–including those of you reading this blog.
Crissy Field is near the Palace of Fine Arts, the Exploratorium (until it’s relocated later next year), the San Francisco overlook of the Golden Gate Bridge, and is bordered by the historic Presidio. There is a great walking and biking trail along the area, and you can stroll out onto that “Dock of the Bay” shown in the background if you like. Parking is free here but very competitive on the weekends, so visit on a weekday if possible during your vacation, or arrive early.
Also nearby is another of my favorite San Francisco beaches: Baker Beach, which is located just on the Pacific side of the Golden Gate Bridge (opposite of here). Both beaches can be windy and cold (note: this is not San Diego!), so be sure to bring jackets and hats unless you find yourself here on an unusually warm and gorgeous day such as we had.
Related posts and pages:
Exploring San Francisco’s Exploratorium with kids
To the Lighthouse: A visit to Point Bonita
Picnic at the Palace of Fine Arts
Go Dutch in Golden Gate Park at the Queen Wilhelmina Windmill
See all San Francisco tips and posts
- "99 of the Best Travel Blogs" from TravelBlogs.com "10 Best Family Travel Blogs" from Blogs.com "Top 10 Family Travel Blogs" from TripBase.com "Top 25 Travel Blogs for Families" and "#2 for Insider Tips and Tricks" from Babble.com
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