Family Vacation to Kauai: South Shore

Family Vacation to Kauai: South Shore
After a beautiful time in the north shore of Kauai, we headed south to sunny Poipu Beach. We knew the north—with its lush greens and overall Jurassic Park vibe—would be hard to beat, but Poipu was just as perfect. We stayed at the Kiahuna Plantation, the same spot where my family spent some wonderful vacations when I was a teenager. It was a bit surreal to come back two decades later with my own family this time! We lucked out with a bungalow just steps from the beach, but it was the plantation's expansive lawns—complete with hills and bridges—that were a toddler's paradise. Here's how we spent our time in the south.

Toddler taking in the scene at Poipu Beach, Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai
Perfect beach set-up: sand toys, shades & a colorful striped Las Bayadas blanket

The perfect beach set-up: shades, sand boys, and a colorful striped blanket.

Toddler taking in the sunset at Poipu Beach, Kiahuna Plantation (+ fave Patagonia hat)
Patagonia kids' hat
Every night, Will loved announcing, "Sun going down!" Since we had our own kitchen—a big plus!—we'd then head back to our bungalow to make dinner or hit up the shared grills on the lawn.

Visit to the Kauai Plantation Railway - perfect toddler activity for Kauai family vacations
all aboard the Kauai Plantation Railway!
Feeding pigs along the Kauai Plantation Railway

The Kauai Plantation Railway, aka "plantation choo choo," was a huge highlight for our little train lover. We even got to stop and feed some pigs along the way! This off-the-shoulder dress was perfect for throwing on over a swimsuit and heading from beach to train and everywhere in between (other favorite stops included Bubba’s for burgers and shakes and Lappert’s for ice cream).

Plenty of lawn to play Frisbee at the Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai

Toddler taking over the lawn at the Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai
Toddler learning how to throw a Frisbee

Will must have logged at least three miles one night running all over the lawn playing Frisbee. He showed off his new counting skills, shouting to ten (occasionally leaving out a number or two), and then demanding that we throw the Frisbee "way up high!" It was actually more like fetch.

mother-son love captured at sunset at Poipu Beach, Kauai
mother-son photos at sunset at Poipu Beach, Kauai
playing in the waves at sunset at Poipu Beach, Kauai

getting soaked by the waves at sunset

Our last night of vacation was magical. The plan was to take a few family photos on the beach, but there wasn't much beach left! Will and I waded into the water and after a few bigger-than-expected waves, we were soaked. I figured that would be it for our mother-son photos, but Will was loving it. So we stayed and played in the waves—in our clothes—until the sun set.

Mother-son moment at Poipu Beach, Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai
playing in the waves at sunset - a magical moment from our family vacation to Kauai
toddler braving the waves with mommy - Poipu Beach, Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai
mother-son love
family of three (and another on the way!) - Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai

The rare family shot! Thank you, kind person, for offering to take this for us.

father-son moment and beautiful blue-green waters at Poipu Beach, Kauai
father-toddler holding hands on the beach
father & son running on the beach - Kauai
toddler sprints on the sand at Poipu Beach, Kauai

Running on the sand while holding hands with dad was another favorite beach activity for Will.

Toddler loving the outdoor showers at Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai
Washing the sand off of little toes - Kiahuna Plantation, Kauai

Washing off the sand one last time...for now! I can't wait to come back someday as a family of four.

Aloha for now, Kauai!

Family Vacation to Kauai: North Shore

Mommy, toddler & a bun in the oven on the beach in Princeville, Kauai
Right before Will’s second birthday, we snuck in a family vacation to Kauai. As other parents can probably guess, we were capitalizing on Will’s final free flight. We also wanted to take a trip while baby number two requires no additional luggage. I wouldn't exactly call it a babymoon (is it a babymoon when you're changing diapers?), but it was hands-down my favorite vacation ever. Getting to spend so much time with Will was incredibly special. Nick and I felt like we saw him learn and grow so much on this trip. We loved seeing him experience so many new things, from his first waves to his first shaved ice, and listening to him talk nonstop.

We spent half of our time on Kauai's lush north shore in Princeville, and the other half in the south's sunny Poipu. Here are the highlights from our time up north.

St. Regis, Princeville, Kauai

We stayed at the St. Regis, which is home to a postcard-perfect beach surrounded by green mountains. We definitely played the Jurassic Park soundtrack and told Will to look for dinosaurs as we made our way from the airport to the resort.

Perfect toddler beach at the St. Regis Kauai

Family vacation to Kauai: St. Regis, Princeville
Experiencing the ocean in Princeville, Kauai

It was Will's first time up close with the ocean. We were so surprised when he sat right down in the water on our first day.

Toddler experiencing the ocean for the first time
Here comes a wave...
Toddler experiencing waves for the first time
Waves are fun!
Toddler's first reaction to waves: all smiles!
This is my favorite series from the whole trip. When the (tiny) waves started to roll in, Will couldn't get enough. He kept asking for "more big ones!"

Asking for more waves already
That face!

Flying high at the pool at the St. Regis Princeville, Kauai
Family pool time at the St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

The pool was big hit, too. Will loved being thrown "way up high!" and thought my cannonballs were hilarious.

Beautiful sunset in the north shore of Kauai

This was a pull-over-on-the-side-of-the-road kind of sunset.

Baby bump at the beach

Baby bump at 24 weeks.

Toddler digging the sand


Baby and baby brother on the way

mother-son giggles

Mommy and toddler comparing baby bellies
Comparing our baby bellies.

View of the sunset from the St. Regis Princeville, Kauai
The view at sunset from the hotel bar.

Floating around the pool at the St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

Pineapple pool float (sunnylife)
Our pineapple float was super popular with the pool crowd—everyone wanted to know where we got it (answer: Nordstrom).

Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei, Kauai

Shaved ice break at Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei

This vacation was also filled with daily trips for ice cream and shaved ice. Wishing Well Shave Ice in nearby Hanalei had amazing combos, like this bowl of pineapple and mango shaved ice over vanilla ice cream. It was love at first bite for this sweaty little kid.

Sunset on the beach at the St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

Building sand castles on the beach at sunset

Pastel sunset at the St. Regis Princeville, Kauai

mother-son selfie at sunset during our family vacation to Kauai

Another spectacular sunset—plus a sunset selfie.

After hours swimming at the St. Regis Princeville

mother-son smooch

When your mom didn't bring your swimsuit because it was way past everyone's bedtime but you want to go in the pool anyway, you go skinny dipping (shhhh).

Hiking the Na Pali coast, Kauai

Na Pali coast hike with a toddler in an Osprey pack

Beautiful views along the Na Pali coast hike

Hiking the Na Pali Coast was insanely beautiful. Will let everyone on the trail know when a helicopter was in sight (which was basically every two minutes given how popular helicopter tours are in these parts) and stayed on the lookout for a T-Rex.

Another stop at Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei, Kauai

Favorite north shore spot for shaved ice: Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei

And lastly, one more stop at our favorite shaved ice joint before heading south.