Salt Pond Beach Park, which is named for its traditional Hawaiian salt collecting beds, is located on Kauai’s western shore. If you are traveling along Hwy 50, heading west from Kalaheo, after passing Hanapepe town turn left onto Lele Road or Hwy. 543. Protected by natural lava rock ridges as waves break outside the reef, Salt Pond Beach is perfect for little keiki. Shallow pools and lagoons are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and tidepooling. Furthermore, this lifeguarded beach offers amenities such as restrooms, showers, and pavilions.
Adjacent to the Salt Pond Beach are the The Salt Flats. This delicate area is restricted, unless you have been invited by a member of a salt making family. Making pa’akai or Hawaiian sea salt is an ancient cultural practice that is passed down from generation to generation. Kauai is the only place in Hawaii that makes salt according to the ancient traditions which are all done by hand.
Looking from a distance, you may see the salt patch or lo’i filled with rows of oval salt beds which are lined with clay. These shallow beds allow for the evaporation of seawater and produce this prized sparkling salt. Held in respect, the salt is never sold; it is only given away. The Hawaiian salt is used for cooking, seasoning, preserving food, medicinal purposes and in cultural blessings. The season runs from May-September; the amount of harvested salt depends on many natural variables such as the sun, ocean tides and weather conditions.
Salt beds, Hanapepe
On the Salt ponds side of the beach, the beach in this area is reddish-golden from the clay that lies beneath the water. If you want to access this part of the beach, it is recommended that you walk from the main beach. Although you may see vehicles lined up on the sand and parked along the fenceline, please avoid trying to park here (If you do access the beach from the back side, do not drive right on the beach as it damages the sand dunes that protect the salt patches from high surf.) A paved parking lot that is next to the salt beds can be used.
At this part of Salt Pond Beach, my sons were entertained by the red and greyish clay in this area. They were running it through their hands and trying to break it apart with rocks. Also, there were many fish in this lagoon as my husband took the boys to look at the different types of fish found in the shallow waters. We were even able to Find Nemo (a clownfish) that happened to come in with the tide and a plethora of other reef fish.
Salt Pond is a great choice for a day at the beach with your keiki.
At the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge you will encounter unprecedented sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The contrast of colors in this landscape is amazing with the deep greens and browns of the cliffside, to the blacks of the rocks, to the vibrant bright blues of the ocean.
LEARN & DISCOVER
There are many things to take notice of and engage the keiki in.
Seabirds are everywhere, hugging the cliffs, hovering above you, hiding from you, and even walking amongst you. Observation scopes are located throughout the pathways and binoculars are available for the keiki to use. Just sign them out and return when you are done.
2. WHALES, DOLPHINS, NENE, & MONK SEALS
Besides the opportunity see seabirds in their natural habitat, there are also opportunities to see other wildlife such as whales and dolphins, endangered Nene, and Hawaiian monk seals. On this particular day, the Nene were approaching nesting season. Therefore, we were able to observe mating behaviors such as them “talking” to each other and acting territorial. We have also seen whales during whale watching season which runs from November-May. Dolphins can also be spotted from the lookout areas and are usually most visible during the summer months.
3. NATIVE PLANTS
Along the property there are informational picture boards which provide a visual inventory of what to look for. Walking up the pathway to the lighthouse, take notice of the abundance of native plants. Try to have the keiki match the picture and the description with the plants around you. The easiest one to identify is the native Napaka shrub. It has waxy green leaves with white flowers that have five petals and looks like a half-flower. Your keiki can reach these along the path and feel the surface of the leaves for the texture.
There is a Hawaiian legend that goes with this half – flower that you can tell your keiki. One version is about a royal princess who fell in love with a commoner from the mountains. Together the princess and the commoner traveled up the mountain in distress. The kupuna told them that there is nothing that he could do so that they could be together. So as a token or rememberance of her love, the princess took the flower from her ear and tore it in half telling the commoner that he must go by the water and live.
Since then, the Naupaka flower only bloomed in half-flowers where one-half can be found near the sea and it’s counter-part found in the mountains. Some say that if you find one of each flower and put them together, you reunite their love and it can bring you good luck. The Naupaka plant can easily root near sand and rocks and is found along most of the beaches on Kauai as it prevents erosion.
4. Kilauea Point Lighthouse
The historic Daniel Inouye Lighthouse is another highlight. Tours are offered on certain days and times of the week, so if you are interested in actually going up into the lighthouse, plan ahead. Children need to be 44 inches tall for this activity.
Admission for children 15 and under are free and adults are $5 per person so this is a great bargain. If you are a L.O.C.A.L. (Kamaaina) you can purchase a yearly pass for $20 that allows entry for 4 people. Only cash and traveler’s check are accepted as forms of payments, so make sure you bring some cash. The Refuge is closed on Sunday and Monday and open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm so plan accordingly.
On the way out, there is a great bookstore that offers books and gifts or information to reinforce anything that your keiki may have been interested in
Heading north on Kuhio Hwy. from Lihue pass through the towns of Kapaa and Anahola. The next town is Kilauea (look for the gas station on the right) and turn right onto Kolo Road. Pass the gas station and make the first left onto Kilauea Road. The refuge is at the end of this scenic road, about 2 miles in.
At a 4,000 foot elevation, Waimea Canyon coined the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, boasts panoramic views and along with Kōkeʻe State Park are must see on Kaua’i. It has taken millions of years to create the splendid array of greens, browns, and reds colors showcasing the canyon. The Waimea River, erosion from the rain, water from the peaks of Mount Waiʻaleʻale, and volcanic activity are all contributors to the natural beauty that the canyon displays. Waterfalls are visible in the distance and rainbows frequently inhabit the cliffsides. A feeling of peace and tranquility sets in place as you reconnect with nature.
Getting to Waimea Canyon and Kōkeʻe
There are actually two ways to access Waimea Canyon/Kokee. After heading West on Hwy. 50, continue through Waimea town and turn right, heading mauka (towards the mountain) on Waimea Canyon Drive (Hwy. 550). This is the first option to get to Waimea Canyon. If you prefer to continue west on HWY. 50, another option to get up to the canyon is available where you can also get a glimpse of the old sugar plantation town of Kekaha and pass the sugar mill that has been closed since 1999. Continuing west, when approaching Kekaha, Turn right onto Hwy 55. The route is better on the vehicle as the climb up is less steep. Both of these routes lead to the Waimea Canyon, however each route has its own breathtaking views and experience.
Nonetheless, around mile marker 6, the two roads end up merging. From a L.O.C.A.L perspective, a recommendation is to go up using the Waimea route (Hwy. 50) to experience the rolling hills and magnificent red dirt features and then descending the mountain using the Kekaha (Hwy. 50) route as it is less steep and gives you great views of Niihau and the Westside of Kauai’s landscape, the best of both.
Continue on this curvy road about 4 miles and you will see the sign for Waimea Canyon lookout which is located between mile markers 10 and 11.
Waimea Canyon Lookout
Veer right into the parking lot area. Here there are restrooms and also snacks for sale. You can purchase dried fruits and you must try the coconut water which is cold and crisp. You can reach the lookout from the shorter steeper ascend on the left or the ramp which provides a gradual ascend. If you have children or a stroller and head up the gradual ramp, you will not be able to access the upper lookout because of the stairs. Likewise, if you take the steeper shorter route, you will not be able to access the lower lookout area. You do have the option of carrying your children but make sure they are carefully watched. If you have an infant, a carrier would be perfect. Either way, have your camera ready for the sweeping views of the canyon.
Continuing on to Kōkeʻe State Park
There are two other lookouts along the route to Kokee State Park, the Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout located between mile markers 12 and 13 and the Puu Hina Hina Lookout located between mile markers 13 and 14. We usually skip these because of time constraints and also depending on the state of the children. After continuing on Kokee Road for a few more miles or so you will reach Kokee State Park.
Although relatively speaking Kokee is close to Waimea, the terrain and climate differ significantly with the increased elevation. Kokee State Park is a natural watershed, an area of land from which all surface and groundwater flows from higher elevation, Mount Waiʻaleʻale, downhill to the Waimea River. Many community groups work to preserve and educate others about this intricate watershed and the importance of wai or water to the area and surrounding land. The watershed is abundant with many native plants but also has invasive intruders in the form of invasive plants and animals such as pigs and goats that disturb native vegetation. You will feel a difference in the temperature of the air as this increased elevation brings cooler temperatures. It may often be about 10 degrees cooler in Kokee than in Waimea or Kekaha, especially in the winter months.
Kōkeʻe Lodge, Kōkeʻe Natural History Museum, and the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow
As you turn into Kokee State Park you will see, Kokee Lodge and the Kokee Natural History Museum to your left. The area is defined by the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow on your right, a large open area for recreation which is a great place to have a picnic with the family or let your keiki run around a bit before getting back into the car.
Kokee Lodge offers food for purchase and also restroom facilities. Check out the Kokee Natural History Museum which offers information on hiking trails and the surrounding area. Local books, maps, artwork, and handcrafted keepsakes are for sale. They are open daily from 10-4pm and admission is free so it’s a perfect family activity.
Continuing Further On to Kalalau Lookout
After stopping at the museum, you must continue on Kokee Road a few more miles to mile marker 18 to the magnificent Kalalau Lookout. Satisfaction will take over that you can go no further. Standing from the lookout you will see astonishing sweeping views of Kalalau valley. On clear days you may even catch a glimpse of the shores of Kalalau beach. Kalalau is only accessible on foot through a 13 mile hike beginning at Ke’e beach on Kauai north shore. You will understand why you cannot circle the island, as the Napali cliffs lie in the way ans will be amazed by the natural beauty that surrounds you.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Poipu. We were lucky enough to see two Hawaiian Monk seals sunbathing on the beach. One was on the main beach and the other out on the sand bar. The water was calm in the “kiddie pool” (which is located to the left of the lifeguard stand if you are facing the water) dispite posted signs on the other side of the beach warning rip currents and strong tides. There were many people out snorkeling. The lifeguards were announcing that snorkeling is actually one of the most dangerous activities. They expressed making sure that you have the proper gear and know how to use your gear. As a general rule, “When in doubt, don’t go out” and know you and your children’s personal limits. Always follow posted signs; Lifeguards were recommending snorkeling in front of and to the left of the lifeguard stand. My keiki like to use a full face snorkel mask like the one shown here that allows for natural breathing.
It was very hot today. Make sure your keiki are protected from the sun by applying and reapplying sunscreen throughout the day. Rash guards and sunhats also lend protection while in the water. Also, schedule a break for your keiki to hydrate and have a snack.
This lifeguarded beach has many amenities like restrooms, picnic areas, and showers. Brenneck’s is located directly across from the beach. There is a restaurant on the upper level and the lower level has a deli. You can purchase sandwiches, drink, beach accessories like floats and sand buckets, icecream and shave ice. If you need shade this beach has a patch of ironwood trees behind the “kiddie pool” and plumeria trees along the rock wall near the street. There are also some other trees that provide shade. Nukumoi Surf Co. is located across the street from this beach. They have clothing and rent beach equipment and gear like snorkel sets, boogie boards, beach chairs, surfboards, fins, and lifejackets.
My sons enjoyed catching crabs along the boulders most of the time they were here. We took a walk down to check out the Hawaiian Monk seal and then headed to Brennecks for some Shave Ice.
Sunbathing since 7:30a.m.
Restrooms and Pavillions
Caution: Hawaiian Monk Seal
Remember to follow the beach safety guidelines, check surf and weather reports for current conditions, and observe posted signage. Keep a constant watch on keiki who are playing in or around the water. Never leave children unattended. Small children should wear safety floatation devices unless they are avid swimmers and are being closely supervised.
Visiting Kauai with Kids? Check out these low cost and at leisure opportunities for play and exploration given from a L.O.C.A.L perspective:
Loving Our Community and Lifestyle
The honeymoon phase is over. Well, maybe not entirely but this trip you will now bring along your bundle of joy (or joys) that you have created out of the love you have for each other. Keiki is the Hawaiian word for child and is interpreted as “little one”. Yes these little ones can bring us a joy and happiness that we have never experienced otherwise. They teach us things about our character that we didn’t even know. They challenge us in new ways and bring out our biggest fears, one being traveling with keiki!
Kauai with Keiki blog is written by a mother and father of two, ages 4 and 6, both teachers with over 12 years of experience each who like to be prepared and have a plan. I have lived on the island of Kauai since 2002 and my husband is from here. We frequently travel back to the mainland to visit my 5 brothers and sisters. Upon returning from our latest trip in which we visited 4 different states, we realized that we were craving information on what to do with our keiki in these areas. We wanted up to date information from the inside perspective, written by a family that actually experienced it. We wanted suggestions on where to go, where to eat, and what to bring. We wanted to learn about the community where we were. We created this website as a resource for families who are looking for an inside perspective on where to go and what to do on Kauai. Enjoy! Go Explore.