The west side of Kaua'i, which includes Waimea Town to Polihale at the end of the road, and far up into Waimea Canyon and Koke'e state parks may be the least frequented side of the island, but it shouldn't go unexplored. Just about everything to be enjoyed out here is family-friendly and can be experienced in one full day.
Begin the day with breakfast near your hotel, which will most likely be on the North Shore or the east side. A quick breakfast at Java Kai at either location in Kapa'a or Hanalei will be ideal before the drive to the west side. The west side begins at the small, or tiny, town of Ele'ele.
Start your west side adventure with time at Glass Beach, where the children will have a wonderful time collecting beach glass of all colors, which blankets the sand. There may even be a monk seal basking on the beach; keep a good distance and enjoy the sight. To get here, turn left down Waialo Road and then another left on Aka Ulu Street. It will soon turn to dirt, and hang a right at the fork in the road.
A monk seal at Glass Beach — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
From here, it's up to historic Hanapepe Town where a walk around the quaint village will take you through the highlights. First, stop by the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. Children get a thrill from the shaking of the historic bridge as it crosses over the river.
From here, head further west down the street to the Children's Media Center and Storybook Theater of Hawaii. The non-profit organization offers a varied schedule of storytelling, puppet shows, music and more. The kids may get a kick out of knowing that Hanapepe was featured in Disney's Lilo & Stitch.
On Kona Road just down from the children's center is a playground and field. Located in the center of town, the playground has slides and swings. It's modest, and you may run into a few locals, but it's a good spot for children to let out energy.
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Once you're back in the car, turn back onto Kaumuali'i Highway and head west. Take a left onto Route 543, then a right on Lele Road. Down here is Salt Pond Beach Park, one of the best beaches on the island for children. It may not be quite as picturesque as other Kaua'i beaches, but the water is nearly always calm and great for swimming and snorkeling. There's a lifeguard on duty and usually a few lunch trucks. A large grassy lawn allows for games and picnics; it's an all-around family beach.
Salt Pond Beach Park — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
When you've had your fill of the sun and sand, drive further (but not very far) west to Waimea. Another small dusty town, Waimea's history is apparent in its shops and sites. Look for the Captain Cook statue and plaque, in front of the Big Save Market, for a brief history lesson on the town.
Captain Cook statue — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Head over to Jo-Jo's Clubhouse for sweet relief from the heat with a Hawaiian shaved ice. Offering 60 flavors of shaved ice to choose from, it's a fun place to try a classic Hawaiian treat.