Best Kauai Resorts for Families: Royal Sonesta Kauai Review

Are you looking for the best Kauai resorts for families with kids of all ages? Keep scrolling for my honest review of the Royal Sonesta Kauai (formerly Kauai Marriott).
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Are you looking for a kid-friendly resort in Kauai?

We just returned from our week-long stay at the Royal Sonesta Resort in Lihue, Kauai. It’s located on Kalapaki Bay and is only minutes from the Lihue airport.

I’m sharing with you all my favorite things about our stay there so that you can make an informed decision when planning your family vacation to Kauai!

If you’re looking for a place where kids are welcome, then look no further than the Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort in Lihue, Hawaii!

This is one of those places that has everything going right – it’s clean, comfortable and affordable while also being close to many activities and attractions on the island.

You’ll find yourself wanting to come back again and again! And if we do go back (which we plan to), I know exactly which hotel we will be staying at! So let me tell you why it’s one of the best places to stay on Kauai!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Kauai with kids.

Best Kid-Friendly Kauai Tours/Activities

  • Mountain Tubing (this is a low-key adventure for kids ages 5+ and it’s a personal favorite for my kiddos)
  • Private Surf Lessons for Kids (this is the BEST way for your kids to learn how to surf in Hawaii)
  • Kayaking Tour with Waterfall Hike (this is an awesome half-day adventure for older kids)
  • Luau Kalamaku (you can do a little train ride and feed farm animals before the luau)
  • Koloa Ziplining (this is the longest zipline on Kauai and a must-do for adventurous families)
  • ATV Ride (my kids LOVE this tour because you can do a little fishing, go exploring, and you’ll get DIRTY)

Best Kid-Friendly Kauai Resorts

  • Grand Hyatt Kauai (this is a personal favorite for my kids because of the water slide and saltwater lagoon)
  • Royal Sonesta Kauai (my kids LOVE the pool here because it’s the largest one in Hawaii)
  • Hilton Garden Inn (we like renting the cottages here because you can walk to a massive playground)

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Kauai Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Get your copy of this Kauai travel guide for families by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids

Where to Stay on Kauai FAQs

What are the top Kauai luxury resorts?

Many of the best resorts in Kauai are located on the South Shore in Poipu. These resorts include the Grand Hyatt Kauai, the Ko’a Ke’a Resort, and the Koloa Landing Resort. The best place to stay on Kauai’s East Shore is the Royal Sonesta Kauai. And on the North Shore the new Hotel 1 Hanalei will be quite impressive.

What’s the best side of Kauai to stay on?

The highway on Kauai does NOT go all the way around the island. The East Shore is my top pick for families who want to get out and explore the island since it’s centrally located. Next, I’d suggest the South Shore for people who mostly want to hang out at the resort and want sunny weather. Finally, the North Shore is really beautiful, but it can feel a bit isolated from the rest of the island and it can rain a lot.

What are some things to do with kids in Kauai?

If you don’t know what to do in Kauai with kids, a few options include riding the Kilohana Plantation Train, walking around Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden, playing at the Anaina Hou Community Park, walking around Hanapepe Town (the setting for Lilo & Stitch) or taking a boat ride down the Wailua River.

Where is the Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort?

The Royal Sonesta Kauai is located on Kauai’s East Shore, just 1 mile from the Lihue Airport. But, it definitely doesn’t feel like an “airport hotel” since you are tucked away on Kalapaki Bay.

They have a complimentary resort shuttle available 24/7 if you need a ride to or from the airport.

It’s the best place to stay in Kauai for people who want to explore Kauai. It’s centrally located so it’s easy to drive to the North, South, and West shores.

Plus, it’s not far from Costco, Walmart, and Target in case you need to stock up on items.

It’s also near Kauai activities for families like Luau Kalamaku, Kauai mountain tubing, and other things to do in Lihue.

Honest Royal Sonesta Kauai Review

Before I dive into my review, I wanted to provide a little context. I’ve been visiting Kauai since I was 10 years old and I’ve definitely walked around this hotel property many times throughout the year back when it was the Kauai Marriott.

I was so impressed with the pool area that it became one of the Kauai hotels on my travel bucket list. This was my first time actually staying here as a guest.

We happened to visit just after this hotel switched ownership from the Marriott to the Royal Sonesta. I think they were still working out a few kinks and they hadn’t quite switched over all the branding yet.

We also visited when there were pandemic-related restrictions in place. That means that some of the usual amenities weren’t available. And you’ll see us wearing masks in some of the photos.

Ok, let’s dive in!

What was our room like?

Our room was a pretty standard hotel room with 2 queen beds. We did have a mini fridge, which was helpful. There was also a table and chairs, large credenza, a sofa, and a decent sized bathroom.

It felt like we had enough room as a family of four. We put our suitcases on the sofa and lots of items on the credenza so there was lots of space to walk around without tripping on anything.

I didn’t have an opportunity to take photos because our plane was delayed and we arrived at midnight. And then, we didn’t have maid service because of the pandemic (which is unusual).

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of a grassy area and Kalapaki Beach with mountains in background.
This was the view from our lanai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

But, I can show you the view from our room. We had a great view of the kiddie pool area in front of us. And when we turned to the left, BAM there was the ocean with mountains in the background!

Check the latest rates and room types HERE.

What did we think of the dining options?

Aupaka Terrace Coffee Stand

The first thing we tried at the Royal Sonesta was their outdoor Aupaka Terrace coffee cart in the breezeway. I thought their prices were pretty high, but it’s probably standard for hotels (I think my soy chai latte was $8)!

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of a disposable coffee cup with a resort pool in the background.
Coffee with a view! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

They only offered pre-packaged items for breakfast when we were there. We paid a lot for Costco croissants and yogurt that first morning.

If they have the same set-up when you go, I’d suggest stopping by a grocery store to pick up breakfast items to save some money.

Duke’s Kauai

There are also several restaurants on site including Duke’s which serves up some delicious Hawaiian fusion cuisine and their famous Hula Pie.

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of a piece of Hula Pie at Duke's
Their Hula Pie is massive and perfect for sharing! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Duke’s also has a barefoot bar on the lower level that’s super casual dining and great for families.

Kukui’s on the Beach

We also tried Kukui’s for breakfast several mornings. The service here was excellent and they had pretty standard American breakfast items. They also had a kids menu.

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of a plate of Eggs Benedict at Kukui's on the Beach.
Eggs Benedict at Kukui’s on the Beach. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

This restaurant is located right next to the pool area and they had lots of open-air seating.

Other Restaurants

There’s also Cafe Portofino (which is more upscale dining) and Toro-Tei Sushi Bar. We didn’t try either of these options this trip.

Royal Sonesta Kauai pool area

When I start researching Hawaii resorts for families, one of the first things I do is check out their pool. I mean, that’s where my kids will want to spend a TON of time.

The hotel has an amazing pool area with the largest pool in Hawaii, as well as a little water slide and a kiddie pool for babies and toddlers!

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of a massive pool at the Royal Sonesta Kauai.
Royal Sonesta Kauai Pool. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The main pool was designed to look like a Chrysanthemum flower. So each petal is sort of like its own pool, but they are connected.

And there are also 5 hot tubs located on one side of the massive pool. You can only access 3 of them by swimming there. The other two are right next to the pool deck.

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of the kiddie pool and water slide.
Kiddie pool and water slide. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We spent a lot of time at the kiddie pool area. That’s where my 4yo liked to be since he can’t swim yet. The water was super shallow and warm. And there were lots of lounge chairs in this area so you could watch your kids.

My 7yo really liked the water slide. It wasn’t too high or long and during the busy time, the line moved really quickly.

My kids said the Royal Sonesta Kauai is one of the best resorts in Kauai for families specifically because of their awesome pool area.

Is it worth renting a cabana?

We ended up scrapping part of our Kauai itinerary so we could do a dedicated pool day. We were able to secure a lounge chair cabana for an entire day.

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of two boys lounging in a cabana in Hawaii.
This was our cabana at the Royal Sonesta Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

It basically consisted of two lounge chairs, a table between them, and a huge retractable sunshade. And there also was an attendant who came by to give us Kauai Kookies and bottles of water. There was also a server who came to get our food/drink orders throughout the day.

I think it was about $100 for the rental and it was definitely money well spent. Since our kids are small, we had no problem fitting our whole family here. I don’t really swim, so I parked myself in the cabana the entire day and it was so comfortable.

You can read more about the pros and cons of renting a Hawaii cabana here.

Other features/amenities

The property itself is pretty large and there were a lot of things to see/do here. I’ll list a few.

Kalapaki beach

Ok, so I’m realizing that I haven’t really talked about the beach yet, which is a MAJOR perk of this hotel.

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of a boy running on a beach in Hawaii.
Kalapaki Beach on Kauai. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Kalapaki Beach is actually one of my favorite kid-friendly Kauai beaches. The water is super calm and it’s fun to float around on an inflatable. You can also see people paddle boarding or practice snorkeling.

There’s also a place where you can rent beach chairs and other stuff.

This is one of the best hotels in Kauai for families who want a kid-friendly beach just steps from their room.

Indoor luau

The Royal Sonesta is also home to the only indoor luau on Kauai. This is nice for families who want to just walk to/from the luau from their hotel room. Plus, you won’t have to worry about them canceling due to rain.

Kids programming

This hotel also usually offers children’s programming. When I was walking around the Marriott timeshare area, I saw a schedule of kids programs. However, I couldn’t tell if they were still happening or if they were only open to Marriott timeshare holders.

Koi pond

There’s a really cool koi pond just off to the side of the main lobby. My kids enjoyed sitting and looking at the fish. It’s a cool thing to do on Kauai for kids.

Where to stay on Kauai with kids: Royal Sonesta Kauai review. Image of a boy looking at koi fish
My son looking at the koi. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

I think they normally do something where kids can help feed the fish, but it wasn’t offered during our stay.


They also have the Alexander Day Spa and Salon. You can get treatments like facials and manicures inside their spa. Or, opt for a beachside massage. This is definitely on our list for next time!


They do have some shopping available at the resort, but it’s tucked away. There’s a place to get bottled soft drinks, alcohol, snacks, breakfast items, etc.

They also sell tons of cute clothing and gift ideas. It’s your typical resort gift shop with toiletries and other items you might need.

Are there any things we didn’t like?

The main lobby is down an escalator and then down a short flight of stairs from the hotel entrance. It just was a bit cumbersome to check in that first night. I was also carrying my bag that had my heavy laptop and all our carry on items.

Parking was also a bit tricky. There was a parking lot right next to our tower, but the lot filled up quickly most days. So, when we couldn’t find a spot, we had to valet. That was pricey. And it meant we had to walk a long way from the main entrance to our hotel room.

Would we recommend the Royal Sonesta Kauai?

I highly recommend the Royal Sonesta Kauai to families who are looking for a kid-friendly resort that is centrally located on Kauai. We were really happy with the hotel amenities, the pool area, and the restaurants. Check the latest rates and availability.

We will definitely be staying here again and we look forward to checking out their kids activities! It’s by far one of the top resorts in Kauai for families!

Looking for other places to stay on Kauai? Check out the top kid-friendly Kauai resorts, Hilton Garden Inn Kauai review, Grand Hyatt Kauai review, where to stay on a Hawaii babymoon, Koloa Landing Resort review, Hawaii resorts with the best kids clubs, Kauai luxury vacation rentals, and the most romantic places to stay on Kauai.