Home » Hawaii Travel Tips » Kauai vs Maui: Which is the Best Hawaiian Island for Kids?

Kauai vs Maui: Which is the Best Hawaiian Island for Kids?

Are you trying to decide between visiting Kauai vs Maui on your next family vacation? We’ve compared the two so you can make an informed decision about the best Hawaiian island for kids. Scroll to see the results!
This post about Kauai vs Maui was written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Do you want to visit Hawaii with your family?

You’ve probably heard that the Hawaiian islands are beautiful, but have you ever wondered which island is best for kids?

If you’ve never been, it can be hard to know which island is best for your family. A lot of families go to Oahu for their first trip and want to try something different for their next trip to Hawaii.

Today, we’ll take a look at Kauai versus Maui and find out which are the best Hawaiian islands for kids.

Both Kauai and Maui are great islands for families visiting Hawaii but there are definitely some differences between Maui versus Kauai when it comes down to what each has available for children and teens alike.

Let’s dive into these two beautiful Hawaiian islands side by side so you can see if one might be better suited than another based on age groups for your Hawaiian vacation!

Keep scrolling to find out if Maui or Kauai is the best Hawaii island for kids.

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

Is Kauai the Best Hawaii Island for Kids?

When determining “Is Kauai or Maui better?”, let’s take a look at Kauai.

Kauai is known as the most beautiful Hawaiian island, which is why it’s on so many people’s Hawaii bucket lists. It’s full of lush mountains and stunning beaches.

The East Shore of Kauai has tons of Hawaii vacation rental options and budget-friendly hotels. That’s why it’s a popular destination for families visiting the Hawaiian island for the first time.

And Poipu is the premier Kauai resort community where you can find the best Kauai hotels with amazing swimming pools.

Kauai is also famous for outdoor adventures like zipliningsugar cane canal tubingwhale watching, hiking, snorkeling, and so much more!

Click here for step-by-step Kauai travel planning help

Free Things to Do on Kauai with Kids

Best Kauai Beaches for Kids

On the North Shore of KauaiPu’u Poa Beach is close to the resorts in Princeville. While a lot of beaches in Princeville have large waves, the waters here are calm and great for kids.

There’s also Hanalei Bay and Anini Beach which are always a huge hit with my boys. The waves are super gentle.

Anini Beach is one of the best kid-friendy Kauai beaches
Anini Beach. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Aeder

Lydgate Beach Park on the East Shore is another great option. Not only is there a man-made saltwater pool for kids but they also have two playgrounds.

For families visiting the South Shore of Kauai, Poipu Beach Park is a popular kid-friendly Kauai beach.

Complete with lifeguards, snorkeling, and shallow wading spots for toddlers, Poipu is one of the best options for families with kids of varied age ranges. And head a bit further and check out Salt Ponds.

There are so many great swimmable beaches to enjoy, and many are close to the Kauai resorts and vacation rentals too!

Tour a Coffee Plantation

Even if you aren’t a big coffee fan, you won’t want to miss the biggest coffee farm in the US. It’s Kauai Coffee and they have free walking tours multiple times a day.

Kauai Coffee is a top Kauai attraction
Kauai Coffee Company. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

They have free coffee samples available for adults and there’s a cool scavenger hunt on Wednesday mornings where families can earn a free bag of coffee when they complete it.

Get My FREE Hawaii

Our exclusive Ultimate Guide to Family-Friendly Activities in Hawaii is your treasure map to the most exciting, kid-approved adventures across the islands.

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Check out the Kukuiula Culinary Market

    Another fun thing to do on Kauai with kids is to check out the Kauai Culinary Market at The Shops at Kukuiula.

    Every Wednesday from 3:30 pm to 6 pm, guests can see live cooking demonstrations and take a look at Kauai-grown food and treats.

    Plus, there are live musicians and activities.

    Kid-Friendly Kauai Hiking

    Sleeping Giant Trail is located near Wailua and is a short, out-and-back trail. It offers gorgeous mountain views and it is perfect for a day trip and afternoon picnic.

    The Kuilau Ridge Trail is another popular kid-friendly Kauai hiking trail that goes for 3.7 miles.

    The Kuilau Ridge Trail is one of the best kid friendly hikes on Kauai. Image of a stream in the forest of Kauai.
    Kuilau Ridge Trail on Kauai.

    There’s also a really cool Bike Path along the East Shore. You can rent bikes and ride up the coast, or just go for a walk. It’s perfect for families with strollers.

    Personally, I think that Kauai is the best Hawaiian island for hiking because there are so many options and they usually aren’t as crowded as the hiking trails on Maui.

    Read more Free Things to do on Kauai

    Things to Do With Kids on Kauai

    Kauai Mountain Tubing

    If you’re looking for a mini-adventure with kids on Kauai, try tubing down an old sugar cane canal. We did it with a 5-year-old and it was incredible. Read about our experience HERE.

    One of the best things to do with kids on Kauai is go mountain tubing. Image of a 5yo boy in a blue inner tube on the water.
    Mountain tubing on Kauai.

    It’s really more of a lazy river float, but you’ll get to wear headlamps and go through some tunnels, which is fun. Check the latest rates and more information.

    Kauai ATV Off-Road Tour & Waterfall Swim

    This is an awesome 3-4 hour ATV tour that goes through plantation lands, a hidden tunnel, Jurrasic Park filming sites, and ends with swimming at the base of a waterfall.

    Kids as young as 5 years old can participate. It’s quite the adventure and it’s one of the most popular tours on Kauai! Check the latest rates and more information.

    Wailua River Kayak, Hike & Waterfall Swim

    Adventurous families will love this 5-hour tropical waterfall adventure. You’ll get to kayak down the Wailua River, hike through a Kauai rainforest, and even discover a secret waterfall!

    We did this tour when I was a kid and I still remember how cool it was! It’s geared for kids at least 6 years old. Check the latest rates and more information.

    Find out amazing things to do on Kauai with kids!

    Family-Friendly Kauai Attractions

    Waimea Canyon

    One of the most impressive things to do see on Kauai is Waimea Canyon State Park. This Hawaii park stretches for 10 miles and has a depth of 3,000 feet. It’s often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

    Waimea Canyon is one of the top Kauai attractions for families.
    Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

    Most families visit Waimea Canyon as a day trip since it’s a bit of a trek. You can either just drive to the scenic viewpoints to take photos or you can hike some of the trails.

    Hanalei Town

    If you drive up to the North Shore of Kauai, you’ll go through the surf town of Hanalei.

    Stop at one of the many free lookouts over Hanalei Valley on the North Shore of Kauai to see taro farms.
    Hanalei Valley on Kauai. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

    There are tons of things to do in Hanalei for families. A few of our favorite activities include doing a North Shore food tour, relaxing at Hanalei Bay, and shopping at the boutiques.

    Spouting Horn

    Another cool feat of nature that kids may enjoy visiting is the Spouting Horn. This blowhole often shoots water 50 feet high as waves crash underground and through a hole in the coastline.

    Spouting Horn in Poipu is an awesome free thing to do on Kauai with kids
    Spouting Horn in Poipu.

    Spouting Horn is a great stop-off to visit from the overlook on your way to or from Poipu Beach on the South Shore of Kauai. It’s also one of our favorite Kauai toddler activities.

    Family Friendly Kauai Luaus

    The Smith Family Luau has been around since I was a kid and I’ve been at least 5 or 6 times. It’s a 4-hour luau experience with a traditional Hawaiian buffet. Check out the latest prices and more details.

    One of the best luaus on Kauai for kids is Smith Family Luau. Image of three hula dancers wearing ti leaf skirts and red tops
    Smith Family Luau on Kauai. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    They feature an open bar for guests over 21, a tram tour of the gardens, and a performance that includes dances from Asia and Polynesia. Plus, you can take a boat ride to Fern Grotto before the luau. Read my Smith Family Luau review.

    There’s also Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation. This luau has really good food and they do a theatrical Polynesian presentation instead of a traditional luau show. And you can do a train ride before the show. Check out the latest prices and more details.

    The newest luau on Kauai is the Ahi Lele Fire Show up on the North Shore. It’s definitely one of the most unique luaus in Hawaii that I’ve been to and I highly recommend it!

    Read about all the kid-friendly Kauai luau options

    Kid Friendly Kauai Resorts

    Grand Hyatt Kauai

    This is one of my favorite Poipu resorts on Kauai for families. You can read my full review HERE. The main perks are the on-site luau, restaurants, and incredible pool area.

    Royal Sonesta Kauai

    Formerly the Kauai Marriott, the Royal Sonesta Kauai is the best place to stay in Lihue with kids. You can read my full review HERE. The top features are the location, on-site luau, restaurants, massive pool, and beach access.

    Aston Islander On The Beach

    This is a great budget-friendly option for families. It’s right on the beach and is near a lot of restaurants, grocery stores, shops, etc. Plus, it has easy access to the Bike Path.

    Is Maui the Best Family Island in Hawaii?

    Now let’s look at the question, “Is Maui better than Kauai?”

    Lots of families swear that Maui is the best Hawaiian island with kids. That’s because it’s a great mix of resort towns and natural beauty like red sand beaches and black sand beaches.

    The island of Maui has so much to offer, including 3 main resort areasWaileaLahaina, and Ka’anapali.

    If you’re looking to enjoy some outdoor activities with kids on your trip (and who isn’t?), this could be just what you need. There’s amazing ziplining, horseback riding, whale watchinghikingsnorkeling, and so much more!

    Be sure to read my top things to do on Maui with kids!

    Click here for step-by-step Maui travel planning help

    Free Things to Do on Maui

    Best Maui Beaches for Kids

    There are several kid-friendly beaches on Maui that are great for babies, toddlers, and kids of all ages.

    One of the best beaches in Maui for kids is baby beach up in Paia. It’s got a protected lagoon and sandy white shores that are perfect to build sandcastles on or wade out into!

    Plus it’s pretty secluded–you’ll have this amazing private getaway with yourselves surrounded by tall coconut trees all around you.

    Makena Beach State Park in Wailea, Maui
    Makena Beach State Park. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

    And don’t forget about Makena Beach too-it might not be as big/busy, but what makes matters better? There IS a lifeguard here so even if your little one gets scared easily (or has any other special needs), they can enjoy themselves without worrying too much.

    Kaanapali Beach is on the West Coast and is another awesome beach. Many resorts are located right on this beach, so it’s perfect for families who don’t want to drive anywhere for the beach. It’s great for pictures with the West Maui Mountains in the background!

    Finally, one of the best beaches in Maui for kids in West Maui is Kapalua Bay. It’s on a reef, so the water is fairly calm.

    Get my complete Hawaii beach packing list for babies!

    Drive the Road to Hana with Kids

    One of the most unique things to do on Maui is to drive the famous Road to Hana. This is a twisty, highway full of one-lane bridges that takes you to the remote town of Hana.

    One of our favorite Road to Hana stops is the Garden of Eden. Image of a tropical garden on Maui.
    Garden of Eden on the Road to Hana in Maui.

    But the point of the drive isn’t to actually get to Hana but to enjoy some of the fun Road to Hana stops along the way that kids will love.

    Several of the stops include easy Maui hikes that will take you to hidden away waterfalls or awesome scenic viewpoints. And there’s even a black sand beach!

    While this is technically free, understand that you’ll be using up a lot of gas. So, consider this a cheap thing to do on Maui!

    Hike to a Maui Waterfall

    There are so many spectacular waterfalls on Maui that are totally worth checking out.

    You can see several waterfalls just off the side of the road as you’re driving along, or you can do easy (or difficult) hikes to find some pretty cool Maui waterfalls.

    A trip to Maui is not complete without a visit to the many waterfalls that can be found along this beautiful island.

    Twin Falls, Maui, Hawaii--Twin Falls is one of the best Maui waterfalls
    Twin Falls on Maui. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

    One such place, Twin Falls, offers visitors ample opportunities for picturesque scenery. It’s perfect if you’re looking for food or just want some rest after getting your fill on adrenaline-pumping adventures all day long!

    Punalau Falls also lies in close proximity; making it another great option when visiting with kids who need something safe yet still stimulating before calling home.

    Lastly, there’s Alelele Falls which stands at 50 feet tall. It’s just a 10-15 minute hike where you’ll hop across streams to get to this Maui waterfall.

    Things to Do on Maui with Kids

    Sunrise at Haleakala Crater

    One of the top things to do in Maui is to visit Haleakala National Park. A big reason for this is that it’s the best place to see the sunrise on Maui.

    Beautiful sunrise scene on Haleakala volcano, Maui island, Hawaii
    Haleakala Crater sunrise on Maui.

    Starting off while it’s still dark outside, you’ll head up to the top of the crater of this dormant volcano. As the sun peaks over the crater, you’ll be in total awe. People say it’s the best sunrise in Hawaii.

    You can either drive up on your own (you’ll need to reserve a parking ticket ahead of time) or join a Haleakala sunrise tour. Some of them even let you bike down the mountain after sunrise. Check out the latest prices and more details.

    Maui Hike to See I’ao Needle

    When you’re heading to Hawaii with kids, it’s always nice to know some easy hikes. Well, the I’ao Needle is probably the most kid-friendly hike on Maui.

    Iao Needle on Maui
    Iao Needle on Maui.

    Part of what makes it a great Maui hike for kids is that it’s only 0.6 miles long. Plus most of the hike is either paved or has stairs to get to the scenic viewpoint of I’ao Needle.

    I’ve done it solo with a 2-year-old and he walked the entire thing on his own.

    It’s the perfect Maui adventure for little kids, but it’s also a fun stop for families driving around Maui.

    There’s a $5 fee to park, otherwise, this is a free thing to do on Maui.

    Snorkel Molokini Crater

    If you want to go snorkeling on Maui, the most famous spot is Molokini Crater. Part of why families love this Maui activity is that you need to take a boat ride to get there.

    Molokini Crater, Maui snorkeling spot
    Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

    While the boat tour cruise is fun, the real perk is going into the water and swimming with sea turtles and other tropical Hawaiian fish.

    Many boat tours also have water slides on board as well as kid-friendly flotation devices where kids can see underwater with a little help. Check out the latest prices and more details.

    Ziplining on Maui

    Maui is such a pretty island and you can get a unique viewpoint by going ziplining!

    There are actually quite a few Maui zipline tours for families who are feeling adventurous.

    Find out where to zipline on Maui. Image of a girl ziplining in Hawaii.
    Ziplining on Maui.

    This Maui zipline tour is available for kids as young as 5 years old, making it one of the best Maui kids activities the whole family can enjoy! Read our full Maui zipline tour review.

    Plus, there are obstacle challenges and a Camp Maui museum that’s worth checking out. That’s why it’s the best Maui zipline for kids. Check out the latest prices and more details.

    Family-Friendly Maui Attractions

    Maui Ocean Center

    The Maui Ocean Center is probably the top thing to do on Maui with toddlers and preschoolers.

    Maui Ocean Center
    Maui Ocean Center. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tommy Lundberg

    It’s one of the few aquariums in Hawaii. Here, you’ll find indoor and outdoor marine life exhibit areas, tidepools, and indoor aquariums. Plus, you can stroll through an immersion tube where you feel like you are walking through the ocean!

    The really cool thing about the Maui Ocean Center is all the Hawaiian Cultural Programs they offer throughout the day. Find the best prices here.

    Maui Pineapple Tour

    Maui is very famous for its pineapples and it’s home to one of the last remaining working pineapple plantations.

    One of the best things to do with kids on Maui is taking a Maui pineapple tour! You can only really do this on Maui or Oahu.

    Image of a bunch of pineapples in Hawaii.
    See a Maui pineapple farm.

    Here, you’ll get to walk around the pineapple plantation, learn about Maui’s agricultural history, and even see how pineapple cultivation has changed throughout the years.

    And there’s lots of yummy pineapple tasting, of course!

    Kids as young as 2 years old can participate in this Maui tour and everyone takes home an “airport-ready” pineapple!

    If you want an authentic pineapple tour, Maui is the best island for kids in Hawaii. Check out the latest prices and more details.

    Maui Tropical Plantation

    One of the best kid-friendly botanical gardens on Maui is the Maui Tropical Plantation. It’s located in Wailuku, which is about 30 minutes from Lahaina and 15 minutes from Kihei.

    Find out what to do at Maui Tropical Plantation by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a green motorized tram at a Maui botanical garden
    Maui Tropical Plantation. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    Here, you’ll find a kid-friendly tram tour that will take you around the perimeter of the property. You’ll also have a chance to get out and experience an awesome coconut husking demonstration.

    Maui Tropical Plantation is also home to two ziplines. One is geared for kids ages 5+ (and walk-alongs are free) and the other is for kids ages 10+ (and includes an ATV ride).

    There’s also a tasty coffee shop, a nice restaurant with a killer view, and the Kumu Farms Market which has items made in Maui.

    Best Maui Luaus for Families

    While you can see a Hawaiian luau on any of the major Hawaiian islands, Maui has a ton of kid-friendly luau options.

    The Best Luau in Maui featured by top Hawaii travel blog, Hawaii Travel with Kids: The Old Lahaina Luau is one of the best luaus on Maui
    Photo credit: Old Lahaina Luau

    The most popular luau on Maui for kids is the Old Lahaina Luau. It’s been around for decades and they have a good reputation for hands-on kids activities. Check latest rates and availability.

    The Myths of Maui Luau is another great option for families looking for an oceanfront Maui luau in West Maui. Check out the latest prices and more details.

    Kid Friendly Maui Resorts

    Honua Kai Resort & Spa

    This is usually where we stay on Maui with kids. You can read my full review HERE. The main perks are Duke’s Restaurant, access to Kaanapali Beach, condo-style rooms, and their incredible pool area.

    Hyatt Regency Maui

    This is one of the top-rated family resorts in Maui Hawaii. The main perks are their full-service spa, 5 on-site restaurants, and a water park.

    Grand Wailea Resort

    This is one of the most popular places to stay in Wailea Maui. The main amenities include 5 on-site restaurants, a spa, a water park, and 3 golf courses.

    So, Kauai or Maui? Which is the Best Hawaiian Island for Kids?

    Honestly, when determining Kauai vs Maui for families, the best island in Hawaii for kids to visit will totally depend on your own family’s interests and vacation goals.

    The biggest difference between Maui and Kauai is the number of kid-friendly resorts. Maui definitely has more of the best family resorts in Hawaii. But Kauai has a lot of vacation rental homes, condos, and budget-friendly hotels.

    Another difference between Kauai and Maui is that Kauai has tons of outdoor adventures like whale watching during the winter months, the NaPali Coast, navigable rivers for kayaking, and so much more.

    Both have pretty amazing boat tours, snorkeling, awesome beaches, fantastic restaurants, and plenty of cool photo ops! Maui and Kauai are two of the best Hawaiian islands for families.

    Whether you choose to visit Maui or Kauai with kids, you’re sure to come home with experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Both are perfect for a Hawaii family vacation.

    Want to do Both Kauai AND Maui?

    If you want to island hop for a Kauai to Maui day trip, it’s really easy to travel from Kauai to Maui or vice-versa. Maui to Kauai flights usually cost about $80-$100 each way.

    The flight from Kauai to Maui is only about 48 minutes, so you have tons of time to explore if you want to do a day trip from Kauai to Maui or Maui to Kauai.

    I recommend booking a really early morning Kauai to Maui flights to maximize your time on the island, especially if your kids tend to fall asleep early in the evening.

    Is there a ferry to Kauai from Maui?

    A lot of people planning their first trip to Hawaii want to know how to get from Maui to Kauai and they ask about a Maui to Kauai ferry.

    While there used to be a (very short-lived) Kauai to Maui ferry service throughout the Hawaiian Islands called the Super Ferry, it’s completely out of service and the Kauai to Maui boat is not an option.

    The only way to travel between those islands is by a Hawaii inter-island flight as there are not many Hawaii ferry between islands.

    Oahu vs Maui vs Kauai

    Many also wonder about Maui vs Oahu vs Kauai.

    If you are also considering visiting Oahu and debating between Oahu vs Kauai, you’ll probably want to read my full post about Oahu or Kauai.

    Oahu is much more touristy than Maui or Kauai and they have a TON of attractions, activities, tours, and more.

    Big Island vs Maui vs Kauai

    If you’re wondering how the Big Island compares, check out my following posts:

    Big Island vs Kauai

    Maui vs Big Island

    Best Hawaiian Island for Kids FAQs

    Are there more things to do with kids on Maui or Kauai?

    It really depends on what your kids like to do. Maui has better shopping options, day trips, and resort experiences. Kauai has better outdoor adventures, food trucks, and off-the-grid vibes.

    Does Maui or Kauai have better resorts for families?

    Maui definitely has more kid-friendly Hawaii resorts with amazing pool areas and on-site restaurants. Kauai has a few family resorts, but mostly hotels or vacation rental options.

    Which is the prettiest Hawaiian island?

    Out of all the Hawaiian islands, the most beautiful island in Hawaii is definitely Kauai. This is where you can find majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls, epic hiking trails, and tons of eco-adventures. It’s also home to several botanical gardens like the Limahuli Garden in Hanalei.

    Is Kauai or Maui more expensive?

    When determining is Maui or Kauai better, one pro for the Garden Isle is that it is cheaper than Maui. The Maui luxurious resorts are pretty expensive but might be worth it with the pools and added amenities, but Kauai is one of the most beautiful tropical islands.

    Is Maui more crowded than Kauai?

    Usually, out of the two islands, Kauai is less crowded. But, both Maui and Kauai are both popular main Hawaiian islands, so you will find crowds on both.

    Why is Kauai so popular?

    Kauai is a popular island for nature lovers. This tropical island has stunning white sand beaches, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and is known for being the gorgeous Garden Island. With the diverse landscape and golden sand beaches, Hawaii visitors love to visit Kauai!

    Is snorkeling better in Maui or Kauai?

    Maui has some great beaches for snorkeling! Maui’s beaches are considered some of the best places to snorkel with all the accessible beaches.

    Is Kauai worth visiting?

    Life on Kauai is quite wonderful. It is very laidback and the perfect island worth visiting in the South Pacific. While there is more rain here, the beautiful beaches and mountains along the Na Pali Coast are definitely incredible to see and enjoy.

    Which is Better Maui or Kauai: Wrap-Up

    Whether you go to Kauai or Maui with kids, you will have a blast!

    Head to Maui for more swimmable beaches, Hana Highway, and upscale resorts. Head to Kauai for beautiful sand beaches, a fun helicopter or boat tour of the Na Pali Coast, and the Grand Canyon.

    There is really no wrong answer for Maui vs Kauai!

    Want more Hawaii travel resources? Find out how to rent a car in Hawaii, Maui vs Big Island, Big Island vs Kauaiwhich is the best Hawaii island for kids, things to know before you go to Hawaii, and my step-by-step Hawaii planning guide!

    P.S. Join our Hawaii Travel with Kids Facebook group to get connected with other families planning a trip to Hawaii!