Affordable family vacation and Hawaii’s island of Kauai are not generally synonymous. Although most of the island is exceptionally expensive, your accommodations don’t have to be at the Kiahuna Plantation Resort. Located on the sunny south shore in Poipu, this 35-acre beachfront property offers spectacular sunset views, sprawling grassy lawns, and condo-style amenities. What this property might lack in luxury, it makes up for in location and value.
The Kiahuna’s 42 plantation-style, low-rise buildings house 333 one and two-bedroom units. Because each condo is individually owned, the furnishings can vary from 70’s Hawaiian kitschy decor to updated sleek and modern upgrades.
While most Kiahuna Plantation Resort units are not air-conditioned, the louvred wall systems, ceiling fans, and windows offered enough of a cross-breeze that we never needed air-conditioning even if it was available. The two and three storey condos do not have elevators so if you have mobility concerns we recommend you contact the management company to assess the best room on the ground level.
All units have a large lanai with an outdoor dining table, chairs and loungers perfect for morning coffee and afternoon cocktails.
Most of the units are maintained by two large management companies: Outrigger and Castle. Castle offers daily towel service to swap out the towels. However, you only get your room thoroughly cleaned every three days. Outrigger provides regular cleaning service for a fee.
If you need flexibility and want to save money, you can book the best room available upon arrival (Run of the House). Otherwise, you can pay a little extra and book a specific unit. You’ll pay up-front, and the deposit might be non-refundable but you’ll know the exact room you will be staying in.
Price compare before booking. In addition to checking prices on Outrigger and Castle’s websites, visit Booking.com as well as VRBO and Airbnb which feature listings rented out directly by their owners and in this case, you know which unit you will be staying in long before you arrive.
If you are on a tight budget and book a garden view room, expect to be right on the main drag, and although you won’t quite reach New York City street traffic decibels, you will still hear cars go by at all hours. Tropical birds, ocean waves, and island roosters crowing day and night will tune out the traffic, but it’s something to be aware of if you are booking the lowest room category.
The buildings on the beach, are as expected, the highest priced ones. As lovely as being near the beach is, this area lacks privacy because hotel guests gravitate towards the beach.
We opted for the Garden View Paradise room category which plopped us smack dab in the middle of the property. We loved the vast grassy area where kids from all the surrounding condos gathered to play tag, fly kites and kick around a soccer ball. Before dinner, you could find families playing a solid round of croquet or bocce ball.
Getting to the beach from our condo was less than a two-minute walk, and the beachside activities desk offered complimentary loungers, beach chairs and towels for hotel guests. Our condo came equipped with boogie boards, frisbees and floaties for guest use.
Walking along the beach to the left you’ll find the public Poipu Beach Park, an excellent spot for snorkelling due to a natural rock formation blocking waves and currents. The calm water and on-duty lifeguards make this spot great for parents with young kids. This is also a local hotspot for sea lions and turtles who have taken up residence in this bay and can be found sunning themselves on the beach.
Although Kiahuna Plantation Resort doesn’t have an on-site swimming pool, guests have access to the Poipu Athletic Club right across the street. There is ample parking if you chose to drive, but it’s so close we opted to walk. We loved spending time at this facility with a fantastic pool, top-notch tennis and pickleball courts, and full-service gym complete with fitness classes. There is a shallow man-made pebble beach perfect for babies, although my older kids also enjoyed digging in the sand. Flowing waterfalls and a waterslide made this pool fun for hours for both parents and kids.
The full-service restaurant offers pool-side menu drinks and food, although you can’t direct bill to your room, they will allow you to run a tab for the day, just bring your credit card.
Between our low-cost accommodations, a Costco run and cooking most of our meals in the condo, plus sticking to hikes, beachside fun and playgrounds, our thrifty Kauai vacation was a memorable family holiday.
Inside tip: Be sure to sign up for e-newsletters from both Outrigger and Castle Resorts to get sale notifications. You can also stack your savings if you are eligible for CAA, Senior, Government or Military discounts. If you opt for a Run of the House room and later Outrigger and/or Castle offer a sale, give them a call and they will adjust the price for the new lower sale rate.
Heading to Kauai? Read more feature stories about travel to Kauai here.