The 2022 summer vacation season is just about in the books, with kids headed back to the classroom soon.
But if you’re planning a 2023 summer vacation or even a spring break trip, here are some spots that provide lasting memories and fun for a kid-friendly getaway.
San Juan Islands, Washington
San Juan Island
The San Juan Islands are the ultimate playground for kids because of their outdoor appeal. Depending on your available time, you might try visiting both San Juan Island and Orcas Island to experience the differences they offer. Ideally, you’d want to spend two or three days on each island for a chance to truly explore.
A ferry ride from Seattle to San Juan Island takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes, but is foot traffic only. If you are thinking about bringing your vehicle, drive to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Either way, you’ll arrive at Friday Harbor, a charming town with quaint stores and many dining options.
Book your stay at Saltwater Farm, which is removed from the bustle of the ferry dock. The farm has a variety of options to suit both small and larger families. The Barn Suite is perfect if you need a bit more space and privacy, as it is set away from the rest of the lodging and offers two bedrooms along with a fun loft for kids and a kitchen. The farm offers five smartly designed guest houses nestled in the woods on 162 wild acres.
Grab breakfast at Cynthia’s, which is open Thursday through Monday, serving up fresh baked pastries, its well-known omelets and much more. Brunch is available all day.
After breakfast, head over to the Whale Museum, which promotes stewardship of whales by way of educational research. Kids will enjoy learning about the rich Salish Sea ecosystem through exhibits and tours.
Check out Lime Kiln Point State Park, which is also known as Whale Watch Park, one of the best places in the world to watch for whales right from the shore. The 40-acre park has 2,550 feet of waterfront to explore, bike and relax. Visit the historic lighthouse and be sure to try the hydrophone installed inside, which offers a chance to listen in on the underwater landscape and let the kids’ imaginations grow.
If there’s time before dinner, the kids will be thrilled with The Farm at Krystal Acres, a 70-acre working farm with a herd of alpacas where the entire family can venture on a self-guided stroll around the grounds. The farm’s Country Store offers a wide selection of fine alpaca clothing and gifts to take home. Make reservations at Coho Restaurant for some Pacific Northwest cuisine mixed with Mediterranean flair, using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to please all palates.
If you have an extra day or two, make sure to visit the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, which has 125 unique sculptures spread throughout 20 acres. Follow the map for a self-guided tour featuring artists from the Pacific Northwest. The park, which is open year-round, is kid- and dog-friendly with lots of space to roam.
Pelindaba Lavender Farm has rows and rows of lavender fields, and admission is free. The farm has been growing lavender plants and making bespoke lavender products for more than 20 years. Adhering to the highest environmental and aesthetic standards, they handcraft a wide range of botanical, culinary, personal care, therapeutic, household and pet care products right on the farm. For a small fee, visitors can harvest their own bouquet from the cutting field.
After visiting the farm, grab dinner at Downriggers, a family-owned restaurant with a spectacular view of the water in Friday Harbor. Serving up oysters, smoked salmon, fresh fish and pub fare, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
The ferry ride from San Juan Island to Orcas Island takes a little over an hour. Though Orcas Island is the bigger of the two islands, it has a slower pace in part due to being less developed.
Book one of the recently debuted Water’s Edge Suites at the Outlook Inn in the center of Eastsound so everything is within walking distance. The suites present modern luxury accommodations right on the water’s edge with spectacular views of Fishing Bay and Indian Island, along with beach access. Make sure to have brunch at the hotel’s restaurant New Leaf Cafe, serving up French-inspired, Instagram-worthy dishes using local ingredients.
After a hearty breakfast, head over to Moran State Park, which has five lakes and more than 38 miles of hiking trails for kids to get outdoors and stay active. If everyone is up for the challenge, hike up Mount Constitution, the islands’ highest point, for views of the Pacific Ocean and Mount Baker. Just a short detour on the drive up to Constitution is Cascade waterfall, a great stopping point for some pictures. Parking is $10 or purchase a Discover Pass for an annual rate of $30, which will allow you access to various other Washington state parks.
Set time aside to explore Eastsound Village, Orcas Island’s downtown, which is picturesque and perfect for walking. Meander through the streets and check out the many small boutiques such as Darvill’s, an independent bookstore; Pawki’s for Pets; and Island Life, an eco-friendly outdoor clothing and accessories store. Stop into Brown Bear Baking for treats to tide you and the kids over until dinner or bring some back to savor as dessert. Make your way to Girl Meets Dirt Heritage Preserves, which specializes in preserves made from local heritage orchard fruit grown on small, family farms. The preserves are made using classic French techniques in six copper pots with fresh herbs grown in their garden.
Matia Kitchen & Bar is a popular spot, so it’s wise to make reservations in advance. The restaurant offers an intimate menu inspired by local ingredients that satisfies all palates.
On your second day, plan for a visit to Obstruction Pass State Park, which is named for nearby Obstruction Island and offers visitors a more secluded experience. Follow the half-mile trail through a forest to the bluff to get down to the beach. This is the longest beach on Orcas, made special by its crescent shape. Walk along the ocean on shiny marble-sized pebbles in a kaleidoscope of colors — it’s the perfect opportunity to admire the beauty of the island.
The Kahala Hotel and Resort in Honolulu, Hawaii
Sun, sand and beach are what you will find at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, which is tucked away from the touristy center of Waikiki Beach. At the end of a long driveway surrounded by towering palm trees, sits the revered hotel. Steeped in history and star appeal, the hotel opened its doors in 1964. Due in part to the private location, royalty and Hollywood celebrities such as John Wayne and Frank Sinatra have flocked to the hideaway. In the current day, Kahala plays to many travelers and has a huge appeal for families with kids because of the list of amenities.
The biggest draw for kids and adults is the family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that calls the hotel’s ocean water lagoon home. There are a variety of options when it comes to experiences with them through the Dolphin Quest program. Kids can choose to swim with, touch and feed the dolphins or just watch the show. Humane-certified and intent on educating about these magnificent creatures, participation in the program supports marine mammal conservation and scientific studies.
Other kid-friendly activities include the temperature-controlled swimming pool along with complimentary beach loungers on a first-come, first-served basis. You can also rent kayaks, boogie boards and snorkeling gear, or for land-based sports, rent a bicycle or book tennis lessons.
With five dining options at the hotel, there’s a variety to select from. The Plumeria Beach House is a must for casual dining with dishes ranging from poke to whole lobster with all the fixings.
Stay at Surfsand Resort, located just 70 miles west of Portland in Cannon Beach. The resort is situated right on the oceanfront, steps from Haystack Rock with sweeping coastline views to the north and south. Featuring spacious and stylish rooms and suites that are perfect for families with kids, the resort has a year-round, indoor swimming pool and hot tub to keep kids busy. The hotel has a newly renovated fitness center with popular Peloton bikes and a Finnish sauna to melt away stress. Conveniently next door is the Wayfarer Restaurant & Lounge, which features classic Northwest seafood such as troll-caught salmon out of nearby Astoria, Dungeness crab with wild chanterelles, steak and cast-iron chicken.
Start your day off right with breakfast and a warm cup of coffee from nearby Sea Level Bakery and Coffee, which carries baked goods made from scratch to fill hungry tummies. Drive to Ecola State Park for easy paved trails where an Oregon State Parks pass, Oregon Pacific Coast Passport or $5 day-use fee is required for parking. Just a 10-minute drive south of Cannon Beach is Oswald West State Park where you will find several interconnected hiking trails including a 13-mile section of the Oregon Coast Trail.
For a delicious lunch head to Pelican Brewing Company, which serves pub fare and specializes in craft beer. Kids will love their flatbreads and caramel root beer float. The restaurant is currently open for dining in and takeout.
Head to Ecola Creek Forest and stroll through various ecosystems along Ecola Creek, through a Sitka spruce forest to a viewpoint overlooking the spectacular Pacific Ocean. The trailhead is located at the end of Elk Creek Road, just a quarter mile east of the Sunset exit to Cannon Beach.
The splendor of the Oregon coast is that there is so much access to nature. Tufted puffins nest on Haystack Rock beginning in April and can be seen through July while gray whales migrate north along the Oregon Coast each spring with the peak of the migration from mid March to mid April, but whales are frequently spotted through June.
Grab dinner at Public Coast Brewing before heading over to a show at Coaster Theatre Playhouse, a nonprofit organization that presents live theater and events year-round. Entertaining for visitors of all ages, this is a fun experience not to be missed. Check their website for show schedules.
Before heading back home the next morning, stop by local favorite Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters and pick up a fresh-baked scone with a shot of Sleepy Monk’s signature whipped cream and revel in the friendly service.