Moving to Kauai – A Guide to Which Side of the Island is Right For You
- Do you feel most at home when you are at the beach with your toes buried in the sand and salt water on your skin?
- Does your body feel rejuvenated by the warmth, energy, and activities of our beautiful island?
- Does the vision of never seeing any high-rises here appeal to you? (No building on Kauai may be higher than a coconut palm.)
- Are you passionate when chatting about Hawaii and try to plan your yearly holiday to visit?
This is me paddling the 3rd Annual 17.5 mile Na Pali Challenge Race. I have participated each year~ Even better, I completed the race!
I know that is what my family thought in 1988. We bought a one-way ticket from Ventura, California, and here we are. You too can turn your dreams into a reality…make a list, check it twice. Soon you too can be living your dream.
Popular Kauai Activities
Kauai is a place where eating healthy and playing outdoors comes naturally and is part of your everyday routine. Popular Kauai activities include:
- Stand-up paddleboarding
- Horseback riding
- Boating, kayaking, and canoe paddling
- Off-road ATV & 4×4
Let me help you find which side of the island is a good fit for you! There are great neighborhoods to choose from all over the island. Each side offers something a little different, yet is a relatively short drive to other sides of the island.
The popular Tunnels Reef (great snorkeling spot!) on the north shore
Because of the Na Pali Coast, you are unable to drive in a complete circle around Kauai. To drive from the north shore to the west side takes about 2-3 hours depending on traffic. Whichever side of the island you decide on, you can’t really go wrong in a place like Kauai.
Kauai’s north shore is famous for its beautiful cliffs, mountains, and endless white sand beaches – and especially the 17-mile long Na Pali Coast. All along the Na Pali Coast are 3,000-foot tall cliffs featuring majestic green valleys and amazing waterfalls.
The north shore is also home to some famous surf spots with winter swells reaching 30 feet. If you are a surfer looking to ride the wave of a lifetime, your opportunity awaits you on the north shore of Kauai.
Hawaii’s largest living reef is found at Anini on Kauai’s north shore
The north shore is home to the Kilauea Lighthouse, Anini Reef (Hawaii’s largest living reef) and Hanalei Bay, just to name a few. The north shore is for those looking for a Hawaii lifestyle surrounded by lush foliage and gorgeous beaches.
Being roughly a 45-minute drive from Lihue (Kauai’s main town), the north shore is more secluded and “in the country.” There are no fast food restaurant chains or even stoplights, but plenty of natural beauty and outdoor activities.
Kauai’s east side, also called the Coconut Coast because of all the coconut palm groves growing there, is also home to one of the most breathtaking – and most easily accessible – waterfalls in all of Hawaii: Opaekaa Falls (pictured below).
Beautiful Kauai waterfalls can be seen on many of Kauai’s mountains – especially after a good rain
This side of the island is also home to the Wailua River, Hawaii’s only navigable river. The Wailua River offers kayaking, boating, and swimming, providing endless entertainment and fun for families and people of all ages on those warm Kauai days. Also near the river is Smith’s Kauai, offering botanical and cultural garden tours, river cruises, garden luaus, and much more.
The east side of the island is just 10-15 minutes from Lihue and is home to Waipouli Shopping Center, which includes several familiar franchise chain stores, such as Safeway, McDonald’s, etc. The Kapaa boat ramp is also nearby for those who have boats.
Lihue is both our government and commercial center for the entire island. Practical and convenient, Lihue is also the location for our main airport. Kalapaki Beach is a popular destination for people who love body surfing, swimming, and windsurfing.
Nawiliwili Harbor is located in Lihue and is Kauai’s main shipping port, also offering recreational boat owners a place to keep their boats or simply a place to launch from. Lihue is for those who seek a more “city” lifestyle with amenities and shopping close by to their homes.
Lihue still offers gorgeous Kauai beaches and views while being conveniently located in the center of the island, about the same traveling distance from both the west side and north shore.
Kauai’s south shore is popular for its beautiful beaches, offering amazing water activities, prime surf spots, and plenty of sunshine for sunbathers. The best known south shore town is sunny Poipu, which gets its nickname from its great weather, being almost always sunny even when the rest of the island is not.
Spouting Horn – One of Kauai’s most photographed natural attractions
Also on the south shore you will find the Spouting Horn, which is an opening in the lava rock that sends a geyser of water into the sky with every incoming wave, and is where you can find a panoramic view of the southern coastline. Poipu is also home to many resorts and condominiums.
The south shore is tourist-friendly with lots of local boutiques and souvenir shops, in addition to its natural attractions. The south side also boasts gorgeous and challenging golf courses that attract many high profile golfers. It is roughly a 20-minute drive from Lihue.
Kauai’s west side is home to Waimea Canyon, known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” which is one of the most spectacular sights of the island. It is 10 miles long, 2 miles wide and 3,600 feet deep. Kauai’s Kokee State Park is also located on the west side and offers camping, hiking, and scenic lookout points boasting breathtaking views of the Na Pali Coast.
Waimea Canyon: “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”
Port Allen is Kauai’s other major boat harbor and is located on the west side of the island. Many fishing charters and activities are stationed in the Port Allen area. Skydive Kauai is located near Port Allen on this side of the island.
The west side is about a 40-minute drive from Lihue and is home to several Kauai businesses including Kauai Coffee (company tours are available), Kauai Kookie, and Kauai Chocolate Company. These local businesses make delectable treats perfect for enjoying yourself or picking up as gifts and souvenirs.
Making the Garden Island Home
Kauai offers so many activities and views, I couldn’t possibly list them all. So, if you’re looking to live in a tropical paradise, Kauai should be on your list of considerations. Come experience the Garden Island for yourself and see why those who live here never want to leave and why those who vacation here come back year after year. If the islands are calling to you…let me be your guide.