If you’re looking for a slower-paced, laid-back island lifestyle, the Hawaiian island of Kauai may be just the place for you. Kauai has been nicknamed the Garden Isle because so much of its square footage is dominated by its unforgettable natural features. Think lush, green rainforests, pristine beaches, and dramatic mountain ranges, cliffs, canyons, and gulches. Nature is the real superstar on Kauai, second only to the charming, locally-owned businesses that give the island a unique flair you won’t find anywhere else.
If you’re considering a move to Kauai, you’ve probably started thinking about exactly where you’ll want to make your home. To help you with your research, we’ve divided the island into five zones, each of which offers its own distinct experience. We’ll take you on a tour through all five to help you get to know the Garden Isle—and find the spot that perfectly fits your vision of Hawaii life.
Kauai’s North Shore is famous for its world-class Winter waves and its verdant setting, which is due to the fact that the area gets more rain than many other parts of Kauai. Princeville, for example, gets about 77 inches of rain a year, while sunny Poipu on the South Shore only gets around 31. If you love the outdoors, there are plenty of beaches, trails, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, and stunning landscapes to keep you busy on Kauai’s North Shore.
If the North Shore sounds like the right fit for you, check out these two neighborhoods:
- Hanalei – Living in Hanalei offers you easy access to gorgeous Hanalei Bay as well as the town’s Saturday Farmers’ Market, where you’ll find tables overflowing with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Add to that the daily vista of the surrounding mountains and the charm of town itself, and you’ll have a sense of what it might be like to make quiet Hanalei your home.
- Princeville – Once a place where coffee and sugarcane dominated the landscape, Princeville is now home to both single-family homes and condos, so you’ll find some variety among the area’s housing types. As one of Kauai’s first planned communities, Princeville residents benefit from convenient access to number of amenities in the area, like paved walking paths, parks, tennis courts, golf courses, swimming pools, and more.
Hurricane Iniki gave this coast a beating in 1992, but it’s rebounded nicely in the intervening years. The biggest town in the area is Kapaa, which boasts a population just over 10,000, making it the biggest “city” in Kauai. If you’re looking for convenience, Kapaa delivers, with plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from. You’ll also have easy access to the Ke Ala Hele Makalae, also known as the Kauai Coastal Path so you can cruise this coast’s beautiful beaches via bike or by foot whenever the mood strikes you.
If the Coconut Coast (as this area is known, due to its plentiful coconut palms) sounds like your kind of place, check out:
- Kapaa – Although there’s no true “hustle-bustle” in Kauai, this area is one of Kauai’s livelier ones, with a good mix of condos, townhouses, and single-family homes to offer your some variety to choose from. You’ll also have easy access to Kapaa’s Monthly First Saturday Art Walk, when the town comes alive with art, music, food, and festivities.
- Kealia – If you want all the amenities of living close to Kapaa with a little more peace and quiet, take a look at Kealia. The area still offers easy access to the coastal beaches, and, if you’re a surfer, you’ll be well-positioned to catch some of Kealia Beach’s relatively consistent waves.
Tourists flock to Kauai’s South Shore to enjoy its hot, sunny beaches, as well as its resorts, restaurants, and shopping opportunities. As a resident, this creates both positives and its negatives, depending on your perspective. If you prefer a quieter lifestyle where you’ll be surrounded by more residents than visitors, the South Shore may not be for you. If you’re looking for an area with a number of amenities like high-end restaurants and shopping, and you enjoy the dynamic energy from a consistent stream of visitors, you’ll love the South Shore.
If the South Shore sounds like a perfect fit for you, check out:
- Poipu – Think sunny coastal living with a resort-driven backdrop of manicured golf greens and impeccably maintained tropical landscapes. Plus, you’ll enjoy all the area’s beaches, bars, and restaurants, right at your fingertips. For a more residential experience, move your sights mauka (up the mountain) to Koloa proper.
- Kalaheo – One of the bigger population centers on the South Shore, Kalaheo’s ~5,500 residents can enjoy all of the fun of the area with a short drive home at the end. However, the residences in Kalaheo offer a more residential feel, which could be perfect if you’re looking for something a little more quiet and serene. Kalaheo residents are also just a smidge closer to Kauai’s West Side and the spectacular sights it offers.
If it’s quiet you crave—plus the best sunset views on the island—the West Side of Kauai might be just your speed. As opposed to the South Shore where tourism reigns supreme, agriculture dominates on the West Side, with coffee as its centerpiece. Although there aren’t as many swimming beaches on Kauai’s West Side, it’s home to several recreation areas. You’ll find the dramatic landscape of the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” at Waimea State Park, plenty of hiking trails at Kokee State Park, and a 12-mile beach to walk at Polihale State Park. Although the area might be too isolated for some, if you want to be surrounded by nature and not much else, look to Kauai’s West Side.
Two areas to consider on the West Side:
Hanapepe – If you’ve ever seen Lilo & Stitch, you already have a sense of what Hanapepe is like, since the town served as inspiration for the movie. Hanapepe is well-known for its easy pace of live and its Friday Night Festival & Art Walk. The town is also home to the Talk Story bookstore, a neighborhood hub that’s so much more than just a place to pick up your next great read.
Waimea – This peaceful area features a mix of single-family homes and condominiums. It’s also a historic seaport town with a quaint feel that’s just a stone’s throw from the spot where Captain James Cook made a stop in 1778. The area is a bit off the beaten path, but if it’s seclusion you’re looking for, Waimea might just fit the bill.
If it’s convenience you’re after, Lihue, Kauai’s capital might be the place to make your new home in Kauai. This is especially true if you’re looking to ditch yard maintenance and try condo life, since Lihue has more condo developments than any other area of the island. Lihue is also home to Kauai’s airport (great for frequent travelers!), its main port, Nawiliwili Harbor, and our Royal Hawaiian Movers Kauai office. (If you’re looking for a great cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll, don’t miss our team’s favorite, Ko Bakery!)
In addition to being close to big box stores like Costco, Walmart, and the Home Depot, you’ll also enjoy a central location that makes it easy to explore just about any part of Kauai at a moment’s notice.
Getting Settled on the Garden Isle
As you’re doing your research on Kauai neighborhoods, your first step will be deciding what you want to get out of your island lifestyle. Are you a beach lover who wants to be mere steps from the ocean? An outdoor enthusiast who wants to be awed by Kauai’s natural wonders on a daily basis? A retiree looking for a quiet, peaceful way to spend your golden years? Or a busy family who wants lots of options in your daily life? Kauai has a little bit of everything. Do a little research and ideally make a visit to the Garden Isle, and you’ll quickly discover the right neighborhood for you, the one that will ensure that you enjoy your time on Kauai.
Thinking of making the move to Kauai? Our Lihue-based team would be happy to assist you! Get started with a complimentary quote today—and feel free to ask us your questions about Kauai life! We’d be happy to help you find the right fit for you and your family.
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