Updated: March 2, 2023

If you love getting out and enjoying the outdoors—and you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of mainland life—Kauaʻi is the place to be. Each of the Hawaiian islands has its own distinct character, as you’ll discover when deciding which Hawaiian Island you want to call home. Many think of Kauaʻi as the polar opposite of busy Oahu. It’s an island that’s pretty much all “country” with very little “city” to speak of.

People come to Kauaʻi to enjoy a slower pace of life. When you move to the Garden Isle, you’ll enjoy plentiful opportunities to get out and enjoy Kauaʻi’s natural landscape—shoreline fishing, hiking, surfing, or hitting the beach. You’ll also find a charming local character in Kauaʻi, where most of your shopping is done in mom-and-pop stores.

If you’re considering a move to Kauaʻi, we’ll give you a head start on your research with some ideas on where to live, work, shop, and enjoy your days off.

But, first, we want to answer some of the most common questions our Royal Hawaiian Movers team hears about living on Kauaʻi.

Frequently Asked Questions – Living on Kauaʻi

There’s a reason they call Kauaʻi the Garden Isle! Natural beauty takes center stage on Kauaʻi. If you decide to move to Kauaʻi, you can spend your days gazing at the incredible Na Pali Coast, admiring Waimea Canyon (also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), lounging on a perfect white sand beach, hiking through a lush rainforest, or frolicking in the turquoise Pacific waters that surround the island.

Kauaʻi’s residents enjoy beautiful weather year round, a stunning natural landscape, easy access to the gorgeous waters of the Pacific Ocean, and a laid-back island lifestyle—so we’d say that Kauaʻi is a pretty good place to live!

Kauaʻi is one of the more expensive islands in Hawaii to live on, largely because of its housing costs, which are among the highest in the island chain. (More on that later!) To give you a better sense of how much money you need to live on Kauaʻi, let’s take a look at one of the other major expenses you’ll encounter on the Garden Isle: groceries.

The majority of the food you’ll see in Kauaʻi’s grocery stores has to be shipped in. As a result, costs are higher than what you’ll typically see on the mainland. Check out the latest groceries prices at Safeway in Lihue so you can compare them to the prices at your current home:

We’ll also discuss the cost of buying and renting real estate in Kauaʻi later in this article to give you a little more intel for your Kauaʻi budget.

Living on Kauaʻi is unlike living anywhere else in the world, so there are a few things to know that will make your transition to the Garden Isle significantly easier. We wrote a whole article on the topic, but, to give you a preview: Downsizing before you move is a great idea, shipping your car isn’t as clear-cut a decision as you might think, consider starting the paperwork early if you plan on moving with your pets, and keep that Costco membership!

Read the rest of our things to know before moving to Kauaʻi.

Absolutely! The Kauaʻi Department of Water monitors the drinking water system closely, so if you’re drinking from a tap connected to public water, you’re absolutely fine to drink it.

However, if you’re hiking and find yourself tempted to drink from one of Kauaʻi’s many streams or waterfalls, we’d recommend against it. Things like leptospirosis (a microscopic bacteria that can be found in fresh water) can be found in the waters on Kauaʻi. Instead, fill up your bottles from the tap before you leave home to stay hydrated.

From November to March, you’ll experience Kauaʻi’s “rainy season.” We put “rainy season” in quotes because, like much of Hawaii, Kauaʻi has a number of microclimates around the island. It might be raining up in Princeville, while the sun is shining in Poipu.

In other words, during the winter months, you’re more likely to see rain in Kauaʻi, which is vital for making the island’s landscape verdant and green. However, you can almost always find a sunny spot on the island—or simply enjoy a different kind of adventure in the rain!

With more than 100,000 visitors each month, it’s no surprise that leisure and hospitality—which includes accommodations, food services, bars, and restaurants—employs the largest number of people on Kauaʻi. The government employs the next largest group of people, followed by the retail trade, which also supports the tourism industry. If you’re moving to Kauaʻi without a job, working in leisure and hospitality or retail will get you to work the fastest.

(You’ll find a more detailed run-down of the largest industries on Kauaʻi below!)

Where to Live on Kauai

When you decide to move Kauaʻi, it’s common for people to offer you friendly advice about the difference between visiting Kauaʻi and actually living there.

One of the things we’ve noticed is that tourists tend to explore the entire island with enthusiasm. However, when people move to Kauaʻi, they seem to stick to the area where they live.

We mention all this as a preamble to our own piece of friendly advice, namely: Choose your neighborhood carefully. You’ll probably spend most of your time in that area! Make sure that the things that drew you to Kauaʻi are easily accessible from your home base.

Additionally, like the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauaʻi has a number of microclimates that range from dry and hot to lush and wet. So whereas some locations may require nearly constant air conditioning, others may not. Keep this in mind as you do your research.

What’s the Best Place to Live in Kauaʻi?

To kick off your search, we’ve compiled a list of several popular areas you might consider:

  • Kapaʻa – Kapaʻa town is centrally located on Kauaʻi’s east side, with quick and easy access to the central hub of Līhuʻe . Kapaʻa offers its residents a variety of activities, shopping, and dining. It can also be a more affordable area to call home. Don’t miss the first Saturday art walk!
  • Kekaha – If you’re looking for a relaxing way of life with easy access to long beach walks and gorgeous sunsets, consider Kehaka on Kauaʻi’s sunny west side. Surfers, retirees, and those looking to truly unwind have found their own personal paradise in Kehaka. Bonus: You’ll enjoy views of Niʻihau , Hawaii’s “forbidden island.”
  • Līhuʻe – Līhuʻe is Kauaʻi’s capital and second-largest city. If you choose to make your home in Līhuʻe town, you’ll have easy access to the airport, as well as the commercial center of the island with its hospitals, banks, offices, and more. Additionally, because Līhuʻe is centrally located Kauaʻi, you’ll be well-positioned to explore the entire island on your days off.
  • Kīlauea – If you’re looking for classic, Kauaʻi-style living with majestic ocean and mountain views, Kīlauea might be the place for you. With lows that hit the 60s in the winter months, Kīlauea can offer more a more temperate feel than other places in Kauaʻi. With no hotels nearby, it also offers a much quieter style of living.
  • Poʻipū – Poʻipū is an area that many flock to for its near-constant sunshine and low annual rainfall. This south shore neighborhood is home to a number of high-end hotels and resorts, which means plentiful shopping choices for residents. Because it’s a popular area with tourists, Poʻipū can be a little more high-energy than some of Kauaʻi’s more laid-back towns.
What Is the Average Rent on Kauaʻi?

As with many of the Hawaiian Islands, the cost of living in Kauaʻi can be steep, and rent is no exception. Rents vary significantly based on your location, as well as the amenities of your unit. However, we’re seeing rents that average around:

1 Bedroom
Average Rent


2 Bedroom
Average Rent


Craigslist can be helpful to start your search. If you have any friends already living on Kauai, ask them to spread the word for you. Some of the best deals can be found by word of mouth. 

What Does the Average Home Cost on Kauaʻi?

As we mentioned earlier, Kauaʻi is one of the more expensive islands for real estate. As you can see from the numbers below, the overall median sale price on Kauaʻi is significantly higher than the median list price in the state of Hawaii.

If your budget is more limited, you might look at buying a condominium in Kauaʻi. While the average price per square foot will still be pretty high, you’ll be looking at a smaller price tag overall.

Single-Family Homes
Median Sale Price, Kauaʻi


Median Sale Price, Kauaʻi


All Homes
Median Sale Price, Kauaʻi


All Homes
Median List Price, State of HI


Where to Shop

To a greater extent than many of the other islands, Kauaʻi’s shopping landscape is dominated by local businesses. We have seen a significant jump in shipments from Amazon.com in recent years, but if you need something ASAP, you’ll likely be headed to a mom-and-pop shop on Kauaʻi.

Some of our favorites on the island include:

  • Ko Bakery – This bakery right around the corner from the Royal Hawaiian Movers office in Kauaʻi gets a lot of foot traffic from our team. Pop in for a cinnamon roll and an iced coffee.
  • Talk Story Book Store – This charming bookstore in Hanapepe features over 150,000 titles: beach reads, children’s books, mysteries, current best-sellers, and extensive Hawaiiana.
  • Tahiti Nui – Stop into this iconic restaurant in Hanalei (featured in the movie, The Descendants!) to enjoy a kalua pork pizza or the day’s fresh catch with the backdrop of live music nightly.
  • Hawaiian Blizzard – Stop in to see Aaron at his shave ice food cart in front of the Big Save supermarket in Kapaʻa and get an extra helping of aloha with your order.
  • Kauaʻi Athletic Club – Many transplants to Kauaʻi report meeting new friends at the Kauaʻi Athletic Club. In other words, go to improve your fitness, stay for the sense of community.
  • Papaya’s – Stop into this natural food store in Kapaʻa to snag lunch from the soup and salad bar or to pick up fresh, local produce for dinner. They also have an excellent bulk food section that can help you save a little on your monthly grocery budget.

Where to Work on Kauai

As we mentioned earlier, a good number of people on Kauaʻi are employed in the tourism sector or in occupations that support tourism, such as retail. If you’re coming to Kauaʻi and looking for employment, this list of top industries will give you a sense of where to start looking:

As with housing, sites like Craigslist will get you started, but your best bet is to get out and meet people. Talk to any friends you have on the island. Even if they don’t know of anyone hiring, having an on-island reference can give you a leg up.

How to Enjoy Your Days Off on Kauai 

There are many reasons to love living in the state of Hawaii, and Kauaʻi offers you the opportunity to enjoy every one of them. Plus, if you love the outdoors, the Garden Isle can feel like one, big playground to you.

As you settle into Kauaʻi, you’ll discover the unique combination of activities you look forward to most on your days off. Here’s a list of some of our favorites to give you a little inspiration:

  • Go for a hike – Kauaʻi offers plentiful opportunities to put some miles on your feet. Explore the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon State Park, and the Okolehao Trail for starters. Because you’re in Kauaʻi, a hike isn’t just any ordinary walk. Along the way, you’ll enjoy sights like breathtaking waterfalls, lush rainforests, and awe-inspiring coastal scenery.
  • Try shoreline fishing – You can catch all kinds of fish from the shoreline: papio, omilu, akule, and more. Throw a few in a frying pan, and enjoy a locally-sourced feast for dinner.
  • Take to the river – As with all the other Hawaiian Islands, Kauaʻi offers plenty of opportunities to explore the ocean via paddleboard, surfboard, foilboard, and more. But Kauaʻi also offers the unique chance to take a slow meander down one of its several rivers, including the Wailua and Hanalei. Whereas the ocean delivers a thrilling experience, kayaking or paddleboarding one of Kauaʻi’s rivers is a relaxing one with plenty of epic scenery to keep you entertained.
  • Hit the beach – Whether you want to snorkel, sunbathe, or splash in the calm waters of a “baby beach,” Kauaʻi has plentiful options for you to explore. Local tip: If you plan on swimming, make sure you evaluate the conditions before you go in. If you’re new to Kauaʻi beaches, pick ones with lifeguards, and pay attention to any high surf warnings. If you’re not much of a swimmer, try the calm, protected waters of Baby Beach in Poʻipū .
  • Throw a barbecue or a potluck – Invite your neighbors and your island friends and invite them to bring theirs. It’s a great, casual way to get to know your new community.

However you decide to fill your days off, don’t forget to get out and explore. Venturing beyond your immediate neighborhood and exploring all of Kauaʻi’s amazing sights will ensure that you get the most out of your island adventure.

Calling Kauai Home 

If you decide to make the move to Kauaʻi, we’ll welcome you with aloha—and one piece of advice. In all the years that we’ve had an office on Kauaʻi, we’ve helped plenty of people get settled on the island. In our experience, the people who find it easy to call Kauaʻi “home” are the ones who understand what Kauaʻi is all about. They embrace the way things are on the island—the slower lifestyle and the laid-back attitude. If you can do the same, you’ll find it easy to settle into Kauaʻi life.

Want to make Kauai your home?

We’d be happy to help! Just reach out to us for a guaranteed quote from one of our Certified Moving Consultants. We’d love to get you settled into your new home on the Garden Isle. 

[1] https://www.redfin.com/county/666/HI/Kauaʻi-County/housing-market https://www.redfin.com/state/Hawaii; https://www.locationshawaii.com/learn/market-reports/Kauaʻi-real-estate-report/; data accessed July 2022

[1] https://dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/job-count-by-industry/

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