If you love getting out and enjoying the outdoors—and you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of mainland life—Kauai is the place to be. Each of the Hawaiian islands has its own distinct character, as you’ll discover when deciding which island you want to call home. Many think of Kauai 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 Kauai to enjoy a slower pace of life. When you move to the Garden Isle, you’ll find plentiful opportunities to get out and enjoy Kauai’s natural landscape, whether you enjoy shoreline fishing, hiking, surfing or hitting the beach. You’ll also find a charming local character in Kauai, where most of your shopping is done in mom-and-pop stores.
If you’re considering a move to Kauai, we’ll give you a head start on your research with some ideas on where to live, work, shop and enjoy your days off.
Where to Live on Kauai
When you decide to move Kauai, you might get some advice about the difference between visiting Kauai 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 Kauai, they seem to stick to their area of the island. All this is to say: Choose your neighborhood carefully. You’ll probably spend most of your time in that area! Make sure that the things that drew you to Kauai are easily accessible from your home base.
Additionally, like the rest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai has a number of microclimates that range from dry and hot to lush and wet. So whereas some locations may nearly require nearly constant air conditioning, others may not. Keep this in mind as you do your research.
To kick off your search, we’ve compiled a list of several popular areas you might consider:
- Kapaa – Kapaa town is centrally located on Kauai’s east side, with quick and easy access to the central hub of Lihue. Kapaa offers its residents a variety of activities, shopping and dining, and it can be a more affordable area to call home. Don’t miss the first Saturday art walk!
- Poipu – Poipu is an area that many people love 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, Poipu can be a little more high-energy than some of Kauai’s more laid-back towns.
- Kilauea – If you’re looking for classic, Kauai-style living with majestic ocean and mountain views, Kilauea might be the place for you. With lows that hit the 60s in the winter months, Kilauea can offer more a more temperate feel than other places in Kauai. With no hotels nearby, it also offers a much quieter style of living.
- Lihue – Lihue is Kauai’s capital and second-largest city. If you choose to make your home in Lihue 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 Lihue is centrally located on Kauai, you’ll be well-positioned to explore the entire island on your days off.
- Kekaha – If you’re looking for a relaxing way of life with easy access to long beach walks and gorgeous sunsets, consider Kehaka on Kauai’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 Niihau, Hawaii’s “forbidden island.”
As with many of the Hawaiian islands, the cost of living in Kauai 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:
- $1200-$1800 for 1BR
- $1900-$2500 for 2BR
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.
Where to Shop
To a greater extent than many of the other islands, Kauai’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 Kauai.
Some of our favorites on the island include:
- Ko Bakery – This bakery right around the corner from the Royal Hawaiian Movers office in Kauai 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 Kapaa and get an extra helping of aloha with your order.
- Kauai Athletic Club – Many transplants to Kauai report meeting new friends at the Kauai 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 Kapaa 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.
You’ll also find farmer’s markets open nearly every day of the week. Check out this handy list, complete with a map!
Where to Work on Kauai
As you might guess, a good number of people on Kauai are employed in the tourism sector, or in occupations that support tourism, such as retail. If you’re coming to Kauai and looking for employment, these numbers will give you a sense of where to start looking:
- Tourism (26%)
- Government (15%)
- Retail (14.5%)
- Agriculture (2.9%)
- Educational services (0.7%)i
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 Kauai 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 Kauai, 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 – Kauai offers plentiful opportunities to put some miles on your feet. Explore the Napali Coast, Waimea Canyon State Park and the Okolehau trail for starters. Because you’re in Kauai, 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, Ulua, Akule and more. Throw a few in a frying pan and enjoy a locally-sourced feast for dinner.
- Check out Hanapepe Art Night – Enjoy a night out with your family or date night with your significant other in the charming town of Hanapepe. Every Friday night, you can enjoy musicians, galleries and local vendors from 6-9pm.
- Hit the beach – Whether you want to snorkel, sunbathe or splash in the calm waters of a “baby beach,” Kauai 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 Kauai 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 Poipu.
- 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 Kauai’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 Kauai, we’ll welcome you with aloha—and one piece of advice. In the 15 years that we’ve had an office on Kauai, we’ve helped plenty of people get settled on the island. In our experience, the people who find it easy to call Kauai “home” are the ones who understand what Kauai 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 Kauai 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.