More than 130 islands make up the Hawaiian Archipelago. However, the state’s population is largely concentrated on four major islands: Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai. Each has its own distinct features, character, and vibe.
More than 73,000 people have chosen to make their home on Kauai. What draws people to the Garden Isle, as opposed to Oahu, the Big Island, or Maui?
Below, we’ve compiled our list of the nine biggest reasons people decide to move to Kauai. Take a look and see if these nine advantages make it clear that moving to Kauai is right for you—or that another Hawaiian island might be a better fit.
Let’s dive in!
#1: Family-Owned Businesses You Won’t Find Anywhere Else
Kauai’s population has been growing since the ’70s, when there were just over 30,000 people living on the island. Even as its population has more than doubled, Kauai has retained much of its unique character.
More than any other island in Hawaii, you’ll find a number of locally-owned stores on Kauai. These “mom and pop” shops tend to lend more personality to the shopping experience than the national chains that have started to dominate certain areas of Hawaii.
As Kauai continues to grow—and attract more and more national brands—some locally owned businesses shuttered. Additionally, COVID pressures pushed a few others to close their doors.
However, on Kauai, you’ll still see a number of families running their own stores, which gives the island a strong sense of community and a strong identity, one that its residents love.
#2: Plenty of Key Conveniences
Even though you’ll find a number of small, unique, only-in-Kauai businesses on the island, it still has plenty of conveniences. Costco has a location in Lihue. (Great for cheap gas!) You can also stop by Target, Walmart, or Home Depot while you’re there. When it comes to filling your pantry, there are grocery stores all over the island, including Foodland, Safeway, Big Save Markets, and several natural food stores. Finally, free shipping for Amazon Prime members is also available on Kauai. Prime shipping takes ~3–7 business days for delivery, as opposed to ~1–2 days on the mainland. However, you won’t pay any extra shipping charges.
In other words, even though Kauai is touted as the Garden Isle, you’ll still find plenty of stores to get the supplies you need.
#3: The Chance to Choose Your Own Microclimate
What’s the weather like on Kauai? It all depends on where you live! One of the perks of living on Kauai is the opportunity to choose the microclimate that works best for you.
If you love being surrounded by lush greenery—and you don’t mind a little rain—Kauai’s North Shore might be perfect for you. The mean annual rainfall in Hanalei is around 96 inches, about twice what you’d see in Kapaa and almost three times as much as Poipu.
Mean Annual Rainfall in Kauai
- 96.2″ Hanalei – North Shore
- 46.4″ Kapaa – Windward (Eastern) Coast
- 38.2″ Poipu – South Shore
- 22.2″ Kaumakani – Leeward (Western) Coast
If you’re a sun-worshipper, you might be happier on Kauai’s South Shore or along the Leeward Coast, where the days are hotter and sunnier. If you choose the windward side (i.e., the eastern coast of the island), you’ll have Hawaii’s northeast trade winds to keep you cool.
What’s the best way to find the right microclimate for you? Visit homes all over the island, and see what appeals to you. The right choice can make all the difference for your time on Kauai.
#4: The Outdoor-Centric Lifestyle
If there’s nothing you love more than getting outdoors, Kauai will truly be paradise for you. Nature is the real star on the Garden Isle, where you’ll find picturesque white sand beaches, dramatic canyons, colorful coral reefs, tranquil rivers, and graceful green peaks.
On Kauai, you can spend your days:
A large part of the island of Kauai isn’t accessible by car. However, if you’re willing to put some miles on your feet, you’ll unlock Kauai’s most dramatic and beautiful sights. The Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast makes for an epic adventure, but you’ll also find plenty of other options that don’t require advance registration. Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon State Park both feature a number of trails with gorgeous views. Some of the hikes can be challenging, but the payoffs (like waterfalls!) are generous.
One of Kauai’s most unique features is its rivers, several of which can be navigated by canoe or stand-up paddleboard. Perennial favorites include the Wailua River and the Hanalei River. Grab a kayak or a SUP, pack a lunch, and take in Kauai’s lush tropical interior from the water.
You’ll find some great spots for mountain biking in Kauai, plus some opportunities to cycle some miles on the road, too. Mountain biking is rain-dependent, so you’ll have to time your excursions carefully. On the days when the trails are too muddy, check out the Ke Ala Hele Makalae, also known as the Kauai Multiuse Path, which starts at Lydgate Beach Park. Or try riding from Hanalei to Haena Beach Park, a favorite route of the Kauai Bike Doktor.
Truly, you can do all kinds of watersports on Kauai—snorkeling, scuba diving, spearfishing, windsurfing, foiling, etc. But Kauai is best known as an island that’s turned out a number of professional surfers, including Andy Irons, Titus Kinimaka, Bethany Hamilton, and Keala Kennelly. If you’re looking to hone your surfing chops, the North Shore of Kauai is the place to be. And if you’re new to the sport, you’ll find some gentle, friendlier breaks on the island’s South Shore.
#5: That Relaxed Island Pace
Kauai is a place where time slows down, significantly more than busy Oahu or even middle-of-the-road Maui. If your idea of an island paradise is one that moves at a leisurely speed, you’re going to love Kauai.
It’s a place to leave your mainland sense of time—and any mainland sensibilities—behind. In fact, in our experience, the people who really thrive on Kauai are the ones who embrace the place exactly as it is and adjust themselves accordingly.
#6: An Incredible Beach Around Every Corner
Hawaii’s islands are not all created equal, especially where beaches are concerned. In fact, you’ll find plenty of people willing to argue that Kauai has the best beaches in the entire island chain. They’re long. They’re picturesque. They’ve got plenty of soft, white, sand to stretch out on. And they tend to be less crowded than many of the beaches elsewhere in Hawaii.
And here’s the best part: You’ll find them all over the island of Kauai. So no matter where you decide to make your home, you’ll never be far from an incredible beach.
#7: A Tight-Knit Community Feel
If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you’ve got a sense of what life on Kauai is like. Although all 73,000 residents don’t really know each other, it sometimes feels that way. The person behind you at Foodland may be the same person you run into on the beach or at the post office or at Costco, etc. In other words, on Kauai, it sometimes feels like you’re seeing the same people over and over again.
Some people might find this small-town atmosphere stifling. (If that’s the case, Oahu might be a better pick!) However, if you relish the idea of getting to know your neighbors and sharing the bounties and beauty of the island with a tight-knit community, you’ll love Kauai.
#8: Abundant Produce That’s Incredibly Fresh
Farmers’ markets operate almost every day on Kauai, stocked with an incredible variety of fruits, vegetables, juices, condiments, baked goods, and other edible treats. You’ll see a ton of produce you recognize—like kale, eggplant, herbs, and bananas—as well as some new fruits and vegetables you may not be familiar with. No matter what you pick, it’s all incredibly fresh and delicious.
Don’t be shy about asking questions! Many of the vendors enjoy talking story—and explaining their produce, as well as how to prepare it. Eating the freshest Kauai has to offer will certainly add a new dimension to your life on the island.
Plus, if you’re lucky enough to buy a property with established fruit trees, you can enjoy avocados, mangoes, bananas, oranges, lemons, apples, and many, many more delicious items right from your yard! Many plants thrive on Kauai. Often, people find themselves with so much of a particular kind of fruit that they end up sharing with their neighbors, who return the favor when they find themselves in the same spot.
#9: It’s Much Easier to Bring Your Dog or Cat with You
Back in the day, it used to be really difficult to bring a dog or cat to Hawaii, especially to one of the neighbor islands like Kauai. (We’re talking mandatory up-to-120-day quarantines on Oahu!)
However, these days, many pets are eligible for direct airport release, even on Kauai—as long as you get all the right paperwork and tests completed. (Check out our Complete Guide to Moving Your Dogs, Cats and Other Pets to Hawaii for all the details!) If you’ve been putting off your move to Kauai because you weren’t sure whether you could bring your best friend with you, rest assured that it’s gotten way easier in recent years. Start with your veterinarian, who can get you started on the process.
Making the Move to Kauai
Now that you’ve gotten a sense of what makes Kauai stand out, are you ready to make the move?
If you’re not sure yet—and want to take a deeper dive into the Garden Isle—check out our other articles about Kauai:
And when you’re ready to make the move, we’d be happy to help! Our Lihue-based team can help you move anywhere on Kauai. Just reach out for a free quote to get started.