Welcome to Kaua`i!
The Hawaiian island of Kaua`i, the northernmost and fourth largest of the eight main Hawaiian islands is known as the Garden Island for its wealth of verdant plant life. Immediately capturing the hearts of all lucky enough to step onto its shores, Kaua`i is popular with malihini (visitors or newcomers) and neighboring Hawaiian island kama`aina (native born).
Despite its modest size (552 sq miles, 111 miles of coastline), Kaua`i is an incredibly diverse and dynamic island. In a single day you can go from palm fringed golden sand beaches to high altitude swamp, tropical rain forests and lithified sand dune cliffs to near desert coastal plains, dramatic canyons and valleys resplendent with rare flora and fauna.
With an incredible contrast in climates and landscapes, combined with some of Hawaii’s finest beaches and over two dozen small, friendly communities with a warm, unhurried atmosphere, it is no wonder so many name Kaua`i as their favorite island. It is in this environment that Kauai’s thriving business community has succeeded in making the County of Kauai’s economy one of the state’s most vibrant.
A glance at the map reveals Kaua`i floating smack in the middle of the Pacific, roughly midway between Los Angeles, Tokyo, Sydney and Santiago. But what looks like an isolated speck of land surrounded by a vast ocean is, in fact, very well connected to the outside and without a doubt one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan rural communities in the world.
To request information on relocation, weddings, and visitor packets, click here or contact the chamber.
Many Distinctive Communities
While Kaua`i has more than two dozen distinctive towns and communities, the County of Kaua`i can be broken down into four main areas plus the neighboring island of Ni`ihau which is privately owned and inhabited exclusively by native Hawaiians.
Kaua`i has a population of about 68,000 with the greatest concentration of businesses and homes on the east side of the island, between the residential area of Puhi, the county seat of Lihu`e, neighboring Hanama`ulu, Wailua (Homesteads and House lots), Kapa`a Town and the adjacent Kawaihau area. The average median household income (2006-2010) was $62,500. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census
The East Side
Here in Lihu`e and Kapa`a you will see the embodiment of a local adage “One island, many people, all Kauaians.” These communities, woven together through their shared heritage, are home to a mix
of transplanted residents, long-time kama`aina (native born) families and malihini (visitors or newcomers).
Kauai`s people have a strong sense of ohana (family), extending to friends, neighbors and the community as a whole. You see it on the road when drivers yield to fellow drivers, and you feel it in a stranger`s warm smile.
Both Lihu`e and Kapa`a are by the beach, near the mountains and never more than a few minutes from leafy residential areas or business districts conveniently
situated to serve the local community as well as visitors.
Kauai’s largest shopping center, Kukui Grove, is located just west of central Lihu`e between the airport, Nawiliwili Harbor and Kaua`i Community College (KCC).
Downtown Lihu`e is the island’s administrative and commercial hub with half a dozen smaller shopping centers and plazas in the Wailua-Kapa`a area, aptly nicknamed the “Coconut Coast.”
The residential areas of Wailua Homesteads and Kawaihau are a mix of sub-divisions and rural homes set back from the coast behind scenic Nounou (“Sleeping Giant”) Ridge.
Continuing north along the Kuhio Highway (Hwy 56), the east side opens into the town of Anahola whose largely Hawaiian residents live beneath a backdrop of soaring mountains. Further north, the communities of Moloa`a Ridge, Kalihiwai Ridge and `Anini Beach are the gateway to the north shore towns of Kilauea, Princeville, Hanalei and Ha`ena.
The former sugar town of Kilauea, the northernmost point on Hawaii’s eight main islands, is cool, casual and home to a wildlife refuge, historical shops, galleries and restaurants.
The Rugged North Shore
Beyond Kilauea is the carefully planned resort community of Princeville, famous for its spectacular views of the Hanalei Valley, north shore mountains and dramatic seascapes. Princeville is a peaceful place to watch the waves from high on a bluff, take a leisurely stroll or enjoy some of Hawaii’s finest golf courses.
In the communities of Hanalei and Ha`ena you’ll find local-style plantation homes as well as multi-million dollar residences nestled cozily between towering mountains and the rugged north shore. These small towns tucked away at the end of the road are prized for their tight-knit communities and relaxed lifestyle. Hanalei is well-known for its surf spots, taro fields and scenic beauty and has a small but thriving commercial center, catering to visitors and residents who enjoy living close to nature.
The South Shore
Kauai’s south shore communities include the resort area of Po`ipu Beach and nearby Koloa, the first sugar town of Hawai`i. Here, on the leeward side of Kaua`i, the climate is semi-arid tropical with the more frequent rainfall of the north shore giving way to seemingly endless sunshine-filled days perfect for warm weather outdoor pursuits like golf, tennis, swimming, surfing and fishing.
Moving inland, the small towns of Oma`o and Lawai have a homey, country feel where lush exotic foliage is sustained by occasional passing mauka (literally: towards the mountains) showers and your neighbors are as likely to keep horses or goats as they are surf boards or boats. Continuing along the back roads, or Kaumuali`i Highway (Hwy 50), you reach the upcountry town of Kalaheo, once a
settlement of Portuguese sugar plantation workers. Today breezy Kalaheo is home to the Kaua`i Coffee Company (the largest coffee estate in the U.S.) and gateway to the west side.
The West Side
Kauai`s west side, with wide open skies and sweeping views of the sugar cane fields, is still thought of by many as the “most Hawaiian” part of Kaua`i. The west side has a distinctly laid-back feel to it, unhurried and comfortable as it is welcoming, warm and friendly.
Inland from Kauai’s former main harbor, Port Allen, is the community of `Ele`ele and below, Hanapepe, called “Kauai’s biggest little town.” Today Hanapepe is well-known for its craft galleries and flourishing art community. Further west you enter true “red dirt country,” where the Gay & Robinson Company maintain the only commercial sugar plantation on Kaua`i between the towns of Kaumakani and Makaweli.
Places to stay
Staying on Kaua`i affords the opportunity to sample accommodations ranging from locally-run bed & breakfasts and hotels of every style and size to restored plantation cottages, time share condominiums and public camp grounds to vacation rental homes and world-class resorts sprawling over acres of palm studded beaches.
Whether spending the night in a mountain cabin beneath the starry skies of Koke`e State Park, on a weekend getaway for two in an upscale version of a “little grass shack” or indulging in some serious luxury at an island resort spa, to stay on Kaua`i is to be immersed in creature comforts, a gift to the five senses.
With a wealth of lodging possibilities to fit every budget and taste, Kaua`i enjoys consistently high occupancy rates, a high percentage of return guests and a reputation for having some of Hawaii’s best accommodations.
If you are looking for the comforts of home or planning a longer stay, there are countless vacation rental homes let out by the week or month in every price range. For those doing their own cooking, Kauai’s daily “Sunshine Markets” provide an excellent opportunity to shop with local residents for Kaua`i-grown fruit, vegetables and flowers. The Sunshine Market schedule can be seen at the County of Kaua`i website www.kauai.gov.
Kaua`i has a seemingly endless variety of places for recreation, sports and leisure from mountains and jungles to big waves and sea caves to sand dunes and beaches. Or why not visit a gallery, museum, cinema or shopping village and join the not-so-wild side of Kaua`i? Below are a few local favorites.
The Kamalani Playground
An on-going community project supported and maintained by The Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park. The Friends came together to design, build and maintain a children’s playground, an interactive bridge, and a pavilion. Two and a half miles of bike and walking paths significantly enhance Lydgate Park in Kapa`a.
For more information visit www.kamalani.org.
The Arboretum is located deep in the lush green forests along the Wailua River, behind Sleeping Giant Mountain, and is a popular spot for locals and visitors to hike, ride horses and enjoy the cool shady surroundings and outstanding scenery.
Koke`e Lodge & Museum Situated at a cool, high 4,000 feet above sea level in Koke`e State Park. In addition to being the gateway to more than 45 miles of hiking trails and some of the most spectacular views in all of Hawai`i (Waimea Canyon Lookout, Kalalau Lookout), Koke`e Lodge has a wide open grassy area, perfect for picnics. The surrounding trails are popular for enjoying native flora, bird watching as well as plum picking during the summer.
Hanalei Pier & Black Pot Park
Located at the eastern end of the famed Hanalei Bay where the Hanalei River flows to the sea. Here kayakers, beach combers, campers and families gather to enjoy the magnificent beauty of the north shore.
Hanapepe`s Salt Pond Beach Park
Located on the sunny south side, this park is nestled in a protected cove between coffee and sugar cane fields and is a favorite gathering spot for local families and visitors to enjoy swimming, snorkeling and barbeques. The county park is named for the adjacent salt ponds still used by Hawaiian families to make salt.
Shopping centers like Kukui Grove (Kauai’s largest), The Shops at Kukui’ula Village, the Coconut Marketplace, Kauai Village Shopping Center, Ching Young Village, Anchor Cove, Po`ipu Shopping Village, Kong Lung Center, Kapaa Shopping Center and the `Ele`ele Shopping Center have a wealth of restaurants, specialty shops, theaters, and boutiques where you will find everything from the ordinary to the unusual.
For a schedule of sunshine markets visit www.kauai.gov. The Shops at Kukui’ula Village in Poipu also has a Gourmet Farmers Market every Wednesday afternoons. Visit www.kukuiula.com for more information.
Outdoor Sports & Activities
Kaua`i is a sports enthusiast’s dream come true. With some of the finest golf in the world, mountains, canyons, rivers, streams and the Pacific Ocean in your backyard, the choices of activities are limited only by your endurance
When considering Kauai’s sports, games and outdoor activity options, you may want to have a seat – it can be a dizzying experience. From surfing, snorkeling, swimming and SCUBA to sailing, biking, hiking, kayaking, fishing, para-sailing, horseback riding, rodeos, tennis and golf, Kaua`i is a sports enthusiast’s dream come true.
For starters, imagine living and playing amongst eight courses with over 153 holes of golf with three of the state’s top five golf courses on Kaua`i.
Three names are synonymous with golfing the Garden Island – Kaua`i Lagoons Golf Club, Poipu Bay Golf Course and Princeville Golf Club. Here you can play on four courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and two by Jack Nicklaus.
Kaua`i also boasts some of the country’s finest municipal golf courses, such as Wailua Golf Course, overlooking world-class views at prices affordable for beginners, yet tough enough to host the pros.
Whether you are a local resident playing with friends or business associates, on vacation with your family, it doesn’t get any better than golfing Kaua`i.
Tennis players will find courts in almost every town with a number of public courts free of charge, on a first come, first serve basis. Hotels and resorts often have lighted courts and some private courts may be available for a fee.
Kaua`i has dozens of companies offering lessons and tours for windsurfers, snorkelers, divers, surfers, sailors, fishermen and water enthusiasts of every type. Visit www.hawaiiansurfingadventures.com for more information.
For those interested in paddling sports, there are several kayak, canoe and outrigger clubs. Visit www.kauai.com/kauai-canoe-clubs for a list of canoe clubs.
One of the most enjoyable ways to see Kaua`i is by horseback and there are several ranches on the island offering tours. Equally exciting are Kauai’s many rodeos which keep Hawaii’s nearly two hundred year history of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) alive. For rodeo information, visit www.cjmstables.com
Since nearly 90% of Kauai is inaccessible by road, hiking is a great way to see Kauai’s natural beauty. There are numerous trails to explore but the most famous hike is the challenging 11-mile Kalalau trail along the Napali Coast. Always hike safely and make sure to take precautionary measures. Maps are available through the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Division of State Parks. For more information, www.hawaii.gov/dlnr
The Lihu`e Bowling Center has 28 lanes, youth programs, tournaments and hosts fund raising events. For more information, call (808) 245-5263
Recreation in Paradise
Age does have its advantages. At 5.1 million years, Kaua`i is the oldest of the eight main Hawaiian islands where the forces of nature have conspired over the eons to form some of Hawaii’s most beautiful coastlines, almost half of which are sand beaches.
For ocean enthusiasts, there are more than fifty separate beaches and fringing reefs with a wide variety of associated activities. Whether you are an experienced SCUBA diver, a first time surfer, a family with small children or just looking to stick your toes in the sand, Kaua`i has the beach for you.
Sea conditions vary widely, but generally the north shore seas are calm in the summer when surfing and boogie boarding are popular on the south side. Winter often brings massive surf to the north and west facing shores of Kaua`i.
On the north shore, Ke`e beach at the end of the road is a popular spot for snorkeling with exciting tropical fish like parrot fish, yellow tang and Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua`a. Also frequently seen in or around Kauai’s ultramarine waters are the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, honu sea turtles, spinner dolphins and during the winter, humpback whales.
For those who prefer their fun on terra firma, Kaua`i has countless outdoor activities including biking, hiking, camping, golf and tennis as well as themed tours where you can experience life on a working ranch, hike to a waterfall, stroll through gardens, get dirty on an ATV or learn about Hawaii’s natural, historical and cultural treasures.
Another fine way to enjoy Kaua`i is to simply do nothing at all. Take a walk alone through the filtered light of an early morning jungle path and listen to the roosters crow. Choose a quiet stretch of beach and watch a sliver of crescent moon rise in the late afternoon skies. Read a book, talk with your kids or simply enjoy being on one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
Evenings on Kaua`i are peaceful with sunsets and starry skies accompanying the timeless rhythm of the ocean’s waves. For a taste of nightlife Hawaiian-style, there are half a dozen entertaining luaus around the island sure to please long time kama`aina (native born) as well as first time visitors or catch some live Hawaiian music and dance offered at a number of Kauai’s open-air restaurants.
A simpler, but equally enjoyable way to spend your days or nights on Kaua`i is to gather with family and friends at one of Kauai’s many county or state parks and enjoy a barbeque.
Find more information about recreation on Kaua`i at the Kauai Visitors Bureau at www.go-hawaii.com
Past & Present
Geologists believe that Kaua`i rose from the sea floor as a volcano approximately 5.1 million years ago. As part of one of the most remote island chains in the world, Kauai’s native flora and fauna grew in total isolation for hundreds of thousands of years, unvisited until the first Polynesian voyagers began arriving from the Marquesas Islands about 1,500 years ago.
From the first Polynesian discoverers and centuries of development of the Hawaiian culture to the overthrow of Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Lili`uokalani in 1893 to becoming a U.S. territory in 1900 to statehood on August 21, 1959, Hawai`i has undergone incredible changes. Throughout it all, however, Kaua`i has maintained a unique independent spirit, of which the people of Kaua`i remain proud today.
Over the centuries the early Hawaiian’s developed a unique society based on aquaculture and agriculture, living in self-sufficient pie-shaped divisions of land called ahupua`a that fanned out from the mountain tops to the sea, allowing for a high degree of self-sufficiency. It wasn’t until 1848, seventy years after Captain James Cook reached Kaua`i, that private land ownership was introduced in Hawai`i.
In the years that followed, the massive influx of foreigners changed the islands forever. It was the birth of Hawaii’s sugar industry in the district of Koloa, Kaua`i in 1835 that fueled successive waves of immigration from China, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Okinawa,
Portugal, Puerto Rico as well as Spain, Germany and other nations which have shaped Hawaii’s unique cultural mosaic.
During the 20th century the sugar industry maintained its place of prominence, reaching maximum output in the mid-1960’s, then going into decline through the 1990’s, and as it did the rise of tourism – the Visitor Industry – was born. From a modest 668 visitors in 1927 to 1,011,886 in 2004, Kaua`i has become a premiere destination for vacationers looking for an idyllic tropical paradise. From honeymooners and active retirees to adventure and eco-tourists to artists, musicians and people looking to make a living here, Kaua`i in the 21st century enjoys a spot in the limelight as one of the most desirable places in the world to live, work and play.
Animals and Pets
Before bringing a pet to Hawai‘i, be advised to research the quarantine procedures and laws relating to shipping a pet. Hawai‘i is the only rabies free state and the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture's Animal Quarantine Branch (www.hawaii.gov/hdoa/ai/aqs/info ) ensures that it stays that way. Visit the Kauai Humane Society at 3-825 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, Hawaii 96766. Call (808) 632-0610, or visit www.kauaihumane.org for information on animal laws, leashes, licensing and more.
Traveling and Shipping Information
Various state and federal agencies regulate the movement of plant materials to and from Hawai‘i. This includes travel between islands as well as to and from the mainland and foreign countries. Please be sure to visit the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture at www.ehawaii.gov.
Matson Navigation at www.matson.com
Flying is the only way to get to Kauai. The following airlines currently fly to Kauai:
Alaska Airlines at (800) 252-7522
American Airlines at (800) 433-7300
Delta Airlines at (800) 221-1212
go!Mokulele at (888) 435-9462
Hawaiian Airlines at (800) 367-5320
Island Air at (808) 241-7590
United Airlines at (800) 241-6522
U.S. Airways at (808) 241-7739
Shipping / Transport Companies
Kauai Commercial Company at (808) 245-1985.
Royal Hawaiian Movers at (808)245-5879 (www.royalhawaiianmovers.com).