Visiting Kauai

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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, 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

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 shopping center Kukui Grove Center, is located west of central Lihu’e. Hokulei Shopping Village is in Puhi near Kaua‘i Community College. Waipouli Town Center, Kauai Village, a rejuvenated Coconut Marketplace, and Old Kapa‘a Town offer diverse and interesting shopping opportunities for necessities and unique treasures.

The residential areas of Wailua Homesteads and Kawaihau are a mix of sub-divisions and rural homes set back from the coast behind scenic Nonou (“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

The North Shore stretches across the communities of Kilauea, Princeville, Hanalei and Ha‘ena. There is a mixture of rural housing, organic farms, small scale retail centers, luxury hotels, homes and vacation rentals, all set on a backdrop of steep mountains and open ocean views.

Kilauea is a former plantation village, which was once a dispensary of the Kilauea Sugar Company. Today, Kilauea is a residential community with that is known for the Kilauea Point Lighthouse. Next time you are in Kilauea, stop by Anaina Hou Community Park for mini-golf and outdoor fun for the entire family. With a new state-of-the-art event pavilion is this a great spot for your next wedding or gathering.

The resort community of Princeville is a planned development that mixes local and visiting residents in homes, condos and hotels that coincide in a golf course setting. One of the largest commerce centers on the North Shore is the Princeville Center, which is home to a full-size supermarket, boutique shops and restaurants.

Hanalei is considered the heart of the North Shore, with its rich cultural history and unrivaled beauty. It is recognized by its taro fields, ocean fishing, world class surfing, and canoe clubs. It is also home to a relatively small, but thriving commercial retail center, catering to visitors and residents.

Ha‘ena is the most rural area where you’ll find plantation-style homes, as well as multi-million dollar residences, between towering mountains and the rugged shoreline. It is near the end of the road and serves as the entrance to the famed Na Pali coast’s Kalalau Trail, and some of the best snorkeling on the island.

The South Shore

Kauai’s south shore communities include the resort area of Po`ipu Beach and nearby Koloa, the first 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 seemingly endless days of golden sunshine punctuations with occasional showers perfect for warm weather outdoor pursuits like golf, tennis, swimming, surfing and fishing. Po‘ipu has experienced a wonderful transition to modern resorts and unique shopping destinations to match the pristine beaches.

Moving inland, the small towns of Oma‘o and Lawai have a laid back, country feel where lush exotic foliage is sustained by 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 on 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

Kaua‘i’s west side, with wide open skies and sweeping views of former 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 Kaua‘i’s former main harbor, Port Allen, is the community of ‘Ele‘ele and below, Hanapepe, called “Kaua‘i’s biggest little town.” Today Hanapepe is well-known for its craft galleries and flourishing art community. Also, there are numerous food places including food manufacturing as well as dining. Even, food trucks! Don’t forget to also stop by on Friday nights for the Friday Art Night. Further west you enter true “red dirt country,” where the towns of Kaumakani and Makaweli are located. It was in January 1778 that Captain James Cook landed near the Waimea River which flows along the west side’s largest town of the same name. Waimea, 25 miles west of Lihu‘e, has its own businesses, educational, medical and recreational facilities, all close at hand, which serve its residents and those of neighboring Kekaha, the most westerly town on the island. Both Kekaha and Waimea are quiet, relaxed communities which lead to the cool highlands of Koke‘e and Waimea Canyon State Parks as well as the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) and hauntingly beautiful Polihale Beach

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.