Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Living in Kauai

Iyna Bort Caruso

In Kauai, the “Garden Isle” of the Hawaiian islands, the Polynesian spirit is found in its green valleys, Pacific coastline, coastal cliffs and the slow rhythm of small towns.

Life here is both an escape and an immersion into an ancient culture and enchanting landscape. Only a small percentage of Kauai is accessible by car. Air, sea or a good pair of hiking boats is sometimes the only means into the island’s nooks and crannies.

Like most remote destinations, Kauai’s cost of living is above the national average, although health care and recreation costs falls below. Prices haven’t stopped Barrons from putting Kauai second or third on its list of top luxury second-home retreats over the last few years.

Kauai is the least developed of the main Hawaiian islands. Residents number just over 60,000. Strict zoning laws have kept building in check. Development is slow and the quality high.

Traditional architecture references local traditions and elements of the environment, whether a gentleman’s plantation, beach bungalow or modern condominium. Homes are oriented to take advantage of naturally cooling trade winds, and priority is placed on landscaping since indoor/outdoor living spaces are highly valued.

Kauai consists of five regions and with several distinct microclimates. The West Side is dryer and warmer, for instance, while the North Shore is more tropical and green. The airport and cruise ship port are located in Lihue, the island’s capital.

The West Side is a relatively remote section of the island and has many of the island’s natural wonders like Waimea Canyon--known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific--and Kokee State Park.

The North Shore features mountains, taro fields, the dramatic 17-mile long Napali Coast and Hanalei Bay beach, one of the best in all of Hawaii. The upscale resort of Princeville, once a plantation in the mid-19th century, is the largest planned community on the island with two championship golf courses. A pair of premier beaches is found on the South Side, Poipu Beach Park and Spouting Horn Beach Park. The waters are calm owing to a protective reef. In recent years, the area has enjoyed a rising destination resort profile, especially Poipu where many condominiums and villas are located on the ocean’s edge.