The island of Kauai has a charm all its own. Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai is the least developed of the four major Hawaiian Islands. If you have a soft spot for the charms of small-town living, a passion for getting outdoors, and the wish to be part of a tight-knit community, you’ll find plenty to love about Kauai.
If you’re considering a move to Kauai, we’ll walk you through 13 must-knows to help you decide whether Kauai is the right spot for you.
Is Kauai a Good Island to Live On?
Moving to Kauai offers you the chance to live on a beautiful Pacific island that some people will only ever dream of visiting. All of Kauai’s natural wonders—including the island’s beautiful white sand beaches, inland rivers, lush tropical rainforests, and unforgettable landmarks like the Na Pali Cliffs and Waimea Canyon—are yours to experience, day after day.
Of course, even paradise has its drawbacks. Some people get “island fever,” that restlessness that comes from living on an isolated island. Others miss the anonymity of mainland life. (Although plenty love being a part of the community they find on Kauai!)
The best way to know? Come and visit! Spend a week or two out here. Buy groceries. Cook dinner. Run errands. That will give you a taste of whether Kauai is a good island to live on—from your perspective.
Is Kauai Expensive to Live On?
There’s no doubt about it: Kauai is an expensive place to live. In fact, it’s one of the more expensive Hawaiian Islands to live on. A lot of the cost is driven by Kauai’s housing prices, which can be the highest in Hawaii.
How much money do you need to live on Kauai? To give you a sense of what you’ll need, let’s take a look at one of the biggest expenses on Kauai: groceries.
With the exception of some local produce, almost all of the items in Kauai’s grocery stores are shipped in. When you factor in those shipping costs, you’ll understand why grocery prices are higher than you’ll see on the mainland U.S.
We took a quick run to Safeway in Lihue to give you a sense of recent prices:
Grocery Store Prices in Lihue, Kauai
By the way, Safeway is by no means the only place to buy food. You’ll find plenty of farmers’ markets on Kauai. (Local Kauai farmers always appreciate your support!) If you’re skilled at managing bulk purchases, there’s also a Costco in Lihue, which can help lower your household’s grocery bills.
Now that you have a sense of what food might cost you on Kauai, let’s talk about the other big expense: housing.
What’s the Average Rent on Kauai?
Rent on Kauai will vary significantly based on your location, as well as the amenities of the place you rent. However, we’re seeing rents that average within the following ranges:
The real challenge is availability. There aren’t a ton of properties available for rent on Kauai, and the ones that are available go quickly. If you have any friends already living on Kauai, ask them to spread the word for you. Some of the best places get passed from friend to friend without ever hitting Craigslist or Facebook.
Should I Rent on Kauai First?
If you haven’t spent a lot of time on Kauai, renting first is a great way to see whether you love living here—before you commit to a mortgage. Living on Kauai isn’t for everyone. Small town life can feel insular and, if you don’t love exploring the outdoors, you might feel like there’s “nothing to do.”
On the flip side, we know plenty of people who moved from Kauai to the mainland, missed their old life on Kauai, and moved back—for life. It’s all about finding the right fit for you.
What Are the Average Home Prices on Kauai?
Kauai can be one of the most expensive places in Hawaii where home purchase prices are concerned. Below, you’ll find some recent numbers regarding home sales in Kauai. As you can see, Kauai’s median sale prices are a bit higher than the median list price for the state overall.
Kauai Housing Prices, December 2022
What’s the Best Place to Live on Kauai?
Like many of the other Hawaiian Islands, Kauai has a number of different microclimates. If you’re living in Poipu, you’ll enjoy plenty of hot, sunny weather. If you’re up on the North Shore, you’ll see a lot more rain—and a much greener landscape. And if you’re over on the Windward Coast in Kapaa, you’ll have the predominant tradewinds to keep you cool.
In other words, be thoughtful about where you want to live, since it will have a big impact on your day-to-day experience in Kauai. We’ve listed a couple of our favorite neighborhoods below to help you start your search:
- Kapaa – Centrally located on Kauai’s Windward Coast, Kapaa has plenty of activities and amenities to offer its residents, plus easy access to the central hub of Lihue. If you love soaking in coastal views, you’ll love Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the Kauai multiuse path that starts in Kapaa and heads north along the water.
- Poipu – Sun worshippers and beach lovers flock to Poipu. Additionally, if you’re someone who likes to live near a hub of activity, Poipu is a great choice. The area features several high-end hotels and resorts—and all the shops, restaurants, and bars that come with them.
- Princeville – Princeville, on Kauai’s North Shore, is designed for those who enjoy resort living. Well-manicured properties—plus walking paths, recreation facilities, and golf courses—all await you in this planned community.
- Kilauea – If you want a quiet, laid-back lifestyle, Kilauea might be the right spot for you. Most of the hotels on Kauai’s North Shore are located closer to Princeville. Kilauea remains a peaceful spot to set up and enjoy the verdant landscape.
- Lihue – Living in Lihue comes with significant convenience. You’ll be in close proximity to the airport, as well as the commercial center of the island with its hospitals, banks, offices, and more. Plus, given Lihue’s central location, it’s the perfect jumping-off point for a number of island adventures.
What’s the Best Way to Move My Belongings to Kauai?
We’ve seen Kauai moves of all sizes. How you decide to make your move depends on how much you want to bring with you. The great news? You’ll have several options to choose from, including:
As you can see, you’ve got some choices to make: Will you move your whole house with you? Start fresh in Kauai? Or choose a solution somewhere in the middle? It’s all up to you.
Short on Time? Many moving companies (including DeWitt Move!) offer packing services. It’s a great option if you want some extra help preparing for your Kauai move—or if you’re moving on a short timeline.
What Places Are Hiring on Kauai?
If you’re moving to Kauai without a job, your best bet will be to search for a position within Kauai’s top industries. Of course, the industries that support tourism—hospitality, leisure, and retail businesses—are always near the top of the list. Also notable are jobs in healthcare. Doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, specialists, techs, and others in the medical field may find it easier to secure a job on Kauai.
Take a look at the list below to get an idea of where you might work if you move to Kauai.
Top Industries on Kauai
By Job Count (Source)
Does Kauai Have Nightlife?
Like many of the other Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is mostly an early to bed/early to rise kind of place. Plenty of people are up with the sunrise to greet the day, and they’re in bed soon after dinner. You will find a lively pau hana (after work) crowd at some Kauai bars, but most places close pretty soon after dinner service is completed.
If you’re looking to grab a late-night drink (by which we mean at 9:00 or 10:00!), you might try Stevenson’s Library at the Grand Hyatt in Poipu, Rob’s Good Times Grill in Lihue, or Tiki Iniki in Princeville. They all close around 11:00-ish.
What Does Kapu Mean in Hawaii?
Kapu means “prohibited,” “sacred,” or “taboo” in Hawaiian. It can also mean “no trespassing.”
If you see a sign on Kauai that says kapu, it’s best to turn around. The sign might indicate sacred ground, a private area, or something that’s reserved for the native Hawaiian community. Recognizing the meaning and importance of a kapu sign is one way of showing respect to the island’s residents—a solid practice for Kauai visitors and residents alike.
Can You Ship Your Car to Kauai?
Absolutely! Plenty of people bring their car with them to Kauai, especially if they’ve purchased a newer model they want to hang onto for a few years to come.
If you’ve got questions about shipping your car to Kauai, we’ve got answers:
What’s the Best Way to Meet People?
There are plenty of ways to meet people on Kauai. Some people meet at the gym, like the Kauai Athletic Club. Others join a paddling club. Still others may meet at a social event, a bar, or a restaurant—or even while hanging out at the beach.
One method we recommend: volunteering with an organization whose mission you connect with. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people in the Kauai community. Below, you’ll find a list of nonprofit organizations on Kauai to consider. It’s by no means a complete list, but it will get you started:
Can I Bring My Dog or Cat to Kauai?
Yes! In fact, in recent years, the process to bring your pet to Kauai has gotten much easier.
Hawaii is a rabies-free destination, so the state has strict protocols for bringing in cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals. You’ll need to work with your vet to complete a few steps—and some paperwork—to get your dog or cat released from Hawaii’s quarantine requirements. Start the process early, so you have the best chance of qualifying for direct release, which means your pet can come home with you the same day you fly in to Kauai.
You’ll find an explanation of the entire process at the State of Hawaii’s Animal Industry Division website.
Is Kauai Right for You?
Hopefully, these 13 must-knows have given you a good idea whether Kauai is the right island for you. There’s no place in the world quite like it. Those who love it make the Garden Isle their home for life. (Maybe you?)
If you have any further questions about moving to Kauai, feel free to reach out to our team of experts. We’ve moved tens of thousands of individuals, families, and servicemembers to Hawaii, and we’d love to help with your move. Just get in touch for a free quote to get started.
Tell us about your move!