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Overview

Kapaa, the raffish tropical town on Kauai's Coconut Coast, is the island's biggest and liveliest. Ten thousand folks live in little houses in the hills and shore around a downtown of full brightly painted shops, funky old buildings, and 60 or more inexpensive mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants whose aromas spice the salty air. Cruise Kuhio Highway, Kauai's mouth-watering restaurant row, to pick a favorite such as: Ono Family Restaurant, Pono Market, Hukilau Lanai, Bubba Burgers, Caffe Cocco, House of Noodles, Blossoming Lotus, Sukhothai, Mermaids Cafe, Trees Lounge, The Eastside, Olympic Café. The town's main claim to fame is the built-in-1953 ...

Kapaa, the raffish tropical town on Kauai's Coconut Coast, is the island's biggest and liveliest. Ten thousand folks live in little houses in the hills and shore around a downtown of full brightly painted shops, funky old buildings, and 60 or more inexpensive mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants whose aromas spice the salty air. Cruise Kuhio Highway, Kauai's mouth-watering restaurant row, to pick a favorite such as: Ono Family Restaurant, Pono Market, Hukilau Lanai, Bubba Burgers, Caffe Cocco, House of Noodles, Blossoming Lotus, Sukhothai, Mermaids Cafe, Trees Lounge, The Eastside, Olympic Café. The town's main claim to fame is the built-in-1953 Coco Palms hotel (where Elvis got married in the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii) now crumbling in ruins after Hurricane Iniki clobbered it in 1992. Dark for more than a decade due to litigation, it's an eyesore. Kapaa is bargain city. Fifteen seaside hotels, condos, time shares and apartments (none, by island edict, higher than a coconut tree) grace Kapaa's sunrise shore and appeal to budget travelers. Two favorites are the award-winning Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa with two-acre pool and water slides, and Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy. Kapaa’s east shore beaches are big and beautiful but dangerous for swimming except at Lydgate Beach Park & Snorkeling Lagoon where a seawall of boulders blocks big waves and lifeguards keep watch. Everyone seeks out the twin cascades of Ho'opi'i Falls on Kapaa River, takes a Wailua River cruise or kayak to see Fern Grotto, hikes Nounou Ridge (aka Sleeping Giant since its skyline looks sort of like that if you squint) for a picnic with a grand view. Shoppers jam 60 shops at Coconut Market Place, duffers tee off at 18-hole Wailua Municipal Golf Course where cheap green fees are a bargain. Not fancy, nor down market, Kapaa is a busy, trafficky coastal town that suits those who need an abundance of shops, convenient bistros and affordable accommodations. Best of all — location — almost equidistant between Kauai's top natural attractions.

Rick Carroll
About the Expert

Rick Carroll has written dozens of articles on Hawaii and the Pacific. His books include Great Outdoor Adventures of Hawaii, Madame Pele: True Encounters with Hawaii's Fire Goddess, and Travelers' Tales Hawaii.

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Rick Carroll for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Anytime year-round but May and October are best.