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Maui or Kauai – Which Hawaiian Island is Best?

By February 5, 2018 36 Comments

I’m fresh back from Kauai and I wanted to answer a question I get quite a bit, “Which Hawaiian Island is Better, Maui or Kauai?” Maui is an destination with wide appeal and easily accessible attractions. Maui is a cross between Oahu and Kauai. Kauai is rural, rugged, and less touristy. EXPAND DESCRIPTION FOR MORE.

Maui: Wide Appeal and Accessible. A cross between Oahu and Kauai. The quintessential “honey-mooners” Island. fancy restaurants, beachfront accommodations and lovely scenery.
Cons: too touristy, too traffic congested, but more flights because it is more touristy, which means they might be cheaper.

Kauai: Rural and Rugged. Lush, beautiful and fairly vacant. Nature is more exotic. Wander in to the jungle and find a place to swim. adventure and quiet. Local and Laid Back. Much of its treasures require an arduous hunt, hike, kayak, camp. Overall less touristy.
Cons: The beaches aren’t good for swimming, or are hard to get to. Nothing to do at night. Less direct flights.

But really you can’t go wrong with either Island.. It’s Hawaii after all!

I’ll be comparing in 10 different areas.

1 – Beaches:
Maui: The beaches in Wailea have been voted some of the best in the US. Sandy bottom, easy access, and great snorkeling (Black Rock on Kaanapali ) due to calmer water. Big Beach is beautiful. Beach in Kaanapali is rocky. Swimming overall better in Maui.
Kauai: Very few sandy beaches… long hikes to the really good ones. Choppy, rocky, windy, waves.

2- Food:
Maui: Better — more varied. Kihei and Lahaina. Mamas fish house is super cool. true corporate Americana like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co and Ruth’s Chris Prime Steakhouse just in case you get home sick
Kauai: Really local — and expensive. Lots of “take-out.” Great if you like to picnic. You better eat lunch by 2pm and dinner by 8pm though. Few options past 9pm. You really need to “plan” your meals cause there aren’t alot of options.

3- Nightlife:
Maui: Mostly in Lahaina, and at the resorts in Wailea and Kaanapali.
Kauai: None. Well — maybe the movie theater (4 screens) at Kukui Grove or the Luau at the Hyatt.

4- Hotels:
In Maui there are two main areas, Wailea, and Kaanapali. Kaanapali has big high-rise hotels. Wailea has more high end resorts. Andaz all the way!
In Kauai no building can be taller than a palm tree — best is the St. Regis and the Hyatt. Condos are popular options.

5- Driving:
Maui: Can drive around the whole island. Road to Hana is famous. Road hugs the coast. one of the most beautiful, scenic drives in the world with waterfalls and beaches at every hairpin turn. Get out and explore on the Road to Hana. Black, Red sand beaches. Maui is overall more accessible.
Kauai: Can’t drive around… road mostly inland

6- Shopping:
Maui: All big box stores (Target, Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods) by the airport. Outlet Mall in Lahaina, shopping street in Lahaina. High end shopping in Wailea and Kaanapali Beach.
Kauai: Big box stores also by the airport. Kukui Grove the only main shopping center.

7- Hiking:
If you like out doors stuff, then you’ll love Kauai.
Kauai: world-class trails with unreal views and rugged terrain. no handrails, no paved paths and few stairs. If you like breathtaking – and dangerous – hikes, go to Kauai.

8- Adventure:
Boat tours: More relaxing in Maui. More exciting in Kauai (bigger waves).
Helicopter tours: Kauai
Kayak: Kauai Rivers
Snorkeling: Maui
Whale Watching: Maui

9- Big Attractions Maui:
Haleakala Mountain Observatory and Crater — 10,000 feet – large dormant volcano taking up 40% of the island. You can drive, bike, or hike parts of the volcano, and it’s really popular for the sunrise though anytime is really cool.

Blowhole — big!
Lahaina – 150 year old Banyan tree

9B – Big Attractions Kauai:
Waimea Canyon – Grand Canyon of the Pacific
Napali Coast – the undeveloped coast — think Jurassic Park. boat, kayak, or hike.
Blowhole — Lizard sound!

10 Conclusion:
Broad appeal and accessibility: Maui
Adventure and alone time: Kauai

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Author Dave Hamilton

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