Kauai Vs Maui – Which Hawaiian Island Is Better For You?

    Kauai Vs Maui – Which Hawaiian Island Is Better For You?
    Last updated: December, 2019

    Maui or Kauai – which island is better? With summer vacation approaching, the question of Kauai vs Maui may be on your mind these days. I’ve seen both islands so many times before and truth is that it’s not easy to choose.

    Kauai vs Maui – Which Island to Choose?

    Both islands are incredibly beautiful, yet different from each other. Some believe Kauai is everything a tropical island should be. Others swear by Maui and wouldn’t go anywhere else. People’s idea of a tropical paradise may vary a lot, depending on their lifestyle. So if you are not sure weather go to Kauai or to Maui, here are some considerations that may help you decide which island to pick: 

    What’s Unique About Kauai?

    Kauai is more rural and laid back atmosphere. It has more of an “island” feel: secluded beaches, taro fields and wild rugged cliffs. Agriculture still dominates much of the island’s landscape. Kauai seems to go to sleep after the sun sets below the horizon. Although there is still a good array of bars and lounges with live music and dance, you won’t see any bright laser lights and nightclubs on this island. Here is what’s unique about this island:

         • Pristine nature

    Kauai is the most pristine and secluded of the four major islands of Hawaii. On this island you’ll have a real sense of peace and privacy. In Kauai you are most likely to sunbathe next to a monk seal, or swim with a huge turtle. 

    Seal monk resting on the beach. Kauai vs Maui: which one is better?
    Kauai vs. Maui
    Hanalei Valley Lookout

         • Lots of hiking trails

    Kauai has some of the best hiking trails in the entire state. Depending on your hiking abilities, you can climb to an upland swamp, descend into a deep valley in the canyon, hike to a hidden waterfall, or walk along the steep cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. For active, outdoorsy travelers, Kauai is heaven on earth! 

    Hiking in the Waimea Canyon
    Hiking in the Waimea Canyon

         • Secluded beaches

    Kauai has more beaches than any other Hawaiian island. Most of them are easily accessible, but there are some that can only be reached by trail, or by sea.  Some are great for surfing, others are perfect for swimming, or snorkeling. There are some great family beaches too, but if you like private, secluded beaches Kauai is perfect for that. 

    The Secret Bech in Kauai
    The Secret Beach in Kauai

         • Gorgeous botanical gardens

    Kauai meets its nickname’s expectations. The Garden Isle –as it is also called– is home to Hawaii’s best and most atmospheric botanical gardensThe endless sunshine and warm rain bursts on this island create a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes and textures:  luxuriant ferns, patterned orchids, rope-thick vines, lush fruit trees and shimmering flowers. 

    Orchid in Kauai
    Kauai Botanical Gardens

         • Navigable rivers

    Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is the ONLY one that has navigable rivers. You can kayak past taro fields and under a canopy of lianas, watch birds and eat fresh guava directly from the trees.

    Kauai river
    River in Kauai

         • Varied scenery

    Kauai is an island of contrasts. From evergreen valleys, to sharp mountain peaks, ragged cliffs, and pristine beaches, the scenery is quite varied. While both islands are stunning, Kauai wins by a narrow margin. 

    Hanakapi'ai Falls, Kauai
    Hanakapi’ai Falls
    Waimea Canyon in Kauai
    Waimea Canyon in Kauai

    What’s Unique About Maui?

    There are so many reasons to fall in love with Maui! The beaches, the sunsets, the waterfalls. The great variety of restaurants and shops. But then you have most of these these in Kauai as well. So why Maui? Here are some unique things about this island:

         • Reliable weather

    Unlike Kauai where you will encounter more rain (especially in the northern part of the Island), Maui boast reliably sunny days all year round. Especially on the western part of the island. For that reason, most resorts and sought after beaches are located on the west side of Maui. However, if you to travel to Hana, on the east side of the island, you are almost guaranteed to encounter rain.

    bech in maui
    Black Rock beach in Maui

         • Black sand beaches and great snorkeling spots

    Maui is great for snorkeling. The waters around Maui are calmer than the waters around Kauai, especially in winter. While both islands have good snorkeling, Maui has more top-notch sites and more are easily accessible from the beach. One particularity of this island are the black sand beaches which are made of ground lava rock. 

    Black sand beach in Maui/ kauai vs. maui
    Black sand beach in Maui
    Tropical fish in Maui

         •  The wide variety of entertainment

    Maui can be a great choice if you travel with a larger group of people who have different interests. Or if you travel with children and family members of different ages. On Maui you are more likely to find something entertaining for each one in your group.

    Kauai vs. Maui
    Maui restaurant

    Although entertainment on Maui doesn’t even come close to the lively Oahu, there is a good number of dance clubs and lively bars that stay open till dawn. There are also a couple of comedy clubs, many good restaurants and some great shopping areas, especially in the little town of Lahaina.

         • The vibe 

    Lahaina is the typical old-time sea town turned tourist spot. The town is an odd mix of history, art galleries, T-shirt shops and fine jewelry stores.  The number-one attraction in Lahaina is definitely “the buzz,” – the restaurants, the night-life and the swinging bars.

    Kauai vs. Maui
    Lahaina Main Street

         • The sunsets

    Maui sunsets are simply spectacular. There are several great spots to catch a perfect Maui sunset, like Kaanapali Beach, Napili Bay Beach, or Kimo’s Restaurant in Lahaina. Just grab a Mai Tai and join the crowd.

    kauai vs maui which island is better?
    Maui Sunset

    Kauai vs Maui Honeymoon

    If you are planning to spend your honeymoon in Hawaii, both Kauai and Maui will be a great choice. Both island offer enough secluded places that will give you the privacy you need for your more romantic moments.

    If you are into a more active lifestyle and like to spend time doing physical activities like kayaking, or hiking, you’ll probably like Kauai more. On the other hand, if you want a bigger variety of restaurants, dance clubs and lively bars, you should choose Maui.

    A Final Thought

    Now that you have an idea what’s unique about each island, you can make a more educated decision which one to choose. But in the end, whether you choose Maui or Kauai, it won’t matter much. Both islands are so beautiful and diverse, that you won’t come back disappointed.

    And if you are wondering what to pack for Hawaii, read this packing list for the beach.

    Did this post help you decide whether to choose Maui vs Kauai? If you are still not sure, read more about what you can do on each of the islands:

    Best Kauai Activities to Keep Your Whole Family Entertained

    8 Great Spots You Shouldn’t Miss When Visiting Kauai

    Top 10 Things to Do in Maui

    Sunrise at the Haleakala Crater in Maui

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