Kauai vs Oahu: Making the Best Choice for your Hawaiian Getaway

05/09/2018 | by Courtney Dennis | Kauai Local Area Local Tips Oahu Things To Do Vacation Planning Vacation Rentals

Another Hawaiian Island Vacation Showdown – Kauai vs Oahu!

Many first-time travelers to Hawaii share a common challenge: choosing which island to explore. Although Oahu remains the most-visited, Kauai also has much to offer. Because the two islands provide such different vacation experiences, it’s important to know what to expect from each before booking your trip.

“Wailua Falls, Kauai, Hawaii” by Matt is licensed underCC BY 2.0

Synopsis: Without question, both Kauai and Oahu represent exceptional destinations. Whereas Kauai is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts interested in untouched Hawaiian landscapes, Oahu resonates with those in search of an urban atmosphere with fine dining, nightlife, and shopping.

Quick Tips:

  • Kauai is the ultimate retreat for nature-loving adventurers.
  • Oahu has a more metropolitan feel, for those who want a refined escape.

“Honolulu” by John Fowler is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Kauai: Despite being much less developed than the other islands, Kauai has a wide variety of high-quality vacation rentals, from golf course-view condos to mountain villas to grand estates on their own remote beach.

Oahu: Whether it’s a high-rise penthouse or a mini-resort on one of the world’s most famous stretches of sand, Oahu has every imaginable vacation rental option, with an emphasis on luxury.


Featured Kauai Vacation Rentals

North Shore Paradise from $1,500/night

Featured Oahu Vacation Rentals

Spectacular East Side Estate from $7,000/night


Compare more accommodations: Kauai vacation rentals vs Oahu vacation rentals

More Quick Tips

  • Kauai’s nickname is the Garden Isle. If you’re looking for untamed wilderness and a scenic trip away from crowds of other tourists, this island is ideal for you.
  • Oahu is known as the Gathering Place. For nervous first-time visitors to Hawaii, or for those in search of a tropical destination with the conveniences, energy, and excitement of a city, this may be the ultimate option.


Kauai: Most of this sleepy island’s hot spots involve natural wonders. You may remember seeing the towering sea cliffs of the iconic Na Pali Coast State Park in the first “Jurassic Park” film; a hike through this region on the north side creates the opportunity for breathtaking views.  Other sites to keep on your Kauai radar: Waimea Canyon (nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), the beach at Polihale State Park, the Spouting Horn Blowhole, the National Tropical Botanical Garden, and Hanalei Valley/Hanalei Bay.

Oahu: Different sections of world-famous Waikiki Beach offer prime conditions for swimming, snorkeling, stand-up paddling, taking a stroll, and simply lounging in the Hawaiian sun. Visitors to Honolulu also flock to the Diamond Head crater and Pearl Harbor. Those interested in Hawaiian history may enjoy a stop at the Bishop Museum, the state museum of Hawaiian history and culture, or to Iolani Palace, which served as the royal residence for the Kingdom of Hawaii’s monarchs and is now registered as a National Historic Landmark.

Although travelers to Oahu may focus most of their time on the Honolulu area, plenty of magnificent beaches also await on the island. Less crowded than Waikiki, excellent east side stretches of coastline include Kailua Beach ParkLanikai Beach, Sandy Beach Park, and Waimanalo. Oahu’s renowned North Shore features surf breaks such as Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea.


Kauai: On the sunny south side of the island, the resort area of Poipu boasts exceptional golf at Poipu Bay Golf Course and Kiahuna Golf Club, along with many dining and shopping possibilities in The Shops at Kukuiula and Poipu Shopping Villa. On the east coast, the town of Kapaa contains clothing stores, gift shops, art galleries, casual local food options like Mermaids Cafe and bars like Sam’s Ocean View and Trees Lounge. On the north side, the quaint, picturesque town of Hanalei offers a uniquely Hawaiian shopping experience as well as excellent restaurant choices like The Dolphin and Bar Acuda.

Oahu: Honolulu provides endless shopping possibilities, beginning with the Ala Moana CenterWard Village, and the International Marketplace. Locations such as Luxury Row and the Royal Hawaiian Center on Kalakaua Avenue are sure to satisfy even the most sophisticated shoppers.

As you might expect, most restaurants in Honolulu specialize in seafood and Asian cuisine. Foodies will no doubt appreciate fine dining experiences at world-class eateries such as Alan Wong’s Restaurant, Beachhouse at the Moana, Moku Kitchen, and Roy’s Waikiki. Those looking for more casual meals with a local flair may wish to try restaurants like Helena’s Hawaiian FoodOno Seafood, and Side Street Inn. After hours, Honolulu also has a thriving nightlife scene.


As one of just a handful of property management companies with offices and staff on every major island, Elite Vacation Rentals can help you find the island for your perfect Hawaii vacation. Contact Us


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