The Heart of Kauai: Kapaa
Kapaa and its surrounding region, known as the Coconut Coast, enjoy an ideal location on the east side of Kauai, less than an hour north of sunny Poipu and less than 40 minutes south of lush Princeville. As the largest town on the island, Kapaa boasts a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and activities surrounded by stunning Hawaiian scenery. Once the home of taro, banana, sugar cane, and pineapple farms, the area was also the setting for several scenes from Elvis Presley’s 1961 movie “Blue Hawaii.”
Present-day Kapaa is home to clothing stores like Hula Girl (featuring fun “aloha wear” with a vintage flavor), jewelry stores like Imperial Jewelers Kauai (with a large selection of handcrafted Hawaiian heirloom jewelry), gift shops like Aloha From Kauai, and an orchid-lover’s paradise known as Orchid Alley. In addition to more typical art galleries, the town has unique offerings such as The Glass Shack, where visitors can watch glassblowing demonstrations and pick up one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Coconut Marketplace, just south of downtown Kapaa, offers additional clothing stores and gift shops, along with free hula shows, Hawaiian music, and a farmers’ market.
Kapaa’s dining possibilities begin with local favorites like wraps and burritos from Mermaids Café and barbecue from Paniolo Grill. Coconut’s Fish Cafe serves excellent fish tacos and salads, while Olympic Café has a huge menu of beverages and bar food. Fresh sushi options include Kintaro Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bushido.
Outdoor activities abound in and around Kapaa, starting with a walk, run, or bike ride on the paved seven-mile Ke Ala Hele Makalae Path (or “the path that goes by the coast”). A one-mile (round trip) hike leads to the lovely Hoopii Falls, and a four-mile trek up Nounou Mountain (also known as Sleeping Giant) allows for panoramic views of the coastline and the center of the island. The nearby Wailua River, which flows into the area from the Waialeale volcano, creates an opportunity for kayaking, stand-up paddling, and viewing the 151-foot Opaekaa waterfall. Wailua Golf Course, just south of Kapaa proper, has been selected by Golf Digest as one of Hawaii’s top 15 golf courses.
Visitors will find beautiful Kealia Beach, great for body boarding and surfing, a short 11-minute drive north of Kapaa. An 11-minute drive south leads to Lydgate Beach Park, where families can enjoy calm swimming conditions, snorkeling, and the convenience of a picnic area and bathroom facilities. In between, Kapaa Beach Park provides a perfect setting for snorkeling, taking a beach walk, or kitesurfing.
The annual Taste of Hawaii (a food and wine tasting event) takes place in Kapaa each June, and the Coconut Festival (with live music, hula, and a wide variety of coconut foods and crafts) takes place each October. On the first Saturday of every month, Kapaa hosts an Art Walk that includes live music, food vendors, and local arts and crafts. Trees Lounge has live local music nightly, and a slack-key guitar and ukulele show happens every Wednesday at All Saints’ Church. A farmers’ market is also held in Kapaa each Wednesday.