Which is Better - Kauai or Maui?
Hawaii is a tropical haven just waiting to be explored, so it comes as no surprise that so many people choose to vacation in the state. With 7 inhabited islands in the archipelago, once you have decided that Hawaii is your choice of destination, you then have to determine which Hawaiian island you want to visit.
There is a range of places to choose from when you visit Hawaii, each with something different to offer and each spectacular in its own way. Having fewer tourists, and generally being the quieter of all the islands, Kauai and Maui are usually popular choices for those looking for a more peaceful break or wanting to avoid staying in any particularly touristy areas.
So which is better, Kauai or Maui? We‘ve narrowed down the best bits from both of these stunning islands, exploring the weather, beaches, activities and more. In this blog post, we aim to leave you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on whether to choose Kauai or Maui for your next Hawaiian vacation.
Kauai’s incredible scenery is something that you don’t want to miss out on. Full of mountains, rugged cliffs, white sandy beaches and tropical rainforests, the landscape of the island is famous, but it does mean that options for travelling around are a bit limited.
The best way to get around Kauai is definitely by car. There are other forms of transport available on the island, but if you want full control over your itinerary then it’s better not to be left at the mercy of public transport timetables.
Driving in Kauai is relatively easy as there are only two major highways on the island, so you won’t have to battle through busy roads and queues of traffic. It’s important to bear in mind that car rental, especially in the peak holiday season, is very popular, so be sure to book ahead of time. Pure Kauai can make this whole process easier by getting your rental car delivered to your property when you arrive on the island, which you can read more about here.
Taxis are also available on Kauai, but are harder to come by in comparison to the other Hawaiian islands. We recommend that you use professional private transport services if you'd like to get around the island
Pure Kauai also offers car rental delivery services as well as airport transfers. If you want to make your trip that bit easier, you can find out more here.
Getting around Maui by car is also the easiest and most efficient way of seeing all that the island has to offer. There are many car rental companies to choose from on Maui Island, so no matter where you’re staying, you’ll have options for picking up a hire car when you arrive.
In terms of Kauai vs Maui, you can expect to encounter more traffic when adventuring on Maui. The more built-up areas such as Kihei, Lahaina or Paia do sometimes get jammed with traffic, particularly in the peak season for tourism.
Similar to Kauai, you can find taxis on Maui island. The buses on Maui are known for their inconsistency, and you can expect to have to wait around if you’re solely relying on public transport to explore the island.
Weather on Kauai and Maui
When planning any holiday, the weather can be a big deciding factor as it can impact many activities whilst on your perfect getaway.
Kauai has acquired its name as the ‘Garden Isle’ as its rainfall and steady temperatures have made for a perfect habitat for a variety of plants and greenery to grow. This does mean however that it’s the wettest island in Hawaii, seeing plenty of rain at all times of the year.
The weather in Kauai also involves high average temperatures, but this can vary depending on which side of the island you choose to visit. The south side of Kauai is better known for its dryer weather as well as higher temperatures, with more sunshine and less rain meaning better conditions for days on the beach but also a lot more tourists.
The north side of Kauai sees much more rain in comparison, with higher humidity but slightly cooler temperatures. Although it’s less sunny, the rain means that the greenery and scenery here are utterly breathtaking.
A generally stable weather pattern year-round means there isn’t a drastic change in temperatures throughout the year. April, May, August, September and early October are known to be the best months when considering the weather on Kauai, with the winter Kauai having an average high temperature of around 23-24°F whereas summer temperatures offer highs of around 28-30°F.
When looking at Maui or Kauai and the different weather conditions that they offer, Maui presents a much more dramatic change in weather, depending on the time of year you visit. Maui is host to a large number of microclimates, which means that within a few miles of travelling, the weather can vary drastically.
The west side of Maui is known to be generally warmer than the east side, with beaches on the coast sometimes seeing high temperatures of 38°F with lows of only around 21°F. The summers on the island can be hot, muggy and dry, with the winters offering a more comfortable, humid climate. Maui is also known for being windy all year round, which can be welcoming when the temperatures are a bit higher!
Beaches on Kauai and Maui
When searching for the perfect tropical getaway, beaches are very important when considering where to visit. If you are on the hunt for miles of white sandy beaches, paired with glistening turquoise waters, then Kauai will give you just that.
Finding a good beach could be the deciding factor when comparing Kauai or Maui. Kauai has a variety of beaches that all offer something unique. So whether you are looking for the best surfing spots or somewhere to lie back and soak up the sun, there’s more than enough coastline around the island for everyone.
Hanalei Bay comes highly recommended when searching for the best beaches in Kauai. This spot provides visitors with the perfect mix of white sand, spectacular mountain backdrops and an amazing spot for divers to explore the remains of a shipwreck that sits below on the seabed.
If you are looking for a beach stroll, then Polihale Beaches offers 17 miles of pure tranquillity, you can get lost and enjoy all the impressive views along the Napali Coastline. For calm waters and a relaxing atmosphere then you want to head to Anini Beach, where you can sit back and let the kids paddle or swim in the sea.
If you’re looking for an adventure trip to Kauai then head to Tunnels Beach, where you’ll find some of the best places for snorkelling. Bear in mind that this is only an activity that is suitable for the summer months, and you should always check in with the life guard nearby at Haena Beach Park to be safe.
When looking for beaches in Maui, you’ve got over 30 miles of sandy coastlines to choose from. Whether you are seeking a spot for a family day out, a thrilling day riding the waves or a more peaceful honeymoon trip, Maui’s beaches can cater for everyone.
Makena Beach State Park is a stunning spot that will allow you the opportunity to soak up the incredible scenery as well as the beaming Maui sunshine. This picturesque haven is also well-known for being the most photographed beach in Hawaii.
If you are searching for snorkelling, impressive reefs wrapping around the cove, and a variety of sea life, Kapalua Beach is one of the best beaches for offering this. Kapalua’s calm waters make for a great beach for kids, so they can paddle worry-free.
With local conveniences nearby, Ka’anapali Beach is great for those who don’t want to travel far to the nearest shop or need nearby parking when visiting the beach. This is another great family beach, as you don’t have to worry about packing every essential item because you can always pop to the shop if you happen to forget something!
When comparing Maui or Kauai in terms of their beaches, you will find something for everyone on both islands. However, it might be worth bearing in mind that generally, Kauai is a less touristy destination which leads to overall quieter beaches.
Activities on Kauai and Maui
With its unmatched scenery and range of landscapes, there are plenty of things to do in Kauai that won't let you go home disappointed.
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, zip line activities over the forests of Kauai allow for a fun day out for the whole family. Enjoy a bird's eye view of the trees as you travel across the canopy and tackle different kinds of walkways and enjoy stretches of the zipline.
Sticking with the adrenaline-fueled theme, Kauai also offers unique mountain-tubing activities, which is a unique experience like no other. Here you can coast down irrigation canals originally built for the sugarcane production, which historically is the largest export in Hawaii, in a blow-up rubber ring, taking in all the wonderful views and enjoying seeing the island from a different perspective.
Kauai also has a lot of rugged terrains to be explored, and there is no better way to do this than to go on an UTV Off-Road Tour. With expert guides leading you over rocky paths, ride a UTV around the island and enjoy the thrill of this exciting activity.
Helicopter rides, golf courses and horseback riding are some of the other activities that we offer to guests that are visiting Kauai. With its incredible vistas, stunning backdrops and stable climate, you will be sure to find a fun day out to suit everyone when on Kauai island.
Similar to Kauai, Maui has plenty to offer in terms of activities when visiting the island. Visitors can choose from days out horseback riding, hiking and trips to the beaches to surf, swim or snorkel.
One of the most popular things to do in Maui is to watch the sunrise from Haleakala Observatory. You have the option to either drive or hike to the top, timing your visit so that you can enjoy watching dawn break over the ocean and bathe the island in sunlight.
Between December and April, it is pretty much guaranteed that you can spot whales off the coast of Maui island. Both Kauai and Maui offer the chance for whale-watching excursions, which are a great way to spend the cooler months in both locations.
Another popular choice of activity when visiting Maui is to drive the road to Hana. This road trip route takes you along narrow and windy roads along the cliffs and through the dense jungles, so it’s not a trip for the faint-hearted, but provides plenty of brilliant scenery along the way.
When deciding which island is better, Kauai or Maui, in terms of activities, they both have a very similar offering in terms of activities and places to visit. Your decision may come down to the time of year you decide to visit the island, as the weather may impact what you can and can’t do during your vacation.
At the end of the day, both Kauai and Maui offer unforgettable experiences of Hawaii with beautiful tropical scenery and plenty of activities on offer all year round. While Maui is more developed as a tourist destination and offers generally drier weather, Kauai is the perfect option if you want to visit a rugged and authentic Hawaiian island that won’t ever feel overly crowded, even in the summer months.
If a blissful getaway on Kauai is what you are looking for, get in touch with Pure Kauai and speak to our team about finding the perfect island accommodation for your stay.