Maui VS Kauai

A detailed comparison between the Hawaii Islands of Maui and Kauai

Selecting the Best Island: Maui vs. Kauai

Comparing Maui to Kauai: Which Island Is Best For You?

Here we compare Maui and Kauai, two different islands in Hawaii. Consider the views you'll see, the activities you'll enjoy, the beaches where you can swim and relax, and the luxe amenities. Maui and Kauai offer novel experiences based on the activities you want, the beaches, food, drink, and nightlife. Choose your island based on your preferences and what's important to you.

— article continued below —

Updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides

If you're visiting Hawaii soon, be sure to download a copy of one of our updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides. We've updated the packets with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and for those who've been a time or two as well).

Select a 2023 Travel Guide
- 60+ Pages -

Highlights

- 100+ Pages -

Deluxe

~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~

Maui and Kauai: Overview of the Two Famous Hawaiian Islands

With a bit of planning and time, you can manifest your dream vacation. Use this guide to review the sights and amenities of these islands. 

Molokai View from Kaanapali Beach Maui

Molokai from Kaanapali Beach

Overview of Maui: A Paradise on Earth

Want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life? With this Maui vacation, you can explore this beautiful island of Hawaii. Maui has it all: palm trees, volcanoes, beaches, and accommodations that will impress. For the offbeat path, try touring the local farms and traditional communities. Other unique features include:

  • Beach towns: With the many medium-sized beach towns, there is plenty of personality and island life.
  • Diverse terrain: Maui holds many wonders, and Hana is no exception. The diverse landscape affords an array of activities. You can enjoy watching whales or go to a volcano for some lava gazing. There's also the untouched beauty of remote areas like Hana.
  • Countryside: Small farms colorfully dot the hillside of Haleakala. Hawaiian farmers focus on growing and preserving native Hawaiian crops such as coffee, macadamia nuts, and coconut. 
  • Kula farms tours: You can tour coffee, lavender, pineapple, and protea farms at Kula. 
  • Distillery and wine tasting: To taste the islands, head to distillery and wineries for some sampling. With this picture-perfect landscape, you can enjoy a fun day or evening tasting wine.
  • Excursions for everyone: For a thrilling time, venture to the summit of Haleakala, tour the farms or take a boat ride during whale season.

 

Maui sets the bar high whether you want to immerse yourself in nature or Hawaiian culture.

Limahuli Garden and Preserve Kauai

Limahuli Garden & Preserve on Kauai

Overview of Kauai

Kauai tends to be far less touristy than most other Hawaiian Islands. There’s no fighting for a spot on the best beaches on this island thanks to prudent building restrictions that help control the size of hotels. Sans the crowds, you’re free to enjoy a relaxed vacation including:

  • Local traditions: Enjoy the opportunities to learn about the local traditions and immerse yourself in the culture.
  • Rural living: Our rural landscape features views that captivate - a pristine view of the countryside that lacks clutter.
  • Poipu Beach Park: Go on a sea turtle-spotting adventure at the beautiful Poipu Beach Park.
  • Adventure: Take your next adventure to one of these natural highlights. The Waimea Canyon, the Coconut Coast, and more than a dozen gorgeous waterfalls are all waiting for you.
  • Sugarcane fields: See the miles of sugarcane fields.
  • Cliffs: Travel to the impressive cliffs along the Na Pali coast.
  • Wailua River: Follow the Wailua River. It flows through a unique and pristine valley with lush green foliage and sparkling waterfalls. 
  • Friendly towns: Friendly towns like Hanapepe, Koloa, Waimea, Kapaa, and Hanalei welcome visitors with open arms!
  • Kid-friendly beaches: Not all beaches are created equal! Kid-friendly beaches comprise shallow, calm waters on this island.

 

To taste the local way of life, visit Kauai and experience its museums, historical landmarks, natural sites, and more.

Maui Adventures and Activities

Maui is ideal for experiencing the beauty of mother nature with an impressive list of adventures to explore:

  1. The Road to Hana: Enjoy this scenic 50-mile drive to Hana, which passes 600 curves and 60 bridges. Take a quick hike at one of the many stops along the way, or enjoy some local produce at one of the farm stands.
  2. Visit the Haleakala Crater: Let’s hike Haleakala, Maui’s largest volcano, and marvel at the beautiful views! Head to Haleakala National Park to start the trail.
  3. Hiking: The trails on the island offer various options that vary according to distance, ease, scenery, or difficulty. Try the Sliding Sands Trail if you want a challenge and enjoy its rugged paths. If you crave a leisure hike with lots of shade, the Pa Ka’oao Trail or Leleiwi Overlook will work.
  4. Kaanapali Beach: Stake your claim on the beach to take in the views, especially from Molokai and Lanai. After some lounging on the beach, try kayaking. Or perhaps stroll the paths along the shoreline. Then, shop or dine in the many stores or restaurants. 
  5. Iao Valley Trails: Located in the center of the West Maui Mountains and just outside of Wailuku, Iao offers a great escape into nature. The 1,200-foot Iao Needle rock formation plays centrally in this trail. Hikers enjoy the trek along the West Maui Mountains. Views of wildflowers and rivers pepper the course. Along the path, read the signposts commemorating King Kamehameha conquering the island of Maui.
  6. Whale Watching: From November to March, you can watch 10,000 humpback whales gather in the waters of the Auau Channel. Come whale watch from the shores of Lahaina, Kihei, Kaanapali and Wailea.
  7. Snorkeling: There are tons of snorkeling tours in Maui, and many include whale watching during the winter months. 
  8. Boat Tours: West coast boat tours offer a view of the island from a different perspective. You’ll also look at nearby islands, including Molokini, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawe.

Kauai Adventures and Activities

Although Kauai is relatively small, it has no shortage of adventures, including:

  1. Kokee State Park offers over 4,345 acres of forest, hiking trails, and vibrant wildflowers. It peaks at 3,200 to 4,200 feet above sea level, depending on where you stand. Do some birdwatching, or take in stunning views of the Waimea Canyon. Or view the valleys opening up to the North Shore.
  2. Waimea Canyon: Dubbed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this geological wonder spans 14 miles long and 1 mile wide. The massive chasm features crested buttes, crags, and valley gorges for an awe-inspiring view.
  3. Kilohana Plantation: Experience an actual working plantation that features both the original and restored rooms. Updated rooms include shops, galleries, a restaurant, and a lounge. You can also sample rum and attend a luau.
  4. Plantation Railway: This train ride takes you through a dense tropical forest and plantation-era houses. As you pass through the Kilohana Plantation, survey the exotic fruits and vegetables on the farm. Several stops offer different aspects of the area, including a farmyard that kids love.
  5. Allerton & McBryde Gardens: The Allerton and McBryde Gardens lie side-by-side. Each one offers a close-up of exotic flowers, trees, and indigenous Hawaiian plants.
  6. Historic Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse: This historic lighthouse offers rugged coastline views. Bird lovers spot local frigates, shearwaters, boobies, and Laysan albatrosses.
  7. Hanalei Town: The timeless beauty of Hanalei offers visitors opportunities for history, art, and nature. This charming town and its galleries sit at the foot of lush mountains. 
  8. Visit the Beach from the Musical “South Pacific”: Lumahai Beach is the pristine Beach setting used in the hit musical, “South Pacific.”
  9. Napali Coast: Take in the Breathtaking Views of the Na Pali Coast. The unusual emerald cliffs and jagged ridges contrasting with the blue of the Pacific make for a rugged and beautiful landscape. The rocky terrain leads to sandy beaches and cascading waterfalls, where settlements once thrived.

Maui Beaches

Are you looking to capture an exclusive image of Mother Nature? Indeed, your friends will appreciate your pics of Maui beaches. Maui presents enough variety to stun any visitor. Maui holds a range of beaches, from the high-class Wailea beaches to the red sand at Koki Beach. Imagine the Waiʻānapanapa State Park where black sand lay across the turquoise ocean. If white sand inspires you, take a ride to the white beaches in Kaanapali. For the laid-back traveler, consider Mai Poina for its no-frills beaches.

Kauai Beaches

Get ready to discover the vast,  rugged coastline of Kauai. Its sandy beaches run for miles. Explore their best beaches:

  1. Poipu Beach: White-sand and gorgeous turquoise water cloak this beach. From spectacular sunset views over the Pacific Ocean to Kauai's lush flora and fauna, this spot holds much to discover. Also, plenty of activities lays available for visitors, including surfing lessons, guided nature walks, and kayak tours. 
  2. Haena Beach: A beautiful stretch of white sand and clear waters spans this beach. It has a wide variety of activities to keep you busy, from snorkeling and scuba diving to surfing and paddleboarding. You can also enjoy the luxuries of a resort stay. This beach offers an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean and Mount Makana. The view from the top of Mount Makana gives you a 360-degree view of the ocean and island.
  3. Lydgate Beach: Many visitors and locals alike gravitate to this beach. The area includes a lava rock wall that runs parallel to the shoreline. Lava rock wall shelters the shoreline from deep ocean waves, making it idyllic for snorkeling. We recommend seeing the rampant sea creatures in these calm, shallow waters.
  4. Last, Kauai beaches offer calm waters and an abundance of family-friendly activities that will have your kids begging to return. Kauai is a must-visit!

Maui Food, Drink, and Nightlife

This island bursts with energy and offers a vibrant selection of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. The restaurants, clubs, and bars offer a mix of Hawaiian and international cuisine. Head to downtown Lahaina for local eateries, celebrity-owned restaurants, brewpubs, and live music to color your night. 

For some renowned entertainment, go to Wailea to indulge and splurge. Experience the world-class restaurants, beach-side cocktails, high-end sushi, or the DJ-pumping nightclubs. 

Kauai Food, Drink, and Nightlife

Though Kaui lacks in nightlife, it prevails in impressive dining selection.  Your tastebuds will sing because of the island's Hawaiian, Hawaiian fusion, and even Japanese restaurants.   

You can expect a laid-back island focusing strongly on family-friendly activities. Hence, everything closes early here. If you're looking for hours of drinking and dancing, this island will only disappoint.

Hana Highway Maui

The Hana Highway on Maui

What Makes Maui Unique?

 

As you roam Maui’s beautiful terrains, savor its chill vibes. Tour the large expanses of unpopulated areas like Haleakala add to the island’s unimaginable beauty. The multi-colored beaches of red and black sand will add a spark of intrigue to your shore visits, from magnificent volcanoes to whale watching; when timed right, prepare yourself for every outdoor adventure you could ever want. And let’s not forget that expansive night sky, ideal for stargazing. Maui offers the ideal locations to kick back, relax, and experience the beauty of nature.

Kalalau Trail Kauai

The Kalalau Trail on Napali Coast

What Makes Kauai Unique?

 

Kaua’s shines for its untouched terrain, relaxing pace, and solitude. Because of the development restrictions, more forests and mountains range through this picturesque landscape. Moreso, the beaches are less crowded and pristine. Mother nature marked this peaceful island with the dramatic landscape of the Na Pali Cliffs and the vista of the Waimea Canyon. If the beauty of nature inspires you, Kauai could be your happy place. It also offers a glimpse into the charm of island life and its impressive history. The child-friendly beaches and lack of nightlife make it a good choice for families.

If you're ready to trade the hustle and bustle for variety and adventure in your life, Maui probably sounds like the perfect escape. If you're looking for something quieter and family-friendly, with plenty of outdoor activities and natural beauty, Kauai is the ideal island paradise.

Updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides

If you're visiting Hawaii soon, be sure to download a copy of one of our updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides. We've updated the packets with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and for those who've been a time or two as well).

Select a 2023 Travel Guide
- 60+ Pages -

Highlights

- 100+ Pages -

Deluxe

~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~

Recommended Hawaii Tours
Terms of Use & Disclosures

This website's use is your expressly conditioned acceptance of the terms, conditions, and disclaimers found within our Disclaimer of Warranty and Limitation of Liability page without any modifications. Your use of this website constitutes your acceptance of all the terms, conditions, and disclaimers posted herein. If you do not agree with any part of these terms and conditions, you should not use this website. We also receive a small commission from travel partners for some of the links found on this website. All partners and related links comply with our Advertising Disclosures. For example, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. These links do not cost you anything and help provide the necessary funding to maintain this website. Mahalo!