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Maui vs. Kauai
One of the questions that I am asked most often is, “which Hawaii island is best?” Well, the truth is that there isn’t really an answer to that question. I have talked about which Hawaii island is best for honeymoons and which Hawaii island is best for families.
I have noticed that, especially with honeymoons, it often comes down to Maui vs. Kauai.
For this blog post, I decided to go over Maui vs. Kauai in-depth and help you decide where you want to spend time on your Hawaii vacation.
How many Hawaii islands can you visit in one week?
You aren’t going to like my answer, because it’s one. If you only have one week in Hawaii, I would advise visiting only one island. While you certainly can visit more than one island in a week, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Each island in Hawaii is so diverse. You really need to spend several days on the island to appreciate it truly.
Getting to Maui vs. Kauai
Many travelers (wrongly) assume that they will have to fly into Honolulu and then fly to the smaller islands. Fortunately, there are daily flights to Kahului (Maui) and Lihue (Kauai) from most major cities.
Traveling to Hawaii isn’t fun, but you can check out my post on how to survive the flight to Hawaii. Just remember, it will be worth it once you arrive!
Once you’re on either island, you’ll need to rent a car. There aren’t many options for public transportation on either island, so you’ll really need a car. I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best deals on any of the Hawaiian Islands.
You can read more about why you need a rental car in Hawaii but suffice to say you’ll need one on either island.
So as you can see, it’s pretty easy to get to Maui or Kauai. You’ll need a rental car on both islands, so neither one come out ahead in this category.
Weather in Maui vs. Kauai
The weather is one category that really makes these two destinations different. Maui’s primary resort areas (the west side and the south side) are warm and sunny year-round. The only time you’ll need a jacket in Maui is if you venture up to Haleakala, which I recommend doing!
There are two resort areas in Kauai, the north shore and the south shore. The two areas are quite different. The south shore is almost always sunny, but the north shore does get more rain. However, the rainfall makes for some of Hanalei and Prineville’s most spectacular scenery on Kauai’s North Shore.
Rainfall tends to be brief throughout Hawaii, even on the North Shore, so it shouldn’t interfere with your trip. Just be prepared to put the top back on your Jeep or convertible at a moment’s notice!
It can be a little cooler on Kauai during the winter, but probably not anything you’ll notice. Hawaii has comfortable temperatures year-round, no matter which island you visit.
So, does Maui or Kauai have better weather? Neither! They both have varying weather, and you’ll always find a warm, sunny beach no matter which island you’re on.
The scenery on Maui and Kauai
This is where it gets interesting and maybe controversial. 😉 Both Kauai and Maui offer beautiful coastlines, tropical jungles, and stunning mountains.
The difference in the scenery on Maui is that it’s far more accessible on Kauai. Is it as beautiful as the scenery on Kauai? Welllll, in my opinion, no. There’s a reason that Jurassic Park was filmed on Kauai! It’s not that Maui isn’t beautiful, but you really have to see Kauai to appreciate it fully.
Although, as I said, to see Kauai, you have to get creative. I highly recommend a Kauai helicopter tour to see the beauty of the island truly.
I took this on my own Kauai helicopter tour. Check out my review.
Kauai has something very unique to the island – navigable rivers! You can kayak on the Wailua River and the Hule‘ia River on Kauai.
Maui has the incredible Road to Hana, which is another must-do on the island.
Since we are comparing the two islands, I give Kauai a slight advantage over Maui in the scenery category.
Activities on Kauai and Maui
If you love spending time outdoors, you can’t go wrong with Maui or Kauai. The list of things to do is abundant, including hiking, snorkeling, golfing, boating, and surfing.
Snorkeling is good on Kauai, but Maui has some of the best places to snorkel in Hawaii. Some require a boat tour like Molokini Crater, but some of the best spots can be accessed by land. Black Rock is a great snorkeling spot on Maui and near some of the best resorts.
Some of Kauai’s best snorkeling spots, such as Tunnels Beach, can be more difficult during the winter months due to rough water.
While Maui has some great hikes, Kauai definitely wins for the best hikes in Hawaii. The epic Kalalau Trail requires some advanced planning, but other ridge trails such as the Awa’awapuhi Trail can be hiked any time.
Check out the 7 best hikes on Kauai for more epic Kauai hikes.
If you like breweries, wineries, and distilleries, you can find them all on Maui. Kauai also has a rum distillery and a brewery. There isn’t a clear winner for activities on Maui vs. Kauai. If hiking is #1 on your to-do list, Kauai might be right for you. If snorkeling is your #1 priority, you can’t go wrong on Maui.
The beaches on Maui and Kauai
When it comes to the best beaches in Hawaii, Maui always comes out on top. Maui has more swimmable beaches than Kauai in yellow, black, and red sand. Although the beaches on Maui tend to be narrow, there are plenty of them. Makena Beach (also called Big Beach) is one of the most popular on the island.
While the water in Kauai can be rough (especially in the winter), you will still find beautiful beaches all over the island. The beaches of Kauai are also often considerably larger than the beaches on Maui.
If you make your way out to Polihale State Park, you’ll find miles of beach with very few people around, if any.
Which is better, Maui or Kauai?
While Maui and Kauai have a lot of similarities, they’re also very different. Kauai is a bit more laid back and less developed. That can be good or bad depending on what you’re looking for.
For some visitors, Maui offers the best of both worlds by having more upscale shops and chain restaurants but lacking Oahu’s chaos and traffic.
Wildlife on Maui and Kauai
You’ll see plenty of wildlife, such as green sea turtles and tropical fish on both islands. It’s also worth noting that Maui has some of the best humpback whale sightings in Hawaii. I’ve seen whales in Kauai as well, but you typically see more of them on Maui.
Alternatively, you’re much more likely to see the endangered monk seal on Kauai.
Island hopping on Maui and Kauai
Just like getting to Maui and Kauai is fairly straightforward, it’s also easy to island-hop. Oahu and the Big Island are only a short flight away from both Kauai and Maui.
On Maui, it’s easy to make a day trip to Molokai or Lanai. The only ferries currently operating in Hawaii are on Maui and go to Lanai and Molokai. Of course, you can also fly on Hawaiian, Southwest, or Mokulele Airlines.
There are no ferries on Kauai, but you can spend a day snorkeling the forbidden isle of Ni’ihau. This is the only way to access the private island even though you technically do not go ashore.
Have you decided which island you’d like to visit? If not, maybe a look at some of my favorite resorts will help.
The best resort on Maui for honeymoons
Although Maui has quite a selection of honeymoon resorts, my favorite is the Andaz Maui at Wailea. The Andaz Maui has an adults-only pool, which is great for honeymoon couples. Although the Andaz is not adults-only, you’ll find fewer children here as there aren’t many amenities for families.
If you’re looking for a truly adults-only resort, Hotel Wailea is one of the few adults-only resorts in Hawaii. The Hotel Wailea is also the only Relais & Châteaux hotel in Hawaii. This boutique hotel has only 72 one-bedroom suites and is set on three tropical acres. It’s also an amazing destination for weddings; I even photographed a wedding here!
The best resort on Maui for families
The Grand Wailea Resort and Spa is one of the best resorts on Maui for families. This luxury 40-acres oceanfront resort features nine pools, a spa, and seven bars and restaurants.
The best resort on Kauai for honeymoons
Located on Poipu Beach, the Ko’a Kea Hotel and Resort is one of the island’s highest-rated resorts. If you’re looking for an intimate and romantic beachfront boutique resort, I highly recommend the Ko’a Kea. This resort is perfect for honeymoons or anniversaries.
The best resort on Kauai for families
The Koloa Landing Resort has the perfect mix of resort amenities and large luxury villas. The pools are some of the best on the island. While it is not beachfront, you can quickly walk to shops or the beach.
Kauai vs. Maui
I hope that this post helped you decide if you would rather visit Maui, Kauai, or both!
For more Hawaii travel tips, check out some of my most popular blog posts:
- The 7 Best Things to do in Maui
- 10 best adventure activities on Kauai
- 7 day Kauai Itinerary
- 100 things to do in Hawaii
- 10 things you NEED to know before going to Hawaii
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