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Nestled along the eastern shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai lies the vibrant town of Kapaa. With its laidback atmosphere, quaint shops and restaurants, and stunning natural landscapes, it’s no wonder why the question “where is Kapaa Hawaii?” is frequently asked.

In short: Kapaa is a census-designated place located on the eastern side of the island of Kauai, known as the Garden Isle. It sits just north of the county seat of Lihue along the scenic Kuhio Highway.

Geographic Location of Kapaa

On the East Side of Kauai

The town of Kapaa is situated on the eastern side of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, known as the “Garden Island.” Kapaa lies in a flat coastal plain, with the Pacific Ocean to the east and mountains to the west.

The eastern side of Kauai receives quite a bit of rainfall compared to other parts of the island, thanks to the trade winds that blow in from the ocean.

Along the Kuhio Highway (Route 56)

Kapaa stretches out along the Kuhio Highway (Hawaii Route 56), the main road that circles the perimeter of the island. Heading north from Kapaa along this coastal highway leads to rural towns like Wailua and Hanalei.

Going south on Route 56 takes you to Lihue, the island’s largest town and commercial center.

So Kapaa enjoys a central location along Kauai’s main thoroughfare, which connects it to various destinations around the island. The Kapaa section of the highway boasts lots of shops, restaurants, and small strip malls catering to both locals and visitors.

Part of the Kapaa Census Area

Kapaa falls under the Kapaa Census Area, which covers the eastern side of Kauai from Wailua to Kapaa town proper. According to recent census data, the Kapaa Census Area has:

Total population: 10,698
Total households: 3,559
Average household size: 2.73 people

So the town of Kapaa and its surrounding communities are home to around 11,000 residents. Like the rest of Kauai, the population trends older, as many people come to retire in this tropical paradise.

Distinctive Features and Character of Kapaa Town

Laid Back, Local Vibe

Known for its relaxed and friendly local scene, Kapaa exudes an authentic Hawaiian charm. Free from big resorts and crowded beaches, Kapaa has a down-to-earth vibe where locals outnumber tourists. You’ll find mom-and-pop shops, food trucks dishing up plate lunches, and neighbors chatting over a cup of Kona coffee.

With its slower pace of life, Kapaa invites visitors to kick back and unwind. As Kauai’s most populace town, Kapaa offers a slice of local island living.

Attractive Beaches and Parks

Lined with coconut palms, Kapaa Beach Park is a family-friendly stretch of golden sand with calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Locals and visitors alike gather at this popular beach park for picnics and to watch legendary Kauai sunsets.

Nearby Lydgate Park has protected swimming pools that are ideal for kids. Shaded by towering trees, the park also features play areas, pavilions, and walking paths hugging the ocean.

Restaurants, Shops and Services

As the island’s center of commerce, Kapaa offers abundant dining, shopping, and services. The historic two-lane Kuhio Highway runs through the heart of town with eclectic cafes, galleries, surf shops and groceries lining the street.

From food trucks to oceanfront restaurants, Kapaa’s eateries range from casual to upscale dining serving everything from fresh seafood to Thai curries. The town also provides basic services from grocery stores to banks to medical clinics.

Starting Point for Island Explorations

Centrally located on Kauai’s east coast, Kapaa serves as the gateway to the island’s famous north and south shores. With its central location, Kapaa places the renowned scenic wonders of Waimea Canyon, Na Pali Coast trails, and Kilauea Lighthouse within easy reach.

Rent a car or book a tour in Kapaa to discover the island’s interior waterfalls, beaches, and hiking trails.

Number of Residents 10,699 (2010 census)
Miles of Sandy Beach 2.5 miles

Boasting lush natural landscapes from mountain ranges to golden beaches, the Kapaa area encapsulates the many moods of Kauai. With small-town charm and easy access to island-wide adventures, Kapaa is a visitor favorite and quintessential Hawaiian getaway.

Popular Attractions and Activities in and Around Kapaa

Kapaa Beach Park

Kapaa Beach Park is a popular beach in Kapaa town with white sand, gentle waves, and views of the majestic Na Pali Coast. The beach has picnic tables, restrooms, shower facilities, and trees for shade.

It’s a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, beach walks, and watching spectacular sunsets over the ocean.

Historic Kapaa Town

Historic Kapaa Town has retained its old Hawaiin charm with early 20th century plantation-style buildings now housing cafes, shops, and art galleries. Don’t miss the tasty treats at the famous Pono Market or the island crafts at The Island Arts Gallery.

The town comes alive on the first Saturday of every month with food trucks, hula dances, and live music at the Kapaa First Saturday celebrations.

Wailua River State Park

The lush Wailua River State Park offers spectacular views of the Wailua River and its waterfalls. Adventure seekers can hike to the 175-foot Secret Falls or take boat cruises upriver to Fern Grotto. There are also scenic nature trails through the rainforest, ancient Hawaiian heiau (temples), and a popular kayaking spot at the Kamokila Hawaiian Village.

Sleeping Giant Hike

The moderately difficult Sleeping Giant hike rewards those who make the climb to its peak with jaw-dropping 360° views of Kapaa town, the ocean, and Mount Waiʻaleʻale. The unique trail gets its name from the mountain ridge which looks like a giant resting on its back from afar.

Go early to beat the heat and humidity on this roughly 4-5 mile round trip trek.

Na Pali Coast Tours

No visit to Kauai is complete without experiencing the island’s crown jewel – the awe-inspiring Na Pali Coast. Visitors can tour this rugged coastline by boat, kayak, or small plane. Marvel at sights like the famous sea cliffs rising over 4,000 feet from the Pacific Ocean, towering waterfalls, deserted golden sand beaches, and cascading mountain vistas on a Na Pali adventure.

Accommodation Options for Visitors


Kapaa offers several beachfront resort options for visitors looking for full-service accommodations. Some popular choices include the Aston at Poipu Kai, Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club, and Sheraton Kauai.

These resorts typically feature multiple pools, restaurants, luau shows, kids clubs, and easy access to Kapaa’s attractions.

B&Bs and Vacation Rentals

In addition to hotels, Kapaa has over 100 bed and breakfast inns and vacation rental homes to meet different needs and budgets. Top site like Vrbo and Airbnb offer Kapaa vacation rentals starting around $100 per night.

These rentals provide amenities like full kitchens, backyard BBQs, and stunning ocean views. They allow visitors to experience the area like a local.

Camping Options

For adventurous travelers, Kapaa has over 10 beach camping parks to pitch a tent and sleep under the stars. Top county beach parks with camping include Lydgate Park, Salt Pond Beach Park, and Anahola Beach Park.

These parks have bathrooms, showers, BBQ pits, and incredible shoreline access for swimming, fishing, and whale watching. Camping permits start around $5 per night.


With its central location, small town charm, wealth of outdoor adventures, and easy access to world class scenery like the Na Pali Coast, Kapaa is considered by many to be the ideal home base for visitors to Kauai.

So if you find yourself wondering “where is Kapaa Hawaii?”, know that it is a special slice of paradise on the Garden Isle, conveniently positioned for exploring the island’s wondrous landscapes and all that makes Kauai magical.

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