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Looking to escape to a tropical island paradise? If so, you may be wondering—where exactly is Kauai, Hawaii? Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai boasts lush rainforests, towering sea cliffs, and world famous beaches that have served as backdrops for major Hollywood films and TV shows.

If you don’t have time for a lengthy geography lesson right now, here’s the 30 second answer: Kauai is the fourth largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, located in the central Pacific Ocean roughly 2,400 miles southwest of Los Angeles, California or 3,900 miles southeast of Tokyo, Japan.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide an overview of Kauai’s geographic location in relation to the Hawaiian island chain and the rest of the world. We’ll zoom in and explore where it’s situated among the other main Hawaiian islands.

We’ll also highlight some key facts and figures about Kauai to help you get better acquainted with this breathtaking island paradise.

Kauai’s Location Within the Hawaiian Island Chain

Kauai is the northernmost of Hawaii’s 8 main islands

The breathtaking island of Kauai lies at the northwest end of the Hawaiian archipelago. Spanning 562.3 square miles, it is the fourth largest of the islands and the most secluded in terms of accessibility.

The island’s remote location has endowed it with lush green rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and some of Hawaii’s most spectacular scenery. With an array of pristine beaches and colorful coral reefs encircling it, Kauai is often referred to as the “Garden Isle.”

To the southwest, Kauai is separated from Oahu by the Ka’ie’iewaho Channel, which stretches about 72 miles wide. The natural isolation from the more populated islands to the southeast has helped preserve the serene atmosphere for which Kauai is renowned.

Kauai lies 105 miles northwest of Oahu

The island of Oahu, home to Hawaii’s capital Honolulu and iconic Waikiki Beach, lies 105 miles to the southeast of Kauai across the Ka’ie’iewaho Channel.

Where Oahu boasts world-famous resorts and a pulsating urban energy, Kauai offers a more peaceful pace surrounded by lush rainforests and postcard-perfect beaches. This contrast showcases the diversity across Hawaii’s magical islands.

Kauai is a non-stop 2 hour flight from Honolulu International Airport. Most visitors take advantage of the quick island hop to experience two dramatically different sides of Hawaii with ease.

Island Area (sq. miles) Population
Kauai 552 72,293
Oahu 598 953,207

As the table shows, Oahu dwarfs Kauai by over tenfold in resident population. So visitors to Kauai seeking peace, nature, and seclusion outnumber those chasing nightlife.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, over 1.4 million visitors came to Kauai in 2021. They contributed $2 billion per year to Kauai’s otherwise agriculture and fishing-based economy.

How Far Away is Kauai, Hawaii from Major Cities and Landmarks?

Approximately 2,400 miles southwest from Los Angeles, CA

The Hawaiian island of Kauai sits roughly 2,400 miles southwest across the Pacific Ocean from the major West Coast metropolis of Los Angeles, California. A nonstop flight from LAX airport to Lihue Airport on Kauai takes just over 5 hours to traverse the vast expanse of open water separating the two destinations.

For those seeking an island escape from the bustling urban sprawl of Los Angeles, Kauai’s emerald mountain peaks and lush rainforests seem worlds away. The culture and pace of life on rural Kauai also feels far removed from the glitz and congestion that often characterizes Southern California.

Roughly 3,900 southeast from Tokyo, Japan

Situated roughly 3,900 miles southeast of the high-tech, hypermodern cityscapes of Tokyo, Kauai strikes a stark contrast from the urban intensity of the Japanese capital. Where Tokyo dazzles with flashing neon and enormous video billboards, Kauai soothes the senses with misty waterfalls, crashing surf and tropical blooms.

For Japanese visitors flying in from Narita International Airport near Tokyo, the 5,000-mile journey traverses the Pacific, crosses the International Date Line and seems to transport travelers back in time to Hawaii’s more unhurried, tranquil pace of life.

Kauai’s terraced taro fields, ancient heiau temple sites and rural small towns like Hanalei offer glimpses of traditional Hawaiian culture relatively untouched by outside influences.

About 2,600 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska

At around 2,600 miles due south from Anchorage across the vast North Pacific, Kauai’s climate differs markedly from Alaska’s icy conditions. While winter temperatures in Anchorage often linger well below freezing, Kauai enjoys warm tropical tradewinds year-round, with average highs ranging from 78°F in “winter” months to 85°F in summer.

Location Average High Temp (°F)
Anchorage 23
Kauai 78

These spring-like conditions allow for outdoor adventures like snorkeling, surfing and helicopter tours of Kauai’s soaring cliffs and cascading waterfalls – activities typically impossible for much of the year up north.

For Alaskans seeking refuge from subzero temps and icy gales, Kauai beckons like a balmy tropical paradise.

Quick Facts and Figures About Kauai

Nicknamed “The Garden Isle” due to lush vegetation

Kauai is aptly nicknamed “The Garden Isle” due to its lush tropical vegetation covering the island. Over 50% of Kauai is made up of tropical rainforests with towering emerald mountains, jagged cliffs, and winding rivers.

Popular spots to see the splendid greenery are Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, and Limahuli Garden and Preserve, a botanical garden with over 1,000 native plant species.

Home to the wettest spot on Earth (Mt. Waialeale)

Mount Waialeale is considered the wettest spot on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of about 460 inches (11,684 mm). This is thanks to Kauai’s location in the path of northeast trade winds and Mount Waialeale’s peak elevation of 5,148 feet (1,569 m) forcing moisture upwards contributing to frequent rain and mist.

Some key facts about the extremely wet climate of Mount Waialeale:

  • Holds the record for most rain in a single year with 1,170 inches (29,718 mm) in 1982
  • Average rainy days per year is 335 days
  • 6 out of 10 of the rainiest locations on Earth are on Kauai

Backdrop for major Hollywood films and TV shows

Kauai’s dramatically beautiful landscapes have served as the filming location for over 70 Hollywood movies and TV shows over the years. Its natural sights have stood in for far-off lands and fantasy worlds in many major productions.

Some of the most notable movies filmed on location on Kauai include:

In addition, the island’s tropical landscapes have been featured prominently in hit TV shows like Lost, Hawaii Five-O, and Fantasy Island.

Navigating to and Around Kauai

Most visitors arrive via the Lihue Airport (LIH) on east side

The main gateway to Kauai is through the Lihue Airport (LIH), located on the eastern side of the island near Lihue town. This regional airport receives flights from major domestic airlines like United, Delta, American and Alaska, as well as some international carriers.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, over 93% of visitors to Kauai in 2021 arrived by air, so most tourists start their Garden Isle vacation by landing at LIH.

The airport offers rental car counters for companies like Budget, Hertz and Alamo. Taxis and some hotel shuttles are also available for transportation, though having your own wheels is highly recommended for getting around. There is no public bus service to/from the airport itself.

Highway 50 is main road circling the island

Once on the ground, visitors will find it easy to navigate around Kauai’s circular shape via scenic Highway 50. Known as the Kaumualiʻi Highway, this main road loops completely around the island, skirting the perimeter and providing access to world famous sights all along the coastal shores.

It is a slow, winding, beautiful drive.

The highway passes through small towns and residential areas on the eastern shores near Kapaa and continues clockwise up to the dramatic Napali Coast on the northwestern side. Drivers get jaw-dropping ocean vistas as they cruise counterclockwise along the resort area of Poipu and Waimea Canyon on the southern shoreline.

Stopping frequently for snapping photos is a must on this picturesque island drive!

Public transportation options limited outside resort areas

While a rental car is the most flexible way for Kauai exploration, the island does have some public bus routes that can work for certain areas. The County of Kauai operates a public bus system with regular routes through some main towns and select resort areas daily.

These local commuter buses reach spots like Hanalei, Princeville, Kapaa, Lihue and Poipu for just a couple dollars.

However, bus service is limited and there is no transportation option that efficiently circles the entire island. Visitors hoping to access more off-the-beaten-path sites, secluded beaches or interior hiking trails will definitely want to rent a jeep or other vehicle for maximum flexibility.

With stunning vistas greeting drivers at every bend, navigating the roads here is a joy in itself!


We hope this outline has helped answer your question “where is Kauai, Hawaii?” In summary, Kauai lies in the central North Pacific, southwest of mainland U.S. and is the northernmost island in Hawaii’s archipelago.

It may seem remote and secluded to some, but once you experience the island’s breathtaking landscapes and welcoming aloha spirit, you’ll feel right at home.

Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time visiting Hawaii, Kauai never fails to delight and enchant visitors. Now that you know exactly where it lies in the Pacific, you can start planning your own escape to this slice of paradise.

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