Moving to Kauai
August 23, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

What should we know about living on Kaua'i?

My partner and I are moving to Kaua'i for a year because we love it there and it's a good time for us to move. We've never lived on a remote island before, but we have spent a lot of time vacationing there. We have plans in place, so money, vehicle, and dog-import issues are taken care of. We plan to spend a month there before deciding where to settle.

So, what are we missing? What did you love and hate about island life? What do you wish you had known?
posted by kamikazegopher to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My brother- and sister-in-law lived there for many years and the takeaways I got from them:

-- It's very expensive. Everything costs more. Probably you already know this.
-- You can live there for years and years and still be considered an outsider. This can be very annoying, but maybe you don't care if you're only going for a year.
-- You may experience reverse racism, if you're white. My sister-in-law is of an ethnicity that isn't Hawaiian, but makes her look perhaps half-Hawaiian. In some situations she got markedly different (and better) treatment than my white brother-in-law.
-- That lazy, dreamy Hawaiian feeling that is so lovely on vacations can be irritating when it bleeds into regular life, like when you're waiting for the plumber and he's operating on Hawaii time, which means he'll get there when he gets there.

But obviously all these things are subjective -- the family members I have who are still living in Hawaii absolutely love it there and would never move, and don't consider any of the above elements to distract from their love of the place.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks, BlahLaLa. I debated mentioning: I am white, but my partner is American Indian and this does temper the race issue somewhat.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2011

I lived on Oahu for 4 years and Kauai was my favorite place to visit during that time, though those were only short visits. I'm inclined to agree with everything already mentioned so far.

I've heard many mainlanders claim to get 'island fever,' but I think those are likely unimaginative/unmotivated type folks. What I mean is: yes, it is small but there is still so much to explore. And it is expensive, but if you adjust your 'needs' to align more with those of the locals, you will be fine--after all, they are :) Particular spots I remember being fantastic: Queen's Bath & (a sandwhich shop I can't seem to locate online...maybe doesn't exist anymore... sorry)

Have an amazing time.
posted by jilliank at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2011

I have a lot of family living on Mau'i, and would add these comments to BlahLala's:

--Everything does cost more, but you can also get by with a lot less stuff depending on how you spend your time. you can go to the fanciest restaurant in an Aloha shirt and flip flops.

--You will be an outsider: and please, please try to understand where that comes from (history of Hawai'i, tourism economy, etc). What's key here is that you be self-concious of any sense of entitlement others might perceive in you. Put another way: almost everyone living on the islands is a guest (my non-native family members included), but some of them walk around like they own the place.

Enjoy, and try to leave behind more than you take away!
posted by cubby at 11:57 AM on August 23, 2011

What should we know about living on Kaua'i?

The roosters... I love everything about Kauai except for the damn roosters.
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2011

BlahLaLa is right on about the racial/outsider weirdness and expense. I grew up there and I'm still not considered local enough by Kaua'i standards. We lived in Princeville, which was far more white/upper class than the south shore, but it was beautiful. Places that are awesome (sorry for the spotty memory on names - I've only been back twice in the last 15 years):

-Banana Joes and the snow-cone place in the same parking lot are my favourite places in the world (they are halfway between north shore and kapa'a). Get the banana/pineapple fruit "smoothie" thing at Banana Joes - I would literally claw someone's eyes out to get some right now. And they sell a pineapple/passion fruit syrup there that is to die for. Get the snow cones island style.

-a diner on the upstairs floor in Kapa'a (can't remember the name - but it's an open deck with a roof) - the breakfast there is awesome and they do fresh pineapple juice, kalua pork, and fruit flavoured syrups. mmm...

-the Japanese Tea Room (eat in the back only! The front is nothing like the strip-mall-esque front, so don't judge it by that). The katsu is awesome. You should make reservations.

-the little chinese/indian/asian food place on the road from Kapa'a to Princeville. It's on the end of the main strip through town (in a tiny strip mall in the parking lot of a grocery store I believe). Sorry, don't remember the name. But their pineapple fried rice and roast duck is still one of my best meals ever. Ever. Almost better than Ramsay's 3 michelin star london restaurant.

-kalihiwai beach - it's got an ocean side and a little inlet that's super calm (we played there as kids because it's so calm). It's easy to miss, but worth looknig up. FAR less touristy than other beaches in the area.

-kaua'i kookies are awesome - try the choc/macademina nut and the coconut crispies.
-to pick the best pineapple, smell the bottom. If it smells like perfectly ripe pineapple, get it. And eat as much passion fruit (lillikoi) as you can - they're perfect when the outside is wrinkly and ugly. Lillikoi pie is an island specialty and is awesome.

-starbucks in hawai'i stirs caramel into the caramel macchiato, instead of pouring it over the top. If you want it over the top, order "mainland style" instead.

-buying clothes in hawai'i is expensive and in kaua'i, the choices are pretty limited. Stock up on essentials and bring them with you.

-animals have quarantine laws, but that can be avoided if you get certain things done ahead of time. Research the hell out of it first.

-tropical rainstorms happen all the time, so travel prepared. You don't always get a lot of warning.

If I think of more, I'll let you know. Also, feel free to memail me if you want to talk further.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:11 PM on August 23, 2011

One more thing: Be aware that the high humidity can tend to wreck things. If you're only going for a year, maybe you can leave family photos, important documents, etc, back home on the mainland? My sister was upset to see that after a year in Hawaii several photo albums had sprouted mold.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2011

Thanks, everyone! We found a house, a monster truck and a great group of friends! I have a feeling that we are going to be here for more than a year...
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:55 PM on October 2, 2011

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