I remember when I first moved to Kauai driving from the airport and coming into Kapa’a town. It seemed so cute and small! That was in January 2001 and I remember where now you find Ross, there was a store that was partially an art gallery with a lot of artwork by Bill Wyland (which was also on the outside of the building as well as the side… the side part is still there). Papaya’s was in the corner of the Safeway shopping mall and there was the lovely little pond & garden area that is now just more parking. Oh I miss that place! Kauai’s East Side ~ The Coconut Coast has changed a lot.
Small Town Kapa’a
It’s funny how quickly, certainly within a year, I would drive to Kapa’a from the North Shore and think .. it’s a big town! It seems even bigger now but that’s not because it’s grown so much in terms of shops and buildings, though I know there are more businesses, more little boutique shops, lots more food trucks and just lots more going on. Maybe it’s not as sleepy as it used to be. But there’s still something about Kapa’a town; you just keep going back.
I still love Kapa’a town; especially the fact that you be downtown Kapa’a at Java Kai or Kauai Juice Co and walk less than a block and be on the beach, sitting there with your juice or lunch or snack. I love the old buildings that are still there; the Hee Fat building, the Seto building, the Miura store. These date back to the old sugar plantation days in the nineteenth century, which is when there was an influx of Japanese, Filippinos, Portuguese and Chinese. The arrival of the pineapple industry augmented the need for the community which is when these buildings and businesses in Kapa’a prospered. You can imagine what it must have been like when you look at some of the old buildings.
Kauai’s Coconut Coast Bike Path
“Ke Ala Hele Makalae or “the path that goes by the coast” is the Hawaiian name for the bike path that currently runs from the south end of Wailua (Lydgate Beach) to Donkey Beach at the north end (that’s past Kealia beach at the North end of Kapa’a). The plan eventually is for the path to go from Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihue all the way to Anahola; now that will be a bike ride (or walk). Naturally it is a multi use path so you can walk or ride.
If you have any questions about the path you can check out the Kauai County information page.… and learn about “that strange thing sticking out over the ocean”!!!
Kauai’s Coconut Coast – or the East Side – as most locals call it is pretty wonderful. You always used to be able to walk most of the way along it from the north end of Kapa’a just before the stunning Kealia beach down to Wailua, but a few years ago it was made an official “bike path” with concrete a lot of the way. So now you can bike it and take in those amazing ocean views and palm trees. Bikes are for rent all along the stretch from shops in town. That’s the handy thing about Kapa’a, everything is close by. It’s Kauai’s East Side!
Kapa’a Art Night
Kapa’a Art Night has become quite a “thing” on Kauai and happens the first Saturday of the month. So check your dates and see if it’s happening during your visit; if so, don’t miss it! My favorite part about this is the live music everywhere, particularly outside Paco Taco’s where they play salsa music and people dance in the street! Including me sometimes. That’s how cool Kapa’a town can be. All the shops stay open late so you can hunt for local Kauai made treasures to take home, eat everything from Poke from Pono Market (an institution in Kapa’a) to terrific pizza from Stracciatella’s food wagon to excellent Mexican food at Paco’s or at the food wagon on the north end of town… and there’s waaay more!
Heading on down to Wailua, you are still on the Coconut Coast; don’t forget to try Wailua Shave Ice, some of the best. Lots more shops and restaurants here and this is also where the Wailua River enters the ocean. The Wailua is the biggest river on Kauai and although you can look down over it at certain points on Kuamo’o Road, you might want to rent a kayak and experience it the Hawaiian way. You can also check out the old Coco Palms Resort on the corner of the highway and Kuamo’o, where Elvis sang Blue Hawaii all those years ago and which still stands as a testament to the strengh of Hurricane Iniki, which destroyed it in 1992. Some enterprising company is now offering tours!
The Coconut Coast
So why is the stretch of land from South of Wailua to North of Kapa’a called “The Coconut Coast?” Ahhh….. yes, because there are lots of Palm Trees all along. There appears to be some discussion as to how long Coconuts and palm trees have been in Hawaii and on Kauai. Some stories say they were brought by the Marquesans as long as 500 years ago and some say the Tahitians brought them before Capt. Cook showed up. However the many coconuts that populate Kauai’s Coconut Coast were planted by a Coconut Plantation at some point after the western arrival. You will see some references to the ‘Royal Coconut Coast”. Not sure whether that means Royal because Hawaiian Royalty used to live in Wailua or just it feels “royal” . Who knows for sure? I’m glad all those Palm Trees grace the scenery though. It’s the Coconut Coast on Kauai’s East Side.
The East Side of Kauai is the most populated; but most people live up in the hills above Kapa’a. The rise in population and tourism has meant traffic can be challenging going through Kapa’a; there’s only the one road going north to south and it goes through town, so try and make your journey outside of peak times (morning rush hour) and 4 – 6pm. But if you’re coming to Kauai’s Coconut Coast to spend a bit of time, park and stay awhile, you’ll be glad you did.