North Shore or South Shore You Be the Judge
In the all the other Hawaiian islands all of the tourist hotels and most of the vacation rentals are on the south shores of the Islands. Kauai is unusual in that there are resorts on both North and South Shores. On the North Shore most of the vacation rentals are clustered in Princeville and on the South Shore Poipu is the only resort area. To help the first time visitors to Kauai we have put together the following comparisons between these two main visitor destination areas.
Weather - Poipu weather vs North shore weather:
Even though Kauai is a relatively small island the presence of Mount Waialiali and almost year round North easterly trade winds result in dramatically different micro climates in different parts of the Island. In order of dryness and amount of sunshine Kekaha at the west end of the island is the driest and sunniest , followed by Poipu the sunniest, driest tourist area of the island. Based on the rainfall and native plants Poipu is as dry as a desert( high deserts in Utah get 20+inches of rain Poipu along the shore gets ~25”) . The northern parts around Kilauea, Hanalei, Wainiha are the rainiest parts of Kauai which makes them naturally lush and green. There is a rainy season ( November - March.) and dry summer season ( April-October). Most of the rainfall is typically night time and early morning ( particularly along the south shore).
In Kauai you will find more variation in temperature with location, rather than with seasons. The ocean temperatures change by several degrees at most between dry and rainy seasons and in recent years there has been an increase of several degrees in the average ocean temperature. In general the waters around North and Western shores in winter are rough and frequently get big waves from storms off Alaska.
Swimming in the North shore beaches during winter is dangerous, except inside the reef at Anini and in the protected parts of the Hanalei bay. Waters along the South shore beaches are much calmer in winter, with the exception of the rare southerly wind kicked up chop. Late Spring and Summer, surf heights are lower all around the island( south shore will still have lower wave heights) and the trade winds blow more consistently. The following table shows monthly rainfall and temperature averages for Poipu and Princeville areas. The eastern part of the island ( Lihue and Kapaa) fall in between Poipu and Princeville.
Finally I would like to add a quote from a pool installer who was giving us a quote for our pool “ I came to Hawaii from Nevada and I bought a house in Princeville- this is the whitest I have been in my life, there is not enough sun to get a tan in Princeville”. Also in 1975 a Club Med was established on the north shore but they lasted only about a year and a half because of the distance from other activities and lack of sunshine.
Princeville is a planned resort community on the north shore of the island of Kauai, and is home to the Princeville Resort and two golf courses . The area was named in honor of an 1860 visit by Prince Albert Kamehameha (son of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma) . It was then a sugar plantation owned by Robert Crichton Wyllie. Later it became a cattle ranch. It was sold for development in 1968 and its development since that time has been continuous. Poipu was not a single land holding and as a result its development has been different from that of Princeville, with the exception of Poipu Kai and Kihauna Condominiums, the remaining condominium associations are small ( no more than 30 units) and the houses are all individually built. During the last couple of years Alexander and Baldwin (C&H sugar and Matson Transportation parent) has joined forces with a mainland builder to build a planned community of million dollar plus homes at the west end of Poipu area ( Kukuila). However, given the economic conditions it is highly unlikely that this development will be finished in less than a decade.
From: http://www.wunderground.com/calculators/solar.html Average Solar Energy in Kilowatt Hours/square meter/day
Thus on the average Poipu area receives 22 % more sun year round than the Princeville area. The difference is especially noticeable during the months of June and July. These are the months when the trade winds are strongest and bring a lot of rain to the north shore while the south shore stays dry. In terms of temperatures the difference in sun shine typically translates to about five degrees higher average temperature in Poipu during winter and 3-5 degrees during the summer. The trade winds without their rain keep the temperatures in Poipu at comfortable low eighties as you can see from the above table.
Poipu:12 miles from the Lihue Airport and in less than 20 minutes you are in Poipu after leaving the Airport.
Princeville/Hanalei is about : 35 miles from the airport and depending on the time of the day can take an hour to an hour and a half to get to.
Beaches in the immediate vicinity:
Princeville: The nearest swimmable beaches to Princeville are the Hanalei Bay and Anini beach park each one is about a ten minute drive by car. Hanalei bay is a beautiful crescent bay protected by a reef a couple of hundred yards off shore. The beach park area is safe and suitable for all ages. However, the water around the beach park is not crystal clear due to wave action stirring the sand . Anini beach park is protected by about a mile long reef with a shallow protected lagoon on the inside. Suitable for swimming and snorkeling, if you swim out to the reef about 40 yards offshore. During high waves there is a strong current at Anini beach.
Others: There are a number of beaches past Hanalei- Lumahai, Tunnels, Kee are the easily accessible ones, plus a large number of small secret beaches you can not drive to.
Poipu : Vacation homes and hotels in Poipu cover a quarter mile wide strip paralleling the Poipu beach which is made up of several connected and reef protected crescent lagoons stretching about three quarters of a mile from the Baby Beach ( Brenneke beach) to the front of Sheraton Hotel. There is a playground as well as a very shallow and well protected children’s lagoon. Snorkeling is excellent in very shallow waters. Baby beach is great for boogie boarding and Sheraton area is a favorite with surfers. Hyatt hotel and the Shipwreck beach in front of it are at the very east end of the Poipu area. Shipwreck beach is a beautiful beach and a favorite among boogie boarders and surfers but is good for swimming only if you are a good ocean swimmer. Towards the west end of the Poipu area there is another excellent snorkeling beach, Lawai beach, on the way to spouting horn. For locals and repeat visitors the best beach is Mahaulepu, which is about three miles on a sugar cane road from Hyatt Hotel parking. At Mahaulepu you can watch kite surfers, windsurfers and have your private shady corner. Mahaulepu beach stretches for about a mile and if you continue walking east for another mile and half there are two other secret beaches you can hike to.
Further to the west: Glass beach, Salt Ponds beach park, Kekaha-Barking sands and the impressive Polihalle are the easily accessible beaches going towards the west. Kekaha+ Barking Sands + Pollihalle beaches together make up the longest and the largest beach in all of the Hawaiian Islands. Pollihalle beach is estimated to have as much sand as all the other island beaches put together. In addition between Poipu and Kekaha there are about six or more “secret” beaches used mainly by the local surfers.
Restaurants: Both Poipu and Princeville area have a number of restaurants ( approximately 26 each) ranging from moderately priced to very expensive and covering almost every type of cousine.
Poipu and Koloa have many more shops to choose from compared to Princeville- both for food as well as souvenirs etc. Hanalei near Princeville has souvenir shops and local artists shops.
Hotels for Weddings Meetings etc. Poipu has Hyatt, Mariott, and Sheraton Hotels all within a two mile strip.
Princeville has Princeville Hotel ( has become St Regis Princeville resort) and Westin Princeville Villas.
Princeville: Hanalei Bay, Lumahai beach, Kee beach, Tunnels beach
Poipu: Waimea Canyon, Pollihalle beach, Kalalu Valley, Kokee Park,
Princeville: 3 courses ( Makai, Mauka and the Prince)
Poipu: Poipu Bay ( used to be PGA grand Slam), Kiahuna and Kukuiolono (the cheapest and most scenic golf course in all of Hawaii) courses.
Other activities: Both locations have numerous other activities such as guided horseback tours, Kayak tours, Boat tours to Napali coast, kayak tours, surf lessons etc.
Poipu also has evening and day time catamaran cruises (saunset and whale watching).