🏝 Big Island vs Kauai: How to Decide for Your 2024 Vacation

Big Island vs. Kauai blog cover graphic. Text overlaying two images, one showing a sunset over the ocean on a beach on the Big Island scattered with lava rock and the other showing the Na Pali coast on Kauai as seen from a boat.

Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii are the two quietest, least-visited of the major Hawaiian islands by a substantial margin, but they also happen to be my favorites!

While neither of these islands is typically recommended for a first visit to Hawaii, I do feel they are the best choices for anyone who values authentic, local experiences and outstanding scenery.

Both Big lsland and Kauai call to adventurous travelers and peace-seekers alike. They are for those who want to avoid the crowds and whose idea of the perfect vacation involves more than lounging by the pool.

Throughout this guide, I will be thoroughly comparing Big Island vs Kauai in all factors that need to be considered when choosing between the two islands. These include topics such as average costs, weather, beaches, activities, scenery, and more.

I certainly have my own unique preferences, but my goal with this guide is to provide a mix of research, statistics, and personal experience to help you make the right choice of islands for your Hawaiian vacation.

🌺 Big Island vs Kauai Overview

A graphic showing a table comparing the features of Big Island vs. Kauai on a floral tropical background.
Visual comparison of Big Island vs. Kauai

Some Quick, Important Notes

πŸ”₯ Summer wildfires momentarily impacted the Big Island in August 2023, but the entire island is open with no significant damage done.

🌺 Kauai and Big Island are similar in that they are the two least visited of the major Hawaiian islands. They appeal to those seeking an adventure-filled or quiet vacation alike.

🌈 Kauai and Big Island are completely different in terms of size, climate, and age.

  • Kauai is the smallest island at 552 square miles, while Big Island is the largest at 4028 square miles.
  • Kauai is wet, lush, and teeming with vegetation, while most of Big Island is sparse, dry and covered in lava rock.
  • Kauai is also the oldest island in Hawaii, and Big Island is the youngest. This means Kauai will have softer sand, less lava rock, and more vegetation.

πŸŒ‹ The top attractions on the Big Island include the Manta Ray Night Snorkel, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Green Sand Beach, Black Sand Beach, Waipio Valley, Kona, and Captain Cook Monument.

🌴 The top attractions on Kauai include Na Pali coast tours, Kalalau Trail, Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay, Polihale State Park, and Poipu Beaches.

🌴 Big Island vs Kauai Detailed Comparison

πŸ¦– Kauai Overview

Low clouds line the tips of the jagged Na Pali cliffs in this photo captured on a sunny day during a Napali coast boat tour on Kauai.
  • Nickname: The Garden Isle
  • Where to Stay: Poipu or Princeville
  • Airports
    • Lihue (LIH) – Main Airport
  • Best Things to Do
    • NaPali Coast Tour
    • Waimea Canyon & Koke’e
    • Explore Wailua Valley
    • Hanalei Bay & North Shore
    • Hike Na Pali Coast

Best for: People who see Hawaii as a place to be explored more than have a holiday. It is about adventure and activity, not just sunbathing and cocktails.


🌿 Who Should Choose Kauai Over Big Island

Kauai and Big Island most attract the same crowd. Because of this, you should decide what factor is most important in your decision and let that guide you.

For example, perhaps you can find cheaper accommodation on one than the other, or perhaps there is a specific destination like the Na Pali Coast that you absolutely need to experience.

Beyond that suggestion, Kauai may be a better option than Big Island for the following types of people:

  • Hikers
  • Nature lovers
  • Intimate hotel / Small resort patrons
  • Honeymooners
  • Upscale travelers
  • #Van-lifer (willing to vacation by camper van)

⛡️ Big Island Overview

Hapuna Beach in North Kona is captured from a drone revealing the crystal clear blue water and white sand beach of the Kohala Coast.

Big Island Overview

  • Nickname: The Big Island
  • Where to Stay: Kona or Waikoloa
  • Airports
    • Kona (KOA) – Main Airport
    • Hilo (ITO)
  • Best Things to Do
    • Manta Ray Night Snorkel
    • Volcanoes National Park
    • Green & Black Sand Beaches
    • Snorkel at Captain Cook
    • Beach Hopping in Kona
    • Coffee Tour
    • Waipio Valley

Best for: People who value space, seclusion, and budget over manufactured and lavish experiences with a sense of adventure.


πŸ„β€β™€οΈ Who Should Choose Big Island Over Kauai

The Big Island offers most of the same things as Kauai, but with better weather, more space, and a livelier town in Kailua-Kona.

Big Island is specifically a better option than Kauai for the following people:

  • Families with children
  • Beach bums
  • Group celebrations
  • Budget travelers
  • Road trippers
  • Small-crowd seekers
  • Snorkelers and marine life enthusiasts

🧳 Annual Tourism Comparison in Big Island vs Kauai

A quiet day at Magic Sands Beach is photographed on our most recent visit to the Big Island of Hawaii.
Magic Sands Beach, Kona

Kauai sees the least visitors despite most agreeing that it is the prettiest island in Hawaii.

Frequent rain, limited beaches, and an inaccessible western coastline are all major deterrents for those seeking that idyllic tropical getaway. Because so much of the island is inaccessible, the tourists are more densely packed as well

The Big Island sees only slightly more people but is also faster-growing and far more spacious. It benefits from a prevalent “leeward side” (dry side) with an extensive coastline of golden-sand beaches that run from Kona to Kohala.

The Big Island suffers, however, from being less aesthetically pleasing than the other islands, the vast driving distances required to get anywhere, and the coarse sand that makes up most of its young beaches.

🌀 Weather in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
β˜€οΈThe Kohala Coast on Big Island is the sunniest region in all of Hawaii.
🌦 Kauai is the wettest Hawaiian island, with South Shore being the driest region.
πŸ† Big Island

All Hawaiian islands have a wet side (windward) and a dry side (leeward).

The Big Island’s entire western half is leeward, meaning it is typically sunny with less rain and clouds. The Kona and Kohala coastline dominate the entire west coast with plenty of sunny beaches, albeit coarser sand than most prefer.

Most of Kauai’s leeward side is the Na Pali coast, which is accessible only by boat or helicopter. The South Shore is also on the leeward side and is the best option for beach holidays if you have decided to stay in Kauai.

Ironically, the wettest city in the entire US is actually Hilo on the east coast of the Big Island, which sees almost twice as much rain as anywhere in Kauai. However, most people only bother with a day trip or quick overnight stop in Hilo for this reason.

To quickly summarize, the frequent rain in Kauai makes for stunning scenery but also means there are fewer places to stay with both beaches and sunshine than on Big Island.

Annual RainfallDays with (some) Rain
Poipu22 inches218 days
Wailua60 inches234 days
Princeville78 inches237 days
Big Island
Waikoloa<10 inches
Kailua-Kona25 inches50 days
Hilo140 inches275 days

πŸ– Beaches in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
πŸ– Neither Big Island nor Kauai is best known for the beaches, but both have a few good options.
🌊 Big Island’s beaches are more ample but tend to have coarser sand and more lava rock.
πŸ† Kauai for quality, Big Island for weather and quantity.

If you are comparing Big Island vs Kauai for a beach-centric vacation, you will have to decide whether you care more about the quality of the beach or the quality of the weather.

Kauai is the oldest Hawaiian island, meaning its beaches have the softest sand. However, much of Kauai’s coastline is either inaccessible or a lava rock shelf, which limits options significantly!

There are a few hidden beaches tucked away throughout the Garden Isle, but only about half a dozen easily accessible soft-sand beaches that you can spend a day at.

The Popiu region is the main tourist spot due to the combination of beach access and the sunniest weather on Kauai. Princeville is the second-most popular destination due to its proximity to Hanalei Beach, which receives no shortage of rainfall but is the best beach (when dry) on either island.

The Big Island, meanwhile, has some picturesque beaches with reliably sunny weather, but the experience does not always match the aesthetic…

As the youngest Hawaiian island with plenty of ongoing volcanic activity, most of Big Island’s beaches have very coarse sand and are littered with lava rock. Beyond this, many of them are difficult to get to and require long drives down some rough roads.

The best beaches on Big Island are found near Waikoloa along the Kohala coastline.


✈️ Flights to Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
πŸ›¬ More cities offer direct flights to Big Island (KOA) than to Kauai (LIH).
πŸ’° Starting fares vary slightly by departure city but are very comparable to either island.
πŸ† Tie for pricing, Big Island for the availability of direct flights.

A photo from an airplane window looking out over a beach on Kona flying over the Big Island of Hawaii.

There are more direct flights to Kona (KOA) on Big Island than to Lihue (LIH) on Kauai, which should be a priority whenever possible as every layover brings the potential for major disruption to your holiday due to delays or cancellations.

The baseline airfare for both Kauai and Big Island are nearly identical, though they may vary slightly based on the date and city of departure. Some cities may have a slightly cheaper base fare for one than the other, but this is uncommon, and the difference is negligible.

In other words, only your specific travel dates will determine if there is a potential savings opportunity flying to one island over the other.

With all this in mind, the cost of flying to Hawaii is actually far more reasonable than you might imagine, especially if you are able to fly on weekdays.

⭐️ Pro Tip: Accommodation will be by far the most expensive part of your visit to Hawaii. If budget is a concern, you should prioritize affordable accommodation over airfare as you are making your decision on which island to visit.


πŸ’° Cost of Visiting Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
πŸ’² Big Island offers the cheapest accommodation.
πŸ’³ Expect similar costs on all other expenses.
πŸ† Big Island

Sophie Marland is photographed walking the path at Outrigger Kona during a spectacular sunset.
Sophie walking the path at the Outrigger Kona.

It is important to understand that accommodation will be your greatest individual expense item on any trip to Hawaii!

When comparing the cost of a trip to Big Island vs Kauai, tours, airfare, groceries, and activities are fairly equal. Your accommodation will be the main factor that swings things!

Accommodation Costs on Big Island vs Kauai

The table below shows the average daily rates of hotels and vacation rentals on Kauai vs Big Island in 2022, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

HotelsVacation Rentals
Big Island$400.10$241.90

While the high cost of luxury properties will skew the daily average rates, it does help give an idea of the accommodation costs on each island.

The Big Island also has 1.5 times more hotel rooms and 1.7 times more vacation rentals island-wide than Kauai, but sees only around 1.2 times the number of visitors. Therefore, it is often easier to find a better deal on the Big Island than Kauai, particularly with vacation rentals.

When researching prices, I checked booking.com, VRBO, and other booking platforms for multiple dates and found that the Big Island had the lowest-priced comparable hotels for nearly every search.

These started from $200-250 in Kona and Waikoloa (Big Island), compared to $300-350 in Princeville and Poipu (Kauai).

The cheapest options on the Big Island were found in Hilo, starting at $115 per night. On Kauai, the Wailua region was cheapest at $200 per night.

Kauai is the more camper van-friendly of the two islands. We rented a campervan on our first visit to Kauai and loved the freedom it provided!

Other Costs on Big Island vs Kauai

Our campervan in front of mountains and palm trees during our first visit to Kauai in 2019.
Our campervan home for our first visit to Kauai in 2019.

Flights are the second-highest Hawaii trip cost, but the baseline airfare for Kauai and Big Island is nearly identical regardless of departure city.

The costs of food and activities on each island are likely to be fairly comparable, with a variety of options on each.

On both islands, you can keep to a tight budget by eating locally or buying groceries and enjoying free activities. Similarly, you can splurge at fancy restaurants and book lots of tours if money is not a concern.


πŸš— Getting Around Big island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
🚘 Big Island & Kauai are the adventure islands, and a car is essential for exploring either.
πŸ– Both islands can be done without a rental car, but only if you stay at a resort.
πŸ† Kauai

Adam Marland and Sophie Clapton of We Dream of Travel pose on a Jeep under palm trees in Kona on the. Big Island of Hawaii.

If you plan on doing any amount of sightseeing and exploring the islands, you will need to rent a car regardless of whether you decide to visit Big Island or Kauai.

Luckily, rental cars are surprisingly affordable, beginning at just $30/ day during off-peak seasons and rarely landing over $65/ day even during peak season.

The major roads on both Big Island and Kauai are wide and easy to drive, especially if you are accustomed to driving in the US.

On Big Island, the Waikoloa region is best for a beach-side holiday without a car. Kailua-Kona is a decent option as well, but the beaches and weather are better further north.

On Kauai, Poipu is the best option for a beach vacation without a rental car as it is nearest to the Poipu Beach Park and other sunny beaches, has the most resorts, and is on the dry side of the island.

Princeville is also a good option with easy access to Hanalei Beach but is on the windward (rainy) side of Kauai.

If driving simply isn’t an option for you, but you still want to do some activities, you will need to arrange tours that offer pick-up services.

πŸ“Έ Top Sights, Activities & Things to Do: Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
🏝 Top attractions on Kauai are Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon.
πŸŒ‹ Top attractions on Big Island are the night manta ray swim and visiting an active volcano.
πŸ† Both Kauai & Big Island have incredible tours and activities; which is best is strictly a matter of personal taste.

The Big Island and Kauai are the two best islands for outdoor lovers and adventure seekers. Both offer some incredible tours that are truly unforgettable.

As the two islands are so similar in terms of the audience they attract, the primary reason to choose one over the other is the specific tours and/or attractions you are most interested in.

The best things to do on Big Island include:

  • Witnessing the activity of a highly active volcano.
  • Night swimming with manta rays.
  • Snorkeling the marine life sanctuary at Captain Cook Monument.
  • Visiting the rare green sand beach of Papakolea, or Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.
  • Stargazing at Mauna Kea.


The best things to do on Kauai include:

  • Na Pali Coast Tours
  • Kayaking the Wailua River to Secret Falls.
  • Visiting the rainbow-colored Waimea Canyon.
  • Hiking the Kalalau Trail.
  • Swimming in Wailua Falls.
  • Watching high tide at Queen’s Bath.

Both islands provide iconic Hawaiian experiences, such as attending a luau or taking a sunset sail.


πŸ€™πŸ½ Vibes & Atmosphere in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
πŸ§— Big Island is spacious and friendlier, attracting a calmer traveler.
β›± Kauai is scenically stunning and relaxed but much more compact.
πŸ† Big Island

The Big Island sees only ~1.6 million annual visitors and is roughly 7 times larger in land mass than Kauai (4000 square feet vs 550 square feet), which sees about 1.3 million visitors annually.

In other words, both islands are relaxed and quiet by Hawaii standards, but the Big Island provides a lot more space to roam with a far more accessible coastline.

While Kauai is the least-visited, much of the already small island is also inaccessible due to the thick rainforest in the center and the jagged cliffs of the Na Pali coast that spans the entire western coastline. In fact, the only way to drive north to south on Kauai is along the east coast.

The result is that the popular places and activities can still get surprisingly crowded on Kauai.

On the Big Island, only the towns and villages tend to have crowds. Because there is such ample space, finding your own spot on any number of beaches is a guarantee.

Be prepared for a slow and relaxed pace of life on both islands, and expect things to get very quiet after dark.

🏨 Accommodation & Resorts in Big Island vs. Kauai

Quick Takeaway
🏑 Big Island has more vacation rentals and hotels at a lower price point than Kauai.
⭐️ Both islands offer a range of accommodations, from hotels to luxury 5-star resorts.
πŸ† Big Island

In comparison to Maui or Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai have far fewer options when it comes to accommodation. However, they still offer a range of accommodations for all types of travelers, from hostels to 5-star resorts.

You will find the type and quality of accommodation offered on each island to be fairly comparable, with both offering everything from a bunk bed in a hostel to a suite in a luxury 5-star hotel complete with its own golf course.

Regardless of which island you choose, keep in mind that you will pay a premium for ocean-view rooms.

⭐️ Pro tip: Both Kauai and the Big Island typically have additional taxes and resort fees, so ensure you click all the way through your booking to get a final estimated price as these additional fees can add up quickly.

Accommodation on Big Island

At no cost to you, we receive a small amount for any bookings made using the links below.

I recommend staying in either Kailua-Kona or Waikoloa. Both of these regions are on the island’s dry side and are the nearest to necessary services.

Waikoloa is also where you’ll find most of the 5-star luxury resorts on the Big Island.

On the wet side of Big Island, Hilo offers more budget-friendly accommodation options that are in closer proximity to Hawaii Volcanoes NP and Akaka Falls State Park.


Accommodation on Kauai

On Kauai the best areas to stay in are Princeville and Poipu.

Princeville has more affordable boutique hotels and vacation rentals available, but it is on the wet side of Kauai. Conversely, Poipu in the south (the dry side) has more expensive hotels and larger resorts.

The east coast of Kauai, including Lihue, Wailua, and Kapa’a, offers the most options for budget accommodation. However, it is further from the best beaches and top attractions.


🍹 Bars & Nightlife in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
🍻 Big Island has fun breweries & bars, but nothing in the way of clubs or late-night offerings.
🍾 Kauai has minimal nightlife and is even difficult to find a meal much after dark.
πŸ† Big Island

Kauai Night Photography of a moon rise from Polihale State Park.

Nightlife is limited anywhere in Hawaii, but Big Island and Kauai are especially quiet after dark!

For perspective, there are less than 5 bars open past 11pm on the entire island of Kauai.

The Big Island doesn’t have anything in the way of clubs, but there are some great breweries with a fun vibe in Kailua-Kona which have a vibrant pulse.

In addition, most of the high-end hotels and resorts in Kona and Waikoloa have bars open until 1am.

If you are visiting Hawaii with a group of friends or just enjoy staying up late and are comparing Big Island vs Kauai specifically, you will want to choose Big Island and look to stay near Kailua-Kona.

🍽 Food & Restaurants in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
🍴Kauai has some good local, budget-friendly options for Hawaiian food but very few high-end restaurants.
🍱 Big Island’s fine dining options are also limited & exclusively in Waikoloa and Kailua-Kona.
πŸ† Big Island

Close up food photography of the Hawaiian dish of poke.

Whether you are just looking for some local, authentic “grindz” (the Hawaiian slang for food) or a high-end meal out, Big Island will have a wider selection to offer than Kauai.

Both islands will have a handful of local eateries to try some poke, loco moco, or other traditional Hawaiian food. As Big Island is more populated, especially in Kona, it will be easier to find these small kitchen establishments than on Kauai.

When it comes to fine dining, both islands are extremely limited but do have a few standouts. You will typically find high-end restaurants located, unsurprisingly, within the high-end resorts.

🌿 Natural Beauty & Scenery of Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
πŸŒ„ Big Island is very sparse and volcanic, but has some unique landscapes for nature lovers.
🌸 Kauai is stunning in every direction and is accepted as the most beautiful Hawaiian island.
πŸ† Kauai

The same rain that deters many visitors from choosing Kauai for their holiday also gives life to the most lush, beautiful island in Hawaii.

When it comes to overall scenery, Kauai is absolutely the best. As a landscape photographer, I never run out of things to photograph during my visits; everywhere I point my camera look looks like the Garden of Eden!

Kauai is the most popular destination for active travelers. It provides a few choice shores for those necessary beach days, but also has some spectacular opportunities for exploration by self-guided or local-guided tour.

My one must-visit destination on Kauai is the Na Pali coast, which can (mostly) only be seen via a boat or helicopter tour.

Beyond that, there are plenty of amazing waterfalls, remote beaches, seascapes, and even the rainbow-colored Waimea Canyon, known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

Conversely, the Big Island is mostly a sparse and savage landscape that is still being formed by a highly-active volcano. The Hilo rainforest is an exception to this, but few vacationers ever get out that far.

While it may not be as scenic overall, places like Hawaii Volcanoes NP, Papakolea Green Sand Beach, Waipio Valley, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Mauna Kea / Mauna Loa, and the Hilo rainforest are incredibly unique destinations that will excite my fellow photographers and nature lovers.


β›± Crowds in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
🌴 The Big Island is a quiet and spacious island with lots of hidden beaches. Expect crowds only in Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa, and even those are reasonable.
🌺 Kauai sees the least people overall but the tourist attractions and popular beaches get very busy as there are less options on Kauai.
πŸ† Big Island

Sophie and a friend share a hammock on a sunny day at Makalawena Beach & Monk Seal Mahai'ula Beach in North Kona.
Sophie making friends on Big Island.

Big Island sees 1.6 million visitors annually vs 1.3 million for Kauai, but has 7x more landmass. On top of that, much of Kauai is actually inaccessible.

What that means is that while there are far fewer people on Kauai than anywhere else, they tend to be more densely concentrated. Parking for popular beaches like Hanalei or Tunnels Beach can be a nightmare as the island is just not designed to support its current level of tourism.

Many people who have visited all of the Hawaiian islands, ourselves included, prefer Big Island to any other because of how relaxed it is.

There are tons of beaches to choose from and though the sand is not as soft as on the other islands, finding parking and a quiet place to yourself is easy.

The great thing about Kona in particular is that you can have the best of both worlds. That is, you can find a busy brewery or something similar when you want some buzz, then slip away to your own slice of paradise when your mood changes!

🐠 Snorkeling & Diving in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
🀿 The Big Island is the best island for snorkeling in Hawaii, and Kauai is likely the worst.
πŸ† Big Island

Big Island is my favorite island for snorkeling in Hawaii. It is home to one of the most moving and incredible underwater experiences I have ever had in the Manta Ray night snorkel, which is my one true MUST do on Big Island.

Note that even if you do not swim or snorkel, you can and should include the night swim with manta rays on your Big Island itinerary!

In addition, the marine life sanctuary at Captain Cook Monument is perhaps the best coral garden in the state, and dolphin encounters are almost guaranteed in several spots. We have seen dolphins and turtles on all three of our tours to Captain Cook!

Finally, most of the Kona and Kohala coastline can be snorkeled for free right from the beach. There are at least 20 epic snorkeling spots on Big Island I have personally visited and can recommend.

Kauai is on the other end of the spectrum. There are only a few beach-access snorkel sites worth considering and some of these, such as popular Tunnels Beach, can only be safely swum in seasonally.

πŸ₯Ύ Hiking in Big Island vs Kauai

Quick Takeaway
πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ Kauai has incredible hiking including one of the best hikes in the country in the Kalalau Trail.
πŸ§— Big Island has a bunch of hidden hikes for locals, but relatively few easily-accessible trails for tourists, especially in the areas most people will be staying.
πŸ† Kauai

Kauai has a collection of incredible hikes and trails begging to be explored, but most are missed by the casual tourist.

It’s true that most of the best hikes in Kauai require some time, prep, and occasionally, permits, but any outdoor enthusiasts will rejoice in some of the trails that await them.

The most famous and popular trail on the island is the Kalalau Trail which leads to epic views of the Na Pali Coast. The shorter but questionably-legal Kalepa Ridge Trail is the only other land-access hike that leads to views of the Na Pali cliffs.

There are also dozens of amazing jungle hikes that will lead to secret waterfalls as well as opportunities to walk amongst the rainbow-colored Waimea Canyon.

Big Island, meanwhile, requires lots of long walks to reach your destinations, but these are really more of a commute than a hike.

The most popular tourist hiking trails on Big Island are those in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and a few waterfall trails near Hilo.

The locals on Big Island would be quick to argue that there are dozens if not hundreds of incredible hikes for those that know where to look, but these are not things that short-term visitors and vacationers are likely to be looking for or even able to find.

πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ Big Island vs Kauai FAQs

A fiery sky sunset on Big Island at Puako Beach in the Puako Bay near Kona.

Use the drop-down boxes below to find the answers to the most frequently asked questions comparing Kauai to the Big Island of Hawaii.

Is Kauai nicer than Big Island?

Kauai is the prettiest island in Hawaii, but Big Island is a better choice for vacationing, especially for first-time visitors. Pricing is more reasonable and the beaches are more plentiful with smaller crowds.

Drone photo showing the lagoon, beach, and shoreline of Waikoloa in Kona on the Big Island.
Big Island
Should you go to Kauai or Big Island first?

The Big Island is a better choice than Kauai for a first visit to Hawaii. You will typically find cheaper accommodation, more availability, and far more quiet beaches.

Kauai is undeniably beautiful but, despite seeing the least annual tourists, struggles the most of any Hawaiian island to keep up with consumer tourism needs.

Are the beaches better in Big Island or Kauai?

The best beaches on Kauai are more scenic and feature softer sand than the best beaches of Big Island, but they are also far more crowded and incredibly limited.

Big Island has substantially more beaches along its expansive coastline which prevents overcrowding, but the sand tends to be coarse and littered in lava rock.

The Kohala region has the nicest beaches on the Big Island.

Wide angle view of Magic Sands Beach on Big Island with tropical blue and green water, white sand, and black lava rock.
Magic Sands Beach, Kona, Big Island
Is it cheaper to fly to Kauai or Big Island?

Starting airfare is nearly identical traveling to Lihue (LIH) on Kauai or Kona (KOA) on Big Island. There are, however, more direct flights available to Big Island than Kauai.

A photo from an airplane window looking out over a beach on Kona flying over the Big Island of Hawaii.
Which island is cheaper, Kauai or Big Island?

The Big Island of Hawaii is more budget-friendly than Kauai, particularly in terms of accommodation. Kauai has more demand than supply for tourism and prices tend to inflate, especially during peak season.

Is Kauai better than Big Island for families with kids?

Families with children should choose the Big Island of Hawaii over Kauai for a Hawaiian vacation. There are many sheltered coves and beaches on Big Island with no currents to worry about, whereas Kauai’s beaches often have rip tides to consider.

πŸ“š More Big Island, Kauai & Hawaii Travel Guides

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below πŸ™‚

I hope you’ve found this guide comparing Big Island vs Kauai helpful as you plan your next Hawaiian vacation.

Before you go, we have a plethora of other guides and travel tips for both islands as well as for general Hawaii trips. Each of these will be useful as you continue planning the vacation you deserve!

General Hawaii Travel Guides

Kauai Travel Guides

Big Island Travel Guides

πŸ’¬ Final Thoughts on Big Island vs Kauai

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below πŸ™‚

I truly hope you have found this Hawaii travel guide comparing Big Island vs Kauai useful for deciding which island to choose for your next adventure to the Rainbow State!

If you still can’t decide, might I recommend visiting both?! Island hopping in Hawaii is incredibly affordable and a great way to experience two very different places for yourself!

Now I’d love to hear from YOU!

If there are any questions I have not answered, revisions I need to make, or other suggestions for improvement, please let me know in the comments below.

Likewise, if you have found it useful and want to leave some kind words, those are always appreciated.

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Written by
Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's β€œChief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

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