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A Little About Kapaa

Kapaa, the largest population center on Kauai, is located on the eastern shore of the island. Kapaa is located in the broader area of Kawaihau, which includes much of the northeastern quadrant of the Garden Island. Kapaa has a total population of about ten thousand residents, although that figure may have increased somewhat since the last census was conducted. In recent years, much of Kauai’s population growth has been concentrated in and around Kapaa, gradually shifting away from Lihue and its suburbs. In ancient times, Kapaa was a part of the Kingdom of Kauai, which was founded by Polynesian migrants and maintained its independence from the larger Kingdom of Hawaii until well into the eighteenth century. Kapaa was part of the Puna district, and the ancient ahupuaa also bore the name of Kapaa, meaning “solid” in Native Hawaiian. Kapaa was called “tapaa” in the local dialect, which was distinct from but structurally similar to the mainstream Hawaiian language. After the arrival of Protestant missionaries and Euro-American settlers in the nineteenth century, the economic composition of Kapaa began to change rapidly. Like much of the rest of the Garden Island, Kapaa was increasingly dominated by agricultural giants, who constructed plantations which grew mostly sugar cane and pineapples. Although almost all of the developers and investors who financed the rise of the sugar and pineapple trades have abandoned Kapaa’s plantations in favor of other pursuits, the exposure brought to Kapaa by their efforts has blossomed into an impressive tourist industry.

One of the most important tourist attractions and most visible scenic destinations in Kapaa is Nounou Mountain, which is better known colloquially as “Sleeping Giant.” Sleeping Giant offers some of the best views in the entire Kawaihau district, both of the surrounding mountains and the ocean below. Hikers can also enjoy the unique flora and fauna along the Nounou trail and the beautiful year round Hawaiian weather. As with the rest of the island, Kapaa is a highly diverse community in terms of both ethnic groups and socioeconomic divisions. Kapaa covers a total area of almost exactly ten square miles, which is almost entirely land as opposed to water. The town of Kapaa is one of the top shopping destinations for the entire island of Kauai, boasting everything from small boutiques to art galleries. The community is home to the Kinipopo Shopping Village, which is a great place to find everything from water sports equipment to a fine dining experience. Another notable shopping destination is the Wailua Shopping Plaza, along with the better known Coconut Marketplace.

Families living in Kapaa can enjoy the Kauai Children’s Discovery Museum, which is one of the only educational museums on the Garden Island. Another excellent learning experience is the Kauai Center of Hawaii Arts and Culture, although that facility is specifically targeted at the tourists who regularly frequent the Kapaa area. There are significant natural attractions located just a short drive from downtown Kapaa, including the stunning Opaekaa Falls and beautiful Makaleha Mountain. Perhaps the most popular beach in the area is Kapaa Beach, which is perfect for surfing as well as swimming and sunbathing. The homes and condos of Kapaa offer some of the best views on the island, often stretching from the mountains and valleys down to the Pacific Ocean. Residents and tourists alike can enjoy the world class golf courses located a few miles along the coast, and the whole family can enjoy the myriad of dining opportunities found in and around Kapaa. Kapaa will likely only increase in size and popularity in upcoming years, as Kauai citizens and visitors both discover its many attractions.

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