It had been a while since I have visited Kapaa, so on a recent trip to Kauai, I made it a point to stop by this quaint east side town. Turns out, it had been a stop for coffee on our way out to the North Shore that steered us in this direction.

We got there pretty early, so there wasn’t a whole lot going on; however, my first reaction had been one of surprise. The Kapaa I remembered as a kid had been pretty rundown and not much of a tourist stop, at all. The Kapaa of today, however, has changed for the better; among the humble historic buildings of seamstress and mom-and-pop shops, Bikram yoga studios and cute little eateries brighten up the town. It seems the buildings might have even got a fresh coat of paint.

That’s most likely why “Forbes Magazine” selected Kapaa for its list of prettiest towns in America. In fact, Kapaa was the only town west of the Rockies to make the cut. The travel writer toured the town with a local store’s manager – first getting shave ice and then checking out some of the handcrafted ukuleles sold at a music shop.

In the article, Andrew Evans describes the town as having “a small town Polynesian paradise quality that feels much more connected to the island’s past.” To that, I completely agree. Kapaa does a great job in balancing what it’s like to be rooted in its island history as well as appealing to our visiting population. The town does not go overboard on touristy things, like overcrowded shops and sometimes cheesy ABC knick knacks. It is a town filled with pieces of Kauai’s heart and soul – whether in the handmade souvenirs or the speciality dishes strewn across the town. Kapaa welcomes everyone.

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