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Best Islands to Live On: Kauai, Hawaii

June 5, 2008
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Why Kauai? In the state of Hawaii, America’s Pacifi c paradise, you can combine the island dream — palm trees swaying in balmy breezes, sandy beaches ending in bright blue seas — with all the rights and benefi ts you’re used to as a U.S. citizen. We featured the Big Island last year, and it still offers Hawaii’s most affordable real estate. This year, Kauai wooed us with its green, mountainous heart, its rugged canyons and its lacy, white fringe of beaches. With natural beauty and a laid-back vibe, Kauai is an American dream come true.

Life of an Expat “We can look out our window and see whales,” says Kauai resident Roberta Weil. “Sometimes I go outside, and there’s a perfect rainbow. The moonrise is unbelievable over the ocean, and the stars at night make the sky look like a planetarium. Even on dark and gloomy days, it’s gorgeous here.”

Idyllic island views weren’t always a part of Roberta’s daily life. She and husband Paul moved to Kauai from San Diego about three years ago when Roberta retired from working at the University of California, San Diego, and Paul was able to practice law from home. “I came from a very high-powered job,” says Roberta. “I didn’t want to be stale, but I couldn’t fi nd my niche in retirement in San Diego.” The couple began to spend more time at their Kauai condo and eventually bought a house on the island’s east side. When they took the plunge into full-time Kauai living, the scenery wasn’t the only thing that changed. “We were downsizing,” Roberta explains. “I got rid of all my silver, gave a huge number of things to charities, and gave most of my career clothes away.” Now Roberta’s daily uniform is a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. And Paul? “My husband has worn a tie twice since he moved here — once was to our granddaughter’s wedding.”

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The couple quickly embraced the “hang loose” lifestyle, but they’ve also stayed busy through involvement with their new community. Paul is on a board for the County of Kauai and provides free counseling for small-business owners through a non-profit association called Score. Roberta volunteers at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and is president of the Kauai Hospice. She believes that volunteering helps newcomers find their place on the island. “You need to have an attitude of, ‘I’m here to be a part of your community,’ and be very respectful,” she says. Roberta and Paul also like to explore the “Garden Isle.” “Kalihiwai River is one of the best places,” says Roberta. They also walk their two dogs, have picnics on the beach and tend to Roberta’s 250 orchids.

But can this active couple imagine the Kauai kind of life forever? “People think we’re crazy for moving here, and they don’t think we’re going to stay,” says Roberta. “Those who are taking bets on it are going to lose.”

Facts of Life

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  • Climate: Tropical
  • Population of island: 63,000
  • Percentage “mainlanders” (not born in the Hawaiian Islands): About 50 percent
  • Population of main town, Lihu’e: 5,674
  • House starting price: Mid $300,000s
  • Travel from U.S. mainland: Non-stop flights available; about six hours from LAX
  • Closest hospital: Lihu’e
  • Price of local beer: $5 for a Keoki Brewing Company Sunset Amber Ale
  • Languages: English
  • Ease of immigration: Couldn’t be easier.
  • Ease of buying a home: Easy
  • Website: kauaidiscovery.com

Purchasing Paradise

  • $ Cozy two bedroom cottage a five-minute walk to Ho’opi’i Falls: $399,000.
  • $$ Three-bedroom house on Kauai’s east side with landscaped garden: $679,000.
  • $$$ Five-bedroom cedar home on four acres with 180-degree ocean views: $1,877,000.

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