Where to Stay on the Garden Isle

Kauai Regions Guide - Pros and Cons

Wondering where to stay on Kauai? That's a good question, and we have a fairly simple answer: It depends. That is, it depends on what types of accommodations, activities, and vibe you are looking for.

Kauai gives has 4 major geographic areas to select from. In order of popularity (by our account), they are as follows:

  1. The South Shore- including Koloa, Lawai, and Poipu
  2. The North Shore- including Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea
  3. The East Coast- including Kapaa, Wailua and the county seat of Lihue
  4. The West Side- including the towns of Waimea and Hanapepe (It's worth noting that staying on the West Side is much less popular than the other locations)

OK, that may not seem that simple. However, it really isn't that difficult because it's hard to make a bad choice. Reviewing our Kauai Weather article and knowing When to Visit Kauai will also help you decide. But each area on Kauai has its own unique flavor and atmosphere - including its own attractions and sights to see.

Kauai is home to many beautiful places to stay.

Kauai is home to many beautiful places to stay.


The Garden Isle's Coasts

If beaches are your scene, then you'll be happy almost anywhere on Kauai. The entire island is full of them - more (arguably) than any other island in the state. If lush scenery is what you are looking for, again, it's hard to go wrong since the entire island is known as the "Garden Isle." Although, the North and East coasts are considerably more lush and verdant than the South or West coasts. 

Let's take a look at the pros (Highlights) and cons (Detraction) of each of the areas we've briefly discussed above. These are in order of popularity, by our account.

South Side (Koloa, Lawai, and Poipu)

Highlights Sunny and dry almost year round
Highlights Good selection of beaches available
Highlights Many good restaurant and dining options
Detraction Beaches are more crowded than on the North Shore

A great alternative to the South Side hotels are the numerous vacation rental properties which often offer an excellent value for first-class accommodations. For Poipu vacation rentals we recommend that you check out Kauai Exclusive Management. They offer excellent rates, top-of-the-line customer service, and a broad selection of vacation rentals to choose from.
Another great choice is the premier boutique resort The Villas at Poipu Kai. At the Villas at Poipu Kai, you will find stunning 3-5 bedroom villas that are ideal for families, destination weddings, or simply a group of friends.

North Shore (Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea)

HighlightsAbundance of amazing scenery with a backdrop of gorgeous mountains
Highlights Lush valleys bursting with waterfalls
Highlights Luxury accommodations available
Highlights Proximity to what may well be the best trio of beaches in the state: Kee Beach, Haena Beach Park (including Tunnels Beach), Hanalei Bay Beach(es)
Detraction Rain- especially during the winter months (late November through March)

The North Shore of Kauai is where you will find Hanalei Bay and the start of the majestic NaPali Coastline. Here you'll find the best Kauai vacation rentals at Princeville Vacation RentalsNot only do they offer amazing accommodations for your North Shore Kauai vacation; but they are also some of the most beautiful places on the island. You’ll enjoy secluded soft sand beaches, majestic mountains and valleys, waterfalls, and family-friendly island activities.

East Coast aka the "Coconut Coast" (Kapaa, Lihue, and Wailua)

Highlights Generally more affordable accommodations, even during times of high demand on the island (i.e., Christmas, major holidays)
Highlights Close to numerous cultural sights and convenient base from which to visit the entire island
Highlights Proximity to both the North Shore and West Side (including Waimea Canyon, Kokee, and Polihale)
Highlights Home of the Kauai Path- a wonderful place to take a walk or ride a bike. It extends from Lydgate Park in Wailua to Donkeys Beach north of Kealia and Kapaa town.
Detraction Predominantly local beaches that lack the majesty of the North Shore beaches or the convenience of the South Side beaches

If you are interested in the East Coast and finding more information about the best accommodations in Coconut Coast check out our friends at the Royal Coconut Coast Association. Also, check out the beautiful Waipouli Beach Resort which offers a variety of one- and two-bedroom accommodations for your family.   

West Side (Waimea and Hanapepe)

Highlights Good proximity to Kokee and Waimea Canyon State Parks- ideal for hikers and backpackers
Detraction Geographically isolated from the rest of the island- the North Shore is a two-hour drive away
Detraction Fairly barren and dry in many areas
Detraction Experimental testing ground for multinational GMO companies- significant amounts of restricted-use pesticides and herbicides in the area

No matter where you choose to stay on Kauai, some activities not to be missed are a Private Kauai Sightseeing Tour and a Private Hiking Tour. Both activities are operated by small local businesses that cater the experience to your unique individual needs, are affordably priced, and make for an unforgettable day.

We hope this article has helped you narrow down your choices for where to stay on Kauai. For more details about each accommodation on the island, we recommend visiting our Kauai Accommodations page.

Best of luck as you continue to plan the Hawaiian getaway of your dreams! 

Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick & Michele Lopez

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