Kauai Best Areas to Stay
Finding a Place in Kauai - Region Pros & Cons
Are you wondering where to stay on Kauai? Trying the determine the best area to stay in Kauai? Look no further than our guide. Our guide highlights accommodations, activities, and island vibes. The Hawaiian lodgings here vary to meet your goals according to budget, scenic views, and proximity to the island's major attractions. This article will help break down each Kauai region to help you select the best location.
Overview of Unique Places to Stay in Kauai.
Let's get a lay of the land that is Kauai. The island of Kauai has four major geographic areas to select from when choosing where to stay. In order of popularity (by our account), they are:
The South Shore- including Koloa, Lawai, and Poipu
The North Shore- including Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea
The East Coast- including Kapaa, Wailua, and, in this case, the county seat of Lihue
The West Side- including the towns of Waimea and Hanapepe, staying on the West Side is much less popular than the other locations)
OK, that may not seem that simple. However, not that difficult because it's hard to make a terrible choice in Kauai. But each area on Kauai has its unique flavor and atmosphere - including its attractions and sights to see.
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On this page, we'll cover each of the major Kauai regions you can find accommodations within. Here are this page's highlights...
- Explore the South Kauai Region including its pros and cons
- Discover the North Kauai Region and its incredible scenery
- Explore the East 'Coconut Coast' Region
- Discover places to stay in the West Kauai Region
Kauai Monthly Accommodation Rates
Average Rates for Hotels & Vacation Rentals
Kauai Accommodations by Region
If you love the beach, enjoy lush scenery, and want to immerse yourself in stunning, untouched landscapes, anywhere on Kauai will make you happy. The North and East coasts of Kauai illustrate absolute beauty. Beaches sprawl across the entire island- more (arguably) than any other island in the state. So head to "Garden Isle" for the lush greenery, particularly the North and East coasts, which provide the most scenic terrains.
Let's look at the pros and cons of each area we've briefly discussed above. As noted above, these are in order of popularity, by our account.
Staying on the South Side
Including Koloa, Lawai, and Poipu
The South Side of Kauai is a magical place that weaves rich history, gorgeous beaches, and the finest cuisine into its unique brand of luscious, Aloha-inspired hospitality. The area hosts some of the most breathtaking sunsets you can see anywhere—a perfect spot to visit and relax with friends and family.
Why Should You Stay on the South Side?
Brilliant weather: You will find the best weather, as you can experience more sunny and dry days in this part of the island.
Stunning beaches: The beaches along this island certainly radiate more vibrancy than other beaches on Kauai. With a nice variety of beaches to select from - one of our personal favorites is Shipwreck Beach. Range of Hawaiian lodgings: This area offers luxurious island retreats, beachfront hotels, condos, and vacation rentals.
Sights and attractions: On the South Side of Kauaiexplore, all the noteworthy sights and draws of the western part of the island, including the eastern ‘coconut’ coast.
Shopping and Dining Options: Discover an abundance of great shopping and dining options that vary to accommodate the whims of luxury seekers
The Drawbacks of Staying on the South Side
The drive from this area to the North Shore can take a toll because of the time and distance. Certain areas, especially Poipu, lack many budget accommodations. Plus, crowds pepper this area. Expect little privacy.
Our Favorite Places to Stay on the South Side
A few of the more popular properties in South Kauai are the Grand Hyatt Kauai, the Sheraton Kauai Resort, the Koa Kea Hotel & Resort, the Koloa Landing at Poipu Beach, and the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club Koloa.
The Pros and Cons of Staying on the South Side
- Sunny and dry almost year-round
- Excellent selection of beaches available
- Luxurious and top resorts
- Many wonderful restaurants and dining options
- Beaches are more crowded than on the North Shore
Staying on the North Shore
Including Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea
The North Shore of Kauai may be one of the most scenic places on Earth. There are a variety of gorgeous beaches, and the verdant mountains rising as a backdrop to the coastline make this entire stretch of the island seem like the "real" Hawaii you've envisioned before visiting.
Why Should You Stay on the North Shore?
- Beaches: Hanalei and Kauai offer excellent snorkeling, fun-filled beaches, and healthy lifestyles.
- Romantic Getaway: Best location for the newlyweds looking for a romantic honeymoon. All couples can enjoy this romantic getaway. The island offers a variety of romantic properties, from the traditional beachfront cabanas to the more sophisticated and luxurious villas. The island also has some activities for couples to enjoy together, including scuba diving, snorkeling, and lying on white sandy beaches.
- Lush Terrains: Hanalei and Kauai's north shore is a place to experience nature at its best. The area has everything you could want in a vacation destination with stunning mountains, waterfalls, clear blue seas, and lush green forests.
- Accommodations: Expect high-end resorts and hotels that exude luxury, romance, and indulgence. Along the North Shore, you'll find Princeville-the place for North Shore luxury accommodations.
The Disadvantages of Staying on the North Shore
With the terrain's lush backdrops, the island experiences higher rainfalls than in other locations on the island. During the 'winter months (November-March), expect the trade winds to increase. Thus, keep that in mind if you're opposed to more frequent rainfall during your visit. That means fewer sunny days.
If you plan to explore Kauai, consider that North Shore is secluded and further from Kauai's attractions. This part of the island is relatively quiet, so fewer opportunities for evening outings. The accommodations here come with a higher price tag because they provide a high level of luxury.
Our Favorite Places to Stay on the North Shore
The Pros and Cons of Staying on the North Shore
- An abundance of amazing scenery with a backdrop of gorgeous mountains
- Lush valleys bursting with waterfalls
- Luxury accommodations available
- 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)
- Rain- especially during the winter months (late November through March)
Staying on the East "Coconut" Coast
Including Kapaa, Lihue, and Wailua
Ride through the East Coast of Kauai, also known as the Coconut Coast, and find hundreds of cocos growing along this stretch of Kauai coastline. This is the most developed part of Kauai, but it's also where you'll find the most budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals.
Why Should You Stay on the East "Coconut" Coast?
- Location: With a centralized location on the island, it is an ideal hub for visiting the entire island. As a convenient hub, you will find it easier to see the attractions and sights in the West and on both the North and South shores.
- Weather: The area has a tropical climate and is almost always sunny and hot.
- Accommodations: Most hotels in Kapaa span across the same strip. The hotels include a noticeable variety like budget-friendly, shoestring, and luxury options. Consider ISO Hotel, the Aston Islander, the Outrigger, and the more upscale Sheraton Coconut Beach.
- Shopping Options: Kinipopo Shopping Village, in Kapaa Town, offers a unique shopping experience. You can enjoy the beautiful Kauai scenery and the relaxing atmosphere of the shopping village. There are several eateries and shops available at Kinipopo Shopping Village.
- Dining Options: Kapaa offers a wide range of high-quality, fresh, and healthy options in Kauai, like the delicious and hearty Pono Market, the famous Street Burger, etc.
The Disadvantages of Staying on the East "Coconut" Coast
There are a variety of more "local" beaches along this stretch of the island, but they lack the scenic beauty of the north shore beaches and the amenities of those along the south shoreline. Plus, the rainy season runs from November to March.
Our Favorite Places to Stay on the East "Coconut" Coast
The towns of Anahola to the north and the capital city of Lihue essentially bordered the region to the south, with Kapaa and Wailua villages about halfway between them.
A few popular properties along the East Coast of Kauai are the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beach Boy, the Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa, the Marriot Kauai Beach Club Resort, and the Aston Islander on the Beach.
If you are interested in the East Coast, be sure to also check out the beautiful Waipouli Beach Resort, which offers a variety of one- and two-bedroom accommodations for your family.
The Pros and Cons of Staying on the East "Coconut" Coast
- Generally more affordable accommodations, even during times of high demand on the island (i.e., Christmas, major holidays)
- Close to numerous cultural sights and convenient base from which to visit the entire island
- Proximity to both the North Shore and West Side (including Waimea Canyon, Kokee, and Polihale)
- 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.
- Predominantly local beaches that lack the majesty of the North Shore beaches or the convenience of the South Side beaches
Staying on the West Side
Including Waimea and Hanapepe
The West Side of the island, the leeward coast of Kauai, is drier and the mountains in the center of the island block the rest of Kauai from the rain.
This is one of the least visited parts of the island, excluding the sights along Highway 550 (like Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park).
Why Should You Stay on the West Side?
We don't recommend this location stay unless you need proximity to the Waimea Canyon and Kokee. If so, plan to stay for a day or two for your trekking purposes. The weather here is nice because the mountains block the rain.
The Disadvantages of Staying on the West Side
Ultimately, unless you're planning to do a lot of hiking in the state parks located nearby or want to escape the rest of the island, there are not many good reasons for us to recommend staying here.
Accommodations: You'll find some small B&Bs and Inns, but this region lacks the finest hostels, resorts, and hotels similar to the ones along the East, North, and South shorelines of Kauai.
Location: Outside of its proximity to Waimea Canyon and Kokee, it's not a convenient location to explore the island, as it's quite a drive to visit the attractions along the north shore or even the east coast.
Dining and shopping options: This area doesn't offer the same variety of dining or shopping options.
Our Recommended Places to Stay on the West Side
We recommend Waimea Canyon and Kōkeʻe State Park for families and adventure seekers. The area has campsites and cabins. A wide variety of activities are available nearby, including hiking, bird-watching, and more. Get ready to enjoy a quiet escape.
The Pros and Cons of Staying on the West Side
- Good proximity to Kokee and Waimea Canyon State Parks- ideal for hikers and backpackers
- Geographically isolated from the rest of the island- the North Shore is a two-hour drive away
- Fairly barren and dry in many areas
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Kauai Transportation Options
Transportation on Kauai is varied, allowing for a tailored travel experience.
- Car Rentals: Renting a car is favored (we recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental), offering freedom to roam the island's diverse locales.
- Public Buses: The Kauai Bus covers several routes, though it has limitations in schedule and coverage.
- Shuttle Services: Some resorts offer shuttles to key destinations for a hassle-free commute.
- Bicycling: With scenic trails, biking is a delightful option with rentals available island-wide.
- Taxis and Ride-Shares: Convenient for short distances, taxis and ride-shares like Uber and Lyft are operational.
- Walking: In compact areas like Kapaa and Hanalei, walking is a pleasant way to explore the surroundings and mingle with locals.
Considering the transportation options in advance can help visitors make the most of their Kauai experience, whether they prefer the flexibility of a rental car, the eco-friendliness of biking, or the convenience of public transit.
Local Kauai Customs and Visitor Etiquette
Understanding and adhering to local customs and etiquette is a crucial part of immersing oneself in the Hawaiian culture, which is deeply rooted in respect, tradition, and the spirit of 'ohana (family). When visiting Kauai or any part of Hawaii, it's important to show respect for the land (‘āina) and local residents.
- Greetings: It's customary to greet others with a friendly "Aloha" which means hello, goodbye, and love.
- Shoes Off Indoors: It’s a common practice to remove one’s shoes before entering someone’s home.
- Respect the 'Aina: Show respect to the land by not littering, staying on marked trails, and not taking anything from natural sites.
- Don’t Rush: The pace of life is slower in Hawaii; embrace the relaxed pace and don’t rush.
- Respect Sacred Sites: Many areas in Hawaii are considered sacred; obey posted signs and keep a respectful distance.
- Driving Etiquette: Drive with aloha; let others merge, and wave a thank-you (or practice your best 'shaka' sign) if someone lets you in.
By adhering to these simple yet significant customs and practices, visitors can contribute to preserving the local culture and enjoy a more authentic and welcoming experience during their stay in Kauai.
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!
Staying on Kauai: The Ultimate Guide for Every Type of Traveler
We’ve got a great selection of lodges, campsites, and resorts to suit every type of holidaymaker.
Best place to stay for families:
- Kauai, one of the most desirable islands in Hawaii, offers a wide range of activities for families on vacation. From water sports to scuba diving, Kauai has it all. The following areas provide the best deals and space for families: Poʻipū, Hanalei, and Princeville.
Best place to stay for Beach Bums:
For the best beaches, head to Poʻipū, Hanalei, Princeville, or Līhuʻe.
Best places to stay for camping:
The island host 13 Hawaiian campgrounds scattered in different areas. The campgrounds include beach campsites to mountain cabins. Some of our top recommendations include Na Pali Coast Wilderness Park, Haena Beach Park, and Hanalei Beach Park.,
Best place to stay for luxury seekers:
Beyond its gorgeous oceanfront location, Līhuʻe also has an extensive collection of luxury restaurants and an award-winning spa.
Best place to stay for backpackers:
We recommend Kapaʻa as a great location. It’s close to beaches and hiking trails and is surrounded by mountains and forests. It is also very affordable.
Best place to stay for surfers:
For the best waves, head to the North Shore. We recommend checking out Hanalei Bay, North Shore. This stunning beach offers the best water activities besides surfing.
Best place to stay for couples on a romantic getaway:
Poʻipū and Princeville both offer couples the opportunity to experience the relaxing landscape of both islands.
Best place to stay for adventurer seekers:
Head to Hanalei for its central location. It makes a great base for the Nāpali Coast. Or consider Waimea for quick access to Waimea Canyon and Kōkeʻe State Park.
In summary, you really can’t pick a bad location to stay on Kauai. The island is truly welcoming no matter where you stay and ultimately the location you pick comes down to personal preferences. We hope our guide above has helped you select where to stay on Kauai.