Kauai Best Areas to Stay
Finding a Place in Kauai - Region Pros & 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. It also depends on your budget, what type of scenery you want to be surrounded by, and proximity to the island’s major attractions. In this article, we’ll help break down each Kauai region to help you select the best location.
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 as follows:
- 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 (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 on Kauai. But each area on Kauai has its own unique flavor and atmosphere - including its own attractions and sights to see.
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
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Kauai Accommodations by Region
Ultimately, each region of Kauai has its own unique personality. 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 and cons of each of the areas 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 Southern Shore of Kauai is where you’ll find the best weather, as it’s both drier and has more sun along this part of the island. This makes this part of the island especially popular with visitors, so you’ll also discover an abundance of great shopping and dining options here in addition to the many resorts. Just also expect there to be more crowds here too.
The South Shore makes for a great location to explore all of the sights and attractions on the western part of the island or to explore along the eastern ‘coconut’ coast, but the drive can be a bit far to visit the attractions along the north shore.
The beaches along this part of the island are certainly bustling more than other beaches on Kauai, but there’s a nice variety of beaches to select from - one of our personal favorites is Shipwreck Beach.
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.
- Sunny and dry almost year round
- Good selection of beaches available
- Many good restaurant 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 the entire planet. 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. It’s lush here because rainfall is higher than in other locations on the island, especially during the 'winter' months (November-March) when the tradewinds pick up, so keep that in mind if you’re opposed to more frequent rainfall during your visit.
Along the North Shore, you’ll find Princeville, where the majority of the North Shore luxury accommodations are located. Just beyond Princeville, you’ll discover the small surfing town of Hanalei, with its bustling shops and a variety of small restaurants.
The accommodations in this area are pretty luxurious and may just be some of the nicest on the island, but that luxury also comes with a higher price tag. The North Shore is also more secluded from the remainder of the island, which is something to additionally consider if you plan to do a lot of exploring on Kauai while you’re visiting.
- 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
The East Coast of Kauai is also known as the Coconut Coast, which once you’ve driven the highway through the area, you’ll completely understand - there are hundreds if not thousands 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 affordable accommodations. Its centralized location on the island also makes it ideal as a hub for visiting the remainder of the island, including attractions and sights in the West and on both the north and south shores.
The region is essentially bordered by the towns of Anahola to the north and the capital city of Lihue to the south; with Kapaa and Wailua towns about halfway between.
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.
A few popular properties along the East Coast of Kauai are the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai, the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beach Boy, the Outrigger Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa, the Kauai Marriot Resort, and the Aston Islander on the Beach.
- 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
If you are interested in the East Coast and finding more information about the best accommodations, check out the beautiful Waipouli Beach Resort which offers a variety of one- and two-bedroom accommodations for your family.
Staying on the West Side
Including Waimea and Hanapepe
The West Side of the island, the leeward coast of Kauai, is more dry and barren than the rest of Kauai, as most of the rainfall is blocked by the mountains in the center of the island.
This area doesn’t offer the same variety of accommodations, dining, or shopping that the rest of the island does. This makes it one of the least visited parts of the island, excluding the sights along Highway 550 (like Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park).
Ultimately, unless you’re planning to do a lot of hiking in the state parks located nearby or just want to escape the rest of the island, there’s not a whole lot of good reasons for us to recommend staying here. You’ll find some small B&B’s and Inn’s, but this region lacks the major accommodations you’ll find along the East, North, and South shorelines of Kauai.
Outside of its proximity to Waimea Canyon and Kokee, it’s really not a convenient location by which to explore the island, as it’s quite a drive to visit the attractions along the north shore or even the east coast.
- 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
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!
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.