Kauai is one of the most beautiful Hawaiian islands, there’s no denying that. Kauai is an excellent choice if you’re deciding where to stay in Hawaii. Kauai is home to gorgeous hikes, dramatic coastal scenery like the Napali Coast, and hundreds of sandy beaches. Kauai is so full of magnificent nature that it is nicknamed the ‘Garden Isle’ – a well-deserved title. We can see why you are choosing to visit Kauai out of all the Hawaiian islands and rest assured, it is an excellent choice.
Of course, Kauai is also full of some of the best hotels and best resorts in Hawaii. The number of choices adds an extra factor to deciding where to stay in Kauai. You’ll have a real treat with Kauai’s hospitality.
Best Places to Stay in Kauai
So, where is best to stay in Kauai? Should you choose the north shore or the south shore? The east side or the west side? And what are the best hotels and resorts to choose from in each area? This guide will give you the full rundown on where to stay in Kauai. We’ve got lots to cover, so let’s start immediately.
1. South Shore
The south shore of Kauai is one of the island’s most popular places to stay. This region is packed with tourist infrastructure and commercial excitement – perfect if you want a holiday full of sightseeing and souvenir shopping. The south side of Kauai is also closest to the airport, making it a convenient base for those not hiring rental cars. In short, the south shore is where to stay in Kauai if you want everything within walking distance and a fun, touristy atmosphere.
Apart from its great location, the south shore’s attractions are a huge draw to this region of Kauai. Poipu Beach is the most famous on the island and sits right on the south shore. It is a hotspot for nesting turtles (which are always amazing to see), snorkeling opportunities, and surfing. Poipu Beach Park is the area surrounding this sandy beach. It is ideal for sitting and admiring the view and any wildlife. You can grab a seat on one of many picnic benches.
Similarly, Shipwreck Beach is a fantastic spot. A little quieter than many other south shore beaches, getting to this beach involves a short coastal hike. Instead of turtles, we suggest hiking to Shipwreck Beach to admire the sunset – which is stunning over the rocky shore and scenic headland. And, for more of an urban experience, you can visit the shopping centers and botanical gardens dotted along the south shore towns. There’s plenty to do and always pockets of nightlife to indulge in.
The most popular places to stay on the south shore are Waimea, Kalaheo, Lawai, Hanapepe, Pakala Village, and Koloa Town. Koloa is a small town that adjoins Poipu and has excellent beach access. Like Koloa, historic Waimea town is located right on the coastline in southwest Kauai. Waimea also has a long road leading directly to Waimea Canyon, with a handful of stunning viewpoints along the way. If you want to visit Waimea Canyon (nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), staying in Waimea is an excellent option. Koloa and Waimea are our top two recommendations when narrowing down where to stay on the south shore of Kauai.
Where to Stay on the South Shore
Budget: Poipu Beach Surf Song
Poipu Beach Surf Song is a beautiful, budget-friendly hotel on the south coast. The south side of Kauai isn’t known for cheap accommodation, so this guesthouse is a goldmine in a hunt for budget options.
Guests rent an entire unit, so you get a self-catered experience at half the price of a resort or other hotel. While not as popular as some of the alternatives in this guide, it is definitely worthwhile if you want to save money.
Mid-Range: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort is a dreamy mid-range property and one of Kauai’s best resorts. The resort is set across a massive expanse of river-style pools and tropical gardens. Each hotel room has a private balcony, beverage chiller, and marble en suite. And when it comes to your evening meal, there are not one but seven different restaurants to choose from.
Guests at the Grand Hyatt will love the fun yet luxurious atmosphere. You can enjoy complimentary cultural experiences, relax with fantastic facilities, and have a central location to explore Kauai.
Luxury: Koloa Landing Resort at Po’ipu, Autograph Collection
Koloa Landing Resort at Po’ipu, Autograph Collection is a deluxe property well-suited to luxury seekers on the south coast. You’ll find two resort pools set in dramatic tropical gardens with torchlit walkways and a top-of-the-range fitness center.
Guests can choose rooms and suites, the latter of which comes with a full kitchen. Of course, there will be no need for a kitchen in the morning as you have a continental breakfast to look forward to.
VRBO: One Bedroom House With Residential Walkways to Two Beaches
Vacation rentals are highly sought after on Kauai, and looking at this property, it is clear why. Set in Poipu, this VRBO property is ideal for those wanting the ultimate location on the south shore. You are just minutes from the Grand Hyatt – highly praised for its excellent location in Kauai. You are surrounded by not just one but three world-class golf courses, plus over fifty restaurants within a five-minute drive radius. The property is basic but comfortable and reasonably priced at under $200 per night (depending on the season).
2. North Shore
The north shore of Kauai is much, much quieter than the south shore. Kauai’s nickname ‘the Garden Isle’ comes from its beautiful, underdeveloped north shore. This part of Kauai is covered in lush greenery, from tropical rainforest to the crinkled green cliffs along the Napali Coast. While the entire island is stunning, Kauai is something else; prepare to be blown away by natural beauty and iconic views. For those who love photography, nature, and outdoor adventures, the north shore is where to stay in Kauai.
The north shore of Kauai is covered in natural attractions. You are truly spoiled for choice, from verdant mountains to hiking trails and gorgeous beaches like Hideaways Beach and Tunnels Beach. However, the Napali Coast is our winner. This coastline is so beautiful that it has been sought after by Hollywood producers and featured in countless movies. This section of the coast is lined by lush green mountains and bizarrely crinkled cliff faces. You can view the coastline by hiking the Kalalau Trail or taking a scenic helicopter ride – an absolutely unforgettable experience and a real thrill. Chances are, you’ll recognize pictures of the Napali Coast. It is a world-famous piece of incredible scenery and a massive draw of the north shore.
As we mentioned, the Kalalau Trail is a beautiful way to experience the coastline. You should definitely try to complete this challenging route if you are an experienced hiker. You can book a permit to camp and tackle the track as an overnight route or hike it in a full day. Equipment is a must, as the terrain is demanding despite the trail being just a moderate distance. If you’d prefer gorgeous views without the effort of long hikes, check out the lookout points on the north shore. Hanalei Valley Lookout is a brilliant option. This lookout has sweeping views of the valley and lush greenery, perfect for getting a perspective of the island’s scale and vegetation. Just behind the lookout, Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is another beautiful place to visit – with hiking trails, lookouts, and animal sightings galore.
In terms of neighborhoods, the main towns on the north shore are Kilauea, Princeville, and Hanalei. All of these neighborhoods are located on the coastline. Hanalei is situated in Hanalei Bay, with a sheltered beach and a few high-quality hospitality venues. Princeville is much larger and contains a mixture of residential properties and condo complexes. It has more of a built-up feel and is home to the Princeville Shopping Center and Makai Golf Course, so you’ll have all the recreational amenities you need. Finally, Kilauea is a quieter town, sandwiched between a wildlife refuge, botanical gardens, sculpture park, ocean, and lighthouse. You have peaceful attractions and places to unwind in Kilauea at every turn, creating a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere.
The north shore of Kauai is ideal for those wanting a quiet experience on the island without sacrificing easy access to the best beaches and attractions. We love the proximity to Kauai’s best beaches, the Napali Coast, golf courses, and wildlife refuges. The north shore is where to stay on Kauai for outdoor adventures that are so beautiful that they demand a camera.
Where to Stay on the North Shore
Budget: Hanalei Surfboard House
Hanalei Surfboard House is one of the most budget-friendly spots on the north shore. Having won a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in 2022, it is very much a rising star on the cheap accommodation front in Kauai. And while it specializes in providing accommodation for surfers wanting to experience Hanalei Bay for themselves (a sought-after surf spot), its self-catered suites and friendly atmosphere suit any budget traveler.
Mid-Range: Hanalei Bay Resort
Hanalei Bay Resort is a gorgeous mid-range accommodation choice just a fifteen-minute drive from Hanalei Pier. If you are interested in staying in beautiful Hanalei Bay, Hanalei Bay Resort is an easy winner. The resort offers apartment-style rooms with comfortable living spaces. As an added bonus, there are also hot tubs and tennis courts on-site for guest enjoyment. Hanalei Bay Resort has a fantastic location and impressive facilities.
Luxury: The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
Up next is the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. Princeville Resort is dramatically situated on the top of a cliff on Kauai’s north shore. It boasts a rural and scenic location. Yet Princeville Resort also provides a complimentary shuttle service for attractions and amenities within a 2.5-mile radius. Each villa has its own kitchen and whirlpool tub, although there is a spa and restaurant on site should you want an extra treat. Princeville Resort is a luxurious spot on the north shore.
VRBO: Oceanfront Condo With Stunning Views
This condo is a windswept perch on the sun-drenched north coast of Kauai. Situated on the outskirts of Princeville, you have fantastic access to all the town’s amenities and attractions. However, you also have stunning views and a sense of serene privacy thanks to your clifftop locale. You can access an almost private beach set in a little-known cove from your backdoor. And in certain seasons, you can watch migrating whales from your window.
While Kauai has some pretty impressive VRBO rentals, this condo stood out for obvious reasons. We love the look of the natural setting and the sense of privacy despite being located outside of Princeville. Definitely take note of this property.
3. West Shore
If the north shore is quiet, the west side of Kauai is completely asleep. The west side is almost entirely undeveloped natural landscapes, with just a few tiny towns (more akin to villages) dotted along the coastline. The majority of the west side of Kauai is taken up by the Puu Ka Pele Forest Reserve, Kekaha Game Management Area, Waimea Canyon State Park, Kokee State Park, and Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve. A massive proportion of Kauai’s protected acreage is on the island’s west side. For those fascinated by nature and reserves, staying on the island’s west side is heaven on Earth.
It goes without saying that with so many wildlife areas and parks, you’ll spend a lot of time hiking and wildlife-watching on the west side of Kauai. Pack your hiking boots, binoculars, a camera, and a big water bottle. Because the parks are so remotely laid out, researching rental cars and investing in one for your stay on Kauai is worthwhile. It helps to get around and access all the different parks and trails. Plus, when you want to head into the major towns, it is just an easy drive away.
In terms of official attractions, Kawai’ele Waterbird Sanctuary is a wonderful place to visit. The reserve is situated along the west coastline. It has a short trail for bird watchers to spot its permanent and temporary winged residents. Bring binoculars and a camera; Kawai’ele Waterbird Sanctuary is home to many endangered species. The Kokee Natural History Museum is another gem for your itinerary. It is a great indoor attraction to escape the sun for a bit. Similarly, Waimea Canyon has plenty of stunning drive-in lookouts for those who aren’t as keen on hiking or aren’t up for back-to-back hiking days.
The only real town on the west side of Kauai is Kekaha, a tiny town on the southwest coast. Kekaha has all the major facilities you may need when visiting Kauai. If you still want a ‘town’ experience of the island, we recommend staying here rather than in a more remote setting on the west side. Otherwise, if you want the whole remote experience, you can find isolated resorts with secluded beaches all over this region of Kauai’s north shore. Book a rental car and enjoy being nestled away in the middle of lush valleys and deserted, stunning beaches.
Where to Stay on the West Shore
Budget: The Cabins at Kokee
The Cabins at Kokee is an excellent budget-friendly accommodation option right in the center of the west shore. Simplistic yet comfortable, this three-star hotel is a fun spot to choose when searching for Kauai lodgings on a budget. You’ll be based in the middle of Koke’e State Park and Waimea Canyon State Park.
Mid-Range: The Inn Waimea
The Inn Waimea is a relaxed mid-range property set across two stories with an assortment of just one guest room and three suites. Just one block from the ocean, you can enjoy a central location within Waimea, on the south end of the west coast. The inn has a quiet, private feel thanks to its limited number of guest rooms. However, thanks to the property’s town setting, you are never too far from the action.
Luxury: Waimea Plantation Cottages
A cottage might not seem like the epitome of luxury hotels. Still, Waimea Plantation Cottages are the best option for quality on the west shore. The plantation-style property has a series of 1-3 bedroom cottages to choose between, plus facilities that include an outdoor pool. With extras like BBQ facilities and private patios, it is a really comfortable place to experience Kauai. You are also based right in the heart of Waimea – a definite bonus.
VRBO: Two Bedroom Plantation Cottage
This gorgeous cottage sleeps up to four guests across two bedrooms. The design is spacious and airy, with over nine-foot ceilings and enormous windows for maximized views. While the cottage is built in traditional plantation style, it is modernly decorated and perfect for a chic, trendy place to stay in Kauai. It has several distinctive features, including an outdoor hot shower.
4. East Shore
Have you heard of the ‘coconut coast’? The east shore of Kauai coined the nickname the coconut coast thanks to its acres and acres of coconut trees. It is a populous region of the island and, like the south shore, is commercial and built-up, with plenty of urban amenities. It is ideal for visitors who want to be in the heart of the action. There will be no need to rent a rental car if you don’t fancy driving, as everything is accessible and tour operators offer pick-up transportation services. The east coast is packed with activities, the best beaches, and plenty of character.
The best thing to do on the island’s east is to visit the beach parks. There’s Anahola Beach Park, Kapa’a Beach Park, and Lydgate Beach Park – plus many more. Lydgate Beach Park is gorgeous, with expansive views and enclosed areas for swimming and snorkeling. In the water, you’ll be mesmerized by the tropical fish and subterranean plant life. You can even camp with a designated camping and picnic area if you want.
Grove Farm is a more traditional museum-style attraction. The preserved sugar plantation is an ode to some of Hawaii’s more troubling history. You can learn more about the industry of sugar plantations and the property itself on one of many tours. While, for more informative activities, just up the road, there’s also the Kauai Museum. This museum is centered around artifacts and archives of local history and culture. You’ll find loads of exhibits – from sections on WWII to sections on Kauai’s history of surfing.
Don’t forget to check out some of the east coast’s beaches as well (not just beach parks). Kealia Beach and Kalapaki Beach are fabulous. The Wailua River also runs into the ocean and snakes through the inland east side. Cooling off with a swim or enjoying watersports is a must when visiting Kauai.
Looking at neighborhoods is massively essential when deciding where to stay in Kauai. The main towns in the east are Wailua, Lihue, Hanamaulu, Kapa’a, Kealia, and Anahola. These towns have brilliant access to beaches, resorts, and nightlife. Lihue is also home to an airport, which is really convenient.
Where to Stay on the East Shore
Budget: Kauai Beach House Hostel
Finding budget-friendly hotels in Kauai is pretty tricky. There are also just a handful of hostels, so Kauai Beach House Hostel is notable. Situated on the coastline, guests have almost doorstep beach access and ocean views. Depending on your preferences, you can opt for a private or communal room. For solo travelers, staying at the Kauai Beach House Hostel is a fantastic way to make new friends and save money on a single supplement.
Mid-Range: Wyndham Kaua’i Beach Villas
Wyndham Kaua’i Beach Villas is a nice resort with a central location in Lihue. The three-star hotel takes a slightly different route with its rooms by offering one and two-bedroom condos. Ideal for a mid-range budget, you can make the most of having a kitchen to keep your food budget low yet also enjoy the luxurious facilities. These said facilities include a pool and tennis courts.
Luxury: Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons
Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons is the leader of all the luxury resorts on Kauai. And while the east side is renowned for its top-tier selection of luxury accommodation choices, Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons stands out in particular. Located in Lihue, just a stone’s throw from the airport and coastline, the four-star property offers a selection of elegant villas. Guests also receive access to a fitness center and expansive outdoor pool. Naturally, there are ocean views throughout.
VRBO: Oceanfront Condo With Gorgeous Balcony View
When it comes to vacation rentals, we know that Kauai has a lot of choices. However, this VRBO property is evidence of how amazing renting a holiday home can be when visiting Hawaii.
The top-floor condo is modernly decorated and recently renovated to provide a flashy place to stay on Kauai. The winning feature is the large balcony with ocean and beach views. You can enjoy your mornings with stunning views of the Hawaiian coastline with a little breakfast bar and stools. During the day, you’ll have immediate access to Kealia and its beach. The property also has a private pool, BBQ area, and equipment like hiking poles and boogie boards to borrow. You’ll be extremely comfortable and even more well-entertained.
Where to stay in Kauai FAQs
Now that we’ve covered where to stay in Kauai, what about some common FAQs? This section will cover all the essential details you need to know before booking your trip to Kauai. Let’s get started.
What side of Kauai is best to stay on?
Overall, the north coast of Kauai is the best to stay. It is home to the Napali Coast and spectacular natural scenery, plus it isn’t too far from amenities and socializing. It balances the remoteness of the west coast with the entertainment of the south and east coasts.
What is the best town to stay in Kauai?
Kilauea is a beautiful town to stay in Kauai. The town is surrounded by wildlife refuges, golf courses, and a stunning coastline.
Is it better to stay in the north or south of Kauai?
In short, it depends on what you want. We recommend the north as it is close to some of Kauai’s best attractions and outdoor activities. But, if you want a more resort town atmosphere, the south is better to visit.
What is better Poipu or Princeville?
Princeville is best for visiting the Napali Coast and experiencing the north shore of Kauai. The region around Princeville is covered in parks and natural beauty. Poipu is best if you want a south coast experience, with a busy beach vibe and fun atmosphere.
What is the best side of Kauai to stay on?
The best side of Kauai to stay on is the north. The north side of Kauai is covered in iconic natural landscapes. It is terrific for getting a taste of the island’s unique geography.
When is the best time of year to visit Kauai?
Stick to the off-peak seasons when visiting Kauai. This way, no matter where you choose to stay, you won’t be fighting over spots for your beach towel or trying to peer over crowds of other tourists at lookout points. The off-peak seasons are September to December and April to June. September is likely the best of these months, with the mildest weather and barely any rain.
How much time do you need in Kauai?
Give yourself around a week to explore Kauai. The island is a beautiful place to hike and relax, and cramming lots into a short length of time will only negatively impact your experience. The longer, the better.
Deciding on Where to Stay in Kauai
Deciding where to stay in Kauai certainly involves a lot of choices. Whether you choose the south, east, west, or north shore of Kauai, you’ll have a fantastic time. The island is perfect for those who want to spend lots of time outdoors. The stacks of interesting beaches, hikes, and all the amenities in Kauai’s towns make exploring exciting.
Fancy some more Kauai inspiration? We have a complete guide on the best things to do on Kauai – from hiking the Kalalalu Trail to trying shave ice. And, of course, if you can visit more than one Hawaiian island, why wouldn’t you? Maui is another wonderful island to visit in Hawaii, and we’ve compiled a guide on where to stay in Maui as well.