Wondering where to stay in Kauai? If you are planning your first trip to the Garden Isle of Hawaii and want to discover the very best places to stay in Kauai, you’re in the right place!
The lush Hawaiian island of Kauai is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Its pristine beaches, stunning waterfalls, and jaw-dropping scenery are irresistible.
But although Kauai is a small island, clocking in at just over 550 square miles, determining where to stay on Kauai is often not simple. The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all around the island!
The length of time you plan to be in Kauai, the time of year you plan to visit, the activities you want to enjoy on your vacation, the type of stay you prefer (resort versus a vacation rental, and, of course, your budget are all factors that will contribute to your decision on where to stay in Kauai.
There are four main areas where you can stay on Kauai: the South Shore, the North Shore, the east coast, and the west side.
Kauai’s South Shore is the most popular base for visitors to the island, while the remote west side is the least popular.
In this article, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of staying in each of the four main regions in Kauai, along with our recommended picks of hotels (or resorts) and vacation rentals.
Let’s get started discovering the best places to stay in Kauai, Hawaii!
Hey, by the way! Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour! Check out the five highest rated Kauai Helicopter tours for 2023!
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Where to Stay on Kauai: Map of Regions
Before we get started describing the best places to stay in Kauai, here’s a map so you can visualize the lay of the land and the various communities around the island:
Best Places to Stay in Kauai: The South Shore
Poipu, Koloa, and Lawai are the main communities on Kauai’s south shore.
POIPU: Poipu is pretty much the southernmost point on Kauai. Poipu Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in the USA, and the town boasts a number of resorts and a couple of shopping centers.
KOLOA: Koloa is a historic south shore community, and used to be the home of a very successful sugar plantation. Aside from historic sites, Koloa offers some shopping and several food trucks!
LAWAI: A little further afield, Lawai is another small south shore community on Kauai. You’ll find great snorkeling at Lawai Beach, and quieter resorts and hotels here.
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
Why Stay on the South Shore of Kauai (Poipu + Koloa)
With a plethora of beautiful beaches, many natural and historical attractions, and excellent shopping and dining, it’s no wonder that the South Shore is considered one of the best areas to stay in Kauai!
Plus, the weather here is the sunniest you’ll find on the island, year round.
Hike the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail for ocean views. Gawk at the Spouting Horn Blowhole. Go ziplining. Stroll the McBryde and Allerton Gardens. Enjoy swimming and snorkeling at Poipu Beach Park. There are so many diverse things to do along Kauai’s south shore!
First-time visitors to Kauai will find the south shore convenient for many Kauai bucket-list attractions.
The south shore is closer to Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks than the east shore or the north shore, a short drive to Lihue for a Kauai helicopter tour, and a short drive to Port Allen for boat tours of the Na Pali Coast.
A variety of accommodation options make Kauai’s South Shore popular with all types of travelers, from families seeking a fun-filled Hawaiian holiday to couples looking for a romantic escape.
You can pick from large resorts with plentiful amenities, or vacation rentals with lots of room to spread out, lanais for relaxing, and even ocean views.
Pros and Cons of Staying on Kauai’s South Shore
|✅ Sunny weather year round||❌ Beaches are relatively more crowded|
|✅ Great choice of resorts and vacation rentals||❌ Accommodations usually pricey|
|✅ Excellent shopping and dining||❌ Long drive to north shore for daytripping|
|✅ Nice beaches!|
|✅ Variety of recreational activities|
Best Resorts and Hotels on the South Shore of Kauai
Koloa Landing Resort, located on Poipu Beach, offers two resort-style pools. Spacious suites and villas have large windows, large ocean-view balconies, full kitchens, and washers and dryers.
The grounds are gorgeous, with landscaped ponds and pretty walkways. And you can walk to lots of eateries!
Koa Kea Resort is a lovely boutique oceanfront resort on Poipu Beach. If you are looking for a romantic resort on the south shore, this is it! Red Salt, the onsite restaurant is highly rated.
A spa offers oceanside and in-room massages, there’s an outdoor pool to enjoy, and rooms are luxuriously furnished.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa is super popular with families. The water play area features a saltwater lagoon, lava rock pool, water slide, and lazy river. There’s also an adult-only area.
With six onsite eateries, acres of lush gardens, rooms with ocean, mountain, or pool views, a spa, and a luau, you can spend your entire Kauai vacation here!
The Sheraton Kauai Resort is located along the southern coastline of Kauai. It offers two outdoor pools, and onsite restaurants with views of the Pacific Ocean. There’s a luau, Aulii Luau, held twice a week.
Rooms and suites are spacious and well-appointed, with great ocean views.
Best Vacation Rentals on Kauai’s South Shore
This well-appointed condo is just under 800 feet, with one bedroom and bathroom. It can sleep up to four but is perfect for a couple. You have spectacular ocean views from the lanai and access to the pool at the complex.
Location, location, location! This highly-rated condo is 300 feet from Poipu Beach Park and features 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It sleeps up to four guests. The unit has AC, and a washer and dryer.
This lovely condo located near Poipu Beach features three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms and can sleep up to 8 guests. The furnished lanai has distant water views and is a nice place for morning coffee! Central AC and beach gear for use.
We stayed here on our last visit to Kauai and found the condo both comfortable and convenient!
Want to search for VRBO vacation rentals on the South Shore on your own? You have lots of options from which to choose.
Browse all VRBO for the Poipu-Koloa area now!
Where to Stay in Kauai: The North Shore (Princeville + Hanalei)
Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea are the communities along the north shore of Kauai.
PRINCEVILLE: With a famous golf course, many condo complexes, and a few resorts, Princeville is by far the most popular place to stay on Kauai’s scenic north shore. It’s located in the center of the shore, making it convenient for sightseeing.
HANALEI: A charming little community, Hanalei is located close to Princeville. It has a picturesque pier, a bustling downtown with boutiques and art galleries, and many eateries, from food trucks to fine dining.
KILAUEA: A small and quaint north shore community, Kilauea is located on the eastern part of the coast and started out as the home of a sugar plantation. You may find a vacation rental or two here, and a few shops.
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
Why Stay on the North Shore of Kauai
If you are a nature lover thinking about where to stay in Kauai, you’ll feel drawn to the north shore of the island. It’s arguably the most spectacularly scenic place in Hawaii.
Outdoor enthusiasts, landscape photographers, nature lovers, and those looking to experience the “old” Hawaii will definitely enjoy the north shore.
Couples seeking a secluded getaway will also enjoy the north shore, where you can splurge on a luxury resort room or vacation rental, stroll the golden beaches, and relax at Insta-worthy locations.
The scenery here is so jaw-dropping that it’s served as a filming location in many movies and shows.
A series of gorgeous beaches stretches across the north shore, headed by Hanalei Bay. The landscape is lush, with mountains that are often draped in mist, waterfalls, and a variety of vegetation. Time moves slower here too!
Hike the epic Kalalau Trail, or hike it part way to Hanakapiai Beach (or Hanakapiai Falls) and back. Enjoy swimming and snorkeling at safe spots in the summer. Take a summer boat trip to the Na Pali Coast. Enjoy downtown Hanalei.
The weather is the only reason to think twice before basing on Kauai’s north shore, and that’s if you want to visit between late fall and early spring. It’s very rainy then, and the waves are dangerous as well.
Also, just a heads up that the north shore of Kauai is more rural, with not much nightlife, and you may be awakened by the sound of roosters crowing!
Pros and Cons of Staying on the North Shore of Kauai
|✅ Chance to be close to epic Kauai scenery||❌ More rain, especially in the winter|
|✅ Plethora of beautiful beaches with scenic backdrops and golden sands||❌ Resorts and vacation rentals can be pricey|
|✅ Lots of accommodation: resorts as well as vacation rentals||❌ Traffic can be problematic at times|
|✅ Great shopping and dining||❌ Long drive to the south shore and Waimea Canyon|
|✅ Excellent for adventure activities|
|✅ Less crowded than the Poipu area|
Best Resorts and Hotels on the North Shore of Kauai
1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is a fabulous luxury resort located in Princeville. It offers direct access to the beach, a full-service spa, and many top-notch dining options. The outdoor swimming pool has a swim-up bar.
Rooms at the resort are spacious and well-appointed and feature views of the ocean and the mountains.
The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas is located on a cliff by the ocean and features a lovely outdoor pool. Villas have full kitchens, comfy beds, and whirlpool tubs.
The resort offers a shuttle service to nearby golf courses, shopping, and dining, and there’s also an onsite restaurant.
Best Vacation Rentals on Kauai’s North Shore
This exceptional studio unit features spectacular views of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay and is the perfect retreat for a couple. The ground floor unit is fully air-conditioned and steps to the pool! Puu Poa Beach is also nearby.
This gorgeous oceanfront condo offers two bedrooms and two bathrooms and sleeps up to 6 guests. The 1,100-foot condo offers sweeping ocean views from every room. Beach equipment is available for use during your stay and there’s a washer and dryer.
This beautiful one-level mid-century modern home offers views of the ocean, Bali Hai, and the golf course and features 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. It sleeps up to 6 guests. There is a state-of-the-art kitchen and bathrooms feature rain showers.
Want to find a VRBO vacation rental on the North Shore on your own? You have lots of options from which to choose.
Browse all VRBO for the Hanalei-Princeville area now!
Where to Stay on the East Coast of Kauai (Kapaa + Lihue)
Kapaa, Wailua, and Lihue are the main communities along the east coast of Kauai.
KAPAA: Kapaa is the most populous town in Kauai. You’ll find a variety of stay options here, plus lots of local shopping if you want to bring back souvenirs, as well as many eateries.
WAILUA: A charming and small community along the Wailua River, Wailua offers a few hotels and eateries, and is the start point for recreational activities on the Wailua River.
LIHUE: The county seat and home to Kauai’s airport, Lihue is the second-largest town on Kauai. You’ll find several historical sites here, and it’s also close to Kalapaki Beach, one of the swimming beaches on the island.
>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!
Why Stay on the East Side of Kauai
Called the “Coconut Coast,” the east coast of Kauai offers a range of accommodations and great shopping and dining. Even though it’s more built-up than other parts of the island, the east coast still has many nice beaches and beautiful lush scenery.
Kapa’a Town is a great place to look for souvenirs to bring back home. Be sure to stop by the Coconut Marketplace, where there are several dozen stores selling jewelry and Hawaiian art and craft items.
Visitors wanting to spend time on the Wailua River will find the east coast a super convenient base. Go hiking, waterfall chasing, kayaking, birdwatching, and more!
If you do not like long drives but still want to be able to explore all parts of Kauai, the east coast makes the most convenient base. From here, it’s easy to access both the north shore and the south shore.
Travelers visiting Kauai on a budget will appreciate the many relatively affordable accommodation options on the east coast.
Pros and Cons of Staying on Kauai’s East Coast
|✅ Centrally located to explore all of Kauai||❌ Can be quite crowded in season|
|✅ Relatively more affordable accommodations can be found||❌ More “built-up” than rest of the island|
|✅ Excellent local shopping and great eateries||❌ Nice beaches, but perhaps lacking the spectacular scenery quotient|
|✅ Historic sites + recreation on the Wailua River||❌ Rainy from late fall to early spring|
|✅ Close to airport for easy in and out, especially for shorter visits to Kauai|
Hotels and Resorts on the East Side of Kauai
Waipouli Beach Resorts & Spa Kauai by Outrigger is located on the beach in Kapaa. The resort offers an outdoor pool plus a children’s pool, lazy river, and waterslide.
Air-conditioned rooms at this upscale, family-friendly resort have lanais, and there’s free self-parking at the property.
Kauai Coast Resort at the Beach Boy features direct beach access. The resort offers condo-style accommodations and has onsite dining and a spa.
The resort also offers an oceanfront hot tub, and an outdoor swimming pool with a children’s pool play area. Units come with air-conditioning and lanais.
Kauai Shores Hotel, also located in Kapaa, is an oceanfront hotel with beach access and two outdoor pools. You can also enjoy the 6-acre tropical courtyard.
The onsite restaurant offers ocean views and island fare. Rooms at the hotel are spacious and feature colorful island decor.
Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort is located on the beach, in a walkable area close to excellent shopping. It features two outdoor pools, one for children.
Air-conditioned guest rooms have separate sitting areas and balconies. The hotel offers free wifi and self parking, and beach umbrellas for use during your stay.
The Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort Lihue is an upscale hotel located right on the beach, and you get free cabanas too. You have access to a golf course, poolside bar, and terrace here!
There are four onsite restaurants and a day spa. Rooms offer comfy beds, safes, separate sitting areas, coffee/tea makers, and refrigerators.
Best Vacation Rentals on Kauai’s East Shore
This highly-rated condo is a little over 800 square feet and has one bedroom and one bath, ideal for a couple, although it can sleep up to 4 guests.
There is a shared pool and hot tub, and the condo is very well-stocked. Parking is free, internet is fast, and beach gear is offered for use during your stay.
This exceptional suite is a bit of a splurge on the east shore but the views of Kalapaki Bay are worth it! The unit has air-conditioning, access to shared pool and hot tub, and a washer and dryer.
With one bedroom and one bathroom, this is the perfect romantic escape for a couple. The spa en suite bathroom offers sunset views as you bathe!
This gorgeous penthouse unit at the Waipouli Beach Resort offers 2 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms, and sleeps up to 7 guests. You have ocean and pool views!
Enjoy a gourmet kitchen, in-unit washer and dryer, and a Roku Smart Streaming 55′ LED TV.
Want to search for VRBO vacation rentals on the East Coast of Kauai on your own? You have lots of options from which to choose.
Places to Stay on the West Side of Kauai
Waimea is a small community along the southern part of the west coast of Kauai.
The bulk of the rugged west coast of the island is protected by various Kauai state parks: Waimea Canyon State Park, Koke’e State Park, Polihale State Park, Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, and Haena State Park on the northwest tip.
WAIMEA: A small seaport community, Waimea features a statue of Captain Cook: he landed nearby in 1778. The town offers some shopping and is the place to stop for supplies en route to the parks.
Why Stay on the West Side of Kauai
Kauai’s west side is rather remote and rugged, and the vast majority of travelers visit for the day.
You’d ideally only want to base here if you plan to spend two or three days hiking in Waimea and Koke’e State Parks or exploring Polihale Beach.
Other than the places mentioned below, you can also reserve rustic cabins in Koke’e State park, or campsites in Koke’e State Park or Polihale State Park.
Access to the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is via Haena State Park on the north shore of Kauai.
Hotels on the West Side of Kauai
Waimea Plantation Cottages is a resort located on the beach. The resort offers a garden and a terrace, as well as laundry facilities and an onsite restaurant.
Air-conditioned rooms are individually furnished and have lanais and separate sitting/dining areas.
The West Inn Kauai is a basic hotel located near the beach. It offers clean rooms and laundry facilities and is convenient if you need a base from which to go hiking in Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Parks.
Rooms are air-conditioned and feature lanais.
The Best Kauai Tours
Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?
Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)
Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)
Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)
Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)
Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)
Renting a Car in Kauai
The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.
Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.
We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.
Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle
Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!
This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!
More Kauai Travel Inspiration
Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!
If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.
Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.
Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.
Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight.
Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.
And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!
We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.
Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore.
Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei, the charming town that sits in the middle of Kauai’s scenic north shore.
Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore! We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, and a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches.
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