Where to stay in Kauai, HI

  • Post last modified:August 7, 2023
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Kauai is with its green appearance known as the Garden Island. If you haven’t been to Kauai, it’s hard to imagine how lush the Hawaiian island really is. But where to stay in Kauai for the best experience?

The North Shore is the best place to stay in Kauai for scenery, while the South Shore is famous for its beachfront Kauai resorts. In addition, you find more Kauai hotels on the island’s East Side and West Side.

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Table of contents

North Shore

Among the options for where to stay in Kauai, the North Shore is the most iconic alternative. The area is renowned around the world for its dramatic scenery.

All over the North Shore, the green and mountainous surroundings are striking. You don’t even have to leave your Kauai accommodation to enjoy the lush backdrop.

If you look for beautiful scenery, the North Shore is the best place to stay in Kauai.

Most remarkably, the otherworldly Napali Coast dominates the northwestern coastline. At Kauai hotels and resorts in the North Shore area, you base yourself right where the Napali adventure begins.

But just as the nature is wilder up north, so is the weather. Throughout the year, the North Shore gets more rain than the significantly drier South Shore.

The ocean conditions also change over the year, and the North Shore is famous for its big winter waves. So if you visit in winter and prefer a calm ocean, it’s wise to look towards Kauai hotels in the South Shore area.

In short, the North Shore is the best option for where to stay in Kauai to enjoy the island’s spectacular nature. If you look for awe-inspiring scenery, there are no better places to stay in Kauai.

Pick North Shore for: The most scenic place to stay in Kauai.

Recommended hotels on North Shore

The Cliffs at Princeville

With the Napali Coast as your neighbor, what’s there not to like? The Cliffs at Princeville shows exactly why the North Shore is such a popular option for where to stay in Kauai. While guests love the spacious suites and top amenities, the scenery featuring both the crashing ocean and rising, green mountains is the number one show.

Quiet Hanalei Bay in Hawaii — a scenic place to stay on Kauai's North Shore
The scenic North Shore.

South Shore

The South Shore is a beautiful option for where to stay in Kauai if you want to soak up the sun. No other region in Kauai gets as much sun as the South Shore.

It can be surprising how the weather changes from area to area in Kauai. Especially in winter it’s noticeable how the sun shines at Kauai hotels down south, while it’s cloudy further north.

So if you look for sunshine, there’s no better place to stay in Kauai than the sunny South Shore.

Another South Shore draw is that it’s a place where swimmers of all levels enjoy the ocean year round. While the north gets huge swells in winter, the South Shore offers calmer conditions.

The most popular beach on the South Shore, Poipu Beach, is conveniently split into two bays. In the protected environment visitors of all ages, and sporadic seals and turtles, have fun in the ocean throughout the year.

As a bonus you also find some of the best Kauai hotels and resorts right on Poipu Beach. At the luxury Kauai beachfront resorts in the South Shore area you really live your best life.

To sum up, the South Shore is a place to stay in Kauai that offers the whole package. Down south you find sunnier weather, a calmer winter ocean and several stunning Kaui oceanfront resorts.

Pick South Shore for: Kauai hotels on the sunny side.

Recommended hotels on South Shore

Koa Kea Hotel & Resort

On the South Shore’s most famous beach, you find the Koa Kea Hotel & Resort. Just steps from the magic of Poipu Beach it’s the beachfront Kauai resort with the ultimate location.

With a world-class beach, beautiful ocean views and comfortable resort amenities the Kauai resort ticks every box for a pleasant stay. Koa Kea Hotel & Resort is certainly a beachfront Kauai place to stay that has it all.

A seal on the beach in Poipu — just steps from beachfront Kauai hotels
A seal enjoys the South Shore sun.

East Side

The East Side is the most developed and populated Kauai area. Also known as the Coconut Coast, it’s a very convenient option for where to stay in Kauai.

At Kauai hotels on the East Side you base yourself between the popular North Shore and South Shore regions. Therefore it’s a pick that gives you an excellent base for exploring the entire island.

If you pick Kauai lodging on the East Side, you reach both the Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon in roughly an hour.

But the convenience doesn’t stop there. As the island’s most populated region, the East Side, which feels more like mainland USA, gives you access to a wider range of restaurants and stores.

Home also to some more low-key Kauai lodging the East Side gives hope to the budget traveler. It’s never easy to find budget Kauai hotels, but the East Side is the island’s most inexpensive area.

When it comes to affordability, the East Side is the best place to stay in Kauai.

In conclusion, the East Side is a great choice for where to stay in Kauai if you want a central base. On top of the practical location you in the area also find some rare but appreciated budget Kauai lodging.

Pick East Side for: Kauai hotels in the island’s hub.

Recommended hotels on the East Side

The Kauai Inn

At the Kauai Inn, you stay on the convenient East Side. The location, easily reached from the airport, is excellent for exploring the island.

It’s also a Kauai hotel that offers a wonderful setting to relax in. Its striking green mountain backdrop makes it easier than ever to recharge your batteries.

West Side

With its paradise features there’s nothing like secret places to stay in Kauai any longer. However, the island’s West Side is an option for where to stay in Kauai off the beaten path.

No matter where you stay in Kauai, you find peacefulness. But the West Side is the part of the island with fewer Kauai hotels and visitors.

To get away from it all there’s no better Kauai place to stay than the West Side.

At hotels on Kauai’s western coast you also get the ultimate access to Waimea Canyon. The impressive red and orange canyon, referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is on most Kauai bucket lists.

As you explore Waimea Canyon, you even get a taste of the Napali Coast. Kalalau Lookout and Puu O Kila Lookout offer magnificent Napali Coast views.

But pay attention to that there’s no direct road connection between Kauai’s West Side and North Side. So to get to the legendary Kalalau Trail by car you need to drive through the other Kauai areas.

To sum up, the West Side is the off the beaten path option for where to stay in Kauai. It’s the best place to stay in Kauai to avoid crowds, and in addition the area is home to the beauty of Waimea Canyon.

Pick West Side for: Kauai lodging off the beaten path.

Reddish rock formation, green vegetation and a waterfall in Waimea Canyon in Hawaii
The reddish Waimea Canyon.

What to do when you stay in Kauai

Kauai often surprises visitors with how much the small island has to offer. You find several spectacular places to visit when you stay on the Garden Island.

Explore the Napali Coast

On top of most Kauai bucket lists is the Napali Coast. It’s a Kauai attraction like no other place in the world.

The rugged Napali coastline spans 16 miles (26 km) along the remote northwestern shoreline of Kauai. As there are no roads to travel on, you need to go by foot, boat or helicopter to explore the area.

Although there are no hotels on the Napali Coast, you find lodging not far away.

On the North Shore the towns Hanalei and Princeville offer a good selection of hotels and resorts near the Napali Coast. It’s just 10 miles (16 km) from Kauai resorts in Princeville, and it’s even shorter if you stay in Hanalei.

Feel the Hanalei vibe

Next to the Napali Coast you find the peaceful Hanalei Bay. Surrounded by lush mountains it’s a place in Kauai that holds a unique charm.

The bay is picturesque around the year, but its mood depends on the season. In winter Hanalei Bay is a surfer’s paradise, while the water is placid in summer.

No matter when you visit, it’s a must to check out the town of Hanalei. On the pretty bay it’s certainly a cozy town to explore.

As you have an Hawaiian shave ice, or browse the town’s surf shops, you really feel that you’re in the heart of the Pacific.

Hike Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is a popular day trip destination on the West Side of Kauai. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, visitors have high expectations when they cross the island to visit the Kauai canyon.

Thankfully, Waimea Canyon lives up to the high expectations time after time. Its reddish layers of rock and cascading waterfalls are stunning features.

With overlooks right by Waimea Canyon road, you also easily get from viewpoint to viewpoint. However, for the full experience you need to put your hiking boots on.

Head to the Kauai beach

What would a Kauai stay be without some quality beach time? All over the Hawaiian island you find incredible shorelines to enjoy.

One of the most celebrated Kauai beaches is Poipu Beach. On the South Shore, with several luxury beachfront Kauai resorts, it’s a beautiful beach that caters to travelers of all ages.

Another beach highlight across the island is Hanalei Beach, with its dreamy pier that harmoniously extends into the bay.

Orange sunset in Hanalei on Kauai
Sunset over Hanalei Bay.

Where to stay in Kauai FAQ

Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about where to stay in Kauai, Hawaii.

Where should I stay when visiting Kauai?

The North Shore is the best place to stay in Kauai if you look for dramatic scenery. However, the South Shore offers more sunshine and calmer ocean conditions during the winter season. In addition the East Side and West Side are other options for where to stay when visiting Kauai. If you’re not sure where on Kauai to stay, a popular option is to split your time between two island locations.

Which side of Kauai is better?

Every side of Kauai has its unique charm. The North Shore is the dramatic side, while the South Shore is the sunnier side. The East Side is the convenient area, in contrast to the off the beaten path West Side.

Is it better to stay in Princeville or Poipu?

The North Shore versus South Shore debate has existed at least as long as Kauai tourism. If it’s better to stay in Princeville or Poipu comes down to which elements you prefer. Both Princeville and Poipu are certainly superb places to stay in Kauai.

Is it better to stay in Lihue or Poipu?

As Lihue is located on Kauai’s East Side, the town offers a central location that’s very convenient for exploring the island. In Poipu on the South Shore you’re further from the iconic Napali Coast, but on the other hand Poipu Beach is one of the most celebrated beaches in Hawaii.

Are there any beachfront Kauai resorts?

Kauai’s South Shore is renowned for its beautiful beachfront resorts. Right on Poipu Beach you find some of the best places to stay in Kauai. There you have all you need for a good Aloha time within walking distance.

Can you stay on the Napali Coast?

Although the Napali Coast is untouched, you find a good selection of Kauai hotels in the nearby towns and villages. From popular Kauai lodging in Princeville it’s 10 miles (16 km) to the Napali Coast’s Kalalau trailhead. If you stay at Kauai lodging in Hanalei, it’s even shorter.

Where to stay in Kauai on a budget?

The conveniently located East Side is an appreciated option for where to stay in Kauai on a budget. Away from the popular North Shore and South Shore areas the hotel rates tend to be lower.

Where to stay in Kauai for honeymoon?

In such a romantic setting you can’t go very wrong when you pick where to stay in Kauai for honeymoon. Still the North Shore offers honeymooners more dramatic scenery, while the South Shore resorts are perfect for beachfront honeymoon stays on Kauai.

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