WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI: 19 AWE-INSPIRING SPOTS

The lush, laid-back island of Kauai is a dream for any vacationer. After all, it has endless beauty and activities without any high rises or stressful traffic. But once you’ve made the fool-proof decision to visit Kauai, there’s another choice you’ll need to make: where exactly to stay. 

Though it’s Hawaii’s fourth largest island, Kauai is still a big place, and each neighborhood boasts its own personality. Of course, you’ll explore all of Kauai as you vacation here, but where you stay will greatly impact your trip. 

Although a lot of people tend to stay in the North and South shores, there are plenty of other options too. Ahead, we’ll help guide you through your choices by outlining the different areas of Kauai and the best places to stay throughout the island. 

Wanting a luxurious resort experience? We’ve got you covered. Would you sleep in a tent under the stars? There’s something for you too. And we’ve also got ideas for everything in between. So if you’re splurging for a special occasion or looking for family-friendly value, this is the guide for you.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Kauai, we’ve got the answers! Here are 19 places to stay in Kauai for every type of traveler.

WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI: 19 AWE-INSPIRING SPOTS
Courtesy of Grand Hyatt Kauai Reserve

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KAUAI’S REGIONS

There are four distinct regions of the Garden Island, each with its own distinct energy. One main road connects the regions, though you can’t make a full circle around the island. Here are the highlights of each place: 

  • SOUTH SHORE – This is the most popular area to stay in Kauai. Home to world-famous Poipu Beach Park and the island’s clearest skies, the south coast is the ultimate Hawaii destination. 
  • EAST SIDE – This is a busy area of the island with many commercial stores and restaurants. But some great hotel options will allow you to stay in a central, convenient location. 
  • NORTH SHORE – This is where you’ll find the uninhabited Na pali Coast, trendy surfer vibes, and the ritzy neighborhood of Princeville. You can’t go wrong with a stay on the North Shore.
  • WEST SIDE – This is the island’s dryer and less populated area. There aren’t any resorts in West Kauai like you would find on the rest of the island, but there are some rustic and scenic options for true adventurers. 

Ready to learn more about these regions and the best places to stay in Kauai? Read along to learn more!

SOUTH SHORE

As you envision a quintessential Hawaii vacation, you will likely picture something like Kauai’s South Shore. The weather here is typically warm and sunny, and the scenery features stunning sunsets and swaying palm trees.

The South Shore is the most popular area to stay in, since the beaches are calm and there is a lot to do. Check out some of the top attractions in the Poipu area, along with its best accommodations. 

South Shore Kauai Attractions: 

  • Poipu on the South Shore is one of the best beaches to visit on the island, and the area is home to some of the best resorts. 
  • Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a two-mile coastal hike across rare undeveloped South Shore land. You’ll encounter the remains of a Hawaiian temple, a seabird sanctuary, and stunning vistas. 
  • Spouting Horn is a blowhole that emits plumes of water as rough waves come into the Southern shoreline. It’s a must-see during any Kauai driving tour.
  • Old Kōloa Town is an opportunity to transport yourself in place and time while only minutes away from the resort amenities of Poipu. Explore the old-fashioned plantation house along with charming shops and scenic views. 
  • Allerton & McBryde Gardens are two of the most noteworthy places in the National Tropical Botanical Gardens network. Explore an array of tropical and native plants and trees along with sites made famous in tv and movies. 

What You’ll Love: The gorgeous beaches here are really family-friendly, and this area has the best weather. You’ll also be able to enjoy resort-style amenities, like great shopping and dining, all while being within a short drive of some of the island’s best sights. Plus, some of the island’s top sandy beaches are on the South Side.  

What to Note: Anyone looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience may want to look at other areas of the island. It gets busy here. 

Read more: How Many Days Do You Need in Kauai?

GRAND HYATT KAUAI RESORT : A SPLURGE- WORTHY STAY

Spanning over 50 acres, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa offers the ultimate Hawaii experience. Anyone looking for a “resort bubble” experience should consider a stay here. 

It boasts six restaurants, a full-service spa, multiple pools, spacious gardens, an onsite luau, an 18-hole golf course, and beach access. So you don’t have to venture off-property for food or entertainment. 

The only thing you may miss is a calm beach. Shipwreck Beach fronts the Hyatt, and swimming conditions aren’t typically good there. However, Poipu Beach is about a mile up the road, so you won’t be far from a relaxing beach. 

Of course, this elevated experience at the Grand Hyatt comes with a high price tag. But if you are looking to splurge on your Kauai vacation and want to stay in this sunny, family-friendly area, then the Grand Hyatt Kauai could be your hotel. 

Stay Here: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

SHERATON KAUAI RESORT: A SERENE BEACHSIDE EXPERIENCE

The Sheraton rests atop Kiahuna Beach, a quiet subarea of Poipu Beach. There is limited parking for this sandy beach, so it’s mostly frequented by guests of the Sheraton Kauai Resort. 

That means if you stay at the hotel, you’ll have easy access to one of Kauai’s most beautiful beaches, a somewhat secluded gem within one of the busiest neighborhoods. 

But what else does the Sheraton Kauai Resort offer? There are beautiful pools and great restaurants on the property. Nightly rates run lower than other Poipu Resorts, allowing for a mid-level experience that offers resort-quality amenities without the dazzling luxury of higher-end options. 

Stay Here: Sheraton Kauai Resort

WHALERS COVE RESORT: THE BEST POIPU VALUE

Many people who visit Whalers Cove Resort are repeat visitors. It’s a classic condo-style complex with full kitchens and large balconies, but the staff here creates a resort-quality atmosphere. 

The price per night can get steep in peak season, but you’ll still pay less here than at high-end resorts with small rooms. If you’re looking for value, having kitchens in your accommodations is a huge cost saver. 

So whether you’re a family needing more space or want something a little more homey for an extended stay, Whalers Cove is definitely a great spot. You’ll get great ocean views and lots of space to unwind and enjoy. 

It’s about a three minute walk to nearby Baby Beach, a small, sandy area that’s perfect for small children. 

Stay here: Whalers Cove Resort

OTHER SOUTH KAUAI ACCOMMODATIONS

Koa Kea Resort – Koa Kea resort is right on the ocean, so the views here are incredible. It has a peaceful, boutique hotel vibe, though it can feel a bit dated in certain spots. The Koa Kea hotel markets itself as a romantic hotel, but kids are allowed. 

Stay Here: Koa Kea Resort

Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, Autograph Collection – This luxurious resort features incredible pools and spacious villas. It’s a bit inland, so you’ll have to catch its shuttle to the area’s pristine beaches, but reviewers say it’s worth the added effort to stay in this serene setting. 

Stay Here: Koloa Landing Resort

Looking for some fun activities while you’re in Kauai? Try some of these great experiences!

EAST SIDE

The East Shore of Kauai is called the Coconut Coast, a name that comes from the palm trees swaying above the ocean’s edge. This most populous region of Kauai encompasses the main towns of Lihue, Kapa‘a, and Wailua. 

Some of the best things to do in Kauai are located on the Coconut Coast, and it’s here you’ll find gorgeous white sand beaches. 

Wanting to explore the entire island? Staying in the Lihue and Kapaa area will allow you to do more sightseeing without all-day drives. Plus, you’ll be near the Lihue airport, so you can get settled in without a big post-flight drive. 

East Kauai Attractions:

  • Wailua Falls – This 80-foot cascade doesn’t require any hiking to view. Visit early in the morning for the best chance of seeing a rainbow appear in the waterfall. 
  • Kalapaki Beach – If you’re looking for a classic beach experience in Lihue, head to Kalapaki Beach. Here you can take surf lessons, relax in the calm waters, or watch the sunset with a mai tai. 
  • Kauai Backcountry Adventures offers outdoor activities like ziplining and mountain tubing. 
  • Kilohana Estate – Whether you want to learn about Kauai’s sugar plantation history, tour a working farm via train, attend a top-rated luau, or dine at a famous restaurant, Kilohana estate has something for everyone. 
  • Wailua River is one of the few navigable rivers in the state, and it’s the largest. Explore by kayak, SUP, boat, or canoe, and catch sights of tall waterfalls and the iconic Fern Grotto. 
  • Kapa‘a Town – If you want to explore small towns with big personalities, Kapaa town is one of the best places to visit. Rent a kayak, shop in the boutiques, or take a bike ride along the water’s edge. 
  • Lydgate Beach Park – The protected swimming area is the main draw at this family-friendly beach. Take in the sights and swim in the man-made lagoon at Lydgate Beach Park. 

What You’ll Love: The East Side of Kauai is a great central location and is home to many residents, so you can have a homey stay near grocery stores, the shopping center, and family-friendly eateries. 

What to Note: Eastern Kauai has some heavy traffic. The many stores and restaurants may keep you from feeling like you’re in an idyllic escape. 

THE ROYAL SONESTA KAUAI RESORT LIHUE

The Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort is located right on Kalapaki Beach in Lihue, offering a world-class experience right in the heart of Kauai’s hustle and bustle. The resort was recently renovated and presents itself as a clean, indulgent resort with a modern design. 

The Royal Sonesta was formerly called the Kauai Marriott Resort, and it still shares the property with the Marriott’s timeshare units. So whether you’re staying at the Royal Sonesta or the Marriott’s Kaua’i Beach Club, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful outdoor pool, fitness center, restaurants, spa, live music, and beach access. 

Stay Here: Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort

KAUAI BEACH RESORT & SPA: AN IDEAL MIDDLE GROUND

The Kauai Beach Resort & Spa is a happy medium in many ways. First is its convenient location: near the Lihue airport but tucked away from the commercialized area of town. 

Then there’s its price point. It costs far less than some of the island’s large resorts but still has an onsite restaurant, a hot tub, multiple pools, a kid-friendly waterslide, and an outdoor bar. 

Sometimes when I go on vacation, I spend so much time out and about that I regret splurging on a hotel that I won’t get to enjoy much. That’s why I’m drawn to hotels like the Kauai Beach Resort & Spa. It’s nice enough to unwind between adventures, but not so exorbitant that you feel like you need to make the most of each amenity. 

Reviewers rave over the service here, but accommodations can be hit or miss due to ongoing renovations. 

Stay Here: Kauai Beach Resort & Spa

FERN GROTTO INN

If ritzy resorts and run-of-the-mill condos aren’t your style, consider staying at the Fern Grotto Inn. Located right on the banks of the Wailua River, this property features plantation-style cottages and a homey environment you’ll adore. Plus, it’s within walking distance of the beach. 

Adventures will love the Kayaks, SUPS, bikes, and beach gear available at no extra cost. However, the quiet grounds will tempt you to kick back and simply enjoy the island lifestyle. 

The Fern Grotto Inn operates as a vacation rental, with no onsite staff or daily housekeeping service. There are no pools or bars on the property. So it’s an excellent place to stay if you’re one for restful retreats, quiet getaways, and peaceful privacy. 


The Fern Grotto Inn is located in Kapa‘a town on Kauai’s East Side. 

Stay Here: Fern Grotto Inn

OTHER EAST KAUAI ACCOMMODATIONS

The Kauai Inn is a simple hotel right in Lihue. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly stay as you explore the island, it will give you a place to rest your head at night and a relaxing atmosphere to unwind between adventures. 

Stay Here: The Kauai Inn

The Hilton Garden Inn has something for everyone: onsite amenities, beach access to Lydgate Beach Park, and an outdoor tiki bar. The middle-ground price point and central location draw many visitors, so it gets an assortment of reviews. Overall, this is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a name-brand hotel with a special island charm. 

Stay Here: Hilton Garden Inn

Timbers Kauai Ocean Club & Residences boasts 450 acres of unparalleled luxury right in Lihue. Suites can run thousands of dollars per night, which lends the resort an air of exclusivity and ritz. You’ll be treated to a spacious villa with a view, pristine grounds, and endless onsite amenities. The central location of Timbers doesn’t mean much when you have no reason to leave the grounds. 

Stay Here: Timbers Kauai Ocean Club & Residences

NORTH SHORE                                                           

Most Kauai enthusiasts will tell you that the North Shore is the best area of the island. Princeville and Hanalei hold some of the island’s most iconic sights and a unique atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else. 

But there’s a lot to consider when considering staying in this area. After all, it can get rainy here, and most North Shore beaches are too rough to swim at during winter months, so families with young children or anyone looking for endless sunshine may want to stay elsewhere. 

But if you dream of a lush, scenic Kauai vacation, a North Shore accommodation will give you the most immersive experience in this tropical wonderland. 

North Shore Kauai Attractions:

  • The Napali Coast is a stretch of uninhabited coastline that takes up most of Kauai’s Northern shore. Most people see the Napali Coast by boat. However, a partial hike along the Kalalau Trail will allow you to immerse yourself in the area’s majestic beauty. 
  • Hanalei Town – Most Hawaiian islands feature a quaint North Shore town. For Kauai, it’s Hanalei. With shops, restaurants, art galleries, historic sites, and popular beaches, there’s something for everyone in Hanalei. 
  • Tunnels Beach is one of the many beautiful and fun beaches in the North Shore of Kauai. You’ll love snorkeling along the coral reef when conditions are right, and it’s a serene place to take in the island’s beauty. 
  • Kilauea Lighthouse – This Princeville attraction will allow you to see a restored lighthouse, sweeping cliff-top views, and a bird sanctuary all in one stop. It’s a beautiful place to visit. 

What You’ll Love: The North Shore has some of the Jurassic Park style scenery many Hawaii visitors search for. Hanalei is a laid-back surfer town, while Princeville is a luxurious resort community with world-class golfing and a horseback riding ranch. The best time to visit Kauai’s North Shore is in the summer. 

What to Note: This part of the island sees a good bit of rainfall, and the water is often too rough for swimming or snorkeling. It will also be a far drive to south and West Shore attractions. 

THE WESTIN PRINCEVILLE OCEAN RESORT VILLAS: SPACIOUSNESS AND LUXURY

The Westin Princeville is one of the top North Shore luxury hotels, and for good reason. It has a great location near Anini Beach, features multiple pools and restaurants, and offers spacious suites and villas. 

The Westin Princeville is an ownership property, so there are nightly hotel room rates and timeshare options here. You’ll be steps away from the Princeville Makai Golf Club while enjoying the breathtaking vistas of the Princeville community. 

If you’re traveling with small children, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas may be the perfect place to stay. It features a family activity room, a wading pool with a small slide, and full-size refrigerators in each studio suite.

Stay Here: The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas 

HANALEI COLONY RESORT: AN UNPLUGGED EXPERIENCE

Beyond the manicured landscape of Princeville’s golf courses and resorts, you’ll find the natural emerald beauty of Hanalei. And one of the best places to experience this North Shore town is at the Hanalei Colony Resort. 

Each unit here is a two-bedroom suite with its own full-size kitchen, private lanai, and large windows. 

Unlike other North Shore hotels that perch atop cliffs or on inland acres, the Hanalei Colony Resort is beachfront. So you’ll be steps away from the golden sands of Haena Beach Park. 

What else sets Hanalei Colony Resort apart? It’s an unplugged hotel, so you won’t find any televisions or stereos in its suite. Instead, you’ll be invited to unwind and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. After all, isn’t that why you came to Kauai? 

Stay Here: Hanalei Colony Resort

OTHER SOUTH KAUAI ACCOMMODATIONS

Hanalei Bay Resort is a condo and timeshare property with a laid-back vibe, a beautiful swimming pool, tennis courts, and a great setting. It features one- and two-bedroom units that are each independently maintained, so reviews come in mixed based on each unit’s quality. 

Stay Here: Hanalei Bay Resort

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is set to provide the utmost in service, design, and amenities. Located on the Western edge of the Princeville resort area near Hideaways Beach, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay boasts acres of immaculate gardens, seven restaurants, and a world-class wellness sanctuary. This luxurious stay comes with a high price tag, but the resort aims to give you an unforgettable experience that could be worth the splurge. 

Stay Here: 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

Private Rentals – In addition to these hotels and condos, you’ll find a number of bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals in Northern Kauai. 

WEST SIDE

The West Side of Kauai is a world all its own. Over an hour’s drive from the East Shore, this is where you’ll find the Westernmost coast of the state of Hawaii, along with some of the island’s most breathtaking sites. 

Most visitors drive out to the West Side of the island as a day trip, but some laid-back vacationers may want to slow down and stay a while in this quiet, scenic setting. 

West Kauai Attractions:

  • Waimea Canyon – Called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is truly a sight to behold. Visit Waimea and neighboring Kōkeʻe State Park to see some of the state’s most mesmerizing beauty. 
  • Hanapepe Town  – You’re sure to fall in love with this eclectic place, which features shops, art galleries, restaurants, and a regular Friday night street festival. Hanapepe calls itself “Kauaʻi’s Biggest Little Town,” and it will earn itself a big place in your heart. 
  • Polihale State Park is a 17-mile stretch of sand that marks the state’s Westernmost point. You’ll need four-wheel drive to reach Polihale Beach, a secluded gem and an idyllic place to watch the waves roll in as the sun sets. 

What You’ll Love: Kauai’s West Coast is undeveloped and unspoiled. This area has some of the best natural scenery and charming towns. 

What to Note: There’s not much here as far as activities, dining, or accommodations. For most people, Kauai’s West Side is a place to visit, not a place to stay. 

WAIMEA PLANTATION COTTAGES: HISTORY & SERENITY

If you’re looking for an immersive Hawaii vacation, consider staying at Waimea Plantation Cottages. The property is set on 43 lush, oceanfront acres and features 59 authentic plantation-era cottages built between 1880 and 1930. 

If you want to stay in West Kauai, this is probably the place to book. 

Though it lacks the bountiful dining and activities of top resorts, there is lots of charm to be found at Waimea Plantation Cottages. There’s a laid-back restaurant, gorgeous grounds with hammocks, a small pool, and a peaceful atmosphere. 

And while the beach fronting the property is too rough to swim on, it’s a great place to relax, take a stroll, and enjoy the scenery of the Garden Isle. 

Stay Here: Waimea Plantation Cottages

WEST KAUAI LODGING: A COLLECTION OF SIMPLE ACCOMMODATIONS

This group of properties throughout Western Kauai offers rustic, simple accommodations for adventurers wanting to really experience Kauai’s rural charm. 

West Kauai Lodging offers a collection of mountaintop cabins, small-town inns, and oceanside home rentals. These old, basic rentals aren’t for everyone. But if you’re looking for a truly unique stay and don’t mind sacrificing comfort and convenience, it could be just the place for you. 

Stay Here: West Kauai Lodging

KOKE’E STATE PARK CAMPING: FOR A TRUE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE

If you truly want to embrace nature, camping in Kauai could be the best way to experience the island. 

Near Waimea Canyon and amidst miles of hiking trails is Kokeʻe State Park. Here you can reserve a campsite through the state and sleep under the Hawaii moonlight. There are picnic tables and restrooms, but you’ll need to bring your own tent. 

If you want a little more comfort, West Kauai Lodging offers a few cabins in the State Park, allowing for a bit more comfort than tent camping. 

WHERE TO STAY IN KAUAI

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