Last updated on May 10, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Hawaiian Islands

Where to stay in Kauai

Kauai is called the Garden Island due to its majestic landscapes and rugged coast, as well as the serenity of the relaxing beaches.

While developing a strategy for your visit, you’re certain to seek expertise on where to stay in Kauai. The island is much bigger than you may think and that’s where we can help

Kauai is truly magical, with spectacular beaches all around the coastlines – north, east, south, and west, as well as the awe-inspiring treks and sights of the interior.

The focus of this post is to help you plan your accommodation based on what we consider the best place to stay in Kauai, with a few hotel suggestions.

This post is tailored for specific types of holiday travelers – families – couples – honeymooners – and budget-conscious adventurers.

You can read also

Once you’ve found yourself in Kauai, we highly recommend keeping up to date with the latest news from The Garden Island, Kauai’s local newspaper.

Sunset on the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
Sunset on the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

Where to stay in Kauai – In a nutshell

  • Best areas in Kauai: Kauai can be easily subdivided into 4 areas, one for each coastline: north, west, south and east. They are different, almost creating a micro cosmo. Read more info on each of the 4 areas below.
  • Where to stay in Kauai with a family: Hanalei works very well if you are looking for a relaxing stay surrounded by lush vegetation. Po’ipu is instead a more organized resort area located in the sunny south of Kauai, famous for beach time and sunbath. Read more below about a family stay in Kauai, including areas, hotels, restaurants and playgrounds
  • Best places to stay in Kauai for couples: Princeville may be the best location on the island if you are planning a secluded breakaway in a new age environment with a lovely beach to spend some time sunbathing. The other two options are Wailua/Lihue and Po’ipu for the great location and lovely landscape. Read more below for a trip with your partner, including more information for every single place (hotels, restaurants, etc)
  • Best places to stay in Kauai for your honeymoon: did you know that another name for Kauai is Honeymoon Island? For a few ultimate honeymoon resorts look no further than the Princeville area. The alternative, Po’ipu, with its great combination of amazing weather and awesome landscape and in this case, you should check out straight away the Grand Hyatt Kauai, famous for its honeymoon packages. Read more suggestions below in the honeymoon section of this guide.
  • Where to stay in Kauai on a budget: Kapa’a is a great base for the more adventurous and budget-oriented travellers, with plenty of activities around. Read more below on the area, including cheap options below the 100$ mark.
  • Why is called the Garden Island? Simply because you will feel like being in a natural botanical garden with one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. This comes however at a price, the frequent rain, especially in the centre of the island.
  • Best time of the year to visit Kauai: Every month, a local would say 🙂 In fact, the temperature does not change that much, however, the rainfalls increase between December and February. Read more below in the weather section.
  • Connection within the Hawaiian Islands: Kauai is very well connected with all the main Hawaiian Islands as Maui, Oahu and the Big Island with multiple daily flights at a very good price if booked well in advance. 
  • Must-do activities in Kuaui:
    • if you made it to Kuaui then you must book a local flight for a birds-eye view of the magnificent Garden Island. You can either take a Helicopter Tour or a Propeller Plane Tour. Both options are great although I personally prefer the helicopter for its flexibility.
    • for a local tour, you should join the Full-Day Tour with Fern Grotto River Cruise on the northern and eastern shores for the amazing vegetation.
    • the Napali Coast Sunset Sail is the best option for a special sunset with dinner in a spectacular golden light.
Best areas to stay in Kauai
Best areas to stay in Kauai

Where to stay in Kauai with a family 

Spending time in Kauai with your family is sure to be a true family bonding experience. Kauai has so many sights and activities to be enjoyed together as a family, how does one begin to organize their time? 

Well, here we go – starting from the northwest of the island and moving counter-clockwise, below we offer our insights on each area that caters to the perfect family experience.

Hanalei (relaxing in the lush north)

Just past a few single-lane bridges, with the majestic Hanalei Valley on your left, lies the family-friendly, kid loving, relaxing and inauspicious Hanalei.

There are many families that have holiday homes here, and the Hanalei Bay is not only one of the most relaxation producing sights and environments to experience, it also offers 2km of pure family beachcombing and surf.

The waves are perfect for beginner to intermediate surfing, and the seaside shops and restaurants provide an endless array of choice, taste, and Hawaiian culture.

For some great family activities, you’ll want to make sure to visit the Limahuli Garden, part of the National Botanical Garden, based on an ancient Hawaiian site that provides a beautiful array of native ecology, including watered terraces and native Polynesian gardens.

The Ka Ehu Kai Holiday Home is an amazing place to stay when travelling with the family, literally meters from the beach and with an amazing view from the patio area (see photos here).

Wi-Fi is included which is a great bonus.

Check availability at Ka Ehu Kai

Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay

Kapa’a (convenient, a great base to explore north and south)

On the east coast, in between the northern shores and the southern tip, is the towns of Kapa’a and Wailua. Although the shoreline scenery is not as dramatic as either the north or south, you can’t avoid spectacular scenery in any part of Kauai.

The scenic drives and hikes in the interior of Wailua, from the State Park to the forest reserves, offer some spectacular viewing and ambience.

Kapa’a offers several interior waterfalls (including some Jurassic Park film locations), as well as spectacular day hikes. The town itself offers the most with regard to shopping and provides all the conveniences of a small town where many of the locals live.

While you’re out strolling along the Kapa’a shops, you’ll want to indulge in the island’s best-shaved ice at the Hee Fat General Store (we have a soft spot for the lava flow flavor). 

For a family day at the park, Lydgate Beach Park just south of the mouth of the Wailua River is great for family gatherings and picnics. It’s on the shore and has a sheltered pond for the keiki (kids) to swim safely and to take dips with small children.

You might also want to book yourself on a riverboat trip up the Wailua River (Smith’s). This is a very scenic ride that ends at the Fern Grotto, a natural fern-filled amphitheater that is popular for photoshoots and weddings.

Also, while staying or visiting the east shore, be sure to have a drive out to the Kealia Beach, a walk along the shoreline trail, and you should also plan a drive out to the Kilauea Lighthouse.

This Oceanfront Resort may be all you need for your stay with your family. It’s a great place that can host up to 8 people in very large rooms and a fantastic value for money.

The view from the balcony (see photos here) is straight into the sea, perfect for the morning breakfast.

Check availability at Oceanfront

Kilauea Lighthouse
Kilauea Lighthouse

Po’ipu (organized resort in sunny south)

To the south of the island is Po’ipu which is an extremely family-friendly area.

In addition to catering to the sunny shores of the south, with plenty of sunlight dancing on the water, this area offers fully family-centered accommodation with a complete range of organized activities and equipment hire.

There is a full range of resorts and hotels, and you will find many families enjoying their Hawaiian holiday in this area.

Po’ipu Beach Park provides excellent beaching, swimming, and snorkeling for the complete family experience – a very popular beach for families.

For the kids afternoon eating delight at the Po’ipu Beach Park there is Da Crack with one very large, and very tasty burrito. If you find yourself at the Po’ipu shopping village head to Puka Dog for the best hot dogs on the island.

In the mood for pizza? The best family pizza joint would have to be the Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo, and to finish an evening’s family dining extravaganza head to Lappert’s for the chocolate gelato.

The Kiahuna Resort Premier Condo is within walking distance of the beach with a great swimming pool including a slider too (see photos here).

It’s a great value for money option for a 4 people family.

Check availability at Kiahuna

Poipu coast
Poipu rocky coast between the beautiful beaches

Best places to stay in Kauai for couples

You’ve picked the perfect location for the perfect bae-cay.

This island will most definitely help blossom the romance, particularly spending your time in either of these locations. These are all great places to stay in Kauai for couples, they differ in what you can do and experience around

Princeville (for a secluded stay)

This town has such an old-town original sense about it, with one of the best beaches on the island, and a wide mix of people including some long-time locals, itinerant surfers, some celebrity types, some new-age types, and plenty of everyday types.

You are just as likely to see both a Mercedes on your left, and a VW Beetle held together with string and tape on your right.

A perfect day on the beach is to be had on either Tunnels Beach – one of the best spots for beachcombing, snorkeling, and cuddling; and Hideaways Beach – an uncrowded beach just before the St. Regis in Princeville, with an almost hidden path heading down 100ft to the beach

Another great area is down to the far western end of the north side of the island, where Ke’e beach meets the ocean – a wonderful beach for swimming and snorkeling, and a wonderful area for taking in the exotica of the rainforest.

For the adventurous, above Ke’e beach is the start of the world-famous Kalalau Trail – over 10 miles of hills, switchbacks, and awesome cliffside scenery.

While on the north shore, you’ll want to book yourself into one of the Dinner Cruises for the sun-melting-in-water experience of the Na’Pali sunset.

The Cliffs Unit, as the name says, is famous for its stunning views off the cliffs (see photos here).

It’s a well-priced place with a lovely pool set in a very romantic and secluded location

Check availability at Cliffs

The farmer market in Princeville
The farmer market in Princeville

Wailua to Lihue (a practical base)

Kapaa is a fantastic place to locate for easy access to the eastern coast, and mid-way between the northern part of the island and the south coast. In Kapaa a couple can find plenty of excursions, stores to shop, restaurants to indulge, and bars to laugh the night away.

You might first try touring the inside of the island by taking excursions to Ho’opi’i Falls in Kapaa and Wailua Falls in Lihue.

For the hiking couples, there are plenty of choices including a hike to the Blue Hole and the Secret Tunnel to the North Shore, or ascending up the Sleeping Giant.

After a day of adventure, and relaxation on the beach, you’ll want to check into one of the varieties of restaurants.

We’d recommend trying Kintaro for sushi, Monico’s for Mexican, and Sam’s Ocean View for the view.

The Kauai Shores Hotel is one of the best value hotels on the island, especially considering it has a private beach too (see photos here)

And if you feel, in the morning you can have a complimentary yoga lesson.

Check availability at Kauai Shores

Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls

Po’ipu (the couple’s paradise)

Po’ipu is not only a great spot for families but it’s also a couple’s paradise, with all the activity types, group interaction, and isolation spots that a couple could want.

There are areas that cater more to families and other places better for couples.

It also has quicker access to the Waimea Canyon area for the more adventurous couples.

Koloa offers some fantastic ATV and 4WD tours through the interior, while Po’ipu offers beach and shoreline walks.

Try Maha’ulepu Beach and trail for one of the areas best beachcombing strolls

The Hideaway Cove is the perfect spot for a stay with your partner, very romantic and private.

Imagine yourself seating on the beautiful patio (see photos here) for the evening drinks with the nice cool breeze.

Check availability at Hideaway Cove

Best places to stay in Kauai for your honeymoon

Another name for the Garden Island of Kauai is – Honeymoon Island.

This island is one of the most superb locations a new-lei-wed couple could find themselves after their most momentous life event.

Two areas excel for the honeymooners looking for a special accommodation to remember forever

Rainbow in Princeville
Rainbow in Princeville

Princeville (for the ultimate honeymoon resort)

This area offers some of the most exquisite accommodations for those luxurious indulgences for the newly wedded. 

Some of the highest quality getaways, secluded spots, and exquisite dining can be found in Princeville.

The town of Princeville is the next town east of Hanalei, and offers a more luxury resort feel.

Some of the highest quality accommodations are found in Princeville, as well as some of the most spectacular sunsets – to be enjoyed in one of the most prestigious hotels.

In this area, you should check out the Club Wyndham Bali Hai Villas with its very spacious one-bedroom villas designed and furnished in tropical style (see photos here)

Check availability at Wyndham

Po’ipu (luxury location)

On the south end of the island, in the other luxury location, with a complete world of exotic beaches, ocean, and access to the magical interior of Waimea Canyon, Poipu is possibly one of the most sought-after locations for any honeymoon couple to find themselves.

The resorts, settings, lush areas for simply meandering, and distinct hideaway spots can keep two lovebirds in a world of their own for days, if not weeks, on end. 

One of the best locations to situate yourself is in the ultimate Kauai honeymoon resort, the Grand Hyatt Kauai

Such an amazing spot for that magic moment of life. And remember to have a night swim in the pool, magical.

Check availability at Grand Hyatt

Where to stay in Kauai on a budget 

Kapa’a (practical base)

The towns of Kapa’a and Wailua are where the young, adventurous, and budget-conscious will find the best overall situation and value for money.

This is also the town of the locals, so budget shopping for food and services is always within arm’s reach.

In addition to the grocery options for food, there are plenty of inexpensive local options for food. Be sure to try Tiki Tacos or the Saimin Dojo for some authentic Hawaiian noodles.

If your plan is to spend your time hiking the various trails on the south-west end Kauai and Waimea Canyon, you can also find some cheap places to stay in the Koke’e State Park, like the Koke’e Lodge or Camp Sloggett.

You’ll want to bring your food with you and enjoy making and enjoying your own meals in the surrounds of nature.

A good budget accommodation in the area is Plantation Hale Suites, close to the coast and with a good, although small, swimming pool.

Check price at Plantation Hale

Fresh fruit in Waimea town
Fresh fruit in Waimea town

Cheap places to stay in Kauai (under $100)

For the truly budget-conscious the best situation is to locate yourself in Kapaa, and stay in the beachfront Kauai Beach House Hostel.

Check price at Beach House

There are plenty of inexpensive food choices around town, and plenty of free activities – from hiking to beachcombing.

Be sure to indulge in the local poke (sushi Hawaiian style) – uniquely Hawaiian and utterly delicious.

Best areas to stay in Kauai

Kaua’i, like the other Hawaiian Islands, is relatively small, yet amazingly beautiful. It consists of 115 miles of shoreline, half of which are sand beaches.

Typically, people locate themselves in one area and take day trips to other areas for particular sites or activities.

However, if your plan is for a longer stay, you may want to consider dividing your stay across multiple locations.

Regarding the weather, there is a local saying – “Kauai doesn’t have the best weather, but the best weather is on Kauai”.

Throughout the year, the temperature keeps between 21C (70F) and 29C (84F), while ocean temperatures keep between 23C (73F) and 27C (80F). More info Official Kauai Weather Website.

As well, the vast majority of rainfall keeps to the interior of the island. As a result, throughout the year you are generally basking in beautiful sunshine with perfect temperatures.

More weather information is available at the end of this post.

Here is a map of Kauai showing the best areas to stay.

Best areas to stay in Kauai
Best areas to stay in Kauai

North Coast (for nature and adventure)

The north of the island generally refers to everything north of Kapa’a, which is on the eastern shore.

It’s somewhat tricky to give a proper perspective of the north coast in words because it is rather mesmerizing in person. From the breathtaking beaches and coast to the surreal landscapes in the interior, one can find themselves simply stumbling along in awe. Well, at least we found ourselves in this state quite often.

Our personal favourite beach is along Hanalei Bay. But then there’s also Ke’e and Hideaways, which are our favorite beaches for snorkeling. There are also the quiet and more secluded beaches along the way – for example, Waiakalua beach.

With over 20 fantastic beaches to explore on the North coast alone, you are sure to find more than one magical spot that suits you perfectly.

Then there is the glorious, lush, and brilliant green flora. The vegetation shouts out every possible shade of green – and some seemingly impossible shades – all the way from the flat plains up through the majestic mountains.

Isolated beach in the wild Na Pali Coast

And oh, those mountains!  After a rainfall, good luck counting the number of truly supreme waterfalls etched into the mountainsides.

It can all become a bit overwhelming. No worries, there is plenty here to leisurely explore without ever leaving the north coast.

The biggest challenge can be finding time to sleep. This is definitely the area to stay if you are after a trip full of adventures.

East Coast (handy but busy part of the island)

When you fly into Kauai you will be landing at the airport in Lihue. This is the best area to do any additional shopping for beach items (snorkels, boogie boards, sand buckets), or any travel items you realized you forgot to pack.

There is a large shopping center as well as a Walmart in town.

The majority of the local population resides on the eastern shore, while the town of Lihue is where a large portion of locals reside.

The best part of the east coast is its central location, very handy, allowing for day trips to the north, south, and even out to the west.

You’ll want to make sure you miss the two peak traffic times (morning rush 8-9am, and evening rush 5-6pm), Particularly from the north side of Kapa’a (the largest city in Kauai) to the south side of Lihue, which can easily add an extra 30 minutes or more to your drive time.

Lihue beach
Lihue beach

While in Lihue to do your shopping, be sure to check into the Kukui Grove Shopping Center along Kaumualii Highway (Hwy 50), which is the largest shopping mall on the island. There is also the Harbor Mall and Anchor Cove Shopping Center, both on Rice Street.

From Lihue up through Wailua and Kapa’a there are plenty of parks, beaches, and restaurants to delight all interests. Some of our key suggestions are listed below in the places to stay sections.

South Coast (the sunny coast)

The south coast is where you’ll regularly find the sun dancing together with the sand & water. With notably less rain, the south tends to have better weather throughout the year. Depending on your style, you may find yourself preferring the sunny south over the lush north.

But remember, in Kauai, you can have it all.

The south shore is a bit more resort-oriented, with big hotels and condos spread throughout. It’s very luxurious in many regards and has the feel of a luxury getaway.

There are some great beaches in the south – most notably Ha’ula Beach for a nice secluded getaway, and Kawailoa Bay for a wanderlust beachcomb.

A beautiful sunset on Popu Beach Park
A beautiful sunset on Poipu Beach Park

You’ll also find the spectacular National Tropical Botanical Garden on the south coast, with over 300 acres of incredible flora both large and small.

And be sure to have a gander at the Spouting Horn Beach Park where waves do an amazing dance up through a blowhole, along with the alluring baritone belch of the other barren blowhole. A site not to be missed.

If you find yourself cruising southwest along Hwy 50, it’s well worth a stop at the Hanapepe Valley Lookout, an extremely expansive vista that can melt your insides into a reverent peaceful calm.

West Coast (plan your excursions but no stay)

Although there are a few small towns driving out west along the southern border, these are places for a potential visit rather than areas to stay.

What the west coast does have are not-of-this-world spectacular sights and hiking treks.

Of particular note are some of the areas where scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed – including Hanapepe Valley (the opening helicopter scene), and Olokele Valley.

There is also the legendary Waimea Canyon, which itself simply defies description.

This canyon provides a multitude of viewing vistas, along with a slew of hikes where one can get lost in a world of blissful scenery through a wide selection of short and long hikes, with a variety to suit all fitness types.

On the far western end of Kauai is the Na’ Pali coast, forest reserves, and Koke’e State Park.

Na Pali National Park coastline
Na Pali National Park coastline

There is one road that meanders through the Waimea Canyon State Park and out to the Koke’e State Park, with a variety of viewing vistas and walking trails along the way.

Whereas the lush north, sunshine south, and Waimea Canyon provide not to be missed settings, scenery, and hikes, the Na’ Pali coast seems to exude images from another planet, which brings the planet Utopia to mind.

Although the west end of the island doesn’t provide accommodation, scenic drives, hikes, and especially helicopter trips are without question a must-do while staying on the garden island.

More About The Weather

It’s called the Garden Island for several reasons, including the fact that it receives the most rain of any of the Hawaii islands. Technically, the middle of the island is the rainiest spot on earth.

Having said that, most of the rain is in the [relatively inaccessible] center interior rather than the coast, it mostly falls at night, and most daytime rainfalls are brief – sometimes only 10 minutes – once or maybe a few times in a day, and typically followed by brilliant sunshine.

The average yearly temperature ranges between 21C (70F) and 29C (84F).  Ocean temperatures are also in the perfect zone, ranging from 23C (73F) to 27C (80F) year-round.

The seasonal differences range mostly with regard to rainfall, with the most rain occurring between December and February.

The north coast tends to have almost twice as much annual rainfall (86 inches per year) as does the south coast (36 inches per year).

However, both the north and south of the island are mostly covered in sunshine most of the year.

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Photo credits on a few photos in this post

This post was written with the great help of our local expert, Charlie Rice

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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