Nicknamed the Garden Island, Kauai is the fourth largest island in Hawaii. Over 97% of the island is undeveloped rainforest or inaccessible mountain ranges, as the area is protected from development.
First-time travelers should stay in Poipu, and for those on a budget, Lihue is recommended. If you are seeking nightlife, Hanalei is the area to be. Kilauea is the best place to stay when traveling with your family, and Princeville is perfect for those wanting a more luxurious stay.
After reading about all the beautiful and exciting things Kauai offers, you just might end up booking your flight there! Please don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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The Best Areas in Kauai
Kauai makes up less than 14% of Hawaii, with an area of only 562.3 square miles. Although it is a small island, there are many different areas you can stay in – all equally beautiful.
You can stay right on the beach, in the mountains, or even in a gigantic rainforest. No matter your decision, you will be surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife.
Poipu, South Shore
This charming area is a bit quieter than other areas on the south shore of Kauai, but it is known to have one of the best coastlines in the country. Poipu has a relaxing atmosphere, and the beach and natural attractions are easily accessible.
If you want to be near beautiful beaches while keeping away from the crowds, then this is your area. There are various water activities in Poipu, such as sailing, paddle-boarding, and snorkeling. The central beach has a lifeguard, showers, park, and picnic area.
You will also find many affordable bed and breakfasts in this town and an assortment of shops and restaurants.
Poipu is the most recommended place to stay for first-time travelers looking for a relaxing holiday.
Here are a few top-rated places to stay in Poipu:
This corner condo by the sea is in a quiet area surrounded by locals and beautiful vies. It’s perfect for families or couples, has a fully equipped kitchen, private washer & dryer, and two fully-furnished patios. It also features a shared pool with ocean view, tennis and pickleball courts, and more.
This homey vacation rental has pretty much all you’ll need for a relaxing vacation to Kauai.
This centrally located hotel is in the mid-price range and is perfect if you are visiting Kauai on a budget.
Amenities include a pool and bar, sauna, and BBQ area. The hotel also offers massage and babysitting services, and there is a restaurant on-site.
Best Luxury Hotel
This lavish hotel occupies a beachfront location and has 5-star facilities. This includes a beauty center, tennis court, fitness center, infinity pool, and indoor pool. You could easily spend your entire day at the resort!
Grand Hyatt Kauai also has a poolside bar and restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious meal and cocktail.
The rooms are spacious and airy, and each has a private balcony with the most spectacular views.
You must take a trip to the spa to decompress during your stay – you will feel completely rejuvenated afterward.
Lihue, East Coast
This is the second largest town in Kauai and is perfect for those on a tighter budget.
Lihue is a quiet area and less touristic – perfect for those wanting to immerse themselves in the local culture. Sugar planters founded it, and it remains a simple and easy-going place where residents go about their everyday lives.
The town still has access to the beach and a selection of shops and restaurants, although not as picturesque as other areas in Kauai. Kalapaki Beach, one of the island’s most stunning beaches, is only about a mile from the center of the town.
Visitors can head to the Kauai Museum to inspect the collection of historic artifacts and ancient tools. Another great site is Grove Farm, a sugar plantation covering 100 acres. Also, Wailua River and Wailua Falls are perfect for exploring on a hot and sunny day.
So, in summary, this town has everything you need for a fun-filled getaway.
Below are some highly recommended accommodations in Lihue:
This spacious condo has all the amenities and facilities to make you feel at home. The kitchen is fully equipped and has a very comfortable living area.
When looking out the windows, you will be in awe of the beautiful ocean views. It is a great budget stay and is suitable for families.
The cost per night is extremely reasonable when looking at all that the hotel offers. It has comfortable rooms with all the necessities, and a lush garden and beautiful views.
Another bonus is its proximity to some local attractions (such as the Menehune Fishpond).
Best Luxury Hotel
Kaua’i Marriott Resort has a 5-star rating, and rightly so. It overlooks Kalapaki Beach and is close to many other attractions and restaurants, and has all the resources you might need during your stay.
You will find tennis courts, an outdoor pool (heated), a rooftop terrace, water slides, a gym, and golf. The hotel also offers childcare services, and they host a variety of activities to keep you busy throughout your visit.
The resort has six different restaurants and, of course, a bar.
Rooms either look out towards the ocean or garden, and they have been designed to maximize the view – you can take your pick based on your preference.
Hanalei, North Shore
Hanalei was historically used for farming breadfruit, yams, and taro. Even now, a large portion of the land outside of the town is covered in acres of crops.
This area is popular among tourists and attracts all types of people, from families to surfers to solo travelers. Hanalei is probably the most diverse area in Kauai – it has the perfect mixture of nature, culture, and nightlife.
If you end up in Hanalei, you must stop at Hanalei Bay! It has almost two miles of beach, is surrounded by mountains, and is a great spot for swimming, paddling, and sailing.
There are many restaurants and bars to keep you entertained until the early hours of the morning. You can also visit historic sites, local art galleries, and unique shops.
Hanalei offers a wide range of accommodation options (hotels, hostels, cottages), so there is something for everyone.
The lodging, dining, and shopping in Hanalei are very laid back and easy-going (typical surfer style). For surfers, the waves in this area are large, especially during the winter months.
The best Airbnb, hotel, and private homes in Hanalei are listed below:
This cottage is in a prime location, is sparkling clean, and very reasonably priced. Although it is small (but cozy), it has everything you might need during your stay.
A bonus is that it is only a block away from the beach!
You will have the entire place to yourself (kitchen included) and can spend the evening watching the sunset on the veranda.
This beachfront haven is perfect for families, couples, or even groups of friends. It has been designed in a classic Hawaiian style with wooden furniture and jungle surroundings.
This resort aspires to provide a relaxing escape from stress and allows you to reconnect with your loved ones.
Amenities include a newly renovated pool and deck, day spa, lending library, and a five-acre garden with a beautiful koi pond and other water features.
Best Private Home
This large, 3-bedroom home features a wrap-around terrace that gives you a view of the ocean and the mountains. It has a BBQ grill, fully equipped kitchen, hot tub, and more.
The interior decorations are enough to make you fall in love with the place!
You will find plenty of games in the house, the most popular being a foosball table and a ping pong table. If you are a family traveling with your kids, they will be easily entertained for hours.
The home is across the road from Hanalei Bay, allowing you to indulge in ocean adventures or relax and enjoy the mountain views.
Princeville, North Shore
This small town is adjacent to Hanalei and has a pleasingly elegant aesthetic.
Princeville is the best place for those seeking a more upscale experience in a quiet area close to all the action. The coastline is packed with top-rated restaurants, luxurious beach resorts, and beautiful nature.
The area is close to several popular beaches, including Pu’u Poa Beach and Hideaway Beach. Be cautious during winter months as the currents can be strong, and there are not always lifeguards on duty.
Princeville Bar at the Princeville Resort is the best location to watch the sunset. Arrive early to find a table as it is a very popular spot.
Other activities in Princeville that might interest you include shopping, tennis, biking, hiking, whale watching, kayaking, and helicopter tours. Princeville Ranch Adventures is a great tour company that offers horse riding, ziplining, and many other activities.
Princeville’s best accommodations are listed below:
This newly renovated Airbnb is located in the best neighborhood, is close to the beach, and is suitable for two guests. It offers complete privacy and has a kitchenette, veranda, and BBQ area.
The Cliffs are in a prime location and have everything from a hot tub, sauna, pool, spa, babysitting services, and a library. It has a luxurious feel but at an affordable price.
Each room is beautifully decorated and has all the essential amenities. There is also a large garden to explore.
Best Luxury Hotel
This resort is picture-perfect. It has magical views of the Hawaiian landscape, stunning gardens, and luxurious facilities.
Hanalei Bay Resort is suitable for couples or families, as there is a choice of either a one or two-bedroom suite.
Kilauea, North Shore
Kilauea is a quaint but beautiful town that has the most unparalleled scenery. There are many tranquil waterfalls, striking mountain ranges, and flourishing tropical rainforests.
This town is a haven for families because of the array of family and child-friendly activities. You can partake in various outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, and biking and visit numerous historic and cultural attractions.
This area is home to the Kilauea Lighthouse, one of the most popular attractions in Kauai.
You should do the Wai Koa Loop Trail through what used to be a large guava plantation. After the walk, you can end the day with a round of minigolf at the nearby Kauai Miniature Golf and Botanical Garden.
Additionally, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to eating out, as there are many restaurants and cafes in the area. Another bonus is if you are traveling with your family.
The town itself has a special charm, with rustic stone houses and plenty of tropical fruit stands. The locals are humble and ethnically diverse and are happy to welcome visitors.
Kilauea has a mix of budget and luxury accommodations, so there is something to suit everyone.
Here are a few top-rated places to stay in Kilauea:
This small, one-bedroom cottage is separated from the main house and has big windows and shutters. It has been designed to provide complete privacy from the main house and is surrounded by abundant farmland (and a vegetable garden).
If you would like a complimentary basket of seasonal farm produce, you can notify the owners upon checking in.
The interior has a simple yet tasteful island style, and it has a kitchenette. You will also find many movies, books, magazines, puzzles, and board games.
Hale Lani was built with coral stone (indigenous to Kauai) and is surrounded by sprawling tropical plants and a perfectly manicured lawn.
The house is on the top of a hill and has a patio overlooking the ocean; a great spot to admire the sunset.
Outdoor amenities include a BBQ, outdoor shower, hot tub, and beach chairs.
Best Luxury Accommodation
If you are visiting Kauai in a large group and are looking for a modern and comfortable private home, this is the place for you. This house accommodates up to 10 guests in 4 bedrooms and is only a few minutes’ walk from the beach.
The house has large windows and sliding doors, providing a view of the green, luscious garden and view towards the sea.
You will not be disappointed!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I stay in Lihue or Poipu?
If traveling during the winter months, Poipu would be the better option as Lihue receives more rain during that time of the year.
Which side has nicer beaches?
Usually, the north shore gets more rain because of the trade winds and mountains. The south side has more sunny, warm, and still weather, perfect for the beach.
What month is the best to visit Kauai?
You should visit Kauai between April and June or September and November. The weather is still sunny and warm during this time, but the flight prices and hotel rates are usually lower than during peak season.
How many days should I spend in Kauai?
7 to 10 days will be enough time to explore the island, take a few day trips, go on a couple of tours, relax at the beach and soak up the sun.
Although a small island, Kauai has much to offer regarding finding a place to stay, attractions to visit, and restaurants to eat and drink at.
A family traveling with kids might choose to stay in Kilauea, where there are plenty of families and child-friendly activities and a wide variety of restaurants, while a couple on a budget might choose Lihue for its cheaper accommodations and local culture.
The island is very diverse, and each area has something unique to offer.
Mahalo for reading our post. Until next time, Aloha!