If you’re planning a vacation to Kauai then you’re one lucky dog! It’s one of my favorite Hawaiian islands and probably the prettiest one at that. If you’re very far into the planning process, you’ve probably realized that picking the right place to stay is likely the trickiest (and most important) things you’ll have to do. Where you stay on Kauai can make or break your vacation and there are soooo many options that it can be overwhelming. Not to worry! I’m going to break it down for you, give you an overview of the island and make some specific recommendations for every kind of budget and wish list. Here’s everything you need to know about where to stay in Kauai:
Lay of the Land: Kauai is divided into four major sections (North Shore, East Shore, South Shore, and West Shore). Each section has its pros and cons and own individual personality. Depending on what you’re looking for and what’s most important to you (budget, convenience, stellar views, beautiful beaches, luxury resorts, etc.) one area of the island may be more desirable. Here’s a breakdown of Kauai’s four main areas:
North Shore: In my opinion, the north shore of Kauai is the most gorgeous place on the planet. It has beautiful beaches and the lush green mountainous landscapes that most people’s Hawaiian dreams are made of. As you might guess, it’s so lush because it rains more here than other parts of the island (especially in the winter). The north shore is home to the charming little surf town of Hanalei and some pretty spectacular luxury accommodations. While it’s stunningly gorgeous, it’s also a bit remote if you’re planning on exploring sites on the south and west sides of the island.
East Shore: The east shore is often referred to as the “coconut coast” and is the most developed part of the island. This is where you’ll find the most reasonably priced accommodations and it central location makes it a convenient location from which to explore the north and south shores. There are of course lovely beaches on the coconut coast (hello, this is Hawaii!) but you won’t find any awe inspiring backdrops as you will on the north shore and the amenities are usually not as convenient as those on the south shore. You’ll find more “local” beaches on the east side.
South Shore: Kauai’s south side is the driest and sunniest part of the island, which makes it very popular with tourists. There are plenty of big resorts so you’ll find plenty of shopping and dining options. You’ll also find a nice selection of beaches but expect them to be more crowded than beaches on other parts of the island. The south side is a convenient place from which to explore the west side (Waimea Canyon and Polihole beach) but not so convenient for seeing north shore sites.
West Shore: The west shore is definitely the least visited part of Kauai (except for visitors to Waimea Canyon) and not very many people stay here. It’s very barren, dry, and isolated, and not convenient to seeing the rest of the island. Really the only people who are going to be staying over here are hikers and backpackers.
So now that you’ve got the lay of the land, here are a few pointers on how to decide which part of the island is going to be best for you.
Stay on the north shore if…
- You want beautiful beaches with gorgeous backdrops.
- You want luxury accommodations.
- You’re a golfer.
Stay on the east shore if…
- Budget is the deciding factor.
- You want a convenient home base from which to explore the island.
Stay on the south shore if…
- You want sunny and dry weather.
- You like a resort feel.
- You want a lot of dining options.
Stay on the west shore if…
- You’re planning to do hikes on that part of the island.
- You want to spend a lot of time at Polihale beach.
So now that you’ve nailed down which part of the island you want to be on, here are some of my specific recommendations for each area.
The crown jewel of the north shore is the St. Regis Princeville. If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience on Kauai, you’ll find it here. Even if you can’t swing it for your whole trip, I would highly recommend at least spending a night or two here. The pool and beach area offer some of the best views on the north shore. The nearby Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas are also lovely and offer access to the beach at the St. Regis.
Two other options for north shore resorts are the Hanalei Colony Resort and Hanalei Bay Resort. If you’re looking for a place with more of a B&B or small inn feel, check out the Hanalei Surfboard House or the Makai Club. I think The Palmwood in Kilauea looks particularly awesome.
For more condos and vacation rental options on the north shore, I recommend doing a quick search here to see what your options are. You can narrow your results based on budget, specific location, and number of bedrooms.
Not sure where to begin with putting together an itinerary for your trip? It’s a big task! I mean, how much can you really do in one vacation? And how do you plan things so you’re not backtracking all over the island trying to fit everything in? I’m letting you in on ALL of my itinerary planning secrets in. Sign up below to grab my FREE 7-page Hawaii itinerary planning guide that will lead you through planning the perfect Hawaii itinerary. Click the graphic below to sign up!
Photo Via Flikr. Creative Commons.
The options on the east shore are literally endless. For beachfront resorts in Lihue, I like the Garden Island Inn, Kauai Marriot Resort, and Kauai Beach Resort. In Kapa’a try Waipouli Beach Resort, Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy, the Courtyard Kauai, or the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay.
Photo Via Flikr. Creative Commons.
The most popular place to stay on the south shore is on Poipu beach. The Grand Hyatt Kauai is the flagship place to stay on the south shore and it’s perfect for families or anyone wanting a “big resort” experience.” For a more upscale experience a little more in line with a luxury resort, try the Koa Kea Hotel and Resort nearby. The Marriot’s Waiohai Beach Club, Sheraton Kauai Resort, and the Villas at Poipu Kai are also good options in the area.
There aren’t a lot of options on the west shore, but if this area is attractive to you, check out the Waimea Plantation Cottages.
P.S. This post contains some affiliate links, but don’t worry; I’ll only send you to the very best places!
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