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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.
Side note: After you read up on the lay of the is(land) and know which part you want to stay on, check out these posts for MORE specific recommendations:
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:
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.
Stay on the north shore if…
- You want beautiful beaches with gorgeous backdrops.
- You want luxury accommodations.
- You’re a golfer.
My favorite properties on the north shore:
Princeville Resort: If you’re honeymooning on Kauai during the summer months (roughly April to October) there’s no place better than the Princeville Resort. It’s located on Kauai’s stunning north shore which is without a doubt the prettiest part of the island (although it rains a LOT in the winter months). The pool here boasts the BEST view of any resort in Hawaii hands down, and the luxe vibe is perfect for a honeymoon. Pricing starts at $405/night. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Hanalei Colony Resort: If you really want to get away from it all, this beachfront hideaway on Kauai’s lush north shore is the place to do it. You won’t find televisions or phones here but you will find plenty of natural beauty. Click here to check rates and availability during your stay.
Hanalei Bay Resort: This fabulous resort tucked away on Kauai’s secluded north shore, has a fabulous pool area, gorgeous beach, and even tennis facilities. It’s also a popular spot for destination weddings. Click here to check rates and availability during your stay.
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.
Stay on the east shore if…
- Budget is the deciding factor.
- You want a convenient home base from which to explore the island.
My favorite properties on the east side:
Kauai Marriott Resort: I think the Kauai Marriott Resort is the best “bang for your buck” beach resort on the island. It has one of the largest pools in Hawaii, a golf course nearby, and a full service spa. Starting at $215/night, the Kauai Marriott Resort is definitely a bargain. Click here to check rates and availability during your stay.
Kauai Shores: I stayed at Kauai Shores on my last trip to Kauai and I LOVED it! It’s easy on the budget but the rooms and common spaces are bright and airy, the onsite restaurant is amazing, and it’s right on the beach! It’s location on the east side of the island makes it perfectly situated for exploring both the north and the south shores. Pricing starts at $109/night. Click here to check pricing and availability during your dates.
Courtyard Kauai at Coconut Beach: Located right on the beach on the east side of Kauai, the Courtyard Kauai is a good option for families who need more space to spread out. There are a variety of suites available. The pool area and grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained and there’s a game room for families to enjoy together. Pricing starts at $230/night. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
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.
Stay on the south shore if…
- You want sunny and dry weather.
- You like a resort feel.
- You want a lot of dining options.
My favorite properties on the south shore:
Grand Hyatt Kauai: 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. Click here to check rates and availability during your stay.
Ko’a Kea Hotel and Resort: Ko’a Kea is located on Kauai’s best beach (in my opinion) in sunny Poipu. If you’re visiting Kauai during the winter months, this is probably the best place on the island to stay. It’s luxurious and swanky and it’s well situated for day trips to Waimea Canyon and the north shore. You’re also likely to see turtle and Hawaiian monk seals basking in the sun just steps from the resort. Pricing starts at $449/night. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Sheraton Kauai Resort: Located on what I think is the best beach on Kauai (Poipu beach) where finding turtles or Hawaiian monk seals sunning themselves in the sand is a common sight, you can’t go wrong with staying at the Sheraton. The pool is just steps form the sand and there are cabanas available for rent if you want a break from the sun. The resort also has a daily activity schedule with things like lei making, hula and ukulele lessons, island crafts, and water sport demos. Pricing starts at $230/night. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
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 and people wanting to get away from it all.
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.
RELATED: 15 Things to Do on Kauai
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My 2 Cents about Kauai
If you’re going in the summer (April to October), definitely stay on the north shore. Stay at the Princeville Resort if at all possible. It’s got the loveliest location of any resort in Hawaii. If you can’t swing the Princeville Resort, there are plenty of condos in Princeville. Summer months will still get rain, but not as much in the winter and it’s worth it to stay on the prettiest side of the island.
If you’re going in the winter (November to March), stay in sunny Poipu on the south side. There are a bunch of great beach resorts as well as plenty of condos.
No matter what time of year you’re visiting, if budget is a priority and/or you’ll be spending most of your trip out exploring every day (not as much time lounging on the beach where you’re staying), then pick a spot on the east side. There are several really cute budget hotels that have great amenities.
And don’t forget to check out these posts for specific recommendations on where to stay on Kauai: Kauai budget hotels, 12 Kauai beach resorts, Kauai condos under $100/night, most family friendly resorts on Kauai, and 5 best Kauai honeymoon resorts.
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