Kauai, defined by its luscious scenery, secluded beaches and laid-back persona, is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. Also referred to as the “Garden Island”, Kauai is home to picturesque landscapes, oxygen-rich air and pure serenity. 

Although only 40 kilometers long and 53 kilometers wide, Kauai contains a large variety of must-see sites and attractions. With so many things to do on Kauai, as well as so much to see, it can be tough deciding where to stay. 

In this article, we will help you find the best places to stay on Kauai. 

Whether you’re a couple visiting on your honeymoon, or a family visiting on vacation, we guarantee you’ll have an unforgettable stay!

Kauai scenic view from hiking trail

Best Places to Stay in Kauai 

When deciding on the best area to stay in Kauai, it’s best to separate the island by region. Looking at a map of Kauai, the island has four major geographic areas. From (roughly) the most to least popular, the areas are listed as follows; 

  • The South Shore (Poipu, Koloa and Lawai)
  • The North Shore (Hanalei, Princeville and Kilauea)
  • The East Coast (Kapaa, Wailua and Lihue)
  • The West Side (Waimea and Hanapepe)

Each of these areas offers its own unique vibe and atmosphere, as well as a remarkable variety of landscapes, sites and attractions. 

The best area to stay on Kauai will depend on a variety of things including the type of accommodation you wish to stay in, scenery you want to be surrounded by, activities you want to do, and your budget. 

To help you make an informed decision regarding where to stay on Kauai, we will detail each of the regions mentioned above. 

aerial view of kauai island

The South Shore 

The South Shore is Kauai’s most popular tourist area. This side of the island is known to have drier weather conditions and calmer oceans which are better suited for swimming. 

The biggest attraction on the south shore of Kauai is the Poipu resort. There are a number of popular Kauai accommodation options in the Poipu area including hotels and condos. Found in the Poipu area are several beautiful beaches, perfect for a day of fun and relaxation! Poipu also houses some lovely ocean-side restaurants offering some of the best Pacific Rim cuisine. 

Just north of Poipu is Old Koloa Town, a historic and charming town rooted in its plantation past that now hosts several tourist shops. Take a stroll past these old-fashioned storefronts; you’re bound to find something special! 

Other towns on the south shore include Lawai, Kalaheo and Omao. The south shore of Kauai, with its picturesque beaches, resorts and an abundance of sights and activities, is a place that you’re almost guaranteed to fall in love with! 

The North Shore

The north shore of Kauai, comprising Princeville, Hanalei and Kilauea, boasts a variety of beautiful beaches and wildly verdant landscapes. This area of Kauai is one of the most scenic places on earth with its lush green mountains rising as a backdrop to the island’s coastline. 

The abundance of lush greenery on this side of the island can be attributed to higher levels of rainfall, particular during the winter months (November to March). 

Situated along the north shore of Kauai is Princeville, where many of the island’s luxury accommodations are located. Next to Princeville is the cool town of Hanalei. Hanalei is a small surfing town, and is known for its small, trendy restaurants and bustling shops. 

It is worth mentioning that accommodation on the north shore is more limited and expensive than other parts of the island. Additionally, it is more secluded and is further away from Kauai’s many sights and attractions.

lake in Hanalei north shore kauai

Considered an outdoor lovers’ paradise, we highly recommend the north shore for couples who are looking for a secluded and romantic getaway! 

The East Coast 

Kauai’s east coast is Known as the Coconut Coast for the groves of coconut trees that grow in its resort areas. Beyond the many coconut trees, you can expect to find a number of beautiful beaches and memorable attractions! 

The east coast of Kauai is the most populated and developed part of the island and is also where you will find the most affordable accommodation. Moreover, the east coast is a centralized location and serves as a great base for those who wish to explore all sides of the island. 

Here you’ll find the towns of Wailua and Kapaa, the tourist epicenters of the east coast, as well as Kauai’s capital, Lihue. The area offers a variety of shopping centers, trendy restaurants and lovely but more “local” beaches. 

coconut trees in kauai Hawaii

The east coast is the best place to stay in Kauai if you are looking to explore the island or simply want an affordable and central accommodation. Among the many adventures offered, we recommend kayaking along the Wailua River. 

The West Side 

The more remote and less developed west side of Kauai is a great location for those hoping to spend a lot of time outdoors. With its many trails and spectacular scenic views, the west side is the perfect spot for keen hikers and campers. 

Here you’ll find two of Kauai’s most popular outdoor attractions – the breathtaking Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park. The Waimea Canyon is truly something to behold with its deep valleys dipping 3600 feet into the earth. If you love the outdoors, you may enjoy camping or staying in a rustic cabin among the native plants and wildlife found in Kokee State Park. 

Additionally, the west side is home to the small towns of Waimea and Hanapepe. These funky towns are most certainly worth exploring with their lovely local restaurants and shops. 

It is important to note that this region of the island is not in close proximity to the rest of the island. As such, it is not the most ideal place to stay if you were hoping to explore the rest of Kauai. Most people visiting Kauai opt for a day trip to the west side as opposed to staying here.

Waimea Canyon west side Kauai

Best Place to Stay in Kauai – Final Thoughts 

When searching for the best places to stay on Kauai, it is best to map out what’s most important to you. Some things to consider when planning include the type of accommodation you wish to stay in, your proximity to the island’s main attractions and your budget. 

With so many things to do in Kauai, you’ll also want to consider what activities you would like to do. 

Regardless of where you stay on the beautiful island of Kauai, you are bound to have a memorable experience. So double-check your Hawaii packing list to make sure you’ve packed everything you need and head on over to your perfect island getaway!

Kauai beach ocean shore