Wondering about where to stay in Kauai Hawaii on your vacation? I got you covered! In this post, I will talk about the best hotels and homes for rent on the beautiful island of Kauai!
If you’re planning on spending any amount of time in Kauai, you might be wondering where to stay in Kauai. Each side of the Garden Isle has something different to offer.
Truly a stunning island, Kauai has gorgeous vistas, crystal clear ocean waters perfect for playing in, white sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, epic hikes, and so much more!
Whether you’re interested in a sunny beach vacation or want to hike the Na Pali Coast and immerse yourself in nature, you have options. This quiet island is a delight to visit and experience.
If your trip is long enough, it’s worth staying in different spots in Kauai to get the whole experience.
Check out the 15 best accommodations for 2023 in the top areas on this inclusive list below.
Where to stay in Kauai Hawaii: Top Picks
Where you stay in Kauai will influence what kind of trip you’re going to have. Are you beaching it up? Exploring every nook and cranny on the island?
These are the top picks of where to stay while in Kauai— no matter what kind of vacation you want, there’s something for you on this list.
🥇 Where to stay in Kauai for the first time: Sheraton Kauai Resort
🥇 Where to stay in Kauai without a car: Kauai Beach Resort & Spa
🥇 Where to stay in Kauai for hiking: The Cliffs at Princeville
Kauai Hawaii Map
Here’s a map of Kauai so you can get a lay of the land and see where things are in relation to each other. As you can see, it’s a small island!
Where to stay in North Shore Kauai (Princeville & Hanalei)
The North Shore of Kauai is perfect for nature lovers and people who enjoy fantastic views.
The two main places to stay on the North Shore are Hanalei and Princeville.
Hanalei is a small surf town with an iconic pier, a laid-back vibe, and amazing beaches. While I haven’t been, many of my friends have said it was a highlight of their trips.
The Hanalei Pier is an iconic photo spot and a great place to watch the sunset.
Princeville is the North Shore’s resort town. Princeville has a lot to offer, with many condos, hotels, and breathtaking ocean and mountain views.
Princeville is also only an hour’s drive away from Lihue and a great place to stay if you want to explore the Na Pali Coastline.
If you’re interested in luxury accommodation and all the bells and whistles, then Princeville is where you’ll want to stay!
👉🏽 Why should you stay in North Shore Kauai?
The North Shore of Kauai is stunning. With lush jungles, dramatic mountainscapes, waterfalls, and a quiet atmosphere, it’s a perfect location for anyone wanting privacy and a nature-filled escape.
Whether you stay on the North Shore or not, you’ll definitely be spending some time there!
There’s lots to do in the area. You’ll want to check out the Kilauea Lighthouse. Located at the end of an easy mile-long hike, you’ll get panoramic views in addition to visiting a historic and picturesque lighthouse.
Tunnels Beach is another highlight that you should add to the itinerary. This picturesque, crescent-shaped bay is perfect for soaking in the sunshine.
It’s also a go-to spot for snorkeling and diving due to the crystal-clear water and inner and outer reefs. While there, you’ll definitely see lots of fish and coral.
Fun Fact: It’s the location where the famous surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her arm in a shark attack! Don’t worry— there’s a very low rate of shark attacks at Tunnels Beach.
There’s a wide variety of both wet and dry caves to explore on the North Shore, and these free geographical features are a sight to behold.
The Maniniholo cave is a dry cave that goes for approximately 150 feet! The ceiling drops as you proceed to the end, and it’s pretty dark, so bring a strong flashlight while you explore.
👎🏼 Disadvantages of staying in the North Shore
The North Shore is lush and green because it gets a lot of rain! Suppose you’re primarily interested in visiting Hawaii for the hot sun.
In that case, you may want to avoid staying on the North Shore as you’ll definitely experience rain.
Don’t worry, it won’t rain the whole time you’re there. Plus, you can typically drive a mile or two up the road and find some sunshine to enjoy.
During the winter time, the ocean gets pretty rough. However, this may not be a drawback as the big waves can be impressive to watch.
The mountainous terrain on the North Shore also means few beachfront properties (although the 1 Hotel Hanalei does offer direct beach access).
👍🏼 Best places to stay in North Shore Kauai
For the best places to stay amidst the dramatic cliffs, look no further than this short list of the best places to stay in North Shore Kauai!
This Cliff’s at Princeville resort offers spacious suites with private balconies, panoramic garden views, and full kitchens in each suite.
Some of the rooms even offer fantastic ocean views— make sure you select that option when booking.
What really makes this resort a great place to stay is the location and the property’s amenities!
Only a 10-minute drive from gorgeous beaches and the golf course and 48 minutes from the airport, you’ll be close to many outdoor activities.
Plus, the property offers 2 swimming pools and hot tubs, tennis courts, basketball, pickle ball, and shuffle ball courts.
Check out the concierge service to get the best recommendations for your time! You can also rent out bikes from the hotel before exploring the surrounding area.
The charming Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villa is the perfect hotel to enjoy the perks of a high-end resort without losing out on the charm.
Perched near a dramatic cliff, this resort also has fantastic views. Enjoy the modern decor and the comfortable beds, or take advantage of the fitness center.
Each spacious villa has full kitchens, flat-screen TVs, and whirlpool tubs. Sit back and enjoy the pool on the property, or get a casual meal at the Nanea Restaurant.
If you want a quick bite to eat, stop by the Princeville Market for baked goods and deli sandwiches.
Look no further than the Makai Club Resort for a comfortable home away from home! Each one-bedroom apartment offers cable TV and a full kitchen.
It’s conveniently close to the restaurants in Hanalei, beaches, and Foodland (a grocery store). Plus, on-site barbecue facilities, an outdoor pool, and a hot tub make a quiet day at the resort pleasant and enjoyable.
While you’ll want to have a car if you’re staying here, the resort is right behind a golf course, making it perfect for early-morning walks.
Head over to the reception for beach chairs, board games, and books! You can even rent snorkeling equipment for a small fee, making it exceptionally convenient.
Offering direct beach access, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is a luxury 5-star hotel located along the stunning Napali Coast.
Arguably one of the best places to stay in Kauai, be greeted with a welcome lei and refreshing drink when you arrive. Head over to your spacious room with high-quality furnishings.
Check out the daily cultural and fitness classes (including lei making!) before heading out to explore the Garden Isle.
After a day of adventure, enjoy the full-service spa, outdoor swimming pool with a swim-up bar, fitness facilities, and on-site restaurants.
Plus, you get instant access to recreational activities such as horseback riding, sailing, and helicopter tours!
The location and quality at 1 Hotel cannot be beaten, which makes staying here an unforgettable experience.
The unique design and location are perfect for honeymooners or anyone looking for an opulent trip.
Where to stay in East Side Kauai (Wailua, Kapa’a & Lihue)
Maybe you’re interested in staying on the East side of Kauai— also called the Coconut Coast!
It’s called the Coconut Coast due to the multiple groves of coconut palms that grow in the resort areas.
There are three main places to stay in East Side Kauai. Wailua, Kapa’a, and Lihue are the main towns.
Wailua is a quiet town, perfect for a jumping-off point to explore the rest of the island. It is infamous for its bad traffic, however, so you might want to keep that in mind.
Kapa’a offers excellent shopping, and Lihue is the island’s cultural, commercial, and government hub.
Lihue is also where you’ll fly in, so if you stay in more than one area, this is a great place to start or end your trip.
Pro Tip: If you’re in Kapa’a during the first Saturday of every month, you’re in for a real treat! Old Kapa’a town comes to life with live music, local crafts, and food.
👉🏽 Why should you stay in East Side Kauai?
One of the best reasons to stay in East Side Kauai is how conveniently located it is. Central to the island, it makes exploring both the North and the South shores a breeze.
Reducing driving time and having more time to explore is a huge advantage!
Plus, the East side is typically more affordable, especially compared to the resorts on the South shore.
If you stay on the east side, you should definitely check out the Kaua’i Museum in Lihue, Kilohana Estate, and the 80-foot-tall Wailua Falls! (These falls are easily accessible, with no hiking required.)
Bike along the Ke Ala Hele Makalae trail for a super fun day activity. This coastal path is safe, easy to access, and offers impressive ocean views. Whether biking to get to a beach or to enjoy moving your body, it’s a fantastic way to spend a few hours.
There are also many great restaurants in the area, including The Fish Express and Mamahune’s.
👎🏼 Disadvantages of staying on the East Side
The main disadvantage of staying on the East side is how busy it can get! If you’re hoping to take advantage of the peace and quiet on Kauai, you shouldn’t stay in this area.
The resorts are a lot less luxurious than in other areas of the island, and there’s typically bad traffic nearby in Wailua.
Other than those two cons, though, it’s a fantastic place to be if you’re planning an active and adventurous vacation.
👍🏼 Best places to stay in East Shore Kauai
Check out the best places to stay in East Shore Kauai below!
Located in the quaint town of Kapa’a, Kauai Shores Hotel is an oceanfront hotel with a refreshing design and bright decor.
It’s got the perfect beach atmosphere!
Complete with a beachfront restaurant, 2 outdoor pools, and 24-hour reception; this hotel is only a 10-minute drive from Kapa’a city center.
Each room is brightly decorated and offers a private balcony or patio with gorgeous views. Enjoy the flat-screen tv, refrigerator, and Keurig coffee machine.
The beachfront restaurant, Lava Lava Beach Club, serves breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dinner. Talk about convenience!
This is an ideal place to stay and still explore the entire island.
Located in the historical district of Lihue, Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay is right on the waterfront.
Each spacious room comes equipped with air conditioning, 46-inch TVs with premium channels, a refrigerator, and free infant beds making this a great, family-friendly hotel.
Head to the lobby for free coffee and tea, tour and ticket assistance, or banking services.
The two outdoor pools are perfect for a lazy day in the sunshine. Play a round of golf, walk around the garden, or eat a delicious meal at the on-site restaurant.
Hawaiian cuisine, a fantastic beach locale, and friendly staff make this hotel stand out amongst the competition!
The Hilton never disappoints, and the one on Kauai is no exception.
Right next to Kalapaki Bay, the Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort in Lihue has everything you need for the perfect vacation.
Each room offers either a garden view or an ocean view and includes a coffee machine, fridge, and tv with cable access. Part of the Marriot, you’ll get first-class service and exceptionally comfortable beds!
Make sure to take advantage of the outdoor swimming pool, 4 restaurants, and on-site full-service spa.
There’s even a full-service business center and hot tub available for your use!
Located only a 10-minute drive from the airport, the Royal Sonesta in Kauai is an excellent place to stay.
Plus, they even offer a free airport shuttle to help make your arrival and departure even easier.
The full-service Kauai Beach Resort & Spa is a 25-acre beachfront resort with 3 separate restaurants, 4 swimming pools, 2 hot tubs, and even a waterslide!
Enjoy your own private balcony in your bright and clean rooms before heading down to the Naupaka Terrace restaurant to eat a delicious meal.
The rooms all come equipped with a mini fridge and Cable TV. Please note that there’s no microwave or coffee maker either.
Guests particularly enjoy the live music during the afternoons and the expansive pool area in this highly-rated property.
For fitness enthusiasts, take advantage of the fitness center!
Parking is not included in the price and is an additional cost at this resort.
Where to stay in South Shore Kauai (Poipu)
The southern town of Poipu is a fantastic place to stay on the South Shore of Kauai.
This quaint town is quickly turning into a luxury accommodation destination. Additionally, it offers easy access to some of the best destinations along the southern coast.
Even if you’re not interested in a luxury vacation, you’ll still find plenty of condos and alternative options.
For sunny beaches, cultural attractions, and outdoor adventures, you can’t get much better than Poipu.
It’s home to Hawaiian staple Puka Dog, a delicious sausage inside a warm Hawaiian Sweet Bread bun with Aunty Lilikoi’s Mustard and a garlic lemon “secret sauce.” This is a must-try!
👉🏽 Why should you stay in South Shore Kauai?
The South Shore is one of the most popular areas in Kauai for a reason! The weather on this side of the island makes every day perfect for a beach day.
Not only is it sunny all year long, but there are also lots of fantastic beaches nearby. Not only is there a wide variety to choose from, but they’re recognized as some of the best beaches on the entire island.
Check out the top snorkeling spot at Lara’i Beach, or take a quick drive to the entrance of the awe-inspiring Waimea Canyon.
If you’re staying in the area, you should definitely prioritize the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. It starts at the famous Shipwreck beach.
This 3.8-mile out-and-back trail is a gorgeous seaside hike that takes you to the remote and stunning Maha’ulepu Beach. See dramatic cliffs, dunes, tide pools, and even petroglyphs!
During the winter time, this trail is a superb spot to whale-watch.
Family-friendly and full of popular beaches and restaurants, the South Shore is lively and busy compared to other parts of the island.
Tons of resorts and condos make finding accommodation a breeze, and the area continues to be developed.
👎🏼 Disadvantages of staying in the South Shore
There aren’t too many disadvantages to staying on the South Shore of Kauai. It is a more touristy area, so if you’re hoping to avoid crowds, there might be a better place than the Southside.
The only drawback is that you’ll probably need to make reservations and book things further in advance, again, due to the higher volume of people staying in this area.
👍🏼 Best places to stay in South Shore Kauai
Check out the top 4 places to stay below!
Koloa Landing Resort is located right at the popular Poipu Beach!
Not only is it in a prime location, but it also offers 2 resort-style pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and gorgeously landscaped grounds.
The suites and villas at this resort offer floor-to-ceiling windows, stone flooring, and large balconies with ocean views.
Enjoy your stay on the South Shore in luxurious comfort, as each room is equipped with full kitchens, private bathrooms, and even washers and dryers.
Partake in the delicious continental breakfast that’s served daily, and book a spa wellness package for the ultimate relaxation.
Plus, this resort is only a 10-minute walk from the shops and restaurants at Poipu Shopping Village.
For a genuinely top-tier experience, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa offers an exceptional stay in a gorgeous location.
Not only is the hotel amongst river pools and tropical gardens, but it also has a gold course, 7 restaurants, and a spa for guests to enjoy.
With a staff that goes above and beyond, you can expect to have a stay in comfort at this hotel.
Each room offers a flat-screen TV with cable, a beverage chiller, and a marble ensuite bathroom with double vanities, plush bathrobes, and complimentary toiletries.
You don’t even have to leave the resort for your daily dose of adventure! Head down to the lap pool to start your day, play at one of the 3 tennis courts, check out the water sports center, or even go to the horse stables!
Best of all, the pool complex is open 24 hours and has waterfalls, waterslides, and a volleyball net.
The Sheraton Kauai Resort is a waterfront resort with nearly 20 acres of space. Like all the other hotels on this list, the Sheraton has comfortable rooms with luxuriously soft beds.
Each room looks out over a stunning black rock beach, so you’ll never forget you’re staying in paradise.
What makes this resort stand out is the beach activities center offered to all the guests staying at this resort. Hawaiian cuisine, cultural activities, spa services, and fantastic meeting spaces are all provided.
Interested in attending a luau? Look no further, as the Sheraton offers a highly-rated one right on-site!
Plus, there’s a variety of delicious dining options at the Sheraton, and you can pick from 3 different oceanfront restaurants.
The best home-away-from-home on the South Shore is definitely Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club.
This resort has self-catering rooms, a spa, laundry facilities, and an outdoor pool.
Each room has the essentials— air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher, a microwave, and a small dining area.
If you want to cook only some meals, head down to the Market Place for healthy snacks or go to the Honu Bar for drinks and a light dinner.
The location of this hotel is truly top-notch, with Shipwreck Beach only a 5-minute drive away and Spouting Horn Park a mere 3 miles away.
For a quiet stay at a comfortable and clean hotel, Waiohai Beach Club does the trick!
Where to stay in West Side Kauai (Waimea)
Waimea used to be home to sugarcane plantations. “Waimea Canyon” is almost synonymous with a trip to Kauai.
Waimea town is a quiet but charming place. This historic seaport is near where Captain James Cook first landed on the Hawaiian islands!
It’s also rich in paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboys) history. Truly an off-the-beaten-path destination, Waimea is a hidden gem for anyone lucky enough to get to know it.
While it may have a few fine dining options, Waimea does have Ono (delicious) food! Head over to the Shrimp Station for (you guessed it) the best shrimp on Kauai, and then hit up JoJo’s Shave Ice for a delicious sweet treat after lunch.
Located about 20 miles away from Lihue, this town is perfect for anyone wanting to experience the less touristy side of Kauai.
👉🏽 Why should you stay in West Side Kauai?
The West Side of Kauai is the only part of the island I’ve been lucky enough to explore. It definitely does not disappoint! The scenery was absolutely epic, and I can’t wait to go back.
This side of Kauai is much quieter and less popular than the other locations already mentioned, but that makes it quiet, peaceful, and relaxing.
On the Shoreline, you’ll find the towns of Hanapepe and Waimea, and you’ll be close to Koke’e State Park and Waimea Canyon.
Most of the accommodations are more rustic and simple, making it a perfect getaway. I went for a retreat and enjoyed being disconnected from my phone, being immersed in nature and the cooler air (due to the higher elevation I was staying at.)
Plus, the views of the Waimea Canyon were jaw-dropping and very different than anything I’ve seen on the other Hawaiian islands I’ve been to.
If you love to hike, backpack, or be outdoors, the West Side is definitely the side for you! It’s also a bit dryer than the other sides of the island, as the mountains block some of the rain.
👎🏼 Disadvantages of staying on the West Side
The remote nature of the West Side makes it a more inconvenient area to stay in if you’re planning to explore a lot of the island.
There is no direct connecting road from the West Side to the North Shore, making it so you have to travel all the way around the entire island.
Plus, unless you’re interested in doing lots of hiking or taking a boat to visit some of the more scenic areas, you won’t be able to access much of the West Side.
👍🏼 Best places to stay in West Side Kauai
If you don’t want to camp, these are the top three best places to stay in West Side Kauai. Check them out below.
The West Inn Kauai is a fantastic option located directly in Waimea Historic Town. It’s also a very budget-friendly option!
With brightly decorated rooms, tropical themes, and exceptionally friendly staff, you can expect a quiet and comfortable stay.
Each room is air-conditioned ad offers cable tv, a microwave, and a fridge. Suites come with a fully equipped kitchen, so you can also do your own cooking.
Take advantage of the outdoor BBQ area and the coin-operated laundry facilities.
Plus, it’s ideally located for excursions into Waimea Canyon.
Located in Waimea, West Kauai Lodging is a great spot to stay if you are okay with not having all the bells and whistles.
Close to the entrance of Waimea Canyon and Koke’e Park, it has free wifi, cable tv, and air conditioning in each of its rooms.
While there is a small kitchen area with a microwave, fridge, and coffee machine, you probably don’t want to be doing any cooking if you stay here.
Don’t worry; there are some fantastic restaurants not too far away— Porky’s & Wranglers are top-rated and well worth a visit.
The rooms are spacious, and it’s only a short walk to a nearby black-sand beach.
Waimea Plantation Cottages is a quaint place to stay in Waimea. Enjoy your stay in an adorable cottage amidst ocean views, a manicured garden, and an outdoor pool.
It is surrounded by gorgeous scenery, and each cottage is air-conditioned and comes complete with showers, toiletries, TVs, and lanais.
Many also offer a fully-equipped kitchen, so you can cook up some of your own meals to save a dime or two.
Spend a day swimming at the black sand beach nearby, napping in the hammocks, or lounging by the pool for an idyllic vacation.
Of course, the location also makes this an ideal home base for a more adventurous trip!
Is Kauai in Hawaii worth visiting?
Kauai is definitely worth visiting! Known as the “Garden Isle,” it offers lush green landscapes and dramatic cliffs that make it stand out from the other Hawaiian Islands.
Its quiet and laid-back vibes make it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Of the four major islands, it’s definitely the smallest. It’s still got plenty to offer! Enjoy glorious beaches, unbeatable hikes, stunning views, and delicious food.
I’ve lived in Maui for five years— and I can’t wait to go back to Kauai.
Best things to do in Kauai
There are plenty of fun things to do in Hawaii— whether you’re into hiking and other outdoor adventures or want to relax and enjoy the sunshine in a tropical paradise.
There’s truly something for everyone! Check out the six best things to do in Kauai below.
✔️ Go on a snorkeling or diving adventure.
The underwater world off the coast of Kauai is just as impressive as the mountains capes and Na Pali Coastline.
Each side of the island offers protected areas with broad reef areas where you can see a variety of coral and fish.
Whether you’re an experienced diver or heading out on your first snorkel, the clear waters and brilliant reefs by Kauai are delightful.
Check out the reefs on the north shore at Tunnels Beach, or if you’re staying on the South shore, hop into Po’ipu Beach State Park.
Experienced divers can check out underwater caves and lava tubes on the east and west shores.
✔️ Kayak and hike at the Secret Falls
One of the best outdoor adventures you can experience in Kauai is to kayak and hike at Secret Falls. While “secret” might be a misnomer, you don’t want to miss out on these easily accessible and beautiful falls.
Also known as Uluwehi Falls, they are located in the Wailua River Basin. You can either rent a kayak and head up the Wailua River on your own or book a tour.
It takes a little less than an hour to kayak the 2 miles up the river, and then you’ll need to hike the mile-long trail to the falls themselves.
The extra effort to see these falls is worth it! Plunging 100 feet into a large swimming pool, they are awe-inspiring and offer a refreshing dip after all your hard work to see them.
✔️ Soar at the Koloa Zipline
Koloa Zipline is the most extended ziplining tour in Kauai. Soar through the gorgeous scenery of Kauai’s South shore, through a lush jungle, the Koloa Sugar Mill, Hoary Head Mountain Range, and Waita Reservoir.
Consisting of 8 zip lines, this tour lasts about 3.5 hours. The best way to explore the island, you’ll even get to glide across the water!
Wear closed-toe shoes and come prepared for a day of adventure. You can tandem-zip, go backward, upside down, or Superman-style with high-quality harnesses and ziplines for an extra thrill.
Pro tip: Book the last zip of the day to witness the sunset while soaring through the canopies.
✔️ Watch a Luau Kalamaku show
For a spectacular show, make sure to reserve a spot at the Luau Kalamaku show!
Not only will you get to eat delicious traditional food, but you’ll get to experience the beauty of the hula and an award-winning Hawaiian show.
What makes this Luau unique is the state-of-the-art media system and the interactive stage design.
It transports you to ancient Polynesia and puts you in the thick of the old Hawaiian story.
The Luau culminates with fire poi balls and traditional fire knife dancing for a night you’ll never forget.
✔️ Board on a sunset sail cruise
If you don’t want to hike the Na Pali Coast, the stunning cliffs and dramatic vistas are worth seeing from the water.
Even if you do also hike it, seeing it from the water lets you soak in the full scope of the cliffs.
Narrow, steep green peaks juxtaposed against the magnificent blue sea make for National Geographic-worthy photographs.
A boat tour lets you enjoy the 17-mile stretch of epic coastline on spacious catamarans, with the added benefit of delicious snacks and refreshing beverages.
Depending on the sunset sail you choose, there will be live music, delicious food, and cocktails to sip while soaking in the views amongst your family or friends.
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You should book a Kauai helicopter tour for a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai might be the one that is most worth taking a helicopter tour to experience. This mountainous island has some of the most varied scenery of them all.
Fly amongst the jaw-dropping scenery and see Waimea Canyon from above, the Na Pali Coast, Hanalei Valley, and remote waterfalls.
For an extra thrill, choose a helicopter without doors. Don’t worry- you’ll be securely strapped in!
Most helicopter tours are about an hour long and depart from either Lihue or Princeville airports.
How many days in Kauai do you need?
Depending on how much you want to do, three days on Kauai could be plenty (especially if you’re heading to a different island afterward).
However, If you want to fully explore the island of Kauai, you’ll want between 7 and 10 days to fully explore and get some good beach time. It’s hard to have too much time in Hawaii!
👉🏻 Sample Kauai Hawaii Itinerary
This sample Kauai itinerary is definitely not all-inclusive. It can be easily taken slower if you have more days to explore.
📌 Day 1: Arrive, head to South Shore
📌 Day 2: Spend a day in Poipu and explore the South Shore
This is an excellent opportunity to hit up Poipu Beach Park or hike the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail!
Get a coffee at Little Fish Coffee and eat a puka dog for lunch.
If you’re feeling super jet-lagged, you can always take a nap on the beach in the afternoon. (Although the best way to get over jet lag is to power through!)
📌 Day 3: Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park
Whether you want to drive around Koke’e State Park and stop at all the viewpoints or go on an intense hike, Waimea Canyon is a must-do for any visit to Kauai.
It costs $5 per person and $10 for non-resident vehicles (admission is free for residents).
For an afternoon pick-me-up, stop at the Koke’e Lodge Ranch Store. It’s also an excellent spot for some locally made souvenirs and gifts!
📌 Day 4: Visit the Na Pali Coast & Polihale State Park
The Na Pali coast is best experienced either on a multi-day hike (for which you need permits) or by boat.
Day 4 is a perfect day to either book a boat tour for a relaxing way to see the stunning cliffs or a good opportunity to take a shorter hike to Hanakapiai Beach.
That hike does not require permits and allows you to get a feel for the Na Pali Coast without the time commitment.
The historic Polihale State Park is another fantastic area to explore with breathtaking views. It’s easiest to explore with 4-wheel drive.
📌 Day 5: Explore Kapa’a & Wailua
If you’re not tired of hiking, there are plenty of wonderful trails near Kapa’a and Wailua that are worth exploring and experiencing.
The shopping in Kapa’a is superb, so this is a great day to find souvenirs and gifts for your friends back home.
However, if you feel like playing in the water, hit up one of the nearby beaches of Lydgate Beach Park, Wailua Beach, or Kealia.
It’s also worth visiting Wailua Falls on this day as well! Don’t worry- no hiking is necessary to see them.
Hop in your car and drive 5 miles inland to see these iconic falls. There’s also plenty of parking, making them an easy adventure.
📌 Day 6: Hanalei & North Shore day
If you’re interested in history, check out the Wai’oli Mission House and see rare, handmade art and carvings.
You can also explore taro fields and learn about the traditional Hawaiian way of life.
Top-rated beaches are located along the North Shore, making it the perfect day to soak up some sun and rest after all the driving and activity!
It’s worth going to a lookout point to see the famous Na Pali Coast if you opt not to earlier in the week.
Finish off your trip by watching the sunset at the Hanalei Pier. This historic pier was built in 1892 and is an iconic location.
📌 Day 7: Depart
What is the best time to visit Kauai?
The best time to visit Kauai is whenever you can! But if you’re able to be more selective, it does depend a bit on what you want to do.
The winter months of November through March tend to be the busiest seasons across all the islands in Hawaii.
It is worth braving the larger crowds and higher prices in order to see the annual humpback whale migration! Truly magical.
As you head into May, April, August, and September, the crowds drop, and it’s a fantastic time to head to Kauai.
The temperatures across the island might be a bit warmer than if you went in the winter months (which could be a pro or a con, depending on what you’re used to!).
However, the lower crowds (and subsequently lower prices) mean you can do more with your time on the island. Talk about a plus!
Frequently Asked Questions
Check out the most frequently asked questions below so you can make the best choices for your Kauai trip.
What side of Kauai is the best place to stay?
The South Shore of Kauai is the most popular place to stay because it has gorgeous beaches and cute little towns, but each side of the garden aisle has much to offer.
Is it better to stay in the North or South of Kauai?
Both shores have much to offer— the south side of Kauai is better for beach days, and the North is perfect for nature lovers or honeymooners.
Is Kauai nicer than Maui?
Kauai is truly an ideal island paradise and offers different scenery than Maui. It is a lot quieter and slower, so depending on what you’re looking for, Kauai might be a better fit.
Where is the most touristy part of Maui?
West Maui is the most touristy area of the island and has the most resorts, high-end shopping, and fine dining options.
Is one week in Kauai enough?
The small size of Kauai means that one week is a perfect amount of time to spend on this tropical island! Of course, you can always make do with less time… if you have to.
What is Kauai best known for?
Kauai is best known for its dramatic, beautiful scenery, including the Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast. Plus, it’s lush and green compared to some of the other dryer islands.
Final Thoughts: Where to Stay in Kauai Hawaii
Now that you know all about the different sides of Kauai, you can make the best decision on where to stay!
The North Shore is perfect for anyone wanting to enjoy the lush mountains. The South side is ideal for a sunny beach trip, and the West side is a remote, quiet area with stunning vistas.
For the most convenient location and an abundance of lower-cost accommodations, the East Side is the winner.
While you can do many day trips to explore the island, staying in multiple spots would help you make the most of your time on the Garden Isle and cut down on driving time.
This lush island paradise is gorgeous; ultimately, you’ll have a fantastic time exploring the tropical oasis no matter where you stay.
About the Author, Founder & Editor
Hello there! This is Isabella, the author of this blog, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican permanent Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.