Where is the Best Place to Stay in Kauai?
There are roughly four geographic regions of Kauai; north, east, south and west. Each of these areas has its own climate and atmosphere, so when it comes to deciding where to stay in Kauai, the first thing to figure out is which part of the island you want to visit.
There are a variety of towns and resorts across Kauai’s coast and inland regions, so whichever area you decide to stay in, you’ll have a range of options when it comes to choosing where to base yourself for a holiday. The island is a brilliant destination for everything from luxury beach holidays to exciting outdoor adventures, with all kinds of accommodation options to suit every type of traveler.
If you’re still wondering ‘where should I stay in Kauai?’ then you’re in luck. This post is a guide to some of the most popular places on the island to help make your choice easier when it comes to deciding where to stay.
Hanalei is a small town located on Kauai’s North Shore, a couple of miles west of busy Princeville. It’s one of the most popular places to stay on the island because of the wonderful atmosphere, which manages to retain an authentic air despite being visited by so many tourists.
If you’re looking for culture then Hanalei is the place to go, with numerous contemporary art galleries and several historic sites and buildings. With a background of beautiful mountains, the scenery is perfect for exploring on hikes and gentle strolls, spotting fields of taro and admiring views of the coast from high up.
Hanalei is also located on the coast and is known for being one of the best areas to stay in Kauai for surfing. You can also visit the famous Hanalei Pier, which was built in 1892 and featured as a filming location in the 1957 classic ‘South Pacific’.
Another popular town on the northern coast of the island, Princeville is one of the best areas to stay in Kauai if you’re looking for a developed location that has plenty to offer tourists and travelers. Overlooking Hanalei Bay and surrounded by the mountains, Princeville is overflowing with gorgeous scenery and is a great place to enjoy some of the best things that Kauai is known for.
Princeville was originally farmland that was used for sugarcane and cattle ranching, and then was named after Crown Prince Albert when he visited the area with his parents in 1860. It then became an established holiday resort community that is a particularly good place to stay in Kauai if you’re looking for luxury holiday accommodation.
If you’re planning on hitting the beach, Hideaways Beach just outside of the town is a great place to visit on a sunny day. In the summer months it's a prime spot for snorkeling, but bear in mind that there's no lifeguard and in the winter snorkeling is not allowed due to dangerous conditions.
Kapaa (Kapaʻa) is located on the east side of Kauai, a region that is known for its particularly beautiful scenery. The small town has a historical atmosphere and is home to a community of friendly locals who help to make this one of the friendliest places on the island.
If you’ve come to Kauai and want to do some souvenir shopping, there are plenty of options in Kapaa Town. There’s a local market, plenty of gift shops, and also numerous places to eat that come highly recommended if you want to satisfy your appetite after a spending spree.
Kapaa Town is one of the best places to stay in Kauai if you like art, as there are plenty of pieces of authentic Hawaiian art to be found around Kauai that range from street murals to eccentrically decorated clock towers.
The south shore of Kauai is well-known for having some of the best weather on the island all year round, and it’s in this region that you’ll find Poipu (Poʻipū), which is one of the most popular resort towns in the area. With all kinds of shops, bars, restaurants and tourist attractions, it’s a great part of Kauai to stay if you want everything you’ll need on a vacation all in reachable distance.
The beaches at Poipu are particularly spectacular, and it’s another brilliant place in Kauai to go snorkeling when the weather conditions are good. You’re also ideally positioned to hike either along the coast or up into the mountains, with several established walking trails nearby.
Another highlight of Poipu is its golf facilities. As the former home to the Grand Slam of Golf, the range of courses on this part of the island are beautifully maintained and all enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding ocean as you play.
Waimea is a historic, seaport town on the southwest coast of Kauai which acts as a gateway to the famous Waimea Canyon. This ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ is a stunning stretch of scenery with several lookout points giving you brilliant views across gorges, crags and buttes.
The town itself is very close to the spot that famous explorer Captain Cook first landed in Hawaii, which is commemorated by a statute. Another historical highlight is the town’s paniolo history; the Hawaiian cowboys that managed the landscape around Waimea Town. You can learn about these stories and more in the town’s visitor center, as well as enjoying the off-the-beaten-path feel of Waimea and its coastline.
Kīlauea is one of the best areas to stay in Kauai on the north shore of the island. Originally a sugar plantation, the community here is now incredibly ethnically diverse which has given it a vibrant and unique culture.
The best-known attraction in Kīlauea is the Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse, built in the 1900s and now part of the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge which is home to hundreds of different species of seabirds. The town itself may be small, but if you’re looking for somewhere quiet that offers plenty of access to all kinds of scenery, you’ll find it here.
If you’re seeking somewhere to stay in Kauai that is off-the-beaten-path, Wailua is an excellent choice. Found on the east coast of the island, the town itself doesn’t have too many attractions for tourists, but the surrounding area certainly does.
The main pull for tourists to this area is Wailua Falls, found just north of Lihue and featuring two cascading streams of water that plummet 80 feet from a cliff into a pool below. The falls are fed by the Wailua River, which is the largest navigable river in Hawaii and another key attraction in the area. You can explore the river on a boat trip or take to the water in a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy the tropical rainforest scenery all around you.
Lihue (Līhuʻe) is the commercial and governmental center of Kauai, so it’s one of the most-visited places on the island. If you’ve just arrived at the airport then it can be one of the best towns in Kauai to begin your vacation on the island before traveling somewhere else after recovering from your journey.
As well as all of the commercial developments you’d expect from the island’s main town, Lihue is also positioned so that it enjoys both coastal and mountainous scenery. The beaches around here are particularly beautiful and safe to enjoy, with plenty of watersports activities on offer for those seeking some adventure.
Kōloa is another town in Kauai that has a history of being a sugar plantation, which has made it a key historic destination on the island. It’s located on the south shore of the island near Poipu and is reached by driving through the famous ‘Tree Tunnel’ formed by eucalyptus trees leaning into one another from either side of the road.
Old Town Kōloa is definitely the highlight of this location, with plenty of old-fashioned stores and the Kōloa History Center offering a fantastic way to learn more about the history of the island. It’s a brilliant place to stay in Kauai if you’re looking for something a little bit different from your vacation experience, but is also well-positioned so that you can visit other popular destinations on day trips.
Originally one of Kauai’s largest communities, Hanapēpē is now a small town on the southwest coast that is an incredibly charming place to stay on the island. It’s best known for being the artistic hub of Kauai, with plenty of art galleries and creative residents all contributing to its colorful atmosphere.
Hanapēpē still has many of the original buildings from the town’s initial development, so you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the past as you walk past all the faded shopfronts. You’ll find plenty of local businesses and eateries in ‘Kauai’s biggest little town’, along with the ‘Swinging Bridge’ which is one of the most notable structures in the whole area.
Found on the northern coast, Haena (Hāʻena) is one of the best places to stay in Kauai on the beach. The town is reasonably isolated and takes a little while to reach from anywhere else on the island, but is well worth visiting for the incredible scenery that surrounds it.
Natural attractions in Haena are plentiful, from Mount Makana to the Maniniholo dry cave which is thought to be where islanders once stored their fish. There are also plenty of incredible beaches, including Haena Beach Park, Kēʻē Beach, and Makua Beach which is nicknamed ‘Tunnels’ because of the huge underwater reef.
If you’re looking for places to stay in Kauai that are all about the coastal views and snorkeling opportunities, look no further than Anini Beach. Close to the town of Princeville on the northern coast, Anini Beach is a gorgeous stretch of beach that is known for being a top spot for swimming and diving thanks to the clear and calm waters that lap against the pale golden sand along the shore.
Anini Beach is also a great choice for visitors who want an alternative to some of the larger but busier beaches on this side of the island. With three miles of sand to explore, there’s plenty of room for everyone.
There are plenty of options for places to stay in Kauai, from historical towns to luxurious resorts and beachside villas. The range of regions on the island means that you’ll get a slightly different experience of Kauai depending on where you decide to base yourself, and we hope that this guide has helped make it easier for you to choose where to spend your vacation.
If you’re planning a trip to Kauai and are looking for luxury holiday accommodation, Pure Kauai offers a wide range of outstanding properties. Get in touch with our team to find out more and start planning your dream vacation.