Hawaii invokes images of sprawling white sand, pristine water, and lush tropical growth. And Kauai certainly fulfils all those dreams. Often known as the “Garden Island” or “The Garden Isle,” Kauai is the fourth largest island in Hawaii and was first discovered by James Cook. Today, much of the island is protected from development but you’ll still find some great Kauai accommodation options no matter what your budget or preferences.
Kauai isn’t as popular as other islands in Hawaii, so you might have trouble finding enough information on where to stay. But now you can use our easy Kauai neighborhood guide to find the area that offers accommodation that suits you at the right price. And then you can just get on with enjoying this tropical beach destination!
Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Kauai
- Where to stay in Kauai first time – Poipu (South Side)
- Where to stay in Kauai on a budget – Lihue
- Best neighborhood in Kauai for families – Kilauea
- Best area to stay in Kauai for nightlife – Hanalei
- The coolest place to stay in Kauai – Princeville
- Get your adrenalin pumping on the Koloa Zipline Adventure.
- Check out the area’s history at the Koloa Sugar Mill.
- Marvel at the views at the Sprouting Horn lookout.
Table of Contents
- Where to Stay in Kauai
- Kauai Neighborhood Guide
- Kauai’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
- #1 Poipu – Where to Stay in Kauai First Time
- #2 Lihue – Where to Stay in Kauai on a Budget
- #3 Kilauea – Best Neighborhood in Kauai for Families
- #4 Hanalei – Best Area to Stay in Kauai for Nightlife
- #5 Princeville – The Coolest Place to Stay in Kauai
As one of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is a popular spot for tourists. The island hosts some of the most unique accommodations in Hawaii. These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Kauai.
Best Airbnb in Kauai: Oceanview Studio
Whether you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai for one night or for longer, this studio is a great choice. It offers enough space for 4 guests in the surroundings of unprecedented beauty and luxury. Just steps from the beach, the studio offers a kitchenette, private lanai, and access to the building’s pool, spa, BBQs, tiki bar and free onsite parking.VIEW ON AIRBNB
Best Hotel in Kauai: Makai Club Resort
Located close to everything, this hotel is a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Kauai for nightlife. It offers lots of facilities like a Jacuzzi, outdoor pool, free parking, a kids’ pool, golf course, and a beauty center. And there’s also a terrace and BBQ area on site so you can enjoy a meal outside in the gorgeous weather!VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Best Luxury Hotel in Kauai: Aqua Kauai Beach Resort
This hotel is in one of Kauai’s best neighborhoods if you want to be close to the beach. It offers water slides, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, outdoor pool, and several dining options as well as a lounge bar. Each room has a private balcony and fridge as well as clean, elegant furnishings.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Kauai
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No matter where you stay in Kauai, you’ll be surrounded by stunning beaches, incredible mountain peaks, massive rainforests, and lots of wildlife. Whether you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai for your first time or your tenth, the island never fails to enchant.
Kauai is protected against development, so it’s dotted with small towns, each of them with their own unique attractions and appeal. All you have to do is decide what you really want to do during your beach vacation!
The first place to look at is Poipu. This is a quieter area that will give you easy access to the beach and to natural attractions. If you don’t want to face the crowds, then this is one of the best areas to stay in Kauai.
Lihue is another quieter area and offers a good range of budget accommodation options. This small town is more local and the county seat of Kauai. But it still offers great beach access and is close enough to more atmospheric towns.
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai for families, then Kilauea is a great choice. It’s a beautiful little town and surrounded by some of the best scenery on the island as well as lots of outdoor activity opportunities.
And then we come to Hanalei, the most popular town for travelers of all kinds. You’ll find everyone from new-age seekers to surfers looking for the perfect wave in this town, and it offers a great mix of nightlife, culture, and nature attractions.
The final area to consider is Princeville one of the coolest places to stay in Kauai if you have a little extra money to spend. The accommodation in this neighborhood is first rate and so is the elegant, well organized atmosphere!
Kauai’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
Just like the different neighborhoods in Hawaii, the garden island Kauai has quite a lot of cool areas to offer too. Whether you’re a backpacker, traveling with a family, or are looking for a little luxury, here are the best areas to stay in Kauai.
Poipu is located on the South Shore of Kauai and is a little quieter than other areas. It’s also more atmospheric, with a beauty and relaxing atmosphere that’s difficult to match. Poipu is one of the primary attractions on the South Shore and has been called one of the best coastlines in the country. It’s the best neighborhood to stay in Kauai if you want to enjoy the beach without the crowds.
Poipu offers lots of water activities like paddle-boarding, sailing, and snorkeling in its warm, turquoise water. The beaches are seemingly endless stretches of white sand and the main beach, Poipu beach park, also has picnic areas, lifeguards, and showers just to make your visit better. And the collection of shops and restaurants in the area mean that Poipu is a good choice whether you’re deciding where to stay in Kauai for one night, or for a longer visit.
Things to See and Do in Poipu
– Spend a day in Poipu Beach park swimming, snorkeling, or having a picnic.
– Go sailing, snorkeling or paddleboarding along one of the two beaches in the area.
– Get your adrenalin pumping on the Koloa Zipline Adventure.
– Check out the area’s history at the Koloa Sugar Mill.
– Marvel at the views at the Sprouting Horn lookout.
– Take lots of photos of the beautiful sandstone sea cliffs of the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs.
Best Airbnb in Poipu: Dunson Kauai Vacation Condo
Located in the best area in Kauai to stay in if you want a quieter, local experience, this condo is ideal for couples or families. It’s surrounded by acres of beautiful gardens, has a newly remodeled kitchen, and onsite amenities like BBQ areas, restaurant, a beach hut, workout facilities, outdoor pool. and onsite surf school.VIEW ON AIRBNB
Best Hotel in Poipu: The Point at Poipu By Diamond Resorts
Whether you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai on a budget, this is a good mid-range choice. It’s centrally located and offers a pool, sauna, babysitting, massage services, and a BBQ area so you can enjoy a meal outside. There’s a poolside bar on site as well as a restaurant where you can enjoy a great meal.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Best Luxury Hotel in Poipu: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
This hotel is one of the best places in Kauai to stay if you want a little luxury. It offers 5-star facilities such as outdoor tennis courts, a waterfall pool, an indoor pool with water slides, a fitness center, and a beauty center. In fact, there are so many facilities that you could spend all day at the hotel, including an on-site bar and a couple of restaurant options.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Lihue is the second largest town on the island and the best neighborhood in Kauai to stay in if you’re on a tighter budget. Therefore, this is the part of the island we recommend all of the Hawaii backpackers to stay at. It sees fewer tourists than other areas but still contains enough amenities like shops and restaurants to be a convenient place to stay. Lihue is a more local area. It was founded by sugar planters and remains a fairly small, simple place where the residents go about their daily lives.
It’s also the county seat of Kauai and contains several government establishments. What this means is that Lihue isn’t as picturesque or romantic as other towns, but it is convenient to other areas and offers cheaper accommodation.
That’s not to say that Lihue is completely boring or devoid of charm. You can pick up some amazing, bargain souvenirs in this town as well as cheap but delicious places to have a meal. And one of the island’s most beautiful beaches, Kalapaki Beach, is close by as well.
Things to See and Do in Lihue
– Head down to Kalapaki Beach for beautiful views.
– Spend some money at the Harbor Mall or Anchor Cove Shopping Center.
– Check out the local eateries like Konohiki Seafoods or Rob’s Good Times Grill.
– Enjoy some swimming, surfing, or paddle boarding on the quiter beaches.
– Check out the Alekoko Fishpond, a 1000-year-old Hawaiian aquaculture reservoir.
– Spend the day on Ninini Beach and check out its Lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1897.
– Take a trip out to see Waimea Canyon, Wailua Falls, and Wailua River for an unbeatable natural experience.
Best Airbnb in Lihue: Charming Room 30 seconds from Awesome Beach
This room is one of the best places in Kauai to stay if you’re on a tight budget. It’s close to the beach and local shops and restaurants and in a peaceful area. Suitable for one person, it includes a private room, shared bathroom, and access to the kitchen and laundry facilities.VIEW ON AIRBNB
Best Hotel in Lihue: The Kauai Inn
When you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai on a budget, this is the best choice. Despite its very reasonable price, this hotel offers beautiful, lush surroundings and comfortable rooms with all the essentials. The hotel is also close to local attractions like Menehune Fishpond.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Best Luxury Hotel in Lihue: Kaua’i Marriott Resort
This hotel in Kauai offers 5-star accommodations close to local attractions and restaurants. The rooms have ocean or garden views and all the amenities you’ll need for your stay. The hotel boasts tennis courts, a rooftop terrace, outdoor pool, water slides, and childcare and activities. There’s also a gym, restaurant, and bar on site.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Kilauea is on the North Shore and offers unparalleled natural scenery, which makes it a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Kauai for your first time. In fact, the whole North Shore is filled with awe-inspiring waterfalls, towering mountain ranges, and lush tropical rainforest.
The town of Kilauea itself is charmingly rustic, filled with tropical fruit stands, and stone houses. And its rolling cliffs hide the homes of celebrities like Bette Midler and Sylvester Stallone.
Kilauea is one of Kauai’s best neighborhoods if you’re looking for local charm. It has plenty of historic and cultural attractions as well as budget and luxury accommodation. And there are plenty of popular restaurants in the area, so you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to your meals!
Things to See and Do in Kilauea
– Learn more about the local animals at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
– Just wander the streets, buying fresh tropical fruit and marveling at the little houses.
– If you’re looking for a bargain, step into The 1892 Kong Lung Company, the oldest general store on the island.
– Order a pizza at Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza.
– Hike up to Larsen’s Beach for isolated and beautiful scenery.
– Take a picnic down to Anini Beach where you’ll find BBQ areas and picnic tables.
– Take the trail along the Na Pali Coast until you come to the romantic Ke’e Beach.
– Don’t miss the Hono’Onapali beach, said to be one of the most spectacular in Hawaii.
Best Airbnb in Kilauea: North Country Farms Cottage
No Kauai neighborhood guide would be complete without this unique offering. It’s a small cottage separated from the main house and surrounded by lush farmland. The area is charmingly landscaped to ensure your privacy and the cottage is bright and airy and includes a kitchenette.VIEW ON AIRBNB
Best Hotel in Kilauea: Nani Kai Plantation Retreat by Great Vacation Retreats
This hotel is one of the coolest places to stay in Kauai. It has comfortable rooms with all the essentials as well as an outdoor pool and sun deck where you can soak up the rays. The property is close to Princeville and Hanalei, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting around either!VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Best Luxury Hotel in Kilauea: Heaven Resort
Whether you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai with kids or with friends, this hotel is a good choice. It’s close to local attractions like Hanalei Bay and within walking distance of Kilauea Light. The hotel offers tennis courts, laundry facilities, an outdoor pool, and babysitting services. And the rooms are comfortable and spacious and contain everything you’ll need during your stay.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Hanalei is on the North Shore and is probably the most popular area for tourists on the island. You’ll find a huge variety of travelers in this area, from families to surfers, and people looking for a luxury experience. This is the ideal place when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai for nightlife, as it’s filled with restaurants, bars, and the kind of travelers who want to party.
But that isn’t all that this destination has to offer. It’s also good for families, solo travelers, and people who want to experience Kauai’s local culture too. There are several important historic sites in the town as well as local art galleries and interesting, unique shops. And the town offers a range of accommodation options, so you’ll be able to find somewhere to stay that suits you whether you’re looking for a hotel or a hostel in Kauai.
Things to See and Do in Hanalei
– Take a stroll along the iconic Hanalei Pier and do some people watching.
– Stroll through the incredible Limahuli Garden and Preserve, where you’ll find 17 acres of immaculate landscapes.
– Head up to the Hanalei Valley Overlook for astonishing views.
– Spend some time on the beach at Anini Beach or Tunnels Beach.
– Check out Haena Beach Park or Hanalei Beach park for a great combination of beach and green spaces.
– Take a trip to see Mokuaeae Island and its array of birdlife.
– Just wander the streets and check out the local shops.
Best Airbnb in Hanalei: Hanalei Garden Surf Cottage
Located in the best neighborhood in Kauai to stay in if you want to be close to everything, this cottage offers a clean, reasonably priced place to stay in the heart of Hanalei. It’s small but contains everything you’ll need during your stay and is only one block from the beach. You’ll get the entire historic building to yourself, which includes a lanai and kitchen.VIEW ON AIRBNB
Best Hotel in Hanalei: Hale Ola Guest
If you’re looking for comfortable, affordable Kauai accommodation, then you can’t go past this choice. It’s a short walk from Hanalei Bay and offers rooms with all the usual amenities. There are restaurants nearby when you get hungry and the hotel offers free Wi-Fi if you need to work.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Best Luxury Hotel in Hanalei: Sweetwater at Kauai
This comfortable, luxurious accommodation is ideal when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Kauai for families. It offers an outdoor pool and comfortable rooms and is close to local attractions like Hanalei Pier as well as restaurants.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
If you want a more upscale experience, then Princeville is one of the best places to stay in Kauai. It’s located adjacent to the Hanalei Beach area and offers a quieter, more luxurious experience close to all the action. Princeville is filled with upscale beach resorts and intricately designed community of houses and condos, so the whole area has a pleasingly elegant aesthetic.
And this area still offers easy access to all the beach attractions of Kauai too. It’s located along Pali Ke Kua Beach and there are several other popular beaches in the area too. Just be careful as the beaches generally aren’t safe in winter and some of them don’t have lifeguards.
So, if you aren’t a strong swimmer, it’s probably safer to stay on the shore. The shopping and eating in this area are awesome as well, which makes it a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Kauai with kids.
Things to See and Do in Princeville
– Check out the beautiful Pali Ke Kua Beach.
– Make sure you visit the Queen’s Bath, a natural pool sliced out of a lava shelf where you can see an astonishing collection of marine life.
– Go swimming at Hideaways Beach and check out its incredible barrier reef.
– Wander around the neighborhood and check out all the work that went into designing the community.
– Head up to the Waikapalae Wet Cave and Manini-holo Dry Cave for incredible pictures.
Best Airbnb in Princeville: Kauai Princeville Condo
Located in the best neighborhood to stay in for a more luxurious experience, this condo is beautiful, newly renovated, and offers complete privacy. It’s suitable for 2 guests and includes a kitchen, lanai, and common BBQ area. It’s also close to the beach and lots of chances to enjoy water activities!VIEW ON AIRBNB
Best Hotel in Princeville: The Cliffs at Princeville
For luxury at a great price, this hotel is located in the best area in Kauai to stay in if you want to be close to everything. It has a Jacuzzi, sauna, outdoor pool, spa, and babysitting services, so will suit almost every travel group. There’s also a library on site as well as beautiful gardens and rooms with all the essential amenities.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Best Luxury Hotel in Princeville: Princeville Resort
With a sauna, outdoor pool, terrace, on site bar, a kids’ club and kids’ pool, this hotel in Kauai is ideal for all kinds of travel groups. The rooms are elegant, air conditioned, and contain everything you’ll need during your stay. And the hotel is perfectly positioned to offer easy access to local attractions and restaurants.VIEW ON BOOKING.COM
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Kauai
When you’re looking for the best places to stay in Kauai, you’ll find a collection of charming small towns with great beaches, lots of opportunities for outdoor activities, and lush tropical surroundings. This island is pretty much the cliché of what a beach destination should be. And it definitely lives up to all the hype. Most people who visit there return again and again.
While Hawaii can be very safe, it’s super important to make sure you get travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.