Best Area to Stay in Kauai: Hotels + Details + Map (2024)

Looking for the best area to stay in Kauai? I just got back and I have all the details about each of the regions, plus the best spots to stay in each! Keep reading for all the information you need you book your stay in Kauai. 

Kauai is an absolute dream. Whether you want beautiful beaches, a rainforest, cliffs, dramatic scenery, or complete relaxation, you’ll get it on Kauai. Buuuttt, with so much to do, what’s the best area to stay in?

Each region of the island is different. The best area to stay in Kauai for YOU depends on when what you want to do on your trip. I’ll go through each region, what it’s best for, and the best hotels in each area too.

So if you’re looking for the best area to stay in Kauai for your first time, for families, to check out beautiful beaches, or budget options, I’ve got you covered. Keep reading!

Key Takeaways

  • There are four regions of Kauai. North Shore, South Shore, East Side, and West Side. 
  • North Shore is beautiful and tranquil. Great for anyone who wants to get away or see the best beaches. It includes the towns of Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea.
  • South Shore is popular and vibrant. There are lots of different options for lodging. Especially great for families and first timers to the island. It includes the towns of Poipu, Koloa, and Lawai. 
  • The East Side is central and good for budget travelers. There are plenty of options for lodging. Great spot for anyone looking for the more reasonably priced accommodations. It includes the towns of Lihue, Kapaa, and Wailua.
  • The West Side is remote with unique scenery. It offers simple, quaint inns. This area is best for anyone who wants solitude, hikers, and adventurers. It includes the towns of Waimea and Hanapepe.

Kauai Regions Map

Table of Contents

⚠️ Short on time?
Look at these amazing options for your stay in Kauai!
Both are considered the best in their areas.

South Shore

📍 Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
On the beach. Variety of rooms. Numerous pools, a lazy river, water slide, and a lagoon. Six restaurants.
👉Check out prices and book the Grand Hyatt Kauai by clicking here!

North Shore

📍 Westin Princeville
Rooms range from studios to villas. Three pools. Westin Family Kids Club.Two on-site restaurants, a market and a coffee shop. 
👉Check out prices and book the Westin Princeville by clicking here!

Where To Stay in Kauai

for the most beautiful beaches, the north shore is the best area to stay in kauai

North Shore: Best for Beautiful Beaches

Princeville, Hanalei, Kilauea

The North Shore is hands down the most beautiful area of Kauai. It’s the greener, lusher, (but also wetter) more natural side of the island.

It’s a laid-back area to relax and enjoy the stunning beauty of the island. There are more beaches, better snorkeling, and more options for kayaking or paddle boarding.

In regard to staying on the North Shore, there are a few big resorts but the majority of accommodations are smaller, quieter hotels or secluded houses. There are also less restaurants and activities than the other regions, so you’ll need a car to get around.

Pros: gorgeous (like, out of this world), amazing beaches, laid-back vibes

Cons: wettest region of the island, ocean gets rough in the winter so not great for swimming,  a bit secluded so it’s a long drive to the tours in the other regions

Best Hotels on the North Shore

📍 The Westin Princeville

Options of studios, 1- and 2-bedroom villas. Three pools to choose from including a Children’s Pool with a small water slide and spouting turtles. Plus, Westin Family Kids Club! 

Two on-site restaurants plus a Market with a coffee shop inside. Near Anini Beach.

 👉 Check out prices and book your stay at The Westin Princeville by clicking here!

📍 Hanalei Bay Resort

Offers 1- and 2-bedroom condos. Their main pool is a gigantic free-form lagoon pool with waterfalls, and they also offer a spa in a grotto setting, and a smaller adults pool. On Hanalei Bay.

 👉 Check out prices and book your stay at the Hanalei Bay Resort by clicking here!

Top North Shore Sites

  • Beaches: Tunnels/Haena Beach, Hanalei Beach, Kee Beach
  • Na Pali Coast: 17 miles of coastline lined with cliffs, valleys, waterfalls, and sea caves
  • Hanalei Town: a charming town of shops, galleries, and local dining
  • Haena State Park caves
the best area to stay in kauai for kids and first timers is the south shore, like poipu

South Shore: Best for Families and First Timers

Poipu, Koloa, Lawai

The South Shore is the popular, vibrant area on Kauai. It’s known for its beautiful, family-friendly beaches and amazing resorts.

It’s by far the more family-friendly area and where most people visiting the island for the first time visit (I did!)

It has a variety of resorts that have multiple rooms and amazing pools, condos, lots of dining options, multiple open air shopping centers, activities and tours, and beaches with calm waves.

You’ll always have something to do for all ages on the South Shore.

It’s the driest region of the island and gets more sunshine—even when it’s raining in the other areas of the island.

In terms of staying on the South Shore, it has more options for full-service hotel/resorts and condos. It’s also closer to the big-ticket activities and has more choice in restaurants. But you’ll have to rush to book as everything fills up fast, and it’s more expensive than the other regions.

Pros: great weather, amazing resorts, tours and activities nearby

Cons: very popular and touristy, more expensive, everything books up fast

Best Hotels on the South Shore

📍 Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

Rooms range from standard rooms, connecting rooms, or 1- or 2- bedroom suites. A water wonderland with numerous pools, a lazy river, water slide, and a lagoon. 

Six restaurants to choose from. On Poipu Beach with amazing views. It’s been said that the Hyatt is THE best resort on the whole island!

 👉 Check out prices and book your stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai by clicking here

📍 Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu

You can choose from 1-, 2-, or 3-bedroom villas. Three gigantic pools including a lagoon pool with a children’s swimming area.

Fun extras around the property like volleyball nets, a putting green, a soccer area, poolside BBQs, and weekly activities like hula lessons and s’mores. ON Poipu Beach.

 👉 Check out prices and book your stay at the Koloa Landing Resort by clicking here!

Top South Shore Sites

  • Beaches: Poipu Beach, Salt Pond Beach
  • Sprouting Horn: a natural blowhole that shoots water 20+ feet in the air
  • The Shops at Kukuiula: an upscale outdoor shopping area filled with shopping and dining options
  • National Tropical Botanical Garden: over 300 acres of lush greenery
if you're on a budget, the best area to stay in kauai is the east side

East Side: Best for the Budget

Lihue, Kapaa, Wailua

The East Side is in between the North and South Shores. It has a variety of restaurants and more affordable hotel accommodations.

The biggest perk of the East Side is that it’s centrally located. So, if you’re planning on exploring the whole island, this is the best place to stay to reduce the driving time. 

But it’s also the commercial hub of the island, so it’s busy. You won’t get the same Hawaiian experience on this side.

In terms of staying here, the East Side has a range of accommodations from resorts to boutique hotels so you can find more reasonable prices. You’ll also be near the big box stores like Costco and Walmart so you can stock up things you might need quickly. 

Pros: centrally located, has more budget-friendly accommodations

Cons: very busy commercial hub, less tours/activities than other regions 

Best Hotels on the East Side

📍 Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort Lihue

A beachfront resort with a gigantic swimming pool, a hot tub, a spa, and 4 restaurants. It also has a free airport shuttle!

They offer standard rooms with options for 1 or 2 beds, and 1-bedroom suites with a separate living area.

 👉 Check out prices and book your stay at the Royal Sonesta by clicking here!

📍 Kauai Shores Hotel

An super hip oceanfront hotel with a private beach, beachfront restaurant, and a 6-acre courtyard with two pools.

Their room choices are between standard rooms or deluxe rooms with a kitchenette. Convenient to two different outdoor shopping areas and many excursions.

 👉 Check out prices and book your stay at Kauai Shores Hotel by clicking here!

Top East Side Sites

  • Beaches: Lydgate Beach Park, Wailua Beach
  • Wailua River: Kauai’s only navigable river, kayaking and paddle boarding are popular activities here
  • Fern Grotto: a fern-filled cave that you can take a boat ride through
  • Kapaa Town: a cute outdoor area with local shops and dining options
if you want an adventure, the best area to stay in kauai is on the west side

West Side: Best for Adventure

Waimea, Hanapepe

The West Side is the best area of Kauai for those who REALLY want to get away from it all.

It’s the most remote area and known for its gorgeous scenery like Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park.

It’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want access to lots of hiking and immersing themselves in nature—without the tourists.

The West side doesn’t have a lot of options for lodging and offers simple cottages and inns. There’s also no road connecting the West Side to the North Shore so visitors will have to travel around the whole island to visit the other side.

Pros: amazing scenery, less tourists

Cons: remote, almost isolated, less accommodations

Top West Side Sites

  • Beaches: Polihale Beach
  • Waimea Canyon: largest canyon in the Pacific with scenic views
  • Hanapepe Town: a small town with galleries, boutiques, and dining

FAQs: Where To Stay in Kauai

What side of Kauai is the best to stay on?

The best side of Kauai to stay on depends on your interests and preferences. 

The North Shore is best for beautiful beaches, the South Shore is best for families or first timers, the East Side is best if you’re on a budget, and the West Side is best if you want to be secluded. 



Is it better to stay in the North or South of Kauai?

Where you should stay depends on what you are looking to do on your vacation to Kauai.

The North Shore is better if you are looking for a peaceful, relaxing trip where you’ll be exploring the outdoors.

The South Shore is better if you’re looking for a more vibrant atmosphere, with lots of family-friendly beaches, resorts, and activities.



Which part of Kauai has the best beaches?

The North Shore, hands down, has the best beaches in Kauai. If you want to see beaches like you’ve never seen before, the North Shore is IT.

In the area you’ll find what may be the best beach area in Hawaii—Kee Beach, Haena Beach Park, Tunnels Beach, and Hanalei Bay Beach.

They’re so beautiful that many movies have been filmed on these beaches! If you just want to beach hop the coast your whole vacation, stay on the North Shore.



What is the most touristy area in Kauai?

The South Shore, specifically Poipu, is the most touristy area on Kauai. It has the most choices for accommodations, dining, and activities.

A few of the best resorts on the island are located on the South Shore. 

Wrapping up: Where To Stay in Kauai

Ultimately, the best area to stay in Kauai depends on your interests and preferences.

If you’re going for the first time or with the family, Poipu is your best option. 

If you are going just for beaches, Princeville is your spot. 

If you’re working with a budget, look in Lihue.

There is a perfect spot for whatever you need, and I hope that I helped you find the best area to stay in Kauai for your vacation! 



Your Go-To Girl for Beach Travel

Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple little boys in tow – and I want to help other parents like you do the same!

I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, beach hacks, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation beach spots.



Why Trust Beaches and Babies?

Why Trust Beaches and Babies?

Besa has been a frequent traveler for almost 20 years, and the last five years of her travels have included her two toddler boys, 19 months apart.
Years of flying and beach bumming with her kids has given her plenty of hard-earned experience in the travel world.

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Read over my full list of the best sites to book with on my Resources page.