Kauai is the epitome of Hawaiian paradise with its lush green mountains, pristine beaches, wild canyons, tropical valleys of palms, and welcoming towns. Whether it’s your first visit to the island or you’ve been here before, you’ll know that picking where to stay is super important. Enter the best places to stay in Kauai guide!
I’ve been to Kauai a few times now and having explored all of the different neighborhoods and regions, you really start seeing how different they all are. Since there’s only the one main ring road that (almost) takes you around, you do have to think carefully about where you want to base yourself. This guide will help you through that decision by showing you what you can find do each area, where to stay, and insider travel tips.
Read more about Hawaii
- Honolulu 2 day itinerary
- 3 of the best hikes near Honolulu
- 5 Waikiki beach hotels that won’t break the bank
- Top things to do in Maui
- Best snorkelling spots in Maui
How to get the best deal on car rentals
- You’ll 100% need to rent a car for your trip to Kauai. Make sure you’re getting the best deals by using these car rental coupon codes.
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Best Places to Stay in Kauai
While I can no longer say Kauai is off-the-beaten-path, it still sits in the shadow of other popular islands such as Oahu and Maui. Come here once though and you’ll see just how incredible it is here with its hidden beaches, plenty of adventure, unbelievable scenery, and laid back personality.
In this best places to stay in Kauai guide, let us dive into the distinct neighborhoods of Kauai, what you need to know about each, and ultimately, which one you should pick.
BEFORE YOU CONTINUE
You need to read the companion Kauai article that dives into the things that you have to plan in your itinerary if you only have 3 days in Kauai.
4 Main Regions and Neighborhoods of Kauai
Kauai is easily broken down into 4 different geographical regions, each with its own distinct attractions, style, climate, and vibe. To put it simply, here’s what you need to know about each of them.
- North Shore – Graced with the picturesque Napali coast, beaches, lush valleys, and the affluential Princeville, this is simply postcard-worthy.
- East Side – As the most populated part of the island, it’s as “busy” as the island gets with a big part dedicated to commercial development, and essential big stores and restaurants. That said, there’s still plenty to see and do here.
- South Shore – This part of the island gets the best weather and as a result, you’ll find it the most popular with visitors. Anchored by Poipu, there are many resorts and beaches here.
- West Side – This part of the island becomes dramatically much more raw in both the development sense but also the geology. Drier and more barren, you’ll find the Grand Canyon of the Pacific here and the start of the Napali Coast.
1. North Shore
Starting from the top is the North Shore and is hands down, the complete package when it comes to scenery. With verdant mountains as the backdrop, lush valleys, strong of beautiful beaches, and of course, the famed Napali Coast, there’s so much to see and do here.
The main towns you’ll find here are the Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea. While Hanalei has more of a local surf vibe, Princeville is very much an affluent community mainly comprised of condos, houses, and a few luxury resorts. Princeville is quite developed and brings much of the living comforts you expect to find in the well-off neighborhoods in the US. Kilauea is not nearly as developed, with fewer accommodation options.
Why stay in the North Shore?
It really comes down to access to some of the best parts of Kauai. Waking up to the view of the mountains just can’t be beat.
There are plenty of accommodations available here with an abundance of rentals but they do lean more towards the luxury end.
Disadvantages of the North Shore
The main knock on this region is the fact that it does get a lot more rain compared to the other parts, especially in the winter months (Late November to March).
I’ve personally experienced this in February when the rainfall was so intense that the bridge leading into Hanalei flooded and prevented passage in either direction.
Another thing to consider is that since the North Shore of Kauai is the end of the road, getting to the West Side and sights such as Waimea Canyon are a bit more of a drive (just shy of 2 hours).
Lastly, I’ve touched on the luxuriousness of the area. The nicest accommodations are on this part of the island but that comes with a higher price tag so if you’re price sensitive, that’s something to consider.
Hotel recommendations in the North Shore
If you decide on the North Shore, you’ll most likely find yourself in Princeville which in my opinion is a fabulous choice. Yes, it is a bit pricier but it’s worth it.
Another thing that is very apparent when you start looking in the North Shore is that it is dominated by short-term rentals. Whether you look at Booking or VRBO, there’s pretty much only 2 resort properties that show up. Everything else is some sort of condo or house rental.
This is just one example but if you look at VRBO’s extensive inventory, you’ll see many similar condo/house rentals in Princeville that can meet all budgets. You get a full unit to yourself, access to a kitchen, and way more privacy and freedom. Personally, I’ve stayed here before and it was amazing.
If you prefer, Airbnb also has many listings but I’ve found that their prices can be slightly higher.
This Princeville resort property is more of a one-bedroom apartment that has an outdoor pool, hot tub, free wifi, and bbq facilities. Each apartment features a balcony and laundry facilities are on site. One reviewer said “Good quiet location, we had breakfast on the terrace, big apartment, welcoming staff.
STAY IN HANALEI
HANALEI SURFBOARD HOUSE
This has to be one of the hidden gems of the North Shore as you can’t find it on any booking platform other than their own site. The surfing charm is on full display here with their two suites that are tucked away in the town of Hanalei.
Nestled by the cliff of the North Shore is this luxury resort that has all the comforts of home with its villas while also boasting a wide array of amenities. Villas here have a full kitchen, whirlpool tub, and incredibly comfortable bed.
Things you have to see and do in the North Shore
Kalalau Trail – Making it on the list of North American hikes of a lifetime, you don’t necessarily have to do the full-fledged challenging hike that requires camping and permits. Instead, plan a day to hike along the trail to Hanakapiai Beach and back for more than enough adrenaline and epic views. Currently, reservations are required to do this hike to be able to limit the trail to 900 people a day.
Surfing Hanalei Bay – Whether it’s watching surfers twist and glide all over the bay, jumping in with a surf lesson of your own, or just taking a dip, it’s just absolutely gorgeous here.
Town of Hanalei – There’s a magical mix of local vibes with the laid back surfer mentality here that you’ll just love. While you’re here, make sure not to miss Hanalei Bread Company for breakfast, JoJo’s Shave Ice, and spots like Bar Acuda and Kalypso Island Bar & Grill for dinner.
Secret beaches – If you’ve read Kauai in 3 days, you’ll know that one of the best parts about the North Shore area are their abundance of beaches – both public and others that are a bit more hidden. The best ones are: Sealodge Beach, Secret Beach, Hideaway Beach, and Tunnels Beach.
Kilauea Lighthouse – Not only will you find a beautiful example of a restored lighthouse, you’ll also see many species of birds including the albatross, shearwater, and red-footed booby. The jagged coastline along with the island that sits out in front of the lighthouse are very impressive.
Queen’s Bath – This is somewhat of a controversial location as it can be very dangerous here with large waves that can pull you in to the ocean. Take care when visiting here and if the conditions are right (ideally in the summer when the water is calmer), enjoy the beauty of the natural tide pools.
Suggested activities in the North Shore
There’s a ridiculous amount of things you can do here. So while yes, it may be harder to get to South Shore and the West Side, you certainly won’t run out of fun thanks to the Napali Coast.
Hanalei Bay Kayak and Snorkel Tour – Spend 4.5 hours paddling in the lush and tropical waters of Hanalei River and Hanalei Bay with really high chances of spotting turtles during the snorkel portion of the trip.
Kauai Learn To Surf Lessons – Wish you could surf like the dudes out in the water of Hanalei Bay? This is your chance to learn how to surf under the helpful guidance of Hawaiian Surfing Adventures.
Zipline Express – In this Princeville ranch you’ll find this adrenaline pumping 9 zip lines and a thrilling suspension bridge.
Princeville Botanical Gardens Tour and Chocolate Tasting – This is a skip-the-line ticket to the Princeville Botanical Gardens. Inside, you’ll also get to sample single-origin gourmet chocolates from around the world.
Kauai Audio Guide Apps
To help in your road trip around Kauai, there are two different audio guide apps out there that I can recommend. Both of these apps use GPS to pinpoint where you are and as you’re driving, you’ll get commentary, stories, and directions to where you should visit.
The app doesn’t require data so it works offline.
2. East Side
Think of the East Side as the commercial capital of Kauai. As the location that’s roughly equidistant from the north and south shore’s attractions, you’ll conveniently find many small shopping centers, restaurants, and big box stores.
The main towns are Kapaa and Wailua but keep in mind that it doesn’t include Lihue which is the capital and where you’ll find the airport.
This region is also called the Coconut Coast with the thousands of coconut trees that stretch along the coastline here.
Not only will you be coming to the East Side to stock up on supplies but there are actually a number of highlights on the coast and towards the mountains that I highly recommend.
Why visit the East Side?
Convenience is a huge part of what makes the East Side attractive.
In the middle, you get easy access to the North Shore and South Shore so you don’t necessarily have to make a big day trip just to go to the other side of the island.
Close to big shops and tons of restaurants also means that supplies and meals are always minutes away.
Lastly, there are a ton of budget accommodations here so if you’re a backpacker or looking to save money, this area is the right spot to be in.
Disadvantages of the East Side
As the center of commerce, this is the business part of the island and that means that the traffic can get bad so you do have to be mindful of “rush hour”.
While accommodations here are cheaper, the atmosphere of this area is dulled a bit by all of the plazas and sights of Walmart and Home Depot so you could say it’s not the most enchanting part of the island.
Hotel recommendations in the East Side
The location is just perfect in Kauai where the staff, room comfort, and special amenities such as yoga, beachfront restaurant, 2 outdoor pools, and private beach really put it over the top considering it’s one of the more reasonably priced properties in the area. Free wifi at the property.
There are plenty of condo rentals like this one in the Wailua and Kapaa for extremely affordable prices. You can easily find one with ocean views, full kitchen, and room for 2 or 3 for easily cheaper than the cheapest hotel.
Airbnb is another option as well although again choices are a little bit more limited and more expensive.
Right next to Wailua River is a very familiar brand in the Hilton Garden Inn with an ocean front location and private beach access. As you’d expect, rooms feature air-condition, microwave, mini-fridge, and coffee machine. This is perfect for those with Hilton Honors points and is conveniently located right by Lydgate Beach Park.
Another excellent Marriott property on the island but this time near the airport. It’s right next to Kalapaki Bay and an 18-hole golf course. The hotel itself features 5 restaurants, spa and the rooms have beautiful garden or ocean views. This is a great spot to spend your Marriott points.
Things you have to see and do in the East Side
Kuilau Ridge Trail – A hidden gem of a trail that takes you deep into the forest and up to see sweeping views of lush valleys and Mount Waialeale and the Makaleha Mountain Range.
Sleeping Giant Trail – Another popular hiking trail that isn’t too challenging except for some parts which are a bit steep. It takes you into the forest and offers you a great view of the coast.
Opaeka‘a Falls – This is a spectacular 151–foot waterfall that flows over basalt from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.
Wailua Falls – See Kauai’s twin falls that’s easy to get to and view.
Fern Grotto – This is a geological wonder of Kauai where a garden of ferns grow upside down from the roof of the grotto.
Lydgate State Park – While this might not be the most beautiful beach, it’s a great place to swim, walk, picnic, and watch the sunrise.
Suggested activities in the East Side
Drive and Walk Photo Tour – If you’re a photographer, this is a great half day tour around to see the most photogenic locations on the island’s north and east shores while guided by a professional photographer.
Guided Kayak Adventure on the Wailua River – Feel like an island explorer with this half-day paddle that passes through a traditional Hawaiian village, learn about the river’s sacred history, and hike up to a waterfall.
Secret Kauai Tour – Venture off the beaten path with this private 5-hour jeep tour.
3. South Shore
The South Shore is defined by the town of Poipu, one of the most popular resort areas in Kauai. Dotted with large hotels and condos, some of the island’s nicest family-friendly beaches, and drier weather make this one of the best places to stay in Kauai.
Poipu’s charm also lies in the fact that much of the coastline has remained undeveloped so there’s also much to see and explore here including the neighbouring, Lawai, Koloa and Kalaheo.
Lastly, the lines that divide the South Shore with the East Side is blurry but in this case Lihue and the airport is included and so you also get a vast array of activities that launch from here including adventure ranches.
Why visit the South Shore?
A big attraction behind being in the South Shore is that the climate is sunnier and drier than the other parts of Kauai. As a result, the ocean is easier to swim and they also happen to have more easily accessible stretches of beach.
The area is popular for tourists because there are such a wide range of properties to choose from.
You’ll also find that this region of the island is where most of the big activities such as cruises and helicopter tours depart from, making it a really convenient place to base yourself.
Finally, being in the south allows you to be within striking distance to Waimea Canyon and the rest of the West Side.
Disadvantages of the South Shore
With the big hotels in the area, similar to Princeville, the prices here are higher than say, the East Side.
As the most popular area overall, you also end up with more crowds than on the North Shore.
Suggested hotels in the South Shore
There aren’t too many budget properties out there but this one reasonably priced compared to the other ones in the area. Complimentary continental breakfast is included and wifi is available throughout. At the inn you’ll find a garden and a terrace, and beach huts.
This is an aparthotel just 5 minutes walk from Nawiliwili Park. Featuring a heated saltwater pool, this is ideal for families with apartments that include a living room, dining space, full kitchen, washing machines and dryers.
Tennis courts and basketball courts are available for guest use. Common area barbecue facilities are also on site, and self-parking is available at the property.
This is a perfect example of why you don’t need to break the bank if you want to stay in the South Shore. Ocean-view studios like this one are typically under $200/night and you get the benefit of larger space, more privacy, and comfort.
Airbnb is another option but prices are often a bit more.
Boasting 7 restaurants, a spa, golf course, a killer beach, this is another top property in Kauai. The world-class service of the Grand Hyatt shines through. Each marble en-suite room features double vanities, bathrobes, and free toiletries. The Luau Show on Wednesdays and Sundays offers a Hawaiian buffet and showcases traditional Polynesian dance and culture.
Things you have to see and do in the South Shore
Allerton Garden and the National Tropical Botanical Garden – Allerton is a former private estate, named by National Geographic Traveler magazine as one of the 50 places to see in a lifetime. A guided walking tour ticket is the best way to see this garden.
Spouting Horn – Across from the garden is this natural wonder. This blowhole created by lava tubes and erosion spouts every minute or so and is quite the spectacle.
Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail – Spectacular coastal walk with dramatic views of the cliff and ocean that can’t be missed. It’s well-marked and combines with Shipwreck Beach.
Poipu Beach – Popular beach in Poipu with bathroom facilities and plenty of parking. Great for families and high chance of spotting turtles and seals.
Koloa Rum Company – Visit the tasting room of Kauai’s first rum distillery.
Kalapaki Beach – In Lihue is a calm cove where this idyllic beach is. It’s a nice, calm beach with plenty of parking.
Kauai Coffee Company – A must for coffee-lovers. Learn about how coffee is grown in Hawaii through their self-guided tour and sample tasting. You’ll be able to buy the beans you’re interested in of course.
Makauwahi Cave – This is totally off-the-beaten path but near the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a cave/sink hole. It’s a great hike but keep in mind that they only open on weekends. Book a guided tour here.
Suggested activities in the South Shore
Kauai ECO Adventure Helicopter Tour – The best way to see the Napali Coastline is with this scenic 50-minute helicopter tour.
Kauai Ultimate Off-Road Ranch Tour – This is an exciting off-road adventure through the unspoiled, historic landscape of Kipu Ranch.
Mountain Tubing – Tubing through channels of an old plantation is an epic adventure you have to try.
South Shore 2 Tank Dive – If you’re a certified diver, do this amazing shore dive in the protected Hanaka’ape Bay.
Zipline Tour in Poipu – If you’re based in the South Shore and are looking for ziplining, this is it!
Private Airplane Tour in Kauai – If you’d like to see aerial views of Kauai from a plane instead of a helicopter, this is a great option!
Luau Kalamaku – If you missed doing a luau on the other islands, you can still catch a show in Kauai.
4. West Side
From the lush paradise of sandy beaches and resorts comes the true raw beauty of the Emerald Isle that is Kauai. The scenery is unparalleled here but when it comes to the best places to stay in Kauai, the West Side isn’t for everyone.
Compared to the rest of the island, the west coast is largely undeveloped. You have the towns of Waimea and Hanapepe but after that, you enter straight into Waimea Canyon, Kokee, and Polihale State Park territory.
What it lacks in modern development and amenities, the West Side easily makes up for and more with ridiculously beautiful scenery, lookouts, and world-class hiking.
Why visit the West Side?
As the Grand Canyon of the Pacific leading straight into the Napali Coast, there’s a ridiculous amount of hiking here and a great way to escape the rest of the island.
Something interesting you’ll find is that many of the cruises leave from the port by Eleele which is contrary to what you might think because I certainly initially thought all the cruises left from the North Shore.
Disadvantages of the West Side
The reason why the West Side is the least popular for visitors is because the area just don’t have quite the variety of places to stay, dining, and shopping which makes it a bit inconvenient. Being on the far left side of the main highway also makes it difficult to get to the North Shore.
Suggested hotels in the West Side
This is one of the few hotels in the region but is more like a cozy B&B. This is a restored house with beautiful Hawaiian decorations.
“We loved this renovated old house. The room was beautifully decorated, clean and had a very comfortable bed. The location was great – quiet and right by the beach.”
Set right inside Waimea State Park, this puts you right in the heart of the action with easy and quick access to all the popular and off-the-beaten-path hike trails. This is a basic rustic cabin that is well-equipped and features a full kitchen and bathroom. It is perfect for those looking for a remote location on the island.
While there aren’t as many holiday rentals in the West Side, there are still a few nice gems such as this one on VRBO.
Make sure to check out Airbnb as well which has a good inventory of properties.
This Waimea, Kauai hotel is located just across from Waimea Historic Town. It offers private accommodation with free WiFi access.
“Proximity of the Waimea canyon, the cleanliness, super comfy bed, all amenities included and they have a washer dryer! The front desk guy was awesome and it was quick to check in!”
Things you have to see and do in the West Side
Red Dirt Waterfall – This probably isn’t the official name of this but as you drive in towards Waimea Canyon, you’ll pass by a unique formation with ripples of red soil that ends with a small waterfall uphill. There’s easy side-of-the-road parking here.
Waimea Canyon State Park – This is an incredible gem that you really don’t expect to see in Hawaii if this is your first time. Waimea Canyon was formed as Waimea River carved into the lava and basalt when the island was still young. The park covers a large area and there’s much to see along the way including lookout points, and a mix of easy and challenging hikes.
Waimea Canyon Lookout – This is your introduction to the splendor of the canyon with an accessible viewpoint with sweeping views without having to work too hard for it.]
Waipo’o Falls Lookout – From the main road, there’s a view point with a spectacular view of Waipo’o Falls from a distance. This is your chance to see it in full.
Black Pipe + Cliff Trail + Waimea Canyon Trail [Moderate] – There are a couple of ways to eventually get to the Waimea Canyon Trail but if you want to piece together a couple of trails, I recommend this way. From the main road, there’s a dirt parking lot and from there. The trail is 2 miles each way and is intermediate difficulty. For parts of it, it follows a dirt road but eventually leads to the canyons rim giving you a unique vantage point of the canyon and Kokee Rain Forest. A good thing to note is that you won’t be able to see the Waipo’o Falls in its entirety here since you’ll be directly on top of it. If you’re interested in a great view instead of hiking, you could park at the Waimea Canyon Trail Trailhead and go to the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout.
Koke’e State Park – Waimea Canyon State Park seamlessly transitions to this neighbouring park where the canyon starts giving away to the iconic spires of the Napali Coast.
Nu’alolo Trail [Difficult] – One of the popular trails at Koke’e State Park is this 3.8 mile challenging hike that ends at Lolo Vista point. The views are incredible but can be challenging because of the terrain, unstable soil, and steep cliffs. That said, if you power through, you’ll get spectacular views of Nualolo Aina Valley. It is possible to create a loop with Awa’awapuhi Trail to make this an even longer hike.
Awa’awapuhi Trail [Difficult] – This is another trail in Koke’e State Park that is absolutely amazing and like the Nu’alolo Trail, it starts dry landscapes and dense jungles, before some vertigo might set in with the high vantage views of both Awaawa’puhi valley and Nualolo Aina Valley.
Kalalau Lookout – This gives you your first glimpse of the true beauty of the Napali coast with the rippling mountain ridges, lush greenery, backed by the deep blue of the ocean. This is an easy spot to find find parking and easy to catch a view without much effort.
Pu’u O Kila Lookout – This is the actual end of the road on Kokee Road. While Kalalau Lookout is more popular, I actually love this one more because you get not only get the lookout but there’s also a bit of a side Pihea Trail that gets you to stretch your legs and see the valley and ocean below at a different angle.
Suggested activities in the West Side
Na Pali Sunset Buffet Dinner Cruise – The classic sunset cruise with dinner along Kauai’s stunning Napali Coast.
Ni’ihau and Na Pali Coast Super Snorkel Cruise – Cruise alongside the towering emerald spires and remote beaches of Kauai’s breathtaking, rugged shore in a state-of-the-art catamaran. Free drinks all day and includes continental breakfast and buffet lunch.
Na Pali Raft Adventure – If you’re looking for something a bit more exciting, this is a half day snorkelling and cruise experience.
Waimea Canyon Downhill Bike Ride – Bike ride from Waimea Canyon downhill all the way down to Kekaha Beach, just in time for sunset.
Private Waimea Canyon Tour – For a guided experience of Waimea Canyon, Kauai Coffee Company, Spouting Horn, Waipo’o Falls, and Wailua Falls.
Kauai travel tips
To help with the planning of your trip to Kauai, I’m dropping a few nuggets of wisdom and practical tips that you need to know before you go.
How to get around
- Car – Exploring the island by rental car is your best bet. To make sure you get the best deal, make sure you use one of these codes. Like the rest of Hawaii, you’ll have your choice of standard cars but you also have large fleets of convertibles and jeeps.
- Bus – If you’re on a budget and looking to get around Kauai by bus, there is a public bus system that takes you to major parts of the island. The fares are $2 USD per trip. In most cases, buses only come once an hour so you do have to be mindful of the schedule.
- Tour – If you’d rather join a tour, take a look at this Best of Kauai Tour.
- Airport Transfer – Shared and private transfers from the Kauai airport.
- Plug adapters – Hawaii uses standard North American type A and B. United States 120V supply voltage and 60Hz.
- Currency – The currency is based on the US Dollar, also known as USD or $.
- Buying a travel guide – While we have attempted to create a comprehensive guide to Seville, you may still want to buy this amazing Kauai travel guide.
- What to pack – For advice on how to pack, make sure to read how to pack like a minimalist, and how to roll your clothes. For something Kauai specific, here are a few things that you absolutely need:
- Keen Newport H2 sandals – I swear by these active sandals that’s great for the hiking you’ll be doing. Read my full review.
- Rainbow flip flops – You might own a pair already but these are seriously the best.
- Snorkel gear – Since you most likely won’t be staying in a resort with snorkel rentals, make sure to pack your own.
- Beach bag – You’ll be going out to explore secret beaches and large public beaches on your own so making sure you have a good bag to carry everything is key.
- Waterproof phone bag – If you’re out on the water at the beach and want to make sure your phone and money is safe, you’ll want this around your neck.
- Binoculars – Whether you’re into birding or not, having a good pair of binoculars come in handy especially out in Waimea Canyon.
- Light jacket – Especially in the winter months, bring a jacket when visiting Waimea Canyon which is cooler.
What to be careful about
While most of the island is super safe and is really easy to travel through like any other island in Hawaii, there are definitely a few things I want to call out as you’re preparing for your trip.
- Try not to get the red sand/mud on your shirt as that stuff is really hard to get off fabric.
- Follow the signage for hike trails. If a trail is closed because of erosion, don’t go around it thinking you’ll be okay.
- Take an abundance of caution into the hike trails of Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks. Due to unstable soil and steep drop offs, make sure you’re always in a safe position. If it’s been raining, pay even more attention to this.
- Finding a hiking stick on your hike may come in handy.
- Reservations are required for the Kalalau Trail if you missed that earlier. Make sure you book ahead of schedule. Reservations may be made up to 14 days in advance, and no later than the day before your visit.
- When travelling during rainy season, keep an eye out for heavy rainfall as this may flood the connecting bride on the highway to the town of Hanalei. If heavy rain is projected, make sure you’re on the right side of the bridge so you’re not stuck.
- When looking at the weather forecast, you’ll most likely always see some sort of rain forecasted but don’t worry, the rain is usually scattered and comes in bunches and then disappears. Rain will also sometimes only hit certain parts of the island.
So ultimately, where is the best place to stay in Kauai?
Any kind of singular recommendation is going to be biased but I still think that staying in the North Shore and in the Princeville area is the best place to be.
My argument is that you’d most likely only go to the Waimea Canyon on the West Side once on your trip and while South Shore is nice, I still prefer the hidden local beaches in the north.
There’s a real comfortable charm and alluring paradise to being in Princeville, and seeing the start of the Napali Coast that has had me back twice already.
Frequently asked questions
The best time to visit Kauai is from April and May. The weather is normally fantastic, while still remaining in low season so visitors are down and so are accommodation rates. Next to that August and September are also great except you’ll see higher visitation rates.
Temperatures are pretty steady throughout the year and comfortably tropical. In the winter, expect to see mid-70s °F (23-24°C), while summer temperatures are usually in the mid-80s °F (28-30°C). However, what’s different with Kauai over the other islands in Hawaii is that it is much wetter, with peak precipitation January to March.
You can easily spend over a week in Kauai but practically if you’re planning to put together an island-hopping itinerary in Hawaii, I’d recommend a minimum of 4 days in Kauai.
Some folks recommend changing accommodations during your trip to Kauai. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as packing and going through another check-in and check-out process is time wasted. It’s better to stay in one spot throughout your time and drive to all the areas you want to spend time in.
The climate at Waimea Canyon and Kalalau Lookout on the West Side can be very different from the other parts of the island. The best time to have clear visibility in the canyon and along the coast without cloud cover is in the morning so one recommendation is to drive straight to the end of Kokee Road in the morning and work your way backward.
Hurricane and tropical storms are pretty rare on Kauai but generally in the area, hurricanes are between June and November.
Whale watching season is in the winter between January and February, when most of the calving occurs.
As of April 5, 2021, Kauai is rejoining the State of Hawaii’s to Safe Travels Program. All travelers must have a negative test (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab test results from a trusted testing partner) result before beginning the final leg of your trip. Anyone without a negative test result prior to departure must quarantine 10 days upon arrival. Those that are fully vaccinated should follow CDC guidelines. Most importantly, proof of the COVID-19 vaccination is currently not a recognized exemption to the Hawaii travel quarantine.
I hope this guide featuring the best places to stay in Kauai and accompanying tips on what to see and do will help with your trip planning! If you have any questions, make sure to drop a comment below!
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