There is a constant debate between people familiar with the island on what side of Kauai is the best to stay on. There are benefits to all regions in Kauai, but some sides of the island bring more advantages than others.
The best place to stay in Kauai is a subjective topic because it depends on one’s priorities, such as convenience, price, weather, restaurants, scenery etc.
In this article, I have featured some ideas to help you decide where the best part of Kauai to stay is. During my 2022 Kauai vacation, I stayed in Princeville and Poipu, plus I spent a decent amount of time in Kapa’a. I am also an ex-travel agent, so I am an expert on hotels.
Therefore, I will share my insights on what part of Kauai is the best place to stay on based on my experiences.
No time to read the entire article? Check out my top 3 picks for best place to stay on Kauai.
You will learn about the pros and cons to each area of Kauai which will help you come to a conclusion on the best place to stay in Kauai. Plus, you will start to understand the Princeville vs Poipu debate.
Before choosing where to stay in Kauai, make sure you know the main things to do in Kauai. You can narrow down your preferred location for the accommodation to ensure you are closer to your favourite activities and sights.
One more thing to note about accommodation in Kauai is that many places do not have air conditioning. Instead, they rely on the winds and fresh air blowing through the rooms. If this is a dealbreaker, you will need to check specifically for it when booking your stay.
What are the Different Parts of Kauai?
If you have never visited Kauai before and are only just starting your research, you may be intrigued to learn what the areas of Kauai are, and what the best area to stay in kauai is.
Given that Kauai is a roughly circular island, the island is dissected into North, South, East, and West.
All four areas of Kauai are distinct and have well-loved activities, sights, and restaurants. However, the most common places to stay in Kauai are the North, South, and East.
There are fewer options to stay in west Kauai. However, I will still touch on this area and its accommodation options.
Of the three more popular sides of Kauai to stay in, there are options for staying in luxury hotels and lower-cost options such as rental houses and apartments.
South Shore Kauai
The south shore of Kauai typically refers to the town of Poipu. You will find many hotels of all calibres on the South Shore of Kauai.
Some of the best hotels in Kauai are in Poipu. There are many well-known hotel brands, such as Marriott and Hyatt. There are also boutique hotels and local brands.
There is a variety of excellent restaurants in Poipu, such as Beach House, Tidepools, and Eating House 1849. There is also a locally run Poipu shuttle (tip-based) that can take you from your resort in Kauai to restaurants in the area.
The Poipu shuttle service is a huge benefit because you do not need to drive yourselves. However, I do still recommend that you rent a car in Kauai.
The south shore typically has the best weather on Kauai. Therefore, if you travel to Kauai during winter, it pays to stay at least a portion of your vacation in Poipu.
Additionally, some of Kauai’s best beaches are in the Poipu area, such as Shipwreck and Poipu. You can also watch an incredible sunset from Lawai Beach, where the Beach House restaurant is.
On south coast beaches, you may also be lucky enough to witness Hawaiian monk seals resting on the shore in the morning or turtles in the evening.
Finally, hotels in Poipu benefit that they are closer to some main attractions, such as Waimea Canyon and Port Allen (where Napali Coast boat tours start).
Distance From Poipu to Key Locations in Kauai
|25 minutes (13 miles)
|Waimea Canyon Lookout
|55 minutes (28 miles)
|Hanalei Bay Beach
|1 hour 15 minutes (43.5 miles)
|30 minutes (18.3 miles)
|3 minutes (1 mile)
|1 hour 40 minutes (50 miles)
Advantages of Staying in Poipu, Kauai
- Wide range of hotels and rentals to choose from
- Excellent beaches and wildlife viewing
- Dry side of Kauai and less rain – best side of Kauai for weather
- Convenient location to Na Pali Coast boat tours and Waimea Canyon
- Large variety of restaurants
- Easy Poipu shuttle service
Disadvantages of Staying in Poipu
- Resorts are generally more expensive than East Coast Kauai hotels
- Relatively long drive to North Shore attractions
- Busier beaches and resorts
Where to Stay on Kauai South Shore?
|Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
|One of the most luxurious hotels in Kauai with stunning hotel grounds, a wide range of restaurants, oceanfront access, and comfortable rooms.
|Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu (Autograph Collection)
|A beautiful property with a swimming pool rated best in the US. No direct beach access, but within walking distance to several beaches (10 – 15 minutes).
|Ko’a Kea Resort on Po’ipu Beach
|Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort offers breathtaking ocean views, an oceanfront pool, and delicious Hawaiian-inspired cuisine at the Red Salt restaurant, just steps away from Poipu Beach, one of Kauai’s most stunning stretches of sand.
|Sheraton Kauai Resort
|Located close to Kiahuna Beach and Poipu Beach. A short distance to popular restaurants and an ocean path.
|The Lodge at Kukuiʻula
|This 5-star resort has bungalows, each with a private lanai, a gourmet kitchen, and breathtaking ocean or garden views. You’ll have access to the resort’s stunning infinity pool and soothing waters of the saltwater lagoon.
Michelin Guide Hotel in South Kauai
Did you know that Koʻa Kea Resort on Poipu Beach is featured on the Michelin Guide for hotels? If you are familiar with the Michelin Guide for restaurants, then you will understand that all hotels on the Michelin Guide have undergone a rigorous vetting to have been included on the list.
North Shore Kauai
I recommend staying a few nights, at least, in North Kauai because it allows you to experience it differently from those who only come for a day trip. If you stay the whole time in South or East Kauai, you may only end up visiting once or twice and not getting a good enough feel for the north shore of Kauai.
One of the best places to stay in North Kauai is in a house in Princeville with some outdoor space. You can find plenty of accommodation options no matter what your group size.
Some houses line the Princeville Makai Golf Course and have great views of the golf course. Many accommodation options have incredible views of mountains and waterfalls.
Puu Poa Beach, Hideaway Beach and Queen’s Bath are all within walking distance from Princeville. Although, the latter two may be closed during inclement weather conditions.
There are also some out-of-this-world beaches on the north coast of Kauai, such as Tunnels Beach, Haena Beach, and Ke’e Beach. Plus, Hanalei Bay is one of the best places to visit in Kauai.
High tides in Hanalei Bay can restrict access and close the bridge. Nonetheless, you should visit Hanalei Bay as much as possible. The town is quaint with astonishing views, tasty snack stops and restaurants, and the famous Hanalei beach and pier.
Given that Hanalei is a short drive from Princeville, there are plenty of options for exceptional dining experiences. Make sure you make reservations to avoid disappointment.
Princeville is one of the best places to stay in Kauai when hiking the Kalalau Trail because it is a shorter drive than the south and east of Kauai.
Something to note is that Na Pali Coast boat tours do not run from North Kauai in the winter because the waves are too big. So you will have to travel down to Port Allen in the west.
Distance From Princeville to Key Locations in Kauai
|50 minutes (29 miles)
|Waimea Canyon Lookout
|1 hour 55 minutes (64 miles)
|Hanalei Bay Beach
|12 minutes (4 miles)
|45 minutes (24.5 miles)
|1 hour 15 minutes (43 miles)
|35 minutes (11 miles)
Advantages of Staying in the North Shore
- Close to some of the best Kauai beaches
- Excellent restaurants
- Beautiful and lush surroundings
- Shorter drive to key attractions such as Hanalei Bay, Tunnels Beach and Kalalau Trail
- Peaceful and laidback area
Disadvantages of Staying in the North Shore
- Higher chance of rain
- Further drive from south and west attractions
- Less swimmable beaches nearby
- More remote
- Road closures possible
Where to Stay in North Kauai?
|Westin Princeville Ocean Resort
|Luxurious accommodation in North Kauai with spectacular surroundings and a plunge pool overlooking the ocean. Note: it is also a timeshare unit property, and you will need a rental car to get around
|Hanalei Bay Resort
|Stunning condo resort with a pool and views of the Na Pali Coast
|The Cliffs at Princeville
|Vacation rentals on a secluded bluff with ocean views, fully equipped kitchens, and private lanais
There used to be a Princeville Resort, but it was bought and is being refurbished. It has turned into 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay. I look forward to visiting it to see how it turned out, since the Puu Poa Beach it is located on is stunning.
Some of the best Kauai vacation rentals are in Princeville.
Coconut Coast (East Coast of Kauai)
Staying on the Coconut Coast is a good option if you are looking for a Hawaiian resort but would rather be in the middle of attractions. Plus, you will likely pay less here than at a resort in Poipu.
So, if you are considering where to stay in Kauai on a budget, the east coast is the best choice.
One of the main perks of staying in Kapa’a is the central location. The time to get to most attractions is less extreme than staying in the north or south of Kauai. It is best for shorter trips to Kauai.
Additionally, there are many things to do in East Kauai, such as kayaking the Wailua River, Fern Grotto, hiking trails, waterfalls, and plenty of beaches. One of the most popular beaches in the east is Lydgate Beach Park.
Finding a good food stop is easy in the Coconut Coast too. There are many high-quality dining options and casual and beachfront restaurants in Kapa’a.
One of my top picks in Kapa’a is Lava Lava Beach Club for a casual but memorable oceanfront dining experience.
Distance From Kapa’a to Key Locations in Kauai
|19 minutes (8.6 miles)
|Waimea Canyon Lookout
|1 hour 23 minutes (43 miles)
|Hanalei Bay Beach
|38 minutes (23 miles)
|13 minutes (4 miles)
|42 minutes (23 miles)
|1 hour (30 miles)
Advantages of Staying in East Kauai
- Central location to reduce driving time
- Close to many attractions and activities
- Abundance of restaurants
- Good value resorts and accommodation
Disadvantages of Staying in East Kauai
- There is always bad traffic nearby in Wailua
- Resorts are less luxurious than Poipu and Princeville
- Beaches not as spectacular as the North
Where to Stay in East Kauai?
|Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort
|Luxury beachfront resort in an accessible location
|Timbers Kauai Ocean Club & Residences
|Ultra-luxurious residences in an exclusive community resort near Kalapaki Beach
Even though Marriott’s Kaua’i Beach Club is a well-known brand, I heard that Sonesta took over the hotel and is not as good as it used to be. As a result, it is not worth the high price point. If you choose to stay here, avoid a room with a murphy bed because many people claim these are uncomfortable.
I would highly recommend staying in an apartment with an ocean view in Kapa’a. You can find excellent apartments on VRBO according to your preferences and budget.
Some other budget options and mid-range options in the Coconut Coast area include:
- Kauai Shores – basic accommodation near to Lava Lava Beach Club
- Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay – more of a hotel than a resort, has a themed tiki bar
West Coast Kauai
Some of the major attractions in West Kauai include Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park. They are must-see places while in Kauai; therefore, you should be sure to include them in your Kauai itinerary.
You will typically spend a day or two in the west to explore, depending on how many hikes you would like to do in the area.
Plus, if you are travelling to Kauai in winter, all Na Pali Coast boat tours depart from Port Allen, so you will need to make your way to this part of the island.
Where to Stay in West Kauai?
I would typically suggest staying in the north, south or east of Kauai. However, if you have been to Kauai before and are looking for somewhere new to stay, or you are looking to get to know West Kauai in greater detail, here are some options.
- Waimea Plantation Cottages – 3-star cottages conveniently located near to the stunning lookouts in laidback Waimea Town.
- The Cabins at Koke’e – remote and basic cabins located within Kokee State Park, with closer access to some of the best hikes in the parks. It is one of the more unique places to stay in Kauai.
Should I Split My Time at Different Sides of The Island in Kauai?
In my opinion, the answer to this largely depends on how many days you are staying in Kauai. If you only have five days, it would be a nuisance to pack up your bags after 2 or 3 days. Therefore, I recommend you stay in one location only.
My suggestion for a short stay in Kauai would be to book a hotel or apartment in Kapa’a so that you spend less time in the car travelling to excursions. You will get a decent taste of what Poipu and Princeville are like from day trips.
Alternatively, if you stay in Kauai for seven days or longer, I suggest splitting your time between north and south Kauai. Both areas are stunning and have many activities to do. Plus, while you may be spending more time in the car to get to some attractions on the other side of the Kauai, you spend less time getting to those in the area.
Conclusion: What Side of Kauai is The Best to Stay On?
So, after all these details I have shared with you, I want to answer the question: what is the best part of Kauai to stay in?
I truly believe that every side of Kauai brings something incredible to the table. It is worth seeing each coast in detail; however, this is not always possible due to budget and time constraints.
I will summarise my findings below.
As I mentioned, the North Shore of Kauai has such a great atmosphere that it is worth it to spend more time than just a day trip.
Therefore, I recommend staying in North Kauai for a part of your trip.
I do not recommend staying the whole time in the Princeville area.
Princeville is more remote and a far drive from attractions, such as Waimea Canyon. Additionally, the weather in the north of Kauai in winter is rainier, so it is recommended to spend time in the south for more chance of sun.
There are many things to do in South Kauai and Poipu is a buzzing town with great restaurants and resorts. So, there are certainly perks to staying in Poipu, Kauai.
Some of the best Kauai hotels are found on the south shore. Even so, many hotels on the South Shore of Kauai are expensive.
So, I think spending half your time in Poipu and the other half in Princeville makes for an incredible vacation in Kauai.
The Poipu vs Princeville debate is difficult because they are both so widely different.
You may be influenced on where to stay in Kauai if you know about the beautiful Grand Hyatt Resort in Kauai. Many people like to spend some time in the south to experience the wonderful Grand Hyatt Resort.
The answer to “What side of Kauai is the best to stay on in December?” is Poipu. The weather is typically better in Poipu, so if you want to spend some time on a beach the south will give you more opportunities. However, rain is not avoidable in Poipu in winter either.
If you have a short trip planned to Kauai (less than five days), I strongly recommend staying in Kapa’a the whole time. This way, you do not have to waste crucial time packing your bags, and you can have a convenient base the entire time.
For my next trip to Kauai, I would like to visit Kauai in conjunction with another Hawaiian Island to see more sights, and do the hikes I missed last time.
Therefore, I would likely spend a shorter time in Kauai and stay along the Coconut Coast.
There are also many restaurants I want to try in Kapa’a, so it would be beneficial to stay in this convenient location.
The west side of Kauai would be the best to stay for a return visit or if you plan to spend a lot of time hiking in Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park.
For more Kauai travel tips, read the following articles about Kauai.
- How to Plan a Trip of a Lifetime to Kauai
- Best Things to Do in Poipu
- 10 Day Itinerary for Kauai
- How to Choose a Na Pali Coast Boat Tour
- Where to Eat in Kauai
- Winter in Kauai – What to Expect
- 12 Best Things to Do in Kauai When it Rains
FAQ – Kauai Best Places to Stay
Which side of Kauai is best to stay on?
If you are visiting Kauai for a short trip (less than 5 days), it is best to stay on the east side of Kauai. It is conveniently located between many attractions, and the accommodation costs are typically lower.
If you are staying in Kauai for longer than 5 days, I suggest spending part of your time on the spectacularly beautiful north shore, and the remainder on the entertaining south shore of Kauai.
Where should I stay in Kauai for the first time?
Poipu is an excellent place to stay when visiting Kauai for the first time because it has access to many attractions, restaurants, shops, and resort-style hotels.
The benefit of staying at a large hotel is that you will have access to staff that can help you with advice and concierge assistance, if required.
Princeville and Kapaa areas also make great areas to stay in. Therefore, you cannot go wrong with choosing one of these three towns.
Where to stay in Kauai if you don’t have a car?
If you are looking to visit Kauai without hiring a car, you should stay in Poipu. Many of its hotels offer transfer services to and from the airport. Plus, there are paid shuttle services to take you around the local Poipu area to restaurants or shops.
Finally, there are some activities in Poipu that are within walking-distance to the main resorts in town, such as beaches, walking trails, shops, and golf courses.
Which side of Kauai has the best weather?
The south shore of Kauai typically has the best weather because it receives the least rain each year out of all corners of Kauai. It is seen as the dry side of Kauai. Given that there is less rain in the south of Kauai, it is usually warmer and sunnier too.
What are the best Kauai hotels?
There are a wide range of hotels to choose from on Kauai, many of which are on the south shore of Kauai.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu (Autograph Collection)
The Lodge at Kukuiʻula
Ko’a Kea Resort on Po’ipu Beach
Where to stay with a late flight out of Kauai?
It is a good idea to stay at Grand Hyatt Kauai on your last day in Kauai, particularly if you have a late flight out of Lihue airport.
Grand Hyatt Kauai has a hospitality suite that you can use to freshen up once you have checked-out of your hotel room, including a private shower and changing area. Plus, you are able to spend the rest of the day relaxing by the hotel’s pool.