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Where to Stay in Kauai in 2024 | Best Areas & Hotels

Where to Stay in Kauai in 2024 | Best Areas & Hotels

Kauai, the oldest and northernmost island in Hawaii, is a tropical paradise known for its stunning natural beauty. With its lush green mountains, cascading waterfalls, and pristine beaches, Kauai is the perfect place to relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect with nature.

Of course, when planning your trip, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is where to stay. With its diverse landscape and variety of accommodations, the island has something to offer everyone, whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly hotel, a luxurious resort, or a charming vacation rental.

But don’t worry — we’re here to help you sort out your options. We’ll take you on a journey through the best places to stay on Kauai, from the sunny shores of Poipu to the dramatic cliffs of Princeville to the charming town of Hanalei.

The 4 Best Places to Stay in Kauai

Vector map of Kauai pictured with several of the best places to stay and attractions to visit

Kauai consists of two larger cities and a bunch of other smaller cities, villages, and unincorporated areas. Most of the urban attractions are located in either Lihue (the capital) or Kapa’a (the largest city on the island).

The beaches, the national parks, and the waterfalls are scattered everywhere around the island. Wherever you are, something sublime or striking will be only a couple of miles away.

Our top picks for the best places to stay in Kauai include:

  1. Lihue: Largest town on Kauai, home to the airport, convenient base for exploring the island. Also has the least expensive accommodation options.
  2. Kapaʻa: Relaxed town on the East Side, affordable accommodation, close to attractions like Wailua River and Coconut Grove Marketplace.
  3. Princeville and Hanalei: North Shore resort area known for its dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, and championship golf courses. Princeville is home to a variety of luxury hotels and resorts, as well as vacation rentals.
  4. Koloa: Small with great beaches, sunny weather, calm waters, family-friendly activities, a charming downtown, and some striking natural landmarks but no hotels with less than four stars.
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Where to Stay in Kauai: Best Areas & Hotels

As a major tourist attraction in the North Pacific Ocean, Kauai — like almost all the Hawaiian Islands — is packed with great hotels and resorts. However, they’re not for everybody’s pockets since a lot of them can be a bit pricey.

Without exaggerating too much, it’s safe to say that every city in our guide has some out-of-this-world hotel or resort. That being said, there’s a serious problem not only with budget options but with mid-range accommodations as well.

If you’re looking for something cheaper, make sure you drop your anchor in one of the two largest cities on the island: the capital, Lihue, or the largest, Kapa’a. Neither Princeville, Hanalei, nor Koloa offer any budget options at all.

Plainly speaking, the only “real” budget hotels are to be found in Lihue. Not even Kapa’a has anything lower than three-star accommodations.

1. Most Budget-Friendly Area: Lihue

Aerial view of Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii as a suggestion on where to stay in Kauai

The World Traveler/Shutterstock

We are beginning our trip around Kauai with the second largest city on the island called Lihue, which is also Kauai’s capital. A place with a long and interesting history, it took precedence over the other cities on the island thanks to the emerging sugar industry at the beginning of the 19th century.

Like most of the places on the island, it’s surrounded by striking nature, beautiful beaches, and a lot of interesting things to do.

We recommend Lihue as the perfect place for first-time visitors to this beautiful island because of its balanced offer of numerous accommodations, restaurants, beaches, and interesting historical as well as natural landmarks.

First, let’s go with history and the three museums that you have to visit.

The Kauai Museum is the right place for you if you’re interested in the history of the indigenous people from the island; Grove Farm Sugar Plantation Museum is a monument to the sugar industry and presents the way of life in an authentic place of its kind; Kilohana Plantation Estate offers basically the same, plus a lot of other interactive activities.

But the outdoors and not the museums are where you’ll spend most of your time in Lihue. Kalapaki Beach is the main place for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing near the city.

Wailua Falls, on the other hand, is the premier natural attraction in the area. You definitely have to visit them both. Luckily for you, there are a lot of organized tours around the city and its area that will help you to get to know it by air, land, or water.

That’s why we recommend you check out the touring options.

Lihue is a major tourist magnet with a wide variety of accommodations of every type, size, and price range. Whether you prefer something cheap or expensive, Lihue is the right place for you. The same holds for restaurants.

Lihue Budget Hotels

  • Kauai Palms Hotel is a decent but not very cheap two-star hotel located close to the Lihue Airport and just one block away from Kalena Park. It offers free Wi-Fi and free parking, a fantastic view of the Kipu Mountains, and rooms with cable TVs and refrigerators.
  • Tip Top Motel is the second two-star accommodation in Lihue that offers free Wi-Fi and free parking. All of its rooms are furnished with private bathrooms and flat-screen cable TVs. It’s particularly suitable for couples, and it also has a restaurant on its premises.

Lihue Mid-Range Hotels

  • Banyan Harbor Resort is the cheaper of the two three-star hotels that we present in our guide and a great place for you if you want to choose decent accommodation without spending a lot of money. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, tennis, and basketball courts on the premises, as well as a designated barbecue area.
  • The Kauai Inn is the more luxurious of the two three-star hotels in Lihue. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, a gorgeous view of the Hula’eia Mountains, free parking, and free Wi-Fi throughout the premises. There are also facilities for disabled people. For complimentary drinks, go to the designated pavilion area.

Lihue Luxury Hotels

  • Kauai Beach Resort & Spa is a very large and luxurious four-star resort that, quite conveniently, has no less than four swimming pools on its premises. Located on the beachfront, it also has a private beach, three restaurants and bars, a fitness center, and a spa and wellness center.
  • The Royal Sonesta Kaua’i Resort Lihue is the only five-star accommodation in Lihue and definitely the best and the most luxurious hotel on the island. Located on the beachfront, it has a private beach, four restaurants, a fitness and spa center, and rooms that’ll blow your mind.

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2. Best Area for Hiking: Kapaʻa

Kapa'a Beach Park in Hawaii, one of the best areas to stay when on a trip to Kauai


Around 11 miles to the north of Lihue lies Kapa’a or Kapaa (meaning solid), the largest city in Kauai, boasting a population of nearly 12,000 people.

It’s the quintessential Hawaiian town, located near the ocean with a myriad of fantastic beaches and surrounded by striking nature and hiking trails. Moreover, it boasts numerous parks and restaurants near the beachfront.

Kapa’a’s very close to a bunch of national parks and forest reserves. All of them are quite close to the city, no further than ten miles (or 25 minutes) by car.

The ones worth mentioning are:

  • Wailua River State Park
  • Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve
  • Halelea Forest Reserve
  • Keālia Forest Reserve
  • Moloa‘A Forest Reserve

When it comes to beaches, the one that’s closest is Kapaa Beach, which is narrow but has a bike and strolling trail right next to it. The others worth mentioning are Fujii Beach and Keālia Beach — located to the south and to the north of the city.

But the most interesting thing that you could do in Kapa’a is hiking, given its two most famous trails on the island: the Sleeping Giant and Kuilau Ridge.

The first one is the stuff of legend since the hill is supposedly a sleeping giant that ate and drank too much on a neighboring feast. If you are up for a longer hike, there’s one that leads directly to Ho’olalaea Waterfall, yet another important landmark in the area.

Quite unexpectedly, Kapa’a also has some interesting Hindu and Christian religious buildings that may be interesting to some travelers.

Kauai’s Hindu Monastery is around nine miles from the city, and St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish is located right in the center of Kapa’a. The accommodation options are not as great as in Lihue.

There are practically no budget options since there’s no hotel with less than three stars, but there aren’t any five-star accommodation options either. For a broader choice and more options, we recommend you stick to the capital.

Kapaʻa Budget Hotels

  • Kauai Kalani is a three-star accommodation that can be called a budget option only in the relative sense. It’s the cheapest accommodation that you’ll find in Kapa’a, offering much more than a typical budget option. It has a swimming pool and rooms equipped with all the amenities.
  • Plantation Hale Suites is the second cheapest accommodation in the city, and again, a budget option only because there’s nothing cheaper in the area. It has multiple swimming pools, cable TV, and a terrace in every room. Free Wi-Fi and parking, as well as facilities for disabled people, are a given.

Kapaʻa Mid-Range Hotels

  • Kauai Shores Hotel is a gorgeous three-star hotel located on the beachfront that also features a private beach. It has two outdoor pools, a restaurant and a bar on the premises, free Wi-Fi and parking, facilities for disabled people, and richly furnished rooms.
  • Hotel Coral Reef is yet another great three-star hotel that looks more like a luxury option than a mid-range one. It has an outdoor swimming pool — like all the other hotels in Kapa’a — free parking and Wi-Fi, rooms with a great view of the ocean, and a very close proximity to the beach of only 50 feet.

Kapaʻa Luxury Hotels

  • The ISO is the first of the two very best four-star hotels in Kapa’a, located on the beachfront and very close to the Waipouli Town Center. It has a swimming pool on the premises, as well as an on-site restaurant, a bar, free Wi-Fi throughout the premises, and free parking.
  • Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort is the second four-star hotel in Kapa’a and definitely the best, most luxurious, and most expensive accommodation in the city. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, a private beach in front of the hotel, facilities for disabled guests, free Wi-Fi, and parking.

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3. Most Luxurious Area: Princeville and Hanalei

As an image for a piece on where to stay in Kauai, an image of Princeville

Steve Heap/Shutterstock

Located on the northern side of Kauai lie the two small and beautiful cities of Princeville and Hanalei. They are very close to each other, at a distance of less than four miles, and that’s why we decided to cover them together.

They offer some of the best beaches on the island and numerous activities that’ll make every visitor fall in love with the cities. As we said, the beaches are the strongest side of Princeville and Hanalei.

We are going to list them in no particular order since all of them are great:

  • Kalihikai Beach
  • Thomas Walsh Beach
  • Anini Beach
  • Sealodge Beach
  • Hideaway Beach
  • Puu Poa Beach
  • Hanalei Beach
  • Waikoko Beach
  • Lumaha’i Beach
  • Pali Ke Kua Beach

The other important landmarks and activities in both Princeville and Hanalei are mostly about the natural beauty of the area. There’s an interesting scenic drive called Hanalei Valley Lookout that you can check out by car; then, there are Queen’s Bath and Turtle Cove, which are famous geological formations.

But if you prefer something concentrated or institutional, make sure you visit the unforgettable Princeville Botanical Gardens, which are probably the most visited tourist attraction in both cities.

We didn’t talk much about shopping options in the previous segments, but Princeville offers a good opportunity to do so.

Princeville Center — the premier shopping center in the north of the island — offers a number of shops, restaurants, and entertainment places that will cover most of your needs as a tourist in this part of the world.

Do note, however, that while there are countless things to do on this part of the island, it’s also quite rainy. But we still think it’s worth visiting, as the showers usually blow over within 20 minutes or so.

To finish with the accommodation options. Much like Kapa’a, both Princeville and Hanalei are quite expensive and offer practically no budget options for hotels and motels.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for something upscale and luxurious, you don’t have to worry at all because some of the best and richest hotels on the islands are located here.

Princeville and Hanalei Budget Hotels

  • Sandpiper #116b is a three-star accommodation and one of the cheapest accommodations in Princeville. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, and Wi-Fi. It also has non-smoking rooms and is in close proximity to the best beaches in the area, such as Hideaway Beach and Puu Poa Beach.
  • Club Wyndham Bali Hai Villas is a three-star hotel and a budget option only in the relative sense of the term. There’s a pool, spa center, and fitness center, as well as sports facilities on the premises.

Princeville and Hanalei Mid-Range Hotels

  • Club Wyndham Ka Eo Kai is a fabulous three-star hotel that offers much, much more than a regular mid-range option. It has an outdoor pool and rooms furnished with all the amenities, painted in warm colors. There’s an on-site massage service available, as well as a golf course nearby.
  • The Cliffs at Princeville is yet another fabulous and upscale three-star hotel that, in any other context, would be considered a luxurious option. Located on the beachfront and offering a private beach, it also has two outdoor pools, a room with a fully equipped kitchen, and sports facilities on the premises of the hotel.

Princeville and Hanalei Luxury Hotels

  • 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is the most luxurious and expensive hotel in Princeville and one of the best on the whole island. This five-star hotel offers a beachfront location, a huge outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, and a fitness center on the premises. Finally, there’s a fabulous breakfast every morning and a spa and wellness center available.
  • The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas is a four-star accommodation and the second most expensive and luxurious hotel in the city. Offering no less than three swimming pools on its premises, a fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant, it’s particularly suitable for couples. It also has facilities for disabled people and offers numerous activities.

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4. Best Area for Nature Lovers: Koloa

Aerial image of Poipu one of the best places to stay in Kauai


The final place that we are going to visit in this guide is Koloa, a small place (listed as an “unincorporated community”) on the south side of Kauai, with a tiny population of only 2,000 people.

Famous for having the first real sugar plantation in the whole of Hawaii, today it’s mostly visited for its fabulous beaches, interesting old town (with a couple of historical landmarks), and fantastic flora.

The beaches, obviously, like many places in Kauai, are its prime attraction. As they’re beautiful beyond words, the only thing we can do about them is to give you a list.

Seeing the real thing is the only available option:

  • Poipu Beach Park (the best in the wider area)
  • Shipwreck Beach (great for surfing)
  • Baby Beach (perfect for snorkeling)
  • Lawa’i Beach (snorkeling and unforgettable sunsets)
  • Mahaulepu Beach (greenery and dunes)
  • Gillin’s Beach (nice for relaxing)

Then, you should definitely take a stroll along Old Koloa Town, which is basically the historic district of the place, with a lot of shopping options too. Quite near it is the Old Kōloa Sugar Mill, part of the first commercially successful sugar plantation in Hawaii.

The rest that Koloa has to offer is hiking trails, striking nature, and scenic drives. Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail is a two-mile path along the beach and the cliffs in the southern parts of the city.

Near the ocean, but on the other side (west) of the village is the Spouting Horn, the famous natural lava tube. There are gardens (both botanical and regular) every step of your way, so make sure you check some of them.

The situation with the hotels is slightly problematic. There’s practically no accommodation with less than four stars in Koloa.

That means that there are no budget options, and the mid-range options are only slightly cheaper than a four-star hotel. If you are looking for something cheaper and more affordable, Koloa is definitely not the right place for you.

Koloa Mid-Range Hotels

  • Koa Kea Resort on Poipu Beach is a slightly less expensive four-star hotel that would be considered a prime luxurious option anywhere else but Hawaii. It offers everything: from a location on the beachfront and an outdoor swimming pool to a spa and wellness center, a restaurant, and a bar on the premises.
  • Hilton Vacation Club The Point at Poipu Kauai is another not-so-expensive four-star hotel that can be considered a mid-range option only in this particular context. Especially suitable for couples, it offers an outdoor swimming pool and a great location for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Koloa Luxury Hotels

  • Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is a very expensive, very luxurious four-star hotel. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, a golf course, and no less than seven restaurants on its premises. Located on the beachfront, with its own spa and wellness center and fitness center, it’s a perfect place for visitors who prefer the finer things in life.
  • Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club is the second best hotel in Koloa, and consequently, the second most expensive one. It boasts two swimming pools, a fitness center, a spa and wellness center, rooms with kitchens and plasma TVs, and facilities for disabled guests all around the premises.

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So, Where Should You Stay in Kauai?

When you’re picking the best areas in Kauai for your vacation, it’s really important to think long and hard about what you’ll want to do. After all, convenience is important, especially because you won’t want to spend your trip in the car.

So, to recap:

💰 Most Budget-FriendlyLihue
🥾 Best Area for HikingKapaʻa
🥂 Most Luxurious AreaPrinceville and Hanalei
🌳 Best for Nature LoversKoloa

So, with so much to see and do and no bad area to stay, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Kauai today and experience all that this idyllic paradise has to offer. Happy travels!