If you’ve been following the Hawaii Aloha Travel blogs, you probably know Kauai is one of my favorite islands. And, for good reason: It’s less crowded than Oahu or Maui, has breathtaking scenery, and moves at a slower pace than most of the state. Sign me up!

But, recommending where to stay on Kauai for visitors can be tricky — and it depends on your likes and dislikes. So, read-on to learn about the pros and cons of each resort area:

South Shore (Koloa, Lawai, and Poipu)

  • Perfect For: Families, Couples. Poipu is, by far, my favorite resort area, and the reason is simple: It’s highly convenient for families. If you can afford the Grand Hyatt Kauai Hotel and Spa in Poipu, have at it! You won’t find a more beautiful pool in all of Poipu, and the hotel is romantic and private — perfect for couples. But, if you need a more affordable option, families can always rent one of the many time-shares available. And, some of the time-shares come with access to the Poipu Beach Athletic Club, which features a beautiful pool, restaurant, and tennis courts.
a tunnel of trees with cars going through

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

One of the most scenic drives is on the way from Lihue to Poipu.
  • Not Perfect For: Those who want a hoppin’ nightlife and a less “touristy” atmosphere. There is ample development in the Poipu resort area, but most of it is geared toward visitors. So, if you’re looking for a more vintage or old Hawaii type atmosphere, this isn’t it. And, the nightlife isn’t exactly abundant here. Most families are in bed by 10.
  • Things To Do: There’s no lack of fun activities to do in Poipu and the surrounding areas: Horseback riding is available, plus a close-by ranch sometimes hosts rodeos. Surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, and sailing are all activities that are available right at Poipu Beach. And, many of the nearby resorts offer family-friendly activities right on the resort’s campus.
  • Nearby Attractions: Waimea Canyon is about a 45 minute drive from Poipu, which makes the resort area one of the closest to the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The Spouting Horn blowhole is nearby, as is Allerton Garden. To see some of these attractions with your personal and local tour guide, book the Kauai Jeep Tour from Hawaii Jeep Tours, and get the most out of your visit to The Garden Isle.
poipu beach at sunset

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Poipu Beach at sunset is a spectacular sight not to be missed.

North Shore (Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea)

  • Perfect For: Families, Couples. The real gem of Kauai is its North Shore, which features extravagant hotels, such as the St. Regis Princeville Resort, and the famous Na Pali Coastline. For families, hotels of all ranks and sizes are available for a more budget-friendly stay. And, for couples, high-end resorts provide the backdrop for a romantic getaway.
  • Not Perfect For: Singles looking for a busy nightlife and cosmopolitan atmosphere. However, if you’re a single who likes to kick-back by the pool, relax, and enjoy the outdoors, the North Shore may be a perfect fit. But, my experience here tells me you’ll mostly run into families and couples.
  • Things To Do: You can take a Kauai Movie Tour, a sunset sail along the Na Pali Coast, a snorkel sail, go hiking, or go kayaking, all in one visit to the North Shore of Kauai. But, beware that, during the winter, the surf is high and dangerous.
waimea canyon on kauai

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

No matter where you decide to stay on Kauai, consider reserving a day to visit Waimea Canyon.
  • Nearby Attractions: The Na Pali coast is the most spectacular scenery you may ever see. So, it’s no mystery why so many visitors choose to stay on the North Shore of Kauai. Lumahai Beach and the Kilauea Lighthouse are other attractions that are close-by.

East Shore (Kapaa, Lihue, Wailua)

  • Perfect For: Singles, Couples, Families, LGBTQ. The County Seat of Lihue may be a bit more “industrialized” than the rural areas of Kauai, but the East Shore is still a great “jumping-off” point for just about everyone. Singles and couples will love the low-key hotels and resorts, and singles and LGBTQ visitors looking for some nightlife may find a bit more action here.
  • Not Perfect For: Visitors looking for the spectacular scenery depicted in post cards. The East Shore has a bit more traffic and concrete than the North Shore, so if you want to see the “postcard” scenery, stay near the Na Pali Coast.
  • Things To Do: Mountain tubing, horseback riding, luaus, ATV tours, and zip lining, are just a few of the many activities to pass the time if you stay on Kauai’s East Shore.
the kauai museum in lihue

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

The Kauai Museum in Lihue is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon indoors.
  • Nearby Attractions: The Fern Grotto on the Wailua River is always a popular visitor excursion. You can also take the Kauai Path, which extends from Lydgate Park to Donkeys Beach north of Kealia and Kapaa town. Check out Wailua Beach if you’re looking for ocean activities.

Deciding where to stay on Kauai is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when booking your trip. So, use our guide to help you make the best choice for your Kauai vacation!


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