North Shore Kauai is a glistening, scenic place full of natural wonders. But is it the best place to stay on the island?
Honestly, it depends on what you want from your Kauai vacation.
The good news is that you can’t go too wrong. 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 and to find out if North Shore Kauai is the best place to stay on the island.
North Shore Kauai
This area includes the towns of Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea. It’s where you’ll find the famous Na Pali Coast and some picturesque beaches.
Perfect For: Families and Couples.
The real gem of Kauai is its North Shore, which features extravagant hotels, such as 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay. This super luxe resort is perfect for a romantic getaway.
For families, hotels of all ranks and sizes are available for a more budget-friendly stay.
Not Perfect For: Nightlife and Socialites
Singles and young couples looking for a busy nightlife and cosmopolitan atmosphere may find that the north shore is too quiet for them. However, if you like to kick back by the pool, relax, and enjoy the outdoors, the North Shore of Kauai may be a perfect fit. But, my experience here tells me you’ll mostly run into families and couples.
Things To Do on North Shore Kauai
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. You may enjoy a summertime visit here best.
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.
The South Shore includes Koloa, Lawai, and Poipu. This is where most of the resorts are and where you’ll find the best year-round weather.
Perfect For: Families and Couples.
Poipu is, by far, my favorite resort area in Kauai, 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. Some of the time-shares come with access to the Poipu Beach Athletic Club, which features a beautiful pool, restaurant, and tennis courts.
Not Perfect For: Those Wanting a Less Touristy Vibe or Nightlife
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. You’ll probably be happier staying in North Shore Kauai. 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 area. Horseback riding is available, plus a nearby 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 nearby resorts offer family-friendly activities right on the resort’s campus.
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.
Finally, let’s talk about the East Shore, which is right in between south and north shore Kauai. This includes the towns of Kapaa, Lihue, and Wailua.
Perfect For: Singles, Couples, Families, and Socializing
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 more action here.
Not Perfect For: Postcard-Worthy Scenery
The East Shore has more traffic and concrete than the North Shore of Kauai, 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 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.
Staying in Kauai: North Shore and Beyond
Deciding where to stay on Kauai is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when booking your trip. Talk with one of our local Hawaii travel agents to get customized advice for your vacation, whether you’re drawn to the quiet scenery of North Shore Kauai or the sun-kissed charm of Poipu.