5 Best Places to Stay in Kauai: Everything You Need to Know

Kauai is the perfect tropical getaway, with pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and some of the most dramatic coastline on the planet. But, given that the attractions on the island are a bit spread out and getting around the island has its challenges, it can be difficult to know which area you should stay. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited the island four times and have narrowed down the 5 best places to stay in Kauai to make the most of your time in paradise. 

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Woman standing in the water at Tunnels Beach in Hanalei, Kauai
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Table of contents

  1. Poipu
  2. Lihue
  3. Kapaa
  4. Princeville
  5. Hanalei

So there’s one important thing you should take into consideration when picking where to stay on Kauai.

It isn’t a massive island—it’s actually the smallest of the main Hawaiian islands, at just over 550 square miles. However, it can still take a while to get around the island. The northern shoreline of Kauai is home to the wild and rugged Napali Coast, which is actually SO rugged that there aren’t any roads that cut across it. 

Aerial view of sea cliffs along the Napali Coast in Kauai

Accordingly, if you want to get from the west side of the island to the popular areas of Hanalei or Princeville on the north side, it can take over two hours to drive around the entire island to get there. 

So, where you stay on Kauai can REALLY impact how easily you can get around and explore certain areas of the island—and how much of your vacation you’ll wind up spending in your rental car.

Woman sitting on a red Mustang along the coastline of Hawaii next to palm trees

So with that, there’s essentially 5 best places to stay in Kauai, each of which have their own vibe, benefits, and drawbacks. Let’s get into it!

1. Poipu

Location

Poipu is located in the center of the southern shoreline of Kauai.

Good for

First time visitors, families, beach lovers, and those looking for upscale resorts, but can’t quite afford to blow several thousands of dollars a night on a room

Sunset over palm trees at Poipu Beach in Poipu, Kauai

What to expect in Poipu

Poipu is inarguably one of the best places to stay in Kauai, with some of its most beautiful beaches and its nicest resorts. 

Beyond its awesome beaches, there’s definitely a lot to love about staying in Poipu—for example, most boat tours depart in the neighboring towns; the area has a decent amount of local shops and restaurants; and it has the driest and sunniest weather on the island. Plus, it’s relatively centrally located—it’s less than an hour drive to the incredible Waimea Canyon on the western shoreline and about an hour to Napali Coast to the north. 

View of trees lining Shipwreck Beach in Poipu, Kauai

The biggest drawback to staying in Poipu is its prices—while it’s not the most expensive place to stay on Kauai (more on that later!), it’s still shockingly pricey. Plus, if you’re looking for authentic “Hawaiian vibes” on the island, the sanitized and glitzy resorts probably aren’t the best option for you.

Things to do near Poipu

Hit the beach

Most of the best beaches in Kauai are located right in Poipu. 

For example, Poipu Beach has actually been named the best beach in the United States by the Travel Channel—and with its long stretch of soft sand, incredible sunsets, and frequent visits from sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals, it’s no wonder why!

Sea turtles basking on the sand at Poipu Beach in Poipu, Kauai

Additionally, Shipwreck Beach is an incredible option for adventurers, with excellent waves for surfing and boogie boarding and one of the most popular cliff jumping spots on the island.

Go on a Napali Coast Boat Tour

One of the best things to do in Kauai is go on a boat tour to the Napali Coast, an 11 mile stretch of the island’s northern coastline that’s covered with pristine beaches, towering waterfalls, and 4,000 foot tall lush sea cliffs. As mentioned above, given its ruggedness, you can’t just drive to the Napali Coast—the only way that you can access it is on foot, by air, or by boat.

View of the Napali Coast from a boat in Kauai

Most of the Napali Coast boat tours depart from the harbors around Poipu. For example, this awesome option, which goes to both the Napali Coast AND the Forbidden Island of Niihau, renowned as having some of the best snorkeling in the world, or this option on an adventurous Zodiac raft (and is the tour my husband, Justin, and I went with during out most recent visit and loved!) both leave from the harbor of Poipu’s neighboring  town of Eleele. 

We’d recommend going on a morning tour, when the waves tend to be calmer. Given that morning tours leave EARLY (like, usually before 6:30 AM early), you’ll get to catch some extra shut eye if you’re staying in Poipu, given your proximity to the docks. 

View of lush sea cliffs along the Napali Coast in Kauai

Explore the nearby towns

While Poipu is, frankly, mostly upscale resorts, there are a handful of super cute towns nearby to explore. 

For example, Old Koloa Town is the site of Hawaii’s first sugar mill and offers a charming downtown of colorful plantation buildings, housing quirky coffee shops and cafes. Hanapepe is another neighboring town, with adorable art galleries and a handful of local restaurants. 

Trees covered in leaves along a road leading to Koloa in Kauai

Where to stay in Poipu

Sheraton Kauai Resort

Listen, friends—NOTHING in Kauai is cheap, but if you’re looking for a more affordable(ish) resort on the island, the Sheraton is an excellent option.

Located right on the beach, this family-friendly resort has a LOT to offer, including a spacious pool with plenty of lounge chairs; unique classes for guests, ranging from yoga to hula; and four onsite restaurants, including my absolute fave, an onsite tiki bar. 

Marriot’s Waiohai Beach Club

Located just steps from Poipu Beach, this property is absolutely GORGEOUS, with a 26 THOUSAND square foot pool overlooking the ocean; spacious rooms that conveniently have a fully-equipped kitchenette; and a number of resort-led excursions, like surfing or scuba diving. 

Aerial view of Marriot's Waiohai Beach Club along Poipu Beach in Poipu, Kauai

Plus, it’s one of the few hotels in Kauai that doesn’t charge a “resort fee”—given how pricey any of the resorts on the island are, it’s kind of an insult to injury when you ALSO have to pay an additional fee on top of the nightly rate for the pleasure of using their amenities. 

Grand Hyatt Kauai

The Grand Hyatt is arguably the most luxurious resort on the southern coastline of the island, with an immaculately maintained property and an excellent location, right on Shipwreck Beach. 

I’ve been lucky enough to stay at this resort a couple of times and can say that it’s honestly worth it for the impressive pool complex alone, with saltwater lagoons, a 150-foot waterslide, a lazy river, two freshwater pools, and a five-acre swimming pool—and did I mention it’s also right on Shipwreck Beach?

Landscaping for Grand Hyatt Kauai along Shipwreck Beach in Kauai

Beyond the awesome pools, the rooms are spacious and have luxurious touches, like a private balcony, marble bathroom, and fluffy bathrobes, and there’s a whopping seven restaurants onsite, including a killer sushi bar (not to mention you get complimentary s’mores!).

2. Lihue

Location

Lihue is located in the southeastern corner of Kauai. 

Good for

Adventure seekers looking for a central location to explore the island, visitors who prefer a more authentic vibe, and budget travelers

What to expect in Lihue

To be honest, Lihue is not as glitzy as Poipu or as dramatically beautiful as Hanalei, but, as the island’s capital and one of its biggest cities, it definitely has a more authentic and local vibe than some of the other popular places to stay in Kauai. Accordingly, you’ll find plenty of shopping options, from small boutiques to big box stores, and all kinds of restaurants, including some of my very favorites on the island, like Aloha ‘Aina Juice Cafe and the Kauai Beer Company. 

Smoothie bowl from Aloha 'Aina Juice Cafe in Lihue, Kauai

It’s also REALLY conveniently located, as the home to Kauai’s airport and equidistant to the popular attractions on the western coast of the island, like Waimea, and the north side, like Hanalei or Hā’ena State Park. During our most recent visit, we stayed in Lihue for the majority of our stay and thought it was the perfect home base for exploring the island.

You should just go in with realistic expectations—Lihue certainly has its stunning spots, but you aren’t going to have the same level of jaw-dropping panoramic views as you’ll find, say, on the north side of the island. 

Mountains along the Nawiliwili Bay near Lihue, Kauai

Things to do near Lihue

Take a helicopter tour

Honestly, if there is only one activity that you HAVE to include on your Kauai itinerary, it’s probably a helicopter tour. My husband, Justin, and I rarely splurge on really expensive experiences, but, during our last visit, decided to splash out on a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai with Air Kauai and have ZERO regrets! 

Couple's feet in an open door helicopter flying over the Napali Coast in Kauai

Helicopter tours depart from the Lihue Airport and, over the course of an hour, will fly all across the island, including between the jagged cliffs of the Napali Coast and next to the incredibly lush Mount Wai’ale’ale, an ancient shield volcano that’s one of the wettest spots on Earth. Beyond the jaw-dropping scenery, your pilot will also share historical and cultural facts about the island as you whiz past some of the most eye-popping landscapes on the planet thousands of feet below.

All in all, it’s definitely one of the best ways to get acquainted with the island!

Cruise down the Hulei’a River

As an alternative to cruising to the Napali Coast, one of the most underrated things to do in Kauai is to explore along Lihue’s Hulei’a River, which leads to the Nawiliwili Bay, a relatively untouched area of the island that most visitors never get to see. 

On these cruises, you’ll have an excellent chance of spotting dolphins and, in the wintertime, even whales, and seeing some of the island’s best hidden gems. For example, you’ll cruise past the Hulei’a National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to dozens of species of birds that are only found in Hawaii, including some that are extremely endangered. 

Dolphins leaping out of the water along the shoreline of Kauai

Consider booking one of the sunset catamaran cruises along the river, like this option, where you can enjoy appetizers and unlimited tropical drinks as you watch the glowy light of the sinking sun over the Pacific and the surrounding lush landscape.

Attend a luau

Many of the island’s luaus happen to be held in Lihue.

Yes, luaus are MEGA touristy, but if you’ve never been to one before, I think they’re an awesome way to not only try (a LOT) of Hawaiian food, but also to dive into Polynesian music, dance, and culture for a night. I’ve been to the Hawaiian Islands eight times and I’ve attended a luau during the majority of my visits!

Woman dancing the hula at a luau in Hawaii

I’d recommend checking out Lu’au Kalamaku, at Lihue’s historic Kilohana Plantation. This luau is a bit more upscale than other options on the island, with a champagne reception, lei greeting, and four course meal, but also focuses on telling the history of the Hawaiian islands through traditional song and dance, from the Hawaiian hula to the Samoan fire dance. 

Where to stay in Lihue

The Royal Sonesta Kaua’i Resort Lihue

This family-friendly resort is located right on Kalapaki Beach, a protected cove with gentle waves that’s perfect for swimming or paddleboarding. In my opinion, this hotel is one of the best bang-for-your-buck options on the island, finding the perfect balance between luxurious offerings, a convenient location, and reasonable (for Kauai!) pricing!

Woman laying in the pool complex at The Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort Lihue

There’s LOTS to love about this property, like an epic pool complex with tons of loungers and five jacuzzis; comfortable and well-appointed rooms; and an excellent onsite spa to relax after all the hiking you’ll be doing all over Kauai. 

The Kauai Inn

If you’re looking for a smaller, more local establishment, the Kauai Inn fits the bill. The hotel is housed in a beautiful plantation-style building, with views of Niumalu Beach and the surrounding Hula’eia Mountains.

Aerial view of a beach in Kauai

While you won’t find all the glitzy amenities that resorts offer, you WILL get lots of nice perks with a stay here, including a nice complimentary breakfast that you can enjoy poolside, complimentary rentals for snorkeling gear and pool toys, and lots of animals roaming around the property, including cats and peacocks, that the kiddos LOVE! With the extremely friendly staff, it kind of feels like you’re staying at an old friend’s house—just in a SUPER beautiful location! 

Outrigger Kauai Beach Resort and Spa

Located on the eastern shore of the island along Kauai Beach, this resort is chock full of amenities, including four swimming pools (including a 75 foot lava tube water slide and poolside bar), two hot tubs, and three onsite restaurants.

 Beyond that, each room has a private balcony and mini-fridge, plus there’s tons of onsite activities to dive deeper into Hawaii’s culture, like ukulele, hula, and lei-making lessons.

3. Kapaa

Location

Kappaa is located centrally along the eastern shoreline of the island. 

Good for

Adventure seekers looking for a central location to explore the island, visitors who prefer a more authentic vibe, and budget travelers

Aerial view of Wailua Falls with the surrounding mountains in Kauai

What to expect in Kapaa

To be honest, Kapaa and Lihue are pretty similar, with a more local and residential feel than the other popular places to stay in Kauai.

Choosing Kapaa as your homebase comes with many benefits, including its central location that serves as an excellent basecamp to explore the rest of the island, relatively affordable rates, and plenty of local shops and restaurants to enjoy. In fact, one of my favorite things about Kapaa is all of its awesome food trucks! 

Woman holding two donuts in front of the Holy Grail food truck in Kapaa, Kauai

Like Lihue, the biggest drawback is that it’s not as stunningly beautiful as some of the other options on Kauai. And while there are beachfront hotels that you can stay at, many of the beaches along the eastern shoreline have some pretty gnarly waves, making them unswimmable the majority of the time.

Things to do in Kapaa

Kayak or paddleboard on the Wailua River

The Wailua River, the longest navigable river in all of Hawaii, cuts through the island’s lush mountains and taro fields, just south of Kapaa. If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the island, one of the best things to do is rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and get out on the river. 

Three kayakers paddling through the Wailua River surrounded by lush forests in Kauai

If you’re up for an adventure, head to Secret Falls, which is the perfect afternoon adventure—you’ll kayak up the Wailua River to a hidden trailhead, hike to the base of the 100-foot Uluwehi Falls (otherwise known as Secret Falls), and get to swim in the beautiful plunge pool at its base.

You can either head to the waterfall with a guide if you’re not confident in kayaking on your own, like with this tour option or this option, or, alternatively, you can rent a kayak from an outfitter, like this one, and head out on your own.

Explore the hiking trails 

Outside of the north side of the island, I think that Kapaa has some of the best hiking trails on Kauai, thanks to its proximity to the Nounou Mountain range and the plentiful waterfalls in the area. Some of my favorites in the area are the Kuilau Ridge or the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail.

Couple holding hands in front of Ho'opi'i Falls along the Ho'opi'i Falls Trail in Kauai

Even if you’re not much of a hiker, there’s several options in the area for you to simply drive up to scenic overlooks and enjoy views of some of the island’s most beautiful waterfalls, like ‘Opaeka’a or Wailua Falls.

Ride the bike path

Kapaa is home to the Ke Ala Hele Makalae trail, which is the only coastal bike path on the island, stretching four and a half miles from Lydgate Park on Kapaa’s southside up to Donkey Beach on its north side.  Along the path, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the beach and palm trees that give the eastern coastline its name, the “Coconut Coast” and, in the wintertime, you might even get to spot whales leaping out of the water off in the distance.

Aerial view of the beach in Lydgate Park in Kapaa on Kauai

Many of the hotels in the area offer complimentary bike rentals, like The ISO or the Kauai Shores Hotel, or, alternatively, there’s several rental shops nearby, like Boss Frogs or Coconut Coasters. 

Where to stay in Kapaa

Kauai Shores Hotel

Justin and I stayed at this hotel during our most recent trip to Kauai. We actually wrote a whole review on the Kauai Shores Hotel, but, in short, this is an older hotel that’s got a pretty serious face lift recently, from its colorful and funky decor and trendy beachfront restaurant, Lava Lava Beach Club, to its onsite amenities, like its two pools, hot tub, and firepit.

Colorful building at the Kauai Shores Hotel in Kapaa, Kauai

Kauai Shores doesn’t provide a resort experience, but it definitely makes a good-bang-for-your-buck homebase for adventures around the island, while still providing enough perks and amenities to make it an appealing place to chill out if you want a day to just bum around the hotel. For example, beyond its pool and neighboring beach, the hotel also offers daily yoga class or live music for a whopping SIX hours every night.

Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Hotel

This beachfront resort has a much more relaxed and quiet atmosphere than its sister property in Poipu, with epic sunrises and impeccable service from the staff. 

Man swallowing fire and dancing the Samoan Fire Dance at a luau in Hawaii

The rooms at this resort are spacious and well-appointed, with private lanais and mini-fridges in each room. There’s also some seriously nice amenities, including an infinity pool overlooking the ocean with both a kid-friendly and an adults-only side, fire pits, and even one of the only oceanfront luaus on the entire island, Luau Ka Hikina. Additionally, there’s five onsite restaurants, but the standout is DEFINITELY the Crooked Surf, the poolside bar—its bartenders are seriously legendary!

Aston Islander at the Beach

Like Kauai Shores, this is a more budget-friendly offering. If you can look past the slightly dated decor, the Aston Islander has a lot of charm, with a complimentary drink at check in, beautiful beachfront location, and a nice swimming pool, hot tub, and tiki bar right on the beach (pssst… don’t miss the daily happy hour form 3 PM to 6 PM!).

Woman sitting on a lounge chair and looking at the mountains in Kapaa, Kauai

Additionally, each of the rooms offers a private lanai, mini-fridge, and microwave. 

4. Princeville

Location

Princeville is located on the northern shore of Kauai. 

Good for 

Honeymooners, travelers that prefer luxurious accommodations, and beach lovers

Aerial view of Princeville near Hanalei Bay in Kauai

What to expect in Princeville

Princeville is one of the largest resort areas on the island, with some of its most luxurious properties, an award-winning golf course, and, in my opinion, considerably more stunning scenery than Poipu, thanks to its proximity to the jaw-dropping Napali Coast.  Tucked away on Kauai’s north shore, this area feels quiet and secluded, making this the perfect option for those planning a romantic getaway or who want to disconnect in a tropical paradise. 

That being said, you DEFINITELY pay for the seclusion—I would not expect to find a room in Princeville for less than $350 a night. 

Aerial view of a beach in Hanalei, Kauai

Additionally, the resorts in Princeville definitely don’t have the same local vibe that you’d find around the hotels on the island’s eastern coast (or even right next door in Hanalei). And its location on the northern shoreline has two major downsides—it’s a bit out of the way if you plan on exploring the southern and western sides of the island and it gets quite a bit more rain than its southern neighbors.

Things to do in Princeville

Explore the beaches

Princeville and the surrounding area has some of the island’s best beaches, that typically tend to be much quieter than the ones you’ll find around Poipu. 

Tropical fish swimming along the Napali Coast in Kauai

For example, Anini Beach has some of the best snorkeling on Kauai, with tons of tropical fish and, with any luck, LOTS of sea turtles. There are also some really wonderful beaches that are definitely a bit more off-the-beaten tourist track, like Hideaways Beach, which also has excellent snorkeling, and Puu Poa Beach, one of the best spots on the island to see green sea turtles basking in the sun.

Hike to Queen’s Bath

Queen’s Bath is an enormous natural pool of crystal clear, turquoise water, along a rocky cliffside  that juts out in the Pacific. 

This pool is the stuff that Instagram dreams are made of and is an absolutely stunning place to swim when the surf is calm. Unfortunately, though, it can be rather dangerous in choppier conditions, given the large waves that can crash into the pool and strong currents that can rip swimmers out to the ocean. In fact, so many people have drowned here that Kauai now proactively closes Queen’s Bath in the wintertime, when the waves are typically rougher. 

Woman swimming through clear water in the Queen's Bath in Princeville, Kauai

Accordingly, you can only visit during the warmer months and even then, I’d recommend keeping an eye on the waves to ensure it’s safe to swim. Even if you don’t get in the water though, Queen’s Bath is an excellent place to spot wildlife, with the cliff providing an excellent vantage point over the water to spot creatures, including sea turtles and manta rays, below. 

Hit the golf course

Listen, Justin and I aren’t golfers, but the Princeville Makai Golf Course looks like a pretty epic place to hit the green. In fact, Golf Digest named it one of the top 100 public golf courses in the United States and National Geographic Traveler named it one of the five most scenic courses on the planet! 

People playing golf at a course in Kauai

Accordingly, if you’re looking to unleash your inner Tiger Woods, I can think of few more beautiful places to play some golf. And even if you’re not a golfer, you can book a sunset tour of the property, where you’ll be taken out by a guide on a golf cart and learn about the flora, fauna, and history of the land the course sits on.

Where to stay in Princeville

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

Alright, if you’re looking for the most luxurious hotel on Kauai (I’m talking, honeymoon or anniversary celebration kind of bougie), then this hotel should inarguably be at the top of your list. This immaculate property, perched on a cliff that overlooks the jaw-dropping Hanalei Bay and Mount Makana,  manages to feel both extremely upscale and relaxed at the same time.

Pool overlooking Hanalei Bay at Hotel 1 in Princeville, Kauai
Photo by Pixelsnap on Deposit Photos

The perks of staying at the property are endless—for example, there are three pools, including an adults-only infinity pool with a swim-up bar and private cabanas, and all-inclusive activities that go far beyond the complimentary yoga provided at other resorts, from cocktail-making classes and local rum tastings to lei-making and guided hikes. The rooms themselves feel utterly luxurious, with a pillowtop mattress that dreams are made of, a rainfall shower, and, of course, fluffy robes.

All in all, if you’re truly looking to get away from it all, 1 Hotel is the way to go.

Hanalei Bay Resort

To be honest, this property is pretty no-frills for a “resort”—you won’t find a fancy spa or poolside bar service here. But you will find spacious condos, with fully-equipped kitchens and jaw-dropping views; two beautiful pools with a hot tub and plenty of lounge chairs; and an excellent location to all of the best things the north shore of Kauai has to offer, including a 10 minute walk to Puu Poa Beach.

Sandy shore at Hanalei Beach with mountains in the background in Hanalei, Kauai

The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas

This resort, which only offers villas, is an excellent option if you prefer a home away from home. For example, each villa has its own kitchen, incredibly comfy beds, and a fully furnished balcony to take in your morning coffee and the surrounding stunning views.

Pool and upscale landscaping at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas in Princeville, Kauai
Photo by ibrester of Deposit Photos

However, it also has the benefit of offering resort-like perks, like four pools, including an infinity pool overlooking the Napali Coast; poolside beverage service; and onsite restaurant, dishing up Hawaiian-inspired dishes. 

5. Hanalei

Location

Hanalei is located just west of Princville along the northern shore of the island.

Good for

Travelers looking for a more authentic feeling, beach lovers, and adventure seekers

Man standing in the water at Tunnels Beach in Hanalei, Kauai

What to expect in Hanalei

Listen, I try not to play favorites, but I absolutely ADORE Hanalei, thanks to its laidback island vibes and absolutely STUNNING nature, with the Napali Coast serving as its backyard. This relaxed town doesn’t really have any resorts to speak of, but there are a handful of locally owned hotels and rental houses for you to call your homebase here. 

Hanalei has the same major drawbacks as Princeville, due to their location on the northern coastline—rainier weather than the rest of the island and a relatively remote location. Additionally, if you’re looking for bougie resorts to relax at, you’re not going to find them here—the vibe here is much more along the line of shave ice trucks and surf shops. 

Woman holding a smoothie bowl in front of a rack of paddleboards in Hanalei, Kauai

What to do in Hanalei 

Hit the hiking trails

Hanalei is considered to be the gateway to the otherworldly Napali Coast. Other than taking a boat, the only way that you can legally reach the coast’s shores is on foot along the hiking trails at Hā’ena State Park, right outside of Hanalei. 

Couple standing along the Napali Coast along the Kalalai Trail in Kauai

Luckily, the park’s trails just so happen to be some of the best hikes in Kauai. For example, the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail is perfect for a day hike along the jaw-dropping coastline, taking you right to the foot of a 300-foot waterfall, with a plunge pool that’s perfect for cooling off under the hot Hawaiian sun. Alternatively, the park’s Kalalau Trail is typically hiked as a multi-day backpacking adventure to the wild and insanely gorgeous Kalalau Beach.

If you somehow get tired of the mind-blowing beauty of the Napali Coast, there’s some other incredible hikes near Hanalei as well, like the Okolehao Trail, which provides panoramic views over Hanalei Bay and Mount Makana towering to the west. 

Couple sitting on a bench at the top of the Okolehao Trail in Hanalei, Kauai

Enjoy the beaches

Thanks to the stunning backdrop of the Napali Coast, Hanalei has some of the most stunning beaches in ALL of Hawaii. 

For example, Tunnels Beach is literally the prettiest beach I’ve EVER been to, with an enormous green cliff towering over its turquoise water and tons of tropical fish, swimming directly off its shore. Ke’e Beach, at Hā’ena State Park, is another popular option and offers some of the best snorkeling in Kauai when the water is calm. 

Lush cliff at Ke'e Beach near Hanalei, Kauai

Of course, it would be silly to talk about the beaches in Hanalei and not mention Hanalei Beach, a two-mile long crescent-shaped beach that’s set against the 4,400 foot tall impossibly green Nāmolokama Mountain. Its protected cove offers gentle waves that are perfect for swimming or beginner surfers (you can even take surf lessons here)—it’s no wonder that TripAdvisor has named it one of the best beaches in the entire country!

Paddle along the Hanalei River 

The Hanalei River winds through taro fields, lush pastures, and dense rainforests into Hanalei Bay. It’s usually quite calm and perfect for kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, with tons of wildlife, like tropical birds flitting overhead, to keep you entertained while you’re out on the water.

View of taro fields and farm fields in Hanalei Valley in Hanalei, Kauai

There’s a number of outfitters in Hanalei that you can rent gear from or, alternatively, you can join a guided tour to learn a bit more about the nature and history of this incredible landscape, like on this kayaking and snorkeling tour along the river and bay.  

Where to stay in Hanalei

Hanalei Colony Resort

The Hanalei Colony Resort, basically the only actual hotel in town, definitely doesn’t have the glitz of the resorts in neighboring Princeville—in fact, you won’t even find TVs or telephones in the rooms! 

Pier at Hanalei Beach in Hanalei, Kauai at sunset

Instead, each room offers a fully equipped kitchen, comfy beds, and balcony overlooking the ocean of the property’s lush garden. Plus, the hotel has plenty of amenities to enjoy while you disconnect, including a pool, onsite restaurant, and complimentary shuttle to get you to Hanalei town and the nearby beaches.

Hanalei Getaway

If you’re traveling with a large group, this three bedroom home would be perfect (with room for up to 12!), with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a fully-equipped kitchen.

Couple smiling at Hanalei Beach at sunset with mountains in the background at Hanalei, Kauai

Beyond the practicalities, the space has some really sweet perks, like four beautiful lanais that overlook the surrounding mountains and waterfalls, two outdoor showers, and even a personal concierge to help book excursions around the island. Plus, you’re about a block away from Hanalei Beach and just a short walk from the restaurants and shops in Hanalei’s downtown. 

Hale Naninoa

Another awesome option for a large group, right near Hanalei Bay, this rental home is even bigger, with five bedrooms, a REALLY nice kitchen (with two refrigerators, if you so need!), an outdoor shower, and multiple lanais to take in the cool ocean breeze.

Taro fields with mountains in the background in Hanalei, Kauai

This rental comes with several thoughtful touches—for example, five bikes to cruise around Hanalei and boogie boards and surfboards to enjoy at the beach. 


And there you have it! I hope you have a better idea of some of the best places to stay in Kauai—I’m curious to hear which one seems to be the right fit for you! Let us know if you have any questions about where to stay in Kauai in the comments below!

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