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What Part of Kauai Should You Stay On?

a large body of water with a mountain in the background

Kauai is a beautiful Hawaiian island that boasts breathtaking natural scenery, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture. If you’re planning a trip to Kauai, one of the more important decisions you’ll make is where to stay on the island. With so many stunning towns and neighborhoods to choose from, it can be tough to decide. In this blog post, we’ll help you figure out which part of Kauai is best for you based on your interests and travel preferences.

North Shore Kauai

Kauai’s North Shore is a natural paradise that offers visitors a unique blend of rugged beauty and stunning landscapes. This side of the island is known for its lush tropical rainforests, rugged coastline, and unique beaches along the Na Pali coast. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or simply looking to unwind and enjoy the natural beauty of Hawaii, the North Shore of Kauai could be perfect for you!

One of the main advantages of the North Shore is easy access to seclusion and natural beauty. The area is home to some fantastic beaches, including Hanalei Bay and Ke’e Beach, which are known to be some of the best beaches on the entire island of Kauai. The rugged coastline and rainforests provide a picturesque backdrop for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, kayaking, and surfing. Visitors to the North Shore can also enjoy stunning views of the Na Pali Coast, one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in Hawaii.

Another advantage of the North Shore is its laid-back vibe. The area is known for its slow pace of life and relaxed atmosphere, making it the perfect place to unwind and recharge. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the beach, enjoy a sunset picnic, or simply soak up the natural beauty of the area. There are also several small towns and villages in the area, each with its own unique character and charm.

However, there are also a few disadvantages to consider when visiting the North Shore. One of the biggest challenges facing visitors is the weather. The North Shore is known for its heavy rainfall, which can make outdoor activities difficult or even impossible at times. Visitors should plan their trip accordingly and pack appropriate rain gear, especially if they’re visiting Kauai during the winter months.

Another potential challenge is the lack of development in the area. While this can be a positive for those seeking a more authentic experience, it also means that there are fewer amenities and services available than in more developed areas of the island. Visitors may need to drive to other parts of Kauai to access specific amenities or services. However, if you plan your vacation accordingly, you can easily be nearby the amenities needed for a great vacation.

Overall, the North Shore of Kauai offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, relaxation, and adventure. While there are some challenges to consider, the stunning landscapes, laid-back vibe, and authentic Hawaiian experience make the North Shore a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Hawaii.

Major North Shore Kauai Towns

  • Kilauea: A lovely small town with various attractions and a cozy feeling.
  • Princeville: A more traveled north shore destination, but overall an excellent location for staying or just visiting on a day trip. Great views of the ocean and north shore cliffs.
  • Hanalei: Hanalei Town exudes a timeless charm. It boasts a variety of attractions ranging from historic landmarks to modern art galleries.

Best North Shore Kauai Attractions

  1. The Na Pali Coast: Located on the north shore of Kauai, the Na Pali Coast is a breathtakingly beautiful stretch of coastline that is renowned for its towering sea cliffs, lush valleys, and pristine beaches. Whether you want to go hiking, camping, or simply take in stunning scenery, the Na Pali Coast is a must-visit destination.
  2. Kilauea Lighthouse: Situated on the northernmost point of Kauai, the Kilauea Lighthouse is a historic landmark that offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Built in 1913, the lighthouse is now a popular tourist attraction that also serves as a wildlife sanctuary for seabirds.
  3. Limahuli Garden & Preserve: This botanical garden and nature preserve is located on the north shore of Kauai, and it is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. Visitors can take guided tours of the garden, explore hiking trails, or simply relax in the peaceful surroundings.
  4. Tunnels Beach: Situated on the north shore of Kauai, Tunnels Beach is a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. With its clear blue waters, abundant marine life, and stunning views of the Na Pali Coast, Tunnels Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the ocean.

East Side Kauai

One of the most popular destinations on the East Side is the town of Kapaa. Here, you’ll find a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, and galleries, as well as a scenic bike path that runs along the coast. The nearby Wailua River is also a popular attraction, offering opportunities for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and boat tours.

If you’re looking for a more secluded getaway, the East Side also offers plenty of options. There are several beautiful beaches in the area, as well as hiking trails that lead to stunning viewpoints and hidden waterfalls. For history buffs, the East Side is also home to several important cultural sites. The Heiau temples in Wailua are a must-see, offering a glimpse into the island’s ancient past. You can also visit the Kamokila Hawaiian Village, a living history museum that showcases traditional Hawaiian life and culture.

Overall, the East Side of Kauai offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a little bit of both, this part of the island is definitely worth considering as your home base during your Kauai vacation.

Major East Side Kauai Towns

  • Kapaa: Great area for shopping, with plenty of stores for renting water sports equipment, and overall a fun place to spend some time.
  • Wailua: A huge tourist town filled with beautiful locations to explore, like the Wailua River and Fern Grotto.
  • Lihue: The largest city on Kauai and is considered to be the main hub of Kauai. There are plenty of great resorts here and fun beaches for family time.

Best East Side Kauai Attractions

  1. Fern Grotto: Located on the Wailua River, Fern Grotto is a stunning natural wonder that has been attracting visitors for over 100 years. The grotto is home to a variety of ferns, including the rare “Hapu’u” fern, and is surrounded by lush tropical foliage. Visitors can take a boat tour of the grotto, which includes a live musical performance and hula dancing. The tour is a must-do activity for nature lovers and those who appreciate Hawaiian culture.
  2. Lydgate Beach: Lydgate Beach is a family-friendly beach destination that offers something for everyone. The beach is located on the east side of Kauai and features calm waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. There are also picnic areas, playgrounds, and a lifeguard on duty. The highlight of the beach is Lydgate Beach Park, which is home to a unique playground that was inspired by Hawaiian mythology.
  3. Opaeka’a Falls Opaeka’a Falls is a stunning waterfall that is located in Wailua River State Park. The waterfall is 151 feet tall and is surrounded by lush vegetation. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the falls from a lookout point, which is easily accessible by car. The park also offers hiking trails that lead to the top of the falls and offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

South Shore Kauai

One of the main reasons to stay on the South Side of Kauai is the abundance of beautiful beaches. Poipu Beach Park is one of the most popular spots in the area, with calm waters that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Other nearby beaches include Shipwreck Beach, Brennecke’s Beach, and Mahaulepu Beach. Whether you’re looking to relax on the sand or try your hand at water sports, the South Side of Kauai has something for everyone.

In addition to its beaches, the South Side of Kauai is also home to some of the island’s best restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. You can sample fresh seafood at local restaurants, browse boutique shops for souvenirs, or catch a live music performance at a nearby venue. And if you’re in the mood for adventure, there are plenty of activities to choose from, including hiking, ziplining, and kayaking.

Overall, the South Side of Kauai offers a perfect balance of relaxation and adventure, making it an excellent choice for travelers of all types. So if you’re looking for a beautiful and exciting place to stay during your Kauai vacation, consider the South Side as your next destination.

Major South Shore Kauai Towns

  • Lawai: A very small town and is not considered a destination for tourism.
  • Poipu: Home to some amazing beaches, Poipu is largely becoming a place of luxury tourism.
  • Koloa: Widely known as a historic town, there is no shortage of culture and history to explore here.

Best South Shore Kauai Attractions

  1. Spouting Horn: Spouting Horn is a natural wonder that’s a must-see for visitors to the island. This blowhole shoots ocean water up to 50 feet in the air, creating a spectacular sight. There are also nearby vendors selling souvenirs and snacks.
  2. National Tropical Botanical Garden: This beautiful garden is dedicated to preserving and studying tropical plants. Visitors can take guided tours or explore on their own to see a variety of plant species, including rare and endangered ones. This attraction is a perfect option for nature lovers.
  3. Poipu Beach: One of the most popular beaches on Kauai, Poipu Beach offers something for everyone. The calm waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, while nearby restaurants and shops provide plenty of entertainment options. This beach is also home to endangered Hawaiian monk seals, which visitors can observe from a distance.
  4. Old Koloa Town: Old Koloa Town is a great place to explore and learn about the island’s past. Visitors can stroll through the town’s shops and galleries or visit the Koloa History Center to learn about the area’s sugar plantation history. This town is also home to some delicious restaurants and cafes.

West Side Kauai

While a much less popular option than other parts of the island, it still has lots of exciting things to offer. One of the main attractions on the West Side of Kauai is Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. This stunning natural wonder offers breathtaking views of the island’s lush valleys and towering cliffs. Visitors can explore the area by hiking one of the many trails, taking a scenic drive, or booking a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view.

The West Side of Kauai also has a rich cultural history, with several historic sites to explore. The town of Waimea was the site of Captain Cook’s first landing in Hawaii, and visitors can see a statue of the explorer as well as the ruins of his fort. The Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park is also located in the southwestern region and offers a glimpse into the island’s Russian history.

Overall, the West Side of Kauai is a unique option for travelers who want to experience the island’s natural beauty and cultural history.

Major West Side Kauai Towns

  • Hanapepe: With a history going back to World War 1, this small town is full of history.
  • Waimea: The landing location of Captain James Cook in 1778 and plenty of other historical locations.

Best West Side Kauai Attractions

  1. Waimea Canyon: Waimea Canyon is a breathtaking natural wonder, spanning over 10 miles in length and reaching depths of over 3,600 feet; this colorful canyon offers stunning panoramic views, hiking trails, and scenic drives. A must-visit for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Waimea Canyon is one of the most famous places in all of the Hawaiian Islands.
  2. Kalalau Lookout: Situated along the famous Kalalau Trail in Kauai, the Kalalau Lookout is a popular spot for visitors to take in panoramic views of the Na Pali Coast. This scenic lookout offers stunning views of the coastline, rugged mountains, and lush valleys. The lookout is easily accessible by car and is a great place to stop for a quick photo op or to enjoy a picnic lunch.
  3. Polihale State Beach & Park: Located on the westernmost point of Kauai, Polihale State Beach & Park is a remote and secluded beach that is known for its long stretches of white sand, towering sand dunes, and stunning sunsets. The beach is popular with surfers, swimmers, and beachcombers, and offers plenty of opportunities for camping, picnicking, and hiking. With its peaceful and pristine surroundings, Polihale State Beach & Park is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

There’s No Wrong Side Of Kauai

No matter where you decide to stay on Kauai, you’re sure to have an unforgettable vacation. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of everything, Kauai has something for everyone. However, deciding which part of the island to stay on can make a big difference in the quality of your trip. Hopefully, this guide has helped you narrow down your options and find the perfect destination for your next Hawaiian adventure.

Once you’ve chosen the best part of Kauai to stay on, it’s time to start planning your itinerary. Be sure to check out the top attractions and activities in your chosen area, like hiking, surfing, or exploring cultural landmarks. You can also consider taking day trips to other parts of the island to experience all that Kauai has to offer.

And don’t forget to book your accommodations in advance to ensure the best selection and pricing. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort or a cozy vacation rental, Kauai has a wide variety of options to suit every budget and preference.

The island offers a diverse range of destinations, each with its unique attractions, activities, and accommodations. By considering your interests and travel preferences, you can find the perfect destination on Kauai and create a truly unforgettable Hawaiian experience. We hope this guide has been helpful in planning your next trip to Kauai and that you have an amazing time exploring all that the island has to offer!

Looking For A Unique Way To Experience Kauai?

If you’re looking to escape the island for some ocean fun – Kauai Sea Tours offers the perfect opportunity for that! From snorkeling along the Na Pali Coast to watching whales breach the water, there is something for everyone. Feel free to reach out with any questions – we hope to see you in paradise!

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