What part of the island you want to stay on will dictate, to a degree, what kind of vacation you have. Although Kaua‘i is small enough to do a driving tour in one day, the Kaua‘i hotels you stay at will dominate certain activities.
The north shore is probably the prettiest part of the island and is dominated by one large hotel and lots of condos and vacation rentals. The weather is usually great in the summer and can be quite a bit wetter in the winter. Though the scenery is incomparable, the downside is the remoteness you’ll feel when you want to venture to other parts of the island.
The east shore is the most geographically convenient. Trips to the north or south shore don’t feel as daunting. There are plenty of Kauai hotels and condos and the most dining and shopping options. The downside is traffic in Kapa‘a (especially heading south on Hwy 56), and the scenery and beaches aren’t as good as the north shore.
The south shore has better weather year-round and some great beaches. Several big Kaua‘i hotels and lots of condos dominate. But the backdrop isn’t as nice as the north or even east shores, and there aren’t as many dining or shopping choices as the east shore. Also, the construction of new condos will be ever-present.
Finally, there’s the west shore. It’s nearly always sunny, it’s the hottest and driest part of the island and has only one resort plus a few vacation rentals to choose from. If you plan to spend all your time hiking in Koke‘e and Waimea Canyon, it’s convenient. Otherwise, it’s isolated and remote.
On this page, we’ve listed Kaua‘i hotels, resorts and condos that are a Solid Gold Value or are Real Gems. The Solid Gold Value indicates that the property is exceptionally well-priced for what you get. The Real Gem means that this accommodation offers something particularly special, not necessarily related to the price.
Solid Gold Value – Kauai Hotels
Hotel Coral Reef Resort on the Beach
The rooms at this hotel have a fresh, tropical feel. The oceanfront unit’s bathrooms have deep Jacuzzi tubs. Good oceanfront location, and the grounds were looking great on our recent visit. Free coffee, fruit and pastries in the lobby in the mornings where you can “talk story” with other guests and staff. Free bikes, beach gear, coolers and dvds available on site. A third story was planned at press time on the oceanfront building with an elevator, along with room updates. Lanai on all but some suites. Microwaves in all but economy rooms. Overall, a friendly place to stay.
They claim this “was probably the first hotel on the island.” Maybe it’s true. It’s pretty disheveled with old furnishings, and it’s on a busy intersection. They were renovating rooms on our recent visit (something they always seem to be doing). Rooms are small (most under 200 sq. ft.), have bathrooms and fridges but no phones or TVs. $65–$75. Cash only in advance. The folks who run it are always pleasant. The reason for the Solid Gold Value is there are not many places with a private room, a/c, and bath for this kind of money on the island, but don’t expect much more than that.
This property used to be called the Mokihana, and it was fairly run down, but in 2018, after $5 million worth of renovations to rooms, lobby and pool, it was reborn as a boutique-type hotel. You can tell they are trying to appeal to the young budget traveler and do a pretty good job of it with a relaxed lobby with a spot to plug in your laptop, free continental breakfast and morning yoga on the lawn (yoga mats are provided in your room). They give you a reusable water bottle and offer a filling station in the lobby. The breakfast room has a microwave that you may use at any time during your stay. Bicycles and helmets are available, too. There’s a fire pit on the lawn that draws an evening crowd and is a good place to share your day’s adventures with new friends.
Waimea Plantation Cottages
At this 27-acre former plantation resort, peace and privacy are yours—the trade-off is relative isolation given the location on the extreme west side. There is much feeling of ‘ohana (family) here, and you will definitely experience the aloha spirit. With their location so close to the mouth of the very reddish Waimea River, swimming in the murky ocean water is pretty poor at this marginal beach. The coconut grove, banyan trees and hammocks scattered about add to the quiet charm of this property, and this is a good place to watch the sunset over the private island of Ni‘ihau. They have a few activities on site like, volleyball, bocce ball and shuffleboard. They offer charcoal for the BBQ grills.
Real Gems – Kauai Hotels
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
It’s hard for us to review this resort without sounding like drooling sycophants. But the reality of the Hyatt is that they did almost everything right. Put simply, it’s our favorite big resort on the island.
As you walk into the lobby and see the ocean framed by the entrance, you realize that here they really sweated the details. The grounds are as exotic as any you will find in all the islands, complete with parrots and other birds. Their pools are incredible. Gallon for gallon, they’re more fun than any we’ve seen on the island. The upper swimming pool seems to meander forever. It even has a slight current and hides such goodies as caves tucked behind small waterfalls (they’re easy to miss). Take your time exploring as it winds through lush vegetation. At the end of the upper pool, you can take the “elevator” (a free and respectably fast waterslide) to the bottom. There you will find what they call the action pool, complete with a volleyball net, waterfalls, spas and an area for children.
Kauai Beach Resort
We just like the feel of this place on every visit. It’s relaxing, laid back and not too big. This resort has been through many management changes, but its latest is one of the better ones. They renovated most of the rooms, lobby and common areas. The new room decor (now called “Deluxe”) is modern and makes the space feel much larger than its 320 sq. ft. They have left some rooms unrenovated, but those are still very well-maintained and can be had for a better rate. Renovations are planned for sometime in 2020. The lanais are small here, just barely room for chairs. If you opt for ocean view, ask for one of the ocean-facing end units in Bldg. 4. Otherwise, spring for a pool view, most of which can catch a view of the ocean. Adjoining rooms available.
Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club
From the immaculate, garden-like grounds (complete with birds and koi) to the smashing pool area, this place works. The overall feel is calming. They have tons of artwork strewn around the Kauai Marriott resort. Marriott has an unbelievable circular pool with a bridge to the center island and spas along one edge. What strikes us as most impressive about the Marriott is the service. They obviously take great pains to provide whatever the guest wants and employees seem to show a lot of aloha spirit here. The rooms feature modern furnishing with a good use of colors and even though it’s been a number of years since their last renovation, the rooms are immaculately maintained.
They organize many activities, such as scuba diving in their pool, beach massages and private poolside dinners. They have many cultural programs on site and movie nights on Kalapaki Beach.
Koa Kea Hotel & Resort
This was originally the Po‘ipu Beach Hotel built in the 1960s and whacked by hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992. It was left abandoned until the current owners rebuilt this upscale boutique-type hotel on the original footprint of the old buildings in 2009. The resort is airy and modern with themes of ocean life in bright colors scattered about. Most rooms are dark chocolate and white with a splash of hot pink, orange or teal and feel larger than their listed size. They’ve thought of many nice touches you don’t often find at Kauai hotels of this size, such as Nespresso machines (unlimited pods supplied), ceiling fans in every room so you can leave the doors open and enjoy the ocean sounds, reading lights, Egyptian cotton sheets, down feather beds and pillows (which they can remove if you don’t like them), keyboard height pull-out desks on wheels, and showers with rain shower heads mounted in the ceiling and wide benches to sit on.
Fabulous location and view, but now with a beating heart that is considerably less Hawaiian, a bit more generic upscale. It’s been losing some of its polish as it waits to become part of the 1 Hotel brand.Arriving at the valet area, the hotel and Hanalei Bay remain hidden from view. A short walk down a wide hallway leads to large wooden pillars in the main lobby area, which continue to obscure the views from arriving guests. Where is check-in? Oh, there it is, around the corner (three desks with two chairs each). The Hawaiian artists’ works featured throughout the hotel are much less visible than at other resorts on the island. It isn’t until you walk deep into the lobby that Hanalei Bay, in all its glory, is revealed to you.
Sheraton Kauai Resort
The Sheraton is the perfect complement to the Hyatt. While the Hyatt excels at gorgeous and exotic grounds, the Sheraton boldly embraces the ocean. The Ocean and Beach wings are closer to the ocean than at any other major Kaua‘i hotel. The sound of the surf hitting the rocks below the Ocean Wing is soothing. Kiahuna Beach, in front of the Beach Wing, is wonderfully close and easy to access. The Garden Wing (across the street) is generally lacking but is cheaper, and we’re not as fond of the rooms there. All rooms are on the small side (410 sq. ft. for the garden view, 510–530 sq. ft. for Ocean and Beach) and don’t feel particularly Hawaiian. But the resort makes up for it with its cozy relationship with the water. Most rooms are connected to others by a lock-off—good for families needing more than one room. Their restaurants have incredible beach views.
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