Where to stay in Kauai for first time: 4 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in Kauai as a first-time visitor can be a headache. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find safe places to stay in Kauai for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safest areas to stay in Kauai for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and things to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Kauai and recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

Before getting into the main topic, let’s look at some highlights of Kauai:

Kauai is one of the most popular islands to stay in Hawaii. It is the fourth-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Kauai, known as the Garden Isle, is characterized by its tropical rainforests, dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, and stunning beaches.

Lihue is the capital and main town on the island, hosting the island’s airport. Other notable towns include Kapa’a, Hanalei, and Po’ipu, each offering its own unique charm and attractions.

Kauai boasts beautiful beaches. Hanalei Bay, Poipu Beach, and Tunnels Beach are popular choices. You can enjoy activities like snorkeling, surfing, or simply relaxing on the golden sands.

Kauai is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities such as hiking, snorkeling, surfing, zip-lining, and helicopter tours. 

One of the most iconic and breathtaking features of Kauai is the Nā Pali Coast. It is marked by rugged cliffs, lush valleys, and emerald-green peaks. Accessible by boat, hiking, or helicopter tours, it’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Waimea Canyon is a spectacular natural formation on Kauai. Often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, The canyon is about ten miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep, offering panoramic views of the colorful landscape.

You can take boat tours along Wailua River, to explore the lush landscapes along the river, visit the Fern Grotto, and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

Mount Waiʻaleʻale is one of the wettest spots on Earth, receiving high amounts of rainfall annually. The summit is often shrouded in clouds, contributing to the island’s overall lushness.

Kauai is best explored by car, as many of the island’s attractions are spread out. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and reach more remote locations.

Is Kauai safe to visit?

Yes, Kauai, like most islands of Hawaii, is generally safe to visit. But as in any popular tourist destination, petty theft can occur, so it is important to use common sense, take care of your belongings, and avoid leaving valuables visible inside your car.

The island is home to many breathtaking trails and beautiful beaches, but it’s important to be cautious in the remote areas, swimming in lifeguarded beaches, be mindful of rough ocean conditions, and hiking in designated paths to avoid encountering any potential hazards. 

You should also stay informed about the weather conditions, as Kauai can experience sudden and heavy rain, leading to flash floods. Hurricanes and tsunamis can happen. Be aware of weather alerts, especially during the winter months.

Where to stay in Kauai for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Kauai for first-timers and tourists are Poipu, Princeville, Lihue, and Wailua/Kapaa. Kauai is a relatively small island, so you can explore various regions during your visit, even if you choose one primary location to stay.

Poipu is one of the most popular areas to stay in Kauai for the first visit. Located on the southern side of the island, it is known for its beautiful beaches, sunny weather. This area is close to attractions like Spouting Horn and is a great base for exploring the Waimea Canyon.

Princeville, on the North Shore, is surrounded by lush landscapes and stunning coastline. The nearby Hanalei Bay and Na Pali Coast are major attractions.

Lihue is a practical choice for those who want to explore the island without traveling long distances. It is the capital and main city of Kauai, offering convenience with its proximity to the airport. 

Kapa’a, on the eastern side of Kauai, is a central location with a variety of shops, restaurants, and accommodations. It’s a good choice for budget-conscious travelers and those who want easy access to both the North and South Shores.

During my trip to Kauai, I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. It was a great base to explore the island and enjoy beautiful beaches. Close to a nice hike and cave. Pool was fantastic! My room was clean with lovely ocean views.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Kauai for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Kauai first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Kauai first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Kauai, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Kauai have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

4 Safe areas to stay in Kauai for first-timers and tourists:

1. Poipu

Poipu is one of the best places to stay in Kauai for first-time visitors. It is a popular and beautiful area located on the southern side of Kauai. It’s known for its sunny weather, stunning beaches, and a range of accommodations, making it a great choice for many travelers. 

Poipu is home to some of Kauai’s most picturesque beaches, including Poipu Beach Park and Brennecke’s Beach. These beaches offer golden sands, crystal-clear waters, and opportunities for snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing.

The area provides easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, golfing, and water sports. You can explore nearby attractions like Spouting Horn, Allerton Garden, and the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail.

The area has a variety of dining options, ranging from casual beachfront eateries to fine dining establishments. Poipu Shopping Village is a popular spot for shopping, dining, and enjoying live entertainment.

Keep in mind that while Poipu tends to be sunnier, weather can vary, and the island’s lush landscapes are a result of occasional rainfall.

Best places to stay in Kauai in Poipu for first-timers:

Mid-range ($$): Sheraton Kauai Resort Villas, 4-star beautiful hotel located on Hoonani Road, South Kauai, Koloa, easy distance from Kiahuna Beach, Poipu Beach, and Baby Beach. The hotel has a fitness center, free private parking, a restaurant/bar, family rooms, and a 24-hour front desk. You can walk along the beach to numerous restaurants. 

Mid-range ($$): Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, 4-star beachfront resort in Poipu, perfect location on the south shore of the island. The hotel features  a golf course, 7 restaurants, and a swimming pool complex with waterfalls, waterslides. You can find a lovely Shipwreck beach in front of the hotel. 

Mid-range ($$): Koloa Landing Resort at Po’ipu, Autograph Collection, 4-star hotel conveniently located on  Poipu Road on the southern tip of Kauai Island. It is only a 10 mins walk to the Poipu Shopping Village where you can find many shops and restaurants. It features comfortable suites with kitchens. It has 4 pools, good breakfast, and free parking which is a bonus for those who drive.

Mid-range ($$): Sheraton Kauai Resort, 3-star accommodation on Hoonani Road, featuring waterfront restaurants with views of the Pacific Ocean and Poipu Beach. Perfect for couples and families.

Budget ($): Castle Kiahuna Plantation & The Beach Bungalows, 3-star property located close to Poipu Beach Poipu Shopping Village. It offers accommodation with a fully equipped kitchen. Easy drive distance to National Tropical Botanical Garden, Waimea Canyon State Park, and the island’s first sugar plantation at Old Koloa Town.


2. Princeville

Princeville is a great base to explore the North Shore and is a convenient starting point for exploring the iconic Na Pali Coast. You can take boat tours, helicopter rides, or embark on challenging hiking trails like the Kalalau Trail for stunning views of the rugged coastline.

Just a short drive away, Hanalei Bay is one of the most beautiful and famous beaches on Kauai. It’s a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the picturesque surroundings. The charming town of Hanalei offers shopping and dining options.

Keep in mind that the North Shore tends to receive more rainfall, especially during the winter months.

Best places to stay in Kauai in Princeville for first-timers:

Mid-range ($$): Makai Club Resort, 3-star accommodation on the north of Kauai island, in Princeville, 30 mins drive from Kapaa Beach Park. It has spacious comfortable apartments with a full kitchen, free parking, and an outdoor swimming pool.

Mid-range ($$): Club Wyndham Bali Hai Villas, 3-star Hawaiian condos located within a short drive from the Bali Hai beach, Kilauea Lighthouse, Limahuli Garden and Preserve. It features 2 pools,  laundry facilities, and free parking. 

Mid-range ($$): Club Wyndham Ka Eo Kai, 3-star accommodation located close to Hanalei Beach Park,  Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, Princeville Center and Golf Course. It has an outdoor pool, a hot tub, free parking, and a business center. It features 1 and 2-bedroom suites with a fully-equipped kitchen.


3. Lihue

Lihue is the capital city of Kauai and is situated on the eastern side of the island. It serves as a central hub and offers a mix of urban conveniences, cultural attractions, and proximity to the airport.

Lihue is home to the main airport on Kauai, making it a convenient base for travelers who want to minimize travel time upon arrival and departure. The central location also allows for easier exploration of both the North and South Shores.

The city has some cultural attractions, including the Kauai Museum and the Grove Farm Homestead Museum, offering insights into the island’s history and heritage.

Lihue provides a range of shopping options, home to Kukui Grove Shopping Center. There are also various dining choices, including local eateries and restaurants serving a variety of cuisines.

The nearby Nawiliwili Harbor is a picturesque area where you can take boat tours, enjoy sunset cruises, or embark on excursions such as snorkeling and fishing trips.

Best places to stay in Kauai in Lihue for tourists:

Luxury ($$$): The Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort Lihue, 5-star accommodation, in Lihue, next to Kalapaki Bay and Kauai Lagoons Golf Club. The hotel offers free airport shuttle service, an outdoor swimming pool, and a well-equipped fitness center.

Mid-range ($$): Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons – Kalanipu’u, 4-star good value for money hotel located on the southeast coast of Kauai Island close to the airport and  Kalapaki Beach. It has Barbecue facilities, a fitness center, a pool, and onsite parking. 

Budget ($): Banyan Harbor Resort, 3-star accommodation only 5 mins walk from Nawiliwili Park, 10 mins drive from Lihue Airport. It has a  heated saltwater pool, free parking, and family rooms.

Budget ($): The Kauai Inn, 3-star plantation-style inn, located close to Niumalu Beach Park and Nawiliwili Bay. It has beautiful views of the Hula’eia Mountains.  10 mins drive from the nearby airport.


4. Wailua/Kapaa

Kapa’a is a charming town located on the eastern side of Kauai, and it offers a more laid-back and local experience. The Kapa’a Coastal Path is a scenic walking and biking trail that stretches for miles along the coastline. It offers beautiful views of the ocean and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

Kapa’a has a lively downtown area with a variety of local shops, boutiques, and restaurants. You can explore the Coconut Marketplace for shopping and enjoy diverse dining options.

The nearby Wailua River offers opportunities for activities such as kayaking and boat tours to Fern Grotto. The river valley is also home to hiking trails and the Opaekaa Falls.

Kapa’a is close to beaches where you can enjoy water activities such as snorkeling, paddleboarding, and swimming. Kealia Beach, in particular, is known for its long sandy stretches and water sports.

Best places to stay in Kauai in Wailua/Kapaa:

Budget ($): Kauai Shores Hotel, popular 3-star oceanfront hotel in Kapaa, featuring a private beach, 2 outdoor pools, free bike rentals, and 24-hour reception. Close to Coconut MarketPlace and activities like snorkeling, fishing and helicopter tours. Great base on the east side of the island.

Mid-range ($$): Kauai Coast Resort at the Beach Boy,  4-star condo-style accommodation in Kapaa, next to a shopping center and a short drive from Fern Grotto and Lydgate Park where you can find children-friendly rock-rimmed ocean pools.

Mid-range ($$): Aston Islander On The Beach, great beachfront accommodation, located on the shores of the Coconut Coast of Kauai,  featuring a white sand beach, a pool, and free parking. Short drive from  Waipoli Park and Wailua County Golf Course.


In conclusion, Poipu, Princeville, Lihue, Wailua/Kapaa are the best places to stay in Kauai for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe locations that provide a variety of accommodations and amenities for visitors.

 You can continue reading about Hawaii in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Kauai. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

Leave a Comment