Travel Guide of Kauai, Hawaii for: Castle Kaha Lani Resort Rating: 2.5 Pearls
Kauai, Hawaii, United States

Kauai Summary

Pros

  • Relatively undeveloped compared to Oahu and Maui; Kauai county law prohibits building on all but 4 percent of the island, and no building may be taller than four stories.
  • World-class golf at Poipu Bay Golf Course, Kiahuna Golf Club, and Prince Golf Course
  • The rugged Na Pali Coast has multiday hikes and some of Hawaii's most amazing views.
  • Easily accessible natural wonders like the 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon, towering waterfalls, and gorgeous oceanside rock formations at Queen's Bath and Spouting Horn
  • Manageable size; you can drive from the north to south shore in about two hours.
  • Range of lodging options, from budget to luxury; plenty of condo rentals and time-share properties offer relatively affordable choices
  • State laws prohibit smoking in all public and enclosed spaces, leaving Hawaii virtually smoke free.

Cons

  • Unpredictable weather -- daily passing showers, some full days of rain (Kauai's Mount Waialeale is the rainiest place on the planet)
  • Rocky coastline; lacks the great surfing and swimming beaches found on Oahu and Maui
  • Nonstop direct flights into Kauai's Lihue Airport often cost at least $100 more than flights into Oahu, and there aren't as many cities offering nonstop service; direct interisland flights only available from Honolulu and Maui
  • Scant public transit; nearly all of the island's top sights are tough to access without a rental car.
  • No high-end shopping and not much low-end shopping, especially compared with Oahu
  • Food tends to be expensive, except for a few choice plate-lunch options; restaurant options are limited outside Lihue and resort dining
  • No nightlife, even by Hawaii's mediocre standards; the few bars are empty by 9 p.m. every night.
  • State laws prohibit smoking in all public and enclosed spaces, leaving Hawaii virtually smoke free.

What It's Like

Of the four most popular Hawaiian islands, Kauai is the smallest and least developed, and, some would argue, the most beautiful. Though it doesn't offer the urban comforts of Oahu, the sheer ecological diversity of Maui and the Big Island, or the more remote feel of the less-visited islands of Molokai and Lanai, Kauai draws visitors with the wild grandeur of its lush, mountainous terrain. Its craggy shores provide the backdrop for numerous Hollywood visions of untamed, other-worldly paradises. Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Jurassic Park films, and the 2005 version of King Kong were all filmed here. The 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon, the lava-rock seawater pool at Queen's Bath, and the remote, towering cliffs of the Na Pali Coast are among the world's most unique natural attractions. Although there's ongoing development in Poipu, on the southern shore where most hotels are located, Kauai is still relatively sleepy. Its airport services only six destinations in the mainland U.S.; and, by law, no building can be taller than a coconut palm tree (four stories). As a result, there's hardly a spot on Kauai where human settlement obscures the island's tropical, rustic beauty.

Still, Kauai's not completely isolated. All that untamed beauty draws about a million visitors every year, and while the island lacks the sky-scraping hotels found on Oahu, it certainly has its share of over-the-top mega-resorts, golf courses, and tourist excursions. Although even the best beaches on Kauai are rocky and narrow (both Maui and Oahu have better spots to swim and surf), many of Kauai's beaches are uncrowded or isolated -- ideal for quiet walks, picnics, and picture-perfect views.

Where To Stay

Kauai can be divided into three major vacation areas: the east shore, the south shore, and the north shore. The east shore has the greatest density of mainland-style conveniences -- the airport, the island's only Wal-Mart, multiple grocery stores, and modest cultural institutions like the Kauai Museum. Lihue hotels can be as close as a five-minute drive from the airport, and Kapaa, Kauai's largest city, is about 20 minutes farther. The relative abundance of urban comfort comes with a trade-off: Natural beauty runs relatively scarce here -- the ho-hum drive up Wailua Falls and Opaekaa Falls are the two most popular landmarks. It takes more than an hour and a half to get to either Waimea Canyon or the breathtaking north shore. East shore hotels range from among the island's most basic (Aston Islander on the Beach, Castle Kaha Lani) to gigantic mega-resorts (Kauai Marriott).

A string of more than 20 resorts dominate the shoreline in Poipu, the south shore's main vacation destination. With stellar Kiahuna Beach, as well as two of the island's best golf courses, Poipu Bay and Kiahuna Golf Club, this section of Kauai draws a lot of families to its midrange-to-upscale hotels and condo resorts. The gentle waves, ample sand, and tranquil coves make Kiahuna and Waiohai two of the island's best beaches for families. It's 90 minutes from Waimea Canyon and two hours from the north shore.

Finally, Kauai's north shore offers the easiest access to the Na Pali Coast, Kauai's isolated crown jewel, where the highway gives way to the Kalalau Trail's 11-mile hike through valleys and secluded beaches. The major resort area, Princeville, has the feel of a gated community, thanks to its 27-hole golf course and the tony residences that accompany its hotels. One-lane bridges bring automobiles to a crawl, contributing to a mellow, local-centric vibe in the bayside towns of Hanalei and Haena.

Kauai Hotel Guides

Best Luxury Hotels on Kauai

Kauai's beautiful, unspoiled landscapes are a large part of its appeal, and less build-up naturally means fewer hotel options, but during our exhausstive tour of the island our reporting team stayed at a handful that fit comfortably into the luxury catagory. And, like the island itself, these hotels tend to be low-key and serene (with the exception of the amenity-packed Grand Hyatt).

Best Value Hotels on Kauai

Here's a list of the best value hotels on Kauai. To help plan your entire Hawaiian vacation, check out our best value hotels on Maui and best value hotels on Oahu.

Best Kid-Friendly Hotels on Kauai

Here's a list of our favorite child-friendly hotels. All these places offer solid value, but families that are particularly budget conscious might also check out our list of the best value hotels on Kauai.

Most Romantic Hotels on Kauai

Less developed than other Hawaiian islands, Kauai represents authentic, unspoiled Hawaii. Its lush flora and rocky cliffs create a romantic backdrop for any vacation.

Best Hotel Spas on Kauai

Aside from the deluxe Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt, Kauai's spas aren't as exceptional as Maui's best facilities. But they still deliver relaxing, high-quality treatments -- at slightly more reasonable prices than you'll find on other islands.

 

Map of Hotels -- Kauai, Hawaii

Map of Kauai, Hawaii Expand Map »

Facts

Languages:

Hawaiian, English

Airports:

Lihue Airport

Peak:

June - Aug; Dec.- March; school vacation periods

Hurricanes:

June 1-Nov. 30

Vaccines:

No

Currency:

U.S. Dollar

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