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9 Beautiful hotels in Kauai, Hawaii’s garden isle

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9 Beautiful hotels in Kauai, Hawaii’s garden isle

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Planning to visit Kauai for your next sun-and-sand vacation?

As well as seductive beaches, Hawaii’s “garden island” is also known for its lush, tropical and mountainous scenery – which means great hiking and kayaking.

In fact, there are lots of great things to do in Kauai!

But while Kauai has blossomed over the years, it has thankfully still managed to retain its old Hawaii feel.

The best hotels in Kauai

We’ve visited the island several times and stayed at most of the top Kauai hotels.

Here are our first-hand reviews to help you decide where to stay in Kauai…

1) Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

In brief:

Yes, it’s a large, sprawling, oceanfront resort in Poipu with 602 rooms and suites. But it’s gorgeous!

Bougainvillea, waterfalls, beautiful gardens - what's not to like at the Grand Hyatt Kauai!
Bougainvillea, waterfalls, beautiful gardens – what’s not to like! (Credit: Grand Hyatt Kauai)

Think luxuriant grounds graced by koi ponds, waterfalls and tropical gardens.

There are also three freshwater pools, including an adult pool and a lazy winding river and waterslide.

Best for:

Everyone! The property attracts families, couples and multi-generational groups.

What we love:

Treat yourself to a massage at the Anara Spa (the largest spa on the island), and you can lather up afterward underneath an outdoor lava rock shower.

An outdoor shower just makes paradise, well, more like paradise!
An outdoor shower just makes paradise, well, more like paradise! (Credit: Grand Hyatt Kauai)

Daily parrot talks are fun – a wildlife handler takes a macaw from the lobby atrium for a daily show-and-tell by the beach.

And hiking the historic Maha’Ulepu Trail along soaring red cliffs starting just beyond the property’s edge is a great way to start the day.

An incredibly scenic hiking trail leading from the Grand Hyatt Kauai winds along red cliffs.
An incredibly scenic hiking trail leading from the hotel winds along red cliffs

We also like that the Grand Hyatt Kauai has gone to great lengths to be green.

You’ll find complimentary water flasks in your room, which you can refill with chilled filtered water, found throughout the property. Much of its power comes from solar panels. And swimming pools are heated with recaptured heat from the air-conditioning system.

Cons:

The beach is too rough for swimming. (But there’s a huge saltwater lagoon with a man-made beach that’s especially popular with wee ones.)

Pesky irritant:

After shelling out big dollars for a room here, you also have to pay an additional daily resort fee of $35.

In exchange, you get self-parking, self-service washer and dryer use, and activities like guided sunrise walks and fitness and yoga classes. (WiFi is included in your stay.)

One of the best resorts in Kauai, the Grand Hyatt Kauai has five acres of fresh- and salt-water swimming pools.
The resort has five acres of fresh- and salt-water swimming pools (Credit: Grand Hyatt Kauai)

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa: Check rates and availability

2) Koa Kea Hotel & Resort

In brief:

This is a delightful boutique-style property in Poipu on the sunny south side of the island.

(Poipu is a favored vacation spot in Kauai. Along with sunshine, you’ll find restaurants, shops and a farmer’s market all nearby.)

Koa Kea's pool and beachfront lawns are never busy.
Koa Kea’s pool and beachfront lawns are never busy (Credit: Koa Kea)

The hotel’s 121 rooms feature in-room Nespresso machines, marble showers with dual showerheads, deluxe bath amenities and free WiFi.

Each guestroom also sports a private lanai.

best hotels on Kauai - Koa Kea
Ocean-view guestrooms are lovely retreats (Credit: Koa Kea)

Koa Kea has won a slew of awards over the years.

Most recently, it was voted #5 in the 2019 Travel + Leisure reader survey of the 15 top Hawaii resorts and hotels.

Planning a honeymoon? Then check out Koa Kea, one of the best Kaui hotels for couples (Credit: Koa Kea)
Planning a honeymoon or romantic celebration? Then check out Koa Kea, one of the best Kaui hotels for couples (Credit: Koa Kea)

Best for:

Koa Kea is one of the best hotels in Kauai for couples, if not the best.

Most guests are couples – kids are discouraged. This is the place to book for a casually luxe adult getaway.

With few children, it’s also blissfully quiet. Honeymoon, anniversary or special occasion coming up? Think Koa Kea.

One of the best hotels in Kauai for couples, Koa Kea is a lovely boutique hotel in Poipu.
Koa Kea is a lovely boutique hotel in Poipu

What we love:

The intimate feel is especially appealing – it’s mere steps from your room to the pool and sandy swimming beach.

And the hotel’s acclaimed Red Salt restaurant serves delicious, fresh and locally-sourced seafood in a casually elegant setting.

For breakfast, try the lobster Benedict.

We ordered it every morning of our stay at Koa Kea.

So delish! We had the lobster Benedict every morning for breakfast (Credit: Koa Kea)
So delish! We had the lobster Benedict every morning for breakfast (Credit: Koa Kea)

Oh, and have we mentioned the beach?

Yes, Koa Kea is right on Poipu Beach.

Cons:

Garden-view rooms have a darker color scheme and aren’t as light-filled as deluxe oceanfront rooms.

The magic hour… (Credit: Koa Kea)

Koa Kea Hotel & Resort: Check rates and availability

3) Hanalei Colony Resort

In brief:

We’re so happy this beloved old-timer of a resort is back in business!

Damaged by floods then a fire in 2018, it reopened its doors again in April of 2019.

Set on secluded groomed grounds on the north shore of the island, Hanalei Colony Resort is a condo-style property. It has 48 units – all with two-bedrooms and 850 square feet of space – scattered among several low-rise buildings.

Could these Hanalei Colony Resort condo-style suites be any closer to the beach?
Could these condo-style suites be any closer to the beach? (Credit: Hanalei Colony Resort)

Don’t expect glitz and glamor in the décor and furnishings here; think more understated Hawaiian style.

Guests come for the laid-back Kauai vibe of old – to destress, enjoy the peace and quiet, connect with nature and their loved ones, and unplug. (This is probably a good time to mention there are no TVs or phones. But you do get free WiFi!)

Oh, and we should add: Don’t expect turn-down service – units are cleaned every three days.

One of the best resorts in Kauai, the Hanalei Colony Resort has a cool pool.
Of course, the resort has a pool too (Credit: Hanalei Colony Resort)

Best for:

The resort suits easy-going, self-sufficient families perfectly.

What we love:

The bright full kitchens with lanais make it easy to vacation as a family.

All units have huge picture windows with great ocean views.

But if you manage to snag a Premium Oceanfront suite, you’ll have sweeping views of the beautiful blue Pacific rolling up on a golden sand beach, just a few feet away from your lanai. Priceless.

Hanalei Colony Resort Premium Oceanfront suite
Not a bad view! (Credit: Hanalei Colony Resort)

A complimentary guest shuttle can take you to Hanalei, Princeville and area beaches.

Cons:

The bathrooms are a tad outdated and could be modernized.

And the bedrooms aren’t completely separate from the living area. They’re divided by louvered pony walls rather than floor-to-ceiling walls – light sleepers may not get all their zzz’s if, for example, kids wake up early to play in the living room.

Hanalei Colony Resort: Check rates and availability

4) Kauai Marriott Resort

In brief:

This big, beautifully landscaped, 356-room resort is found on the east coast of the island, very close to the airport (but don’t worry, you never hear planes take off or land).

Nicely decorated rooms are large and come with coffee makers; all have balconies.

Book an oceanview room and you'll wake up to this view at the Kauai Marriott.
Book an oceanview room and you’ll wake up to this view (Credit: Kauai Marriott)

Well maintained, the resort was spruced up recently, and waterfront fire pits were added in 2017.

Golfers love teeing off on the two adjacent courses designed by Jack Nicklaus.

The 18-hole Ocean Course at Hokuala gives you lots of oceanfront play.
The 18-hole Ocean Course at Hokuala gives you lots of oceanfront play (Credit: Kauai Marriott)

Best for:

Couples and families wanting five-star resort features for less find this and more at the Kauai Marriott.

What we love:

The large hibiscus-shaped pool with fountains and no less than five whirlpools is a winner.

The Kauai Marriott's pool, one of the largest on Kauai, has Romanesque columns and fountains.
The pool, one of the largest on the island, has Romanesque columns and fountains (Credit: Kauai Marriott)

The complimentary airport shuttle is also a plus (the airport is a five-minute drive away).

And let’s not forget that the Kauai Marriott fronts Kalapaki Beach, one of Kauai’s best swimming beaches!

best hotels on Kauai - Kauai Marriott Resort
View from the Marriott of a cruise ship leaving Kauai’s Nawiliwili Harbor

Cons:

Bathrooms are small, and we found the glass balcony doors sticky and hard to slide open.

Kauai Marriott Resort: Check rates and availability

5) Princeville Resort

Update: This resort is now closed for renovations and will re-open as the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay in early 2022.

Pool chairs overlooking the ocean at the Princeville Resort, Kauai.
Pool chairs overlooking the ocean (Credit: Princeville Resort)

In brief:

When it comes to hotels in Princeville, Kauai, the 252-room Princeville Resort is the classiest. (It was previously known as the St. Princeville Kauai, before leaving the Starwood group in November, 2018.)

But don’t just take our word for it.

The reinvented Princeville was named one of the 30 best resorts in Hawaii in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2019 “Readers’ Choice Awards.”

Appearing to cascade down an emerald cliff-side, this Kauai luxury resort overlooks dreamy Hanalei Bay.

Best for:

It’s ideal for luxury lovers with deep pockets – and those who love gracious glamor.

What we love:

Bathtubs have a view. And you can gaze at the sea while showering with mint-scented bath products from the French Remede line.

Most food is sourced from within the Hawaiian Islands. The signature Kauai Grill restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten uses organic produce and fresh local fish.

best resorts on Kauai - St Regis Princeville
The breakfast terrace overlooks Hanalei Bay (Credit: Princeville Resort)

Cons:

Rooms don’t have lanais or balconies.

And the north part of the island, where this Princeville hotel perches, gets more cloud and rain than Poipu in the south (but it’s also more lush and tropical).

One of the best hotels in Kauai, the Princeville Resort boasts a beautiful beach and an exclusive setting.
One of the best hotels in Kauai, the Princeville Resort boasts a beautiful beach and an exclusive setting (Credit: Princeville Resort)

Princeville Resort: Check rates and availability

6) Koloa Landing

In brief:

Living room of a two-bedroom oceanview villa (Credit: Koloa Landing)

After many years of construction, Koloa Landing is finally finished!

It’s a luxury condo-style resort development in Poipu boasting deluxe studios (500 sq. ft) right up to huge four-bedroom villas.

One-bedroom units are 800 sq. ft., while the largest villas are 3,600 sq. ft. in size.

Well-equipped kitchens with cupboards galore will appeal to your inner chef.

best hotels in Kauai - Koloa Landing
One of three pools (Credit: Koloa Landing)

The grounds are lovely. And the resort has three pools, including a quiet adults-only pool.

Best for:

Families who enjoy eating in and travelers who want all the comforts of home will feel, well, right at home at Koloa Landing.

What we love:

Sometimes, you just want to kick back after a day on the beach. You don’t want to dress up and go out for dinner.

At Koloa Landing, kitchenettes (in the studios) and full kitchens (in one-bedroom and bigger units) give you that option.

The resort also offers a free shuttle to nearby shops and restaurants in Poipu.

Koloa Landing offers deluxe studios right up to 4-bedroom condo-style units in Poipu on Kauai.
Koloa Landing offers deluxe studios right up to 4-bedroom condo-style units in Poipu (Credit: Koloa Landing)

Cons:

Koloa Landing is not on a beach. You have to drive (a few minutes) or walk (15 minutes) to get to Poipu Beach.

Koloa Landing: Check rates and availability

7) Sheraton Kauai Resort

In brief:

The Sheraton Kauai Resort is enviably located on Poipu Beach.
The Sheraton Kauai Resort is enviably located on Poipu Beach (Credit: Sheraton Kauai)

An oldie but goodie, with a distinct Hawaii (though slightly dated) feel, the 4-star Sheraton underwent a “soft” revamp in 2017 and early 2018.

Almost all 394 rooms were renovated with new low-noise air-conditioners, soft blue-and-gray hues for furnishings and in-room refrigerators and coffee makers.

Hungry? Order drinks and food by the pool at Sheraton Kauai.
Burger by the pool, anyone? (Credit: Sheraton Kauai)

A more major renovation was subsequently completed in 2019. The lobby was revamped, along with the resort’s Garden Wing.

Rates are more affordable here than at the more upscale Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.

Best for:

The Sheraton Kauai is best-suited for families and couples who like a fun active vibe.

What we love:

The real draw is the Sheraton’s fabulous location on Poipu Beach, really a series of gold-sand crescents.

You can swim, snorkel, do a little body surfing and sometimes see sleeping monk seals on the beach.

Poipu Beach is one of the nicest on Kauai.
Poipu Beach is one of the nicest on Kauai (Credit: Sheraton Kauai)

Cons:

Guests have to pay a daily resort fee of $30 plus tax. (Extra charges are annoying!)

The fee covers self-parking, standard WiFi (which should be free, right?), local telephone calls, use of the gym and access to activities like yoga and hula classes.

Oceanfront yoga? Pretty nice! (Credit: Sheraton Kauai)

The beachside pool can also get crowded in high season

But you can splurge on renting one of the eight luxury poolside bungalows, complete with cushioned loungers, TVs, coolers and table service.

Sheraton Kauai Resort: Check rates and availability

8) Waimea Plantation Cottages

In brief:

Want to stay in an authentic plantation cottage?

Then Waimea Plantation Cottages is for you.

These cottages evoke the feel of old Hawaii (Credit: Waimea Plantation Cottages)
These cottages evoke the feel of old Hawaii (Credit: Waimea Plantation Cottages)

Located on the west coast of the island near the town of Waimea, this Kauai resort has 61 cottages, ranging in size from 1-bedroom to 3-bedroom cottages.

Built originally in the late 1800s to 1930s, the cottages have been updated and restored. They’re not fancy though. Decorated in floral patterns, they’re more homey in feel.

Waimea cottage bedroom
These cottages look very sweet! (Credit: Waimea Plantation Cottages)

We haven’t yet stayed at this Waimea resort. (One day!)

But we know sunsets on the west coast are incredible. And you’ll fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves here.

Settle back in a rocking chair and enjoy the lazy quiet life (Credit: Waimea Plantation Cottages)
Settle back in a rocking chair and enjoy the lazy quiet life (Credit: Waimea Plantation Cottages)

Best for:

Families and couples looking for the slower side of Kauai will be happiest here.

And because it’s quite close to Waimea Canyon, the resort also suits guests who love hiking.

Waimea Canyon is known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"
Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”

What we love:

The place has an authentic retro charm.

It’s peaceful and quiet (except for the roosters – but the silly birds squawk all over Kauai).

Roosters on Kauai? Yup, chickens run wild all over Kauai
Roosters on Kauai? Yup, chickens run wild all over Kauai

The onsite restaurant – Chicken in a Barrell BBQ & Bar (quirky name!) – hands over all its profit to a free camp for Hawaii’s disadvantaged youth. Nice!

Comfort food! (Credit: Waimea Plantation Cottages)
Comfort food! (Credit: Waimea Plantation Cottages)

Cons:

These Kauai cottages are not located on a swimming beach.

And the sand is black. (But the two-mile beach is beautiful for walking on.)

You find black sand beaches on the west coast of Kauai.
You find black sand beaches on the west coast of Kauai

Waimea Cottages: Check rates and availability

9) Kiahuna Plantation Resort Kauai

In brief:

Once upon a time there was just one Kiahuna Plantation.

Now there are two resorts – Castle Kiahuna Plantation & Beach Bungalows and Kiahuna Plantation Resort by Outrigger.

But both share the same sprawling manicured grounds, which slope down to a dazzling stretch of Poipu Beach on the southern coast of Kauai.

One of the first properties in Poipu, Kiahuna Plantation has 333 units (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)
One of the first properties in Poipu, Kiahuna Plantation has 333 units (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)

Accommodations are privately owned condos, with full kitchens and large lanais.

Because they’re privately owned, each is differently furnished and decorated. So you could end up in a lovely renovated condo with hardwood floors and granite counters in the kitchen – or something quite outdated.

For layout and size, it doesn’t matter whether the accommodations are managed by Castle or Outrigger.

The same configurations are offered by both management companies – so 1-bedroom units are 880 square feet in size and 2-bedroom units (which are split level) are almost 1,600 square feet.

Views range from garden to partial ocean to full-on ocean views.

This Kiahuna property is one of our favorite beachfront Kauai resorts! (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)
This Kiahuna property is one of our favorite beachfront Kauai resorts! (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)

The Plantation Gardens restaurant occupies a restored plantation manor on the resort’s gardens (lit by tiki torches). It’s very romantic, especially if you sit on the porch.

The food gets mixed reviews though, from “superb” to “sub-par.” See TripAdvisor and Yelp. (We liked our meal.)

Note: Units don’t have air conditioning. Ceiling fans and lots of windows keep them breezy and cool. (The lack of air conditioning has never been a problem of us.)

Oceanfront condos, in particular, have great views (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)
Oceanfront condos, in particular, have great views (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)

Best for:

Poipu Beach and the lawns here are very family-friendly, making Kiahuna Plantation perfect for all families – families with babies right up to teenagers.

Children love Poipu Beach, as do adults! (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)
Children love Poipu Beach, as do adults! (Credit: Kiahuna Plantation)

Couples who want a laidback vacay (and the convenience of a kitchen) will also enjoy Kiahuna Plantation.

(For guaranteed luxury, however, the Grand Hyatt Kauai covered in #1 above is a much better choice.)

What we love:

Kiahuna Plantation Resort is our favorite condo-style Poipu resort.

We’ve stayed here many times (once on a babymoon) and we just love the “cottage” feeling, the old Hawaiian vibe, the lush lawns and, of course, the perfect location on Poipu Beach.

Sun, sea, sand and beachfront condos! (Credit: Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation)
Sun, sea, sand and beachfront condos! (Credit: Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation)

Cons:

The tennis courts, indoor/outdoor soccer courts, athletic club and pool are located across Poipu Road, so you have to stretch your legs and go for a bit of a walk to reach them.

Not too much of a hardship though… The change of scenery is always nice.

Castle Kiahuna Plantation: Check rates and availability

Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation: Check rates and availability

Experience more of Hawaii!

Read our posts on:

Botanical gardens | Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you’ll love Kauai’s beautiful Allerton and McBryde Gardens.

Lanai | Rock these 9+ awesome things to do on Lanai. (Get off the grid too!)

Water adventures | From snorkeling to sailing to SUP, there are oodles of fun water activities in Hawaii!

What to pack for your Kauai holiday

1) Sun hat – This foldable straw sun hat for ladies is darling! It comes in ivory, beige, khaki, grey, pink, light grey and other colors.

2) Water sandals – These Teva sandals for women come in a host of colors. Or you might like these more feminine-looking Viakix hiking-and-water sandals.

3) Swimsuit – We love the quality-made Miraclesuit brand, which makes you look 10 lbs lighter. Laze by the pool or beach in this gorgeous bathing suit. This sporty-looking swimsuit is perfectly suited for water activities.

4) Snorkel gear – Up for snorkeling in Kauai? This wide-view clear mask by Cressi (a top Italian maker) gets great reviews. Or check out this full-face snorkel mask, designed to be the most advanced full-face snorkel mask on the market.

5) Good camera – You won’t want to miss those great shots of Kauai. We love our Sony A600 mirrorless camera – it’s small enough to throw in your purse or backpack, but it takes awesome photos!

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We stayed at these luxury Kauai hotels and resorts as media guests for review purposes, except for three properties, which we paid for. (And we haven’t yet stayed at the Waimea Plantation Cottages.) The opinions here are our own; as professional travel writers, we always write what we want, as we see it.


Photo credits: © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase, except where noted | Lead image Princeville Resort


Have you visited the garden island? Which resort do you think is the best hotel on Kauai?


About the authors:
Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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shirley

Thursday 28th of February 2013

These properties all sound very nice. When I go to Kauai, I like staying at Kauai Vacation Rentals and Real Estate, Inc.'s properties. Have you tried them? They are all over the island and come in different sizes and price ranges. And what is really nice is they post specials every Wednesday on their Facebook page. We travel with kids so staying in condos or houses works out best for us. Our kids are young so you don't want to be in a hotel room with these guys. They need space. And I need a full size kitchen, these kids are always eating!

Janice and George

Thursday 28th of February 2013

Yes, a rental condo or vacation home makes good sense when traveling with children. It can save a family a swack of money and everyone can spread out. Even traveling as a couple, we love mixing it up and staying in a suite or condo with a kitchen every now and then. Sometimes you just want the comforts of home when away, at least for a few days, especially on longer trips. (And it's better for our waistlines not to eat out all the time :-).

Kathryn

Thursday 17th of January 2013

They all sound lovely but I particularly like the sound of Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa with the local cliff walk and volunteering at the Botanical Gardens sounds interesting too.

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