Where to Stay in Kauai (A Winter Getaway)

Looking for a winter getway? venture into the jungle on the oldest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, kauai, aka ‘The Garden Isle’.

Getting There: 

June-August in Hawaii is prime time for family travel. To make your chilly escape easier, book accomodation and car rental in advance (more on that later). 

Hawaiian Airlines fly direct from Auckland to Honolulu for NZ $600-$800. If your lucky, you can snap up a return flight for just over NZ $1,000. The price to get to Hawaii is balanced out by its cost when you arrive. If your on a budget, be sure to check the NZ with the US dollar before booking seats to beat the blues on a cold Monday morning.

To get to Kauai, you'll need to book a inter island flight with Hawaiian Airlines. Honolulu to Kauai ranges from NZ $150-$260, one way, though I have seen return at the same price. Checked baggage isn’t included in the online ticket price - Hawaiian Airlines charge US $25 for your first bag at check in

Where to Stay:

Overall, Kauai is not a big island. If you have a car, you’ll no doubt want to explore all four corners to see as much of this stunning place as you can. So choosing where to stay is a matter of personal budget, comfort level, weather preference and excursion factors. 

North Shore

The North Shore of Kauai is home to stunning beaches such as Kee Beach and Haena Beach, as well as the laid back town of Hanalei. Couples would do well to check Airbnb for accommodation options. Vacation rentals (think condos with well manicured gardens) are available in Princeville.

The Jungle's right on the beach at Hanalei ( North Shore, Kauai )

The Jungle's right on the beach at Hanalei (North Shore, Kauai)

The North Shore is where you will find the start of the Na Pali coastline. If your planning on doing the Kalalua Trail, be sure to book your hiking and camping permits well in advance - in order to help preserve this natural wonder, permits are limited.

It's a bucket list kind of hike that I'll be going back for. One thing about Kauai is the weather changes depending where you are on the island. The North Shore gets around 85 inches of rain per year, making it the wettest and most luscious part of the island. It was unfortunate timing that when I was there, the rainfall was so high it caused severe flooding and both the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park and Kalalau Trail were closed.

South Shore

If you want to avoid the rain, the South Shore is your best bet. With popular destinations like Poipu offering 3-5 room villas (as well as the occasional sighting of an Hawaiian Monk Seal) the beaches here are more crowded than the North. It's an ideal place for families, groups of friends and wedding parties.

So much blue! The beautiful water at Poi-pu (South Shore, Kauai)

So much blue! The beautiful water at Poi-pu (South Shore, Kauai)

The East Coast aka “The Coconut Coast”

The East Coast is conveniently located between the North and South shores. It has the most affordable accomodation on the island, even during high times such as Christmas. The local beaches make a pleasant backdrop to the small town of Kapaa, although they lack the magic of both the North and South. 

Solo travellers and those on a budget will find one of Kauai’s only two hostels in Kapaa. Kauai Beach House provides basic accommodation with dormitory rooms set right by the beach. If hiring a car isn't in your budget, there's a ride share system at the hostel so make friends and be sure to pitch in for gas!

Within walking distance from the hostel is a variety of restaurants and dining options, as well as supermarkets and health food stores, like this one to stock up at.  Java Kai has the best coffee and Curious is the cutest boutique store hands down (mermaid book ends anyone?)

West Coast

The West Coast of Kauai is where the Waimea Canyon is located. Accomodation ranges from the Waimea Plantain Cottages to an abundance of campsites.

Although it’s less populated, the West Coast has more native Hawaiians living there than anywhere else in the state, leading some to say it’s the closest you can get to the ‘old Hawaii’.

Get ready to don Nikes or Hiking Boots, the Waimea Canyon's a-calling (Waimea Canyon, West Coast, Kauai)

Get ready to don Nikes or Hiking Boots, the Waimea Canyon's a-calling (Waimea Canyon, West Coast, Kauai)

Getting Around:

Hiring a car is the best way to see Kauai. While there is a bus system, it’s intermittent and traffic means it takes twice as long to get anywhere. Services like Uber can help buffer extortionate taxi fares, while Turo is the Airbnb of car rentals. If you don’t mind winging it, ride share systems available at hostels could suit you well. 

If your own four wheeled freedom is top priority, the easiest (and most expensive) choice is hiring from one of the bigger companies like Hertz. Your insurance will be covered, plus you'll have your pick of vehicle upon arrival at the airport. That way, you can rent a jeep and really feel like your in Jurassic Park.

Hiring a car makes seeing sunsets like this a lot easier ( Port Allen Harbour, South Shore, Kauai )

Hiring a car makes seeing sunsets like this a lot easier (Port Allen Harbour, South Shore, Kauai)

Smaller companies like Island Rental Cars LLC rent cars at a third of the price. It's a great choice if you don’t mind driving older cars, but the caveat is insurance. You need your own to hire from these places. RentalCover.com provides online insurance for less than US$50 per week.

I used Island Rental Cars and loved it. Freedom arrived in the form of an old Toyota sedan with enough dings to make any pre-rental check unnecessary, a relief for a week of left hand driving. 

The only instructions? 

Fill it up before you return it and have fun. The 4 Best Things To Do in Kauai will help with that.

Aloha and Mahalo!