Kauai, the northernmost Hawaiian island and so-called Garden Isle, combines lush, rugged scenery, pastoral idylls and a dramatic coastline to an almost cinematic effect. While ranching has largely replaced the long-standing sugarcane industry here, Hollywood movies and the island’s ease at signifying tropical Pacific paradise mean tourism is a big earner. Here’s our pick of the best accommodation in Kauai.
Midway along the eastern shores, Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy has extensive gardens of frangipani trees and coconut palms. Although the beach is barely swimmable, decent alternatives lie close by, and there’s a boulder-lined pool resembling a tropical pond. Most studios and condos have full kitchens and island decor – typically bold floral patterns and plain wooden furniture – and there’s a good on-site seafood restaurant. Next door’s market-like shopping center offers more eateries and souvenir outlets.
Set among plush lawns and backed by rugged emerald-green hills, this motel-style accommodation masks stylishly colorful – particularly azure and lime-green – interiors. The elongated two-story blocks, a pair of pools and free yoga classes lend a faintly upscale edge. A new sea-facing restaurant with a charming toes-in-the-sand bar and dining experience maximizes the fine beachfront location, and communal barbecues help make this a friendly property.
With a pedigree stretching back to the 1890s, today’s Kauai Inn was built following the destruction of the original in a 1992 hurricane. Set beside the Huleia Stream, where it meets Nawiliwili Bay on the southern edge of Lihue town, the loosely retro plantation-style buildings neatly match a theatrical backdrop of lush hills and distant cliffs around lofty Haupu peak. Hawaiian decor – think green carpets, nondescript furniture and boldly patterned furnishings – are complemented by a small pool with pavilions and communal barbecues.
North of Lihue town and beside Lydgate Beach Park, this Hilton Garden Inn has a range of stylish modern rooms and amenities thanks to a renovation in 2015. The complex is seemingly anointed by a striking open-air lobby, with a ribbed hull-like ceiling pierced by skylights and lit with globe lanterns. This 216-room property feels more like a resort than an inn, with a kidney-shaped pool, fitness center and two ballrooms. Its proximity to a popular golf course, the airport and several well-known waterfalls make it particularly convenient for some visitors.
Despite its proximity to one of the Lihue Airport runways, the viewpoint from Kauai Lagoons across the broad mouth of Nawiliwili Bay towards Kawai Point is strikingly picturesque. Within a long sinuous four-story building are spacious two- and three-bedroom stays with tasteful modern decor; many have postcard views across immaculate gently sloping lawns studded with palms and ornamental shrubbery. The two-level amoebic-shaped pool and large fitness center bolster the distinct resort ambience of the property.
This clutch of ordinary-looking buildings belies a large, comfortable and well-equipped resort overlooking Nukolii Beach. At the heart of the resort lie four curvy pools with a waterslide, one restaurant and a thatched pool-bar just shy of the ocean. Rooms and suites are modern and unfussy; many boast excellent sea views. A generous spa, well-equipped gym and nightly live music add vigor, but the resort earns more kudos by embracing Hawaiian culture through signage, classes, moonrise chants and sunrise ceremonies.
Upping its game following a 2019 renovation, the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort lightly channels surfer vibes into a family-friendly getaway. Most of the accommodation – with stripped floors, louvered shutters, wicker chairs and pops of turquoise and azure – wraps around an ocean-facing terrace featuring conjoined swimming pools. Firepits, hammocks, live music and beachfront yoga amplify a carefree holiday atmosphere, while the specialty seafood restaurant features gourmet cuisine.
Set within the foothills of southern Kauai near Kahili Mountain Park, O‘Luina Villa – in reality, a Southeast Asian-style longhouse-like bungalow – is a tranquil hideaway melding elegant simplicity and luxury with a dash of eco-chic. Broad verandas lend panoramic views over an elongated infinity pool and beyond to lush rolling hills and the deep-blue ocean, while handsome furnishings and objets d’art enhance the feel of curated style. Your room also has a sensuous outdoor shower, and you’ll have access to a gourmet chef, masseuse, yoga instructor and personal trainer for all-around pampering.