Kauai may be known for its adventurous vibe, outdoor scenery, rural landscape, and gushing waterfalls, but it doesn’t slack off when the day is done. From service-oriented luxury resorts to kicked-back cottages, the island has a variety of options that offer different experiences for different types of travelers. Here are five favorites, most of which run less than $200 per night.
Off the Beaten Track: Waimea Plantation Cottages
If you’re looking for something that’s off the normal tourist radar but still well located, consider the Waimea Plantation Cottages in the small town of Waimea. Despite its location at the base of Waimea Canyon -- one of the island’s most popular attractions -- it remains extremely local, especially after dark, with most tourists making camp in Hanalei, Princeville, Kapaa, and Poipu.
The property is comprised of cottages, all with different layouts and styles, each with that old-school sugar cane feel: expansive lawns, wrap-around porches, and solid bold colors. This oceanfront property delivers a relaxing vibe, the kind where you grill out on the front porch during sunset. It's perfect for families who need a little more space or couples that want more legroom than a hotel can offer. (Rates are from $159 per night.)
Top of the Line: Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
If you want to indulge, this is your place. The Westin Princeville is a full-service property perched on the edge of the island’s north shore cliffs, adjacent to Hanalei Bay. The rooms are all villa-style, with either studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom layouts, each with in-room kitchenettes, sitting areas, washer-dryers, and private lanais. Here, the beach is within walking distance and you’re a 10-minute drive from Hanalei Bay. (Rates are from $294 per night and include a mid-size car rental from Alamo.)
Middle of the Road: Kiahuna Plantation Resort Kauai by Outrigger
This plantation-style resort on the island’s south shore is not quite as rural as Waimea Plantation Gardens -- it's much more developed and adjacent to several other resorts -- but its condo-style lodging fits the same mold for families and people who want more living space. Kiahuna Plantation Resort Kauai is located near Poipu Beach, one of the island’s most heralded beaches, and across the street from the Kiahuna Golf Course, so there's plenty to do.
Condos come in one- or two-bedroom units with full kitchens and private lanais, and the property maintains aspects of rurality with barbecue and picnic areas and winding paths lined with gardens, including a very large cactus garden near the main restaurant. (Rates are from $169 per night.)
Affordable Luxury: Aqua Kauai Beach Resort
The Kauai Beach Resort calls itself a boutique hotel, but it is more in line with its true name: a resort. That’s not a bad thing -- and in fact -- it should probably be more proudly touted as a budget-friendly luxury resort. The property spans 25 acres and has all the components of a luxury dwelling, including recently renovated oceanview rooms, two swimming pools (one with a waterfall), a lava tube waterslide, nightly cultural activities, live music and hula shows, and a sand-bottom pool. It's a great option for families looking for big bang for their buck. (Rates are from $189 per night and include a free airport shuttle and SCUBA lesson.)
Keep it Simple: Kauai Shores, an Aqua Hotel
Those seeking to keep a chill vibe will enjoy Kauai Shores. Formerly Kauai Sands Hotel, this is the sister property to the Kauai Beach Resort, and the differences are immediately recognizable. It fancies itself more in tune with island-life, forgoing the bells and whistles of a done-up resort for a peaceful plot of land along the island’s eastern shore. The rooms are recently renovated but still basic, and the pool is small. The on-site Lava Lava Beach Club is a good place to kick back, with a toes-in-the-sand kind of beachfront bar where they offer “farm-to-beach” dining and daily live music. (Rates are from $145 per night.)