Having just spent six balmy, relaxing weeks in Hawaii, you can imagine I’ve learned quite a bit about the various neighborhoods and accommodations on offer. I stayed in the south on sunny Poipu Beach; I checked out funky Kapaa at my uncle’s bike/art studio; I slept like a baby in the Westin’s Heavenly Bed on the North Shore; and I breathed a sigh of relief that I was safe from the possible tsunami in a condo on the cliffs of Princeville.
Traditional hotels have their merits of course, but there’s nothing like having a fully stocked place of your own when visiting Kauai. Kauai just isn’t the kind of place where trappings and features and opulence seem to fit, after all, it is known as the Garden Isle. While luxury can be found, it’s most certainly more understated here, more accessible, more barefoot.
You Can’t Go Wrong with a Princeville Condo
I spent the lion’s share of my time on Kauai in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo in the Mauna Kai development in Princeville, an upscale community between Hanalei & Kilauea. Princeville itself isn’t terribly authentic – many new, modern homes & condos abound and it’s more of a vacationers base than a local spot, but it is hands-down my favorite place to stay. You just can’t beat the location!
I am a North Shore fan through and through, so I am happiest spending the majority of my time stand-up paddling or surfing at Hanalei Bay or Tunnels, or browsing the shops in adorable Hanalei Town. Princeville offers some of the most affordable deals on rental homes and condos, so you get that close access to all the activities on the North Shore without paying a premium to stay in say, Hanalei proper.
We found our condo on VRBO, a site I’ve used many times in my travels. Traveling with my brother and a couple friends who dropped in, we didn’t need frills – just a place to wash some clothes, take afternoon naps and grill delicious fish & steak every night by the pool. We found it all at Mauna Kai!
With a washer/dryer, completely stocked kitchen, massive swimming pool just outside our door and ample parking for our rotating roster of rented cars (ps – did you hear about our drama with Budget Rent A Car?), our ground floor unit at Mauna Kai was a perfect fit. I loved all the windows in our unit – we were almost completely surrounded by outdoor lanai space, perfect for BBQing – and we were just a short walk down a jungle path to the edge of Anini Beach. We were within 10 minutes walking distance to the grocery store and our favorite Mexican restaurant on the island, Federico’s. (Do not miss their carnitas quesadilla – so good!) To be honest, the kitchen was such a luxury, we cooked at home more often than not.
Of course, our Mauna Kai rental had fast WiFi – a must in any place I stay! And a big HD TV with Law & Order episodes (my brother never ceases to amaze me with his varied interests), boogie boards, noodles, beach toys, etc. to make our month even more fun.
But Don’t Forget the Sunny South Shore
While I’ll always be a North Shore girl at heart, it was fun to stay at the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation in sunny Poipu for a couple of days, just to see how the other side of the island lives. Kiahuna Plantation is set on 35 acres along Poipu Beach, just a few minutes away from historic Koloa Town.
The property’s large rooms also feature fully stocked kitchens, but I didn’t have a moment to use mine, as I was cruising around with the Kauai Visitors Bureau and they kept me busy. Here you have the luxuries of a beachfront hotel – full restaurant, a gorgeous stretch of white sand & swimmable sea, concierge, tennis club – all the things you might need for a fun vacation.
Like many similar properties on Kauai, the Kiahuna Plantation does not offer air conditioning. Don’t let it scare you away though! When I was there, the tropical breeze was more than enough to keep my room cool.
Back to the North Shore
You might think the Westin Princeville is just another pretty hotel catering to the hordes of tourists who visit Kauai annually. But not this property! In keeping with the best of Kauai accommodations, each suite has its own stocked kitchen and a very thoughtful welcome pack of starter amenities. So you get all the comfort of staying at a branded hotel chain – those bath goodies! that pleasant scent wafting through the lobby! a daily schedule with fun activities! – and the feeling of independence that comes with staying in your own private space.
And to boot, you get to sleep in the magnificent Westin Heavenly Bed! (I’m tempted to buy one for my new apartment just so I can feel right at home.)
The Westin is perched above the Princeville cliffs, so unfortunately it’s not beachfront, though you can wander down the jungle path to a little smidge of beach if you like. That’s just about the only downside to this property. There are several pools scattered throughout, a few Jacuzzis, a play area for kids and a gym overlooking it all.
There’s free WiFi for guests – my main requirement, laundry facilities in each suite and an hourly shuttle that transports guests the 2 miles to the St. Regis, where you may indulge in a $25 cocktail while watching the sun set over Hanalei Bay, use their pool or snorkel on the reef. For room rates, click here.
Lucky for me, I’ve got an uncle in Kauai so even if I don’t find a Princeville condo, a Poipu hotel or a luxury suite on the North Shore, I can always crash at his Kapaa studio.
But you can’t.
Still, if you’re in Kauai and need a bike rental or professional fitting, want to buy some local art or just hang out with a super cool musician, let me know and I’ll hook you up.