Definitely book Kauaʻi accommodation well in advance – especially during peak seasons.
- Vacation Rentals Generally an entire house, including full kitchens. Many beach- or cliff-side. Can be pricey, but worth it.
- Condominiums Individually owned units clustered together. Ideal for those preferring a full kitchen. May have common areas, pools and beaches.
- B&Bs and inns Homes/small lodgings that are generally reliable and personable. Fruit and pastries typically served for breakfast.
- Hotels and resorts Wide range of prices but generally pricier. High-end resorts typically have nicer pool and beach areas.
- Camping In primitive campgrounds, often including fire rings and bathrooms. Advanced reservations required.
B&Bs & Inns
- In 2015 there was a major crackdown on B&Bs working without proper permits on Kauaʻi. Following the crackdown, a number of long-standing B&Bs – many featured in previous editions of Lonely Planet guidebooks – were permanently shut down. As of press time, some B&Bs were back in operation, while others had permanently closed business.
- B&Bs offer the chance to stay in a home-like environment in which getting to know the owner and other travelers is part of the experience. They vary greatly, from spare bedrooms in family households to historic homes to pull-out-the-stops romantic hideaways. Some include a kitchenette, private access or other apartment amenities.
- B&Bs generally have a resident owner, typically a couple, and include breakfast. They are distinct from guesthouses, which are managed properties that may or may not include breakfast.
- Many B&Bs have a two- or three-night minimum-stay requirement (though some will waive this if you pay a higher one-night rate) and offer discounts for extended stays. Some exclude young children due to the impact on other guests (eg crying babies down the hall). Rates typically cover two guests, with extra-person charges costing $15 to $35.
- For listings, see Affordable Paradise (www.affordable-paradise.com).
At all public campgrounds on Kauaʻi, camping permits must be obtained and paid for in advance; they are not issued in person at campgrounds. Book as far ahead as possible for popular campgrounds, such as the Na Pali Coast.
State park campgrounds can be found in Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kokeʻe State Park and Polihale State Park. Permits are required; obtain them up to a year in advance from the Division of State Parks, online or in person. Fees cost $18 to $30 per campsite per night (or $20 per person per night on the Na Pali Coast); maximum-stay limits of three to five nights at each campground are enforced.
For remote backcountry camping on the Westside, the Division of Forestry & Wildlife issues permits for four campgrounds in Waimea Canyon, three campgrounds (Sugi Grove, Kawaikoi and Waikoali) in and around Kokeʻe State Park, and the Waiʻalae Cabin campground near the Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve. Camping fees are the same as for state parks; maximum-stay limits also apply.
Of the seven county parks with campgrounds, the most pleasant are Haʻena Beach Park, Black Pot Beach Park (Hanalei Pier) and ʻAnini Beach Park on the North Shore, and Salt Pond Beach Park on the Westside. Campgrounds are subject to regular weekly closures (exact days vary by campground).
County camping permits cost $3 per night per nonresident adult camper (children under 18 years are free) and are issued by mail (at least one month in advance) or in person at the Division of Parks & Recreation. Permits can also be obtained in person at four satellite locations: Hanapepe Neighborhood Center; Kalaheo Neighborhood Center; Kapaʻa Neighborhood Center; and Kilauea Neighborhood Center. For mail-in permits, only cashier’s checks or money orders are accepted for payment, not cash. Do not camp on private property.
Many of the state parks also have cabins. Kind of like camping, because they are so rustic. Kauai Camper Rental rents VW Westfalia's and camp gear.
- Condos are king on Kauaʻi. No wonder there are so many timeshare salespeople running around. The hard part is finding one that really fits your personality and needs.
- Condos are rented out on behalf of absentee owners by on-site managers or rental agencies. Units may differ widely within a single complex.
- Things to look for include: services offered (some even come with cars, boogie boards, club memberships); where the room is on the property (the property may be ocean front, but if your room is way in the back, you won't see the water); updates (some agencies classify by standard, premium, deluxe appointments to give you an idea); and maid service (check if it costs more, and how often).
- Air-conditioning is a fairly nonstandard upgrade. If you have an ocean view, you probably don't need it.
- Condos are individually owned apartments that include a kitchen(ette) and living area. Many have a washer/dryer, or access to one on the property. They are typically more spacious than hotel rooms, making this a good option for families or larger groups.
- Most condo units have a multiday minimum stay, especially in high season, of three to seven days. Staying for a few weeks? Ask for a discount.
- The weekly rental rate is often six times the daily rate and the monthly rate three times the weekly. One-time cleaning fees average $75 to $100 for a studio or one-bedroom unit, depending on the length of stay.
- To save money, try booking condos directly first, then go through island rental agencies.
- Do your own internet search for online condo rental classifieds at Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com) and Craigslist (www.craigslist.org).
- There are a ton of vacation homes for rent on Kauaʻi. These range from simple plantation-style cottages to five-bed affairs fit for a king.
- Some have great views of the ocean while others are inland.
- Like condos, they are rented for longer periods of three to seven days. Cleaning fees often apply.
- Negotiate the price.
- Vacation rentals offer privacy, a kitchen (or kitchenette) and your own parking space, so you don’t have to do the resort marathon. They can also be a real money saver, as you don’t have to eat out all the time. There is typically a separate cleaning fee. Make sure you know who to call if there is a problem, as many vacation rentals have nonresident owners.
- The best online sources for vacation rentals are Vacation Rentals By Owner (www.vrbo.com) and Craigslist (http://honolulu.craigslist.org/kau/). FlipKey (www.flipkey.com) contains both agency and private listings, as well as helpful reviews.
- On paper, tourist accommodations on Kauaʻi are only allowed in designated areas, such as Poʻipu, Princeville and Kapaʻa. You don’t need to be worried about this unless there’s a crackdown. If the situation changes, government-approved rentals have a Transit Vacation Rental (TVR) number.
Hotels & Resorts
- The difference between a hotel and a resort is the amenities, such as spas, water parks, multiple restaurants and children’s programs. Kauaʻi resorts don’t mess around: amenities are, if anything, over the top (have you seen a hotel with five poolside hot tubs?)
- Never pay ‘rack rates,’ which refer to the published highest annual rates. Major hotels deeply cut their rack rates to remain as close to capacity as possible. Rates fluctuate madly based on seasonal occupancy.
- Within a given hotel, rates depend mainly on the view. Ocean views cost 50% to 100% more than garden or mountain (or parking lot) views. Be aware that descriptors such as ʻoceanfront’ and ʻoceanview’ are used liberally, even when you may require a telescope to spot the surf.
- Check on a hotel map to get an idea of what your view will be.
- All-inclusive deals are rare on the island. Rather, expect to pay out the you-know-what for food at the hotel.
- Resort restaurants are open to the general public. It's fun to cruise through the lobby and have sunset drinks at places like the St Regis.
- Resort beaches are not private. It's the access that's private. In many cases, you can simply go through the lobby and out to the beach (if you look OK), if not, try from the waterfront.
- Check the hotel’s website or discount sites such as hotels.com (www.hotels.com) for reduced rates.