Where to Stay on the Gathering Place

Thinking about where to stay on Oahu? In this article, we'll take a look at which areas are the best choices when visiting Oahu.  

Oahu is the most visited of all the Hawaiian Islands, with over 4.7 million visitors annually; and the majority of both visitors and accommodations are packed into the world-famous Waikiki area. However, there are other major areas where many wonderful accommodations can be found. These include: 
 
  • Waikiki / Honolulu (including Kahala)
  • Leeward (Koolina area)
  • North Shore (Haleiwa to Turtle Bay)
  • Waianae (Makaha area) 
  • Windward East (Kaneohe / Kailua)
Waikiki & Honolulu have more then enough options for accommodations.

Waikiki & Honolulu have more then enough options for accommodations.

From Downtown to the Coast

As we mentioned, the majority of hotels and resorts on Oahu are located in Waikiki, which is a lively and popular gathering place that offers the widest variety of lodging choices; from budget hotels to luxury resorts. Here you’ll find most of the world’s premier hotel brands, including Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, and Hyatt. 

The airport and downtown areas of Honolulu are where you’ll find business-oriented hotels, although most major properties in Waikiki offer full meeting facilities and business services. 

There is also a large resort in the Kahala area, which is the ritzy residential neighborhood located on the Southeast Coast below Waikiki, just near Diamond Head Crater. The Leeward side, specifically the Koolina Resort area, offers two main large-scale resorts. The Windward East area (Kaneohe and Kailua) does not have a resort, as it is largely a residential area with a number of vacation home rentals. 

Similarly, the North Shore offers mostly vacation homes and cottages as well as B&Bs dotted along the stunning coastline from Haleiwa to Turtle Bay and beyond.  The area does boast one major resort, located at Turtle Bay. On the western side of the island, Waianae (Makana area) features a championship golf course and a luxury resort, as well as a small number of vacation rentals. The area is simply beautiful, as it is surrounded by the Mahaka Valley.

Let's take a look at the pros (Highlights) and cons (Detraction) of each of the areas we've briefly discussed above. These are in order of popularity, by our account.

Waikiki / Honolulu (including Kahala)

Highlights A huge variety of hotels and resorts to choose from
Highlights World-class shopping, nightlife, and entertainment
Highlights A great variety of restaurants with a global flavor
Highlights Many hotel rooms have an ocean view
Highlights The Waikiki/Honolulu area is home to many Hawaiian points of interest, including the famous Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head Crater, Honolulu Zoo, Chinatown, King Kamehameha Statue, and Iolani Palace.
Detraction Always very crowded & noisy; Waikiki beach is very busy
Detraction Traffic causes parking to be very difficult
Detraction Waikiki caters to tourists and, therefore, is quite expensive


When you’re in Waikiki, we recommend you visit Waikiki's newest boutique hotel with a sophisticated casual vibe-Vive Hotel Waikiki.

Looking over that list, we can say with some authority that most visitors will stay in the Honolulu/Waikiki area. The accommodations here are varied enough to suit almost any visitor's tastes, including those on a budget. In fact, some of the best deals on the island can be found here. In addition to a variety of accommodations, you'll also find a large selection of shopping, dining options, and nightlife available. Plus, there's the most famous beach in Hawaii right in front of you- Waikiki.

As far as pricing goes, any accommodation near the beach/water is going to cost a great deal more than those further mauka (inland). There are only eight hotels actually on the beach, and all are fairly pricey- plus, one is for the military only. The best deals can often be found a few blocks inland from the beach, so look there for your best prices.

You may also want to review our articles on When to Visit Oahuas well as Oahu Weather.

Leeward Coast (Koolina area)

Highlights Wide range of water sports and activities along the coast
Highlights Just a 30-minute drive to Waikiki
Highlights Very close to Pearl Harbor (30-minute drive)
Highlights Pristine beaches, championship golf course, and marina
Highlights Less congested than Waikiki; more privacy and seclusion
Highlights A wide range of accommodations available
Detraction Not as many choices of places to stay as in Waikiki
Detraction Koolina does not have the nightlife or restaurants that Waikiki has

Waianae (Makaha area)

Highlights Close to a lot of lovely "off the beaten path" beaches, as well as interesting cultural sites. Large golf course
Highlights The least-crowded accommodation area on Oahu
Highlights Makaha Beach is less known than the North Shore for pro surfing, but, nonetheless, hosts an annual longboard contest
Highlights Climate is generally dry and sunny
Highlights Sunset can be viewed best from the west side
Detraction Geographically quite remote: The North Shore is a 1.5-hour drive and Waikiki is an hour away, as is the windward east side of the island
Detraction Waianae side is quite a barren, treeless part of the island, and is far less attractive than other more lush areas
Detraction Unfortunately, there is a high crime rate in this area - especially vehicle break-ins.

North Shore (Haleiwa to Turtle Bay)

Highlights Beautiful landscape and many stunning beaches, including Sunset Beach and the world famous Banzai Pipeline
Highlights Summer conditions are great for water activities
Highlights Less crowded & more laid back than other parts of Oahu
Highlights Historical and cultural sights to experience, including Waimea Valley, and Queen Liliuokalani Church
Highlights A variety of boutique-style/vacation rental choices available
Detraction Limited choices and availability of accommodations
Detraction Dining and entertainment options are limited

Windward East (Kaneohe / Kailua)

Highlights The towns of Kailua and Kaneohe are just 30 minutes away from Waikiki, but the area is truly a world away from the hustle and bustle
Highlights There are a variety of vacation home rentals dotted along the coastal area – this is the main type of accommodation in the region
Highlights Beautiful and scenic; there is a lot to explore, including Hanauma Bay, Makapuu Point, Chinaman’s Hat, and Lanikai Beach
Highlights Some worthwhile attractions such as Kualoa Ranch and Polynesian Cultural Center
Detraction Largely residential, the area does not have any major hotels or resorts
Detraction Dining and entertainment options are not as varied as Waikiki

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Article Edited/Contributed by: Riley Branham & Michele Lopez
Published/Updated:

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