Oahu Best Areas to Stay
Finding a Place in Oahu
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.
- South Oahu (Waikiki / Honolulu - including Kahala)
- Leeward Waianae (Including Makaha & Ko Olina)
- North Shore (Haleiwa to Turtle Bay)
- Windward East (Kaneohe / Kailua)
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.
Oahu Accommodations by Region
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each of the areas we've briefly discussed above. These are in order of popularity, by our account.
Staying in South Oahu
Including Waikiki, Honolulu, and Kahala
- A huge variety of hotels and resorts to choose from
- World-class shopping, nightlife, and entertainment
- A great variety of restaurants with a global flavor
- Many hotel rooms have an ocean view
- 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.
- Always very crowded & noisy; Waikiki beach is very busy
- Traffic causes parking to be very difficult
- Waikiki caters to tourists and, therefore, is quite expensive
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.
Staying on the Leeward Waianae Coast
Including Ko Olina & Makaha
- Wide range of water sports and activities along the coast
- Just a 30-45 minute drive to Waikiki & Honolulu
- Pristine beaches, championship golf course, and marina
- Less congested than Waikiki; more privacy and seclusion
- A wide range of accommodations available
- Close to a lot of lovely "off the beaten path" beaches, as well as interesting cultural sites. Large golf course
- Makaha Beach is less known than the North Shore for pro surfing, but, nonetheless, hosts an annual longboard contest
- Climate is generally dry and sunny
- Sunset can be viewed best from the west side
- Not as many choices of places to stay as in Waikiki
- Koolina does not have the nightlife or restaurants that Waikiki has
- 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
- Waianae side is quite a barren, treeless part of the island, and is far less attractive than other more lush areas
- Unfortunately, there is a higher crime rate in this area - especially vehicle break-ins.
Staying on the North Shore
Including Haleiwa to Turtle Bay
- Beautiful landscape and many stunning beaches, including Sunset Beach and the world famous Banzai Pipeline
- Summer conditions are great for water activities
- Less crowded & more laid back than other parts of Oahu
- Historical and cultural sights to experience, including Waimea Valley, and Queen Liliuokalani Church
- A variety of boutique-style/vacation rental choices available
- Limited choices and availability of accommodations
- Dining and entertainment options are limited
Staying on Windward East Oahu
Including Kaneohe / Kailua
- 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
- There are a variety of vacation home rentals dotted along the coastal area – this is the main type of accommodation in the region
- Beautiful and scenic; there is a lot to explore, including Hanauma Bay, Makapuu Point, Chinaman’s Hat, and Lanikai Beach
- Some worthwhile attractions such as Kualoa Ranch and Polynesian Cultural Center
- Largely residential, the area does not have any major hotels or resorts
- Dining and entertainment options are not as varied as Waikiki