Oahu Best Areas to Stay
Waikiki plus other Resort Areas
Are you thinking about where to stay in Oahu? This article will review the areas to find the best accommodations in Oahu.
Every year, nearly 5 million visitors choose Oahu out of the other Hawaiian islands. Most visitors flock to the world-famous Waikiki area. Their visitors can find most accommodations sprawling in the area. Nearly half of the rooms in Hawaii, including 90% + of all rooms in Oahu, are in Waikiki. Honolulu, the state's capital, hosts the island's central tourist hub, Waikiki. Oahu can find it all, from long-term vacation rentals to short-term budget-friendly hotels to the best hostels.
Waikiki is a large city located beachfront of the Pacific Ocean. Go there and discover the area's lively and accessible social regions that offer the widest variety of lodging choices. Waikiki holds most hotels and resorts in Oahu. Their options vary to fit the desires of backpackers in Oahu, luxury seekers, people on a shoestring budget, and extreme beach lovers like the beach bums of Kailua. Thus, for all those who wonder "where should I stay in Oahu," consider:
- Budget-friendly hotels
- Luxury resorts
- Modern boutique hotels
- The cheapest hostels in Hawaii
- Backpackers inns in Oahu
These different accommodations include the world's premier hotel brands:
Please don't say we didn't warn you! An assortment of high rises, fancy shopping centers, every chain restaurant you can imagine, oh - and a million people dot the streets of Waikiki. Some find the area a bit crowded, while others soak up the bustling energy of these streets.
However, consider going beyond Waikiki& Honolulu for a set of other, beautiful accommodations. These areas include:
- South Oahu (Waikiki / Honolulu - including Kahala)
- Leeward Waianae (Including Makaha & Ko Olina)
- North Shore (Haleiwa to Turtle Bay)
Here's an overview of each region mentioned above. We'll go over the pros and cons of each area below.
Windward East (Kaneohe / Kailua)
- The airport and downtown areas of Honolulu are where you'll find business-oriented hotels, although the most significant properties in Waikiki offer full meeting facilities and business services. Nearly 95% of Oahu accommodations are in Waikiki.
- The Leeward side offers two main large-scale resorts, specifically the Koolina Resort area. The Waianae/Makaha area features a championship golf course and a small number of vacation rentals. The site is simply beautiful, as the Makaha Valley surrounds it.
- North Shore offers mainly vacation homes and cottages and 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.
- Similarly, the Windward East area (Kaneohe and Kailua) does not have a significant resort, as it is primarily a residential area with several vacation home rentals.
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On this page, we'll cover each of the major Oahu regions you can find accommodations within. Here are this page's highlights...
- Explore the South Oahu Region including Waikiki & Honolulu
- Discover the Leeward Waianae Region including its pros and cons
- Explore accommodation options within the North Shore Region
- Discover places to stay in the East 'Windward' Region
- Search for Oahu Hotels and find the Best Rates
Search Oahu Hotels
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
We can say with some authority that most visitors choose to stay in the Honolulu/Waikiki area. Most consider it the best part of Oahu to stay. In this region, the bulk of accommodations lay. The site serves as an excellent base for launching your sightseeing across the island. The accommodations here are varied enough to suit almost any visitor's tastes, including the so-called beach bums, luxury connoisseurs, and budget travelers. Some of the best deals on the island exist here.
Why Should you stay in Waikiki and Honolulu?
There are over 20 shopping malls in Waikiki, which is excellent for those who like to take a break from their vacation. This area is also known for its many dining options, including Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Italian cuisine. This is also the perfect place for nightlife. The clubs here are lively and famous for their events that include live performances; if you're thinking of planning a romantic getaway but don't know where to start, no worries! Just head to South Oahu and relax.
Consider the following to meet your getaway desires:
- These Hawaiian lodgings sit on the beach/water. Many find the eight hotels on the beach steep in luxury.
- Lodgings closer to the Mauka (inland) offer the best deal, particularly if you desire budget-friendly accommodation.
- A few blocks inland from the beach, discover lodgings close to the water but at a lower cost.
- For more luxurious lodgings, check out the resorts in the Kahala area southeast coast below Waikiki.
- Shuttles frequently run between Honolulu and Waikiki. A convenient way for visitors to go sightseeing.No need to rent a car in the activities packed Waikiki area.
- Both trolleys and public buses litter this area. Both systems offer decent transportation options for visiting most of the Waikiki/Honolulu major tourist hot spots.
Essentially, lodging in the Waikiki area and Honolulu holds so many appealing factors. Visitors can find options like Hawaii's long-term rentals, including economic vacation rentals. Visitors have more lodging options between the hotels vs. vacation rentals. Favorably, these areas hold a host of attractions, including:
- Museums and cultural sites,
- Zoo, aquarium, and beautiful walking paths
- An abundance of choices for shopping
- Luxury designer brands and budget-friendly souvenir outlets sprinkled across the city.
- Plentiful dining options include local specialty restaurants, major chains, and high-end dining options.
The Drawback of Staying in Waikiki or Honolulu
That all said, there are some definite caveats to staying in Waikiki. First, it's so remarkably crowded. It doesn't have the same vibe that some other (less densely populated) parts of the island (or state). With the crowds comes increased traffic, too. So if you choose to rent a vehicle - expect to experience traffic while in the Waikiki & Honolulu areas. It's a fact of life here. Many Waikiki resorts will charge a fee for parking - around $40/daily. But we highly encourage visitors to rent a vehicle as there is so much more to see on Oahu beyond Waikiki. Public transportation isn't a convenient option outside of the city.
Our Recommended Places to Stay in Waikiki or Honolulu
A few of our favorite properties in Waikiki & Honolulu are the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, the Sheraton Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian, the Moana Surfrider, the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, The Modern Honolulu, the Halekulani Hotel, the Kahala Hotel & Resort, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, and the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa.
The Pros and Cons of Staying in Waikiki/ Honolulu
- A wide variety of cheap motels, budget-friendly hotels, hostels, and luxury resorts as options
- 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
Staying on the Leeward Waianae Coast
Including Ko Olina & Makaha
On the drier west Leeward side of the island, you'll discover the resort community of Ko'olina. It has the same resort feel to the area, unlike along the north and east/windward coasts, which have a more 'local' vibe.
Why Should You Stay in Leeward Waianae Coast Including Ko Olina & Makaha?
This area offers a remarkable array of natural wonders, including crystalline waters, cascading waterfalls, spectacular mountains, and lush tropical rainforests. Here you'll find a selection of resorts, a golf course, a marina, and shopping and dining options in a small shopping center. There's even a Target, Walmart, and Costco nearby in Kapolei.
The Drawbacks of Staying in the Leeward Waianae Coast Including Ko Olina & Makaha
The restaurant's specialty areas have been very popular with visitors to the islands for a while, mainly because of their accessibility from Waianae. The area's beauty has also attracted developers who have put up high-rises near famous beaches. Unfortunately, you may find it problematic to reach the rest of the island in these secluded areas. With the increase in popularity, traffic has been an issue, and parking is even more difficult.
Our Recommended Places to Stay in Ko Olina & Makaha
A couple of our favorite properties in Ko Olina include the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina and the Marriott Ko'olina Beach Club. For families, we also highly recommend the Aulani Disney Resort & Spa,
The Pros and Cons of Staying in 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
You'll eventually come to Oahu's famous north shore when you drive north out of Honolulu. From Haleiwa to Turtle Bay and onward to Laie, Oahu locals refer to this area as "the country."
No big box stores or fancy restaurants exist here. Instead, you will find plenty of beautiful beaches and a variety of quaint surfing towns. Accommodations in North Shore span from vacation rentals to North Shore camping, North Shore hostels, or B&B's.
Why Should You Stay in the North Shore, Including Haleiwa and Turtle Bay?
The North Shore is a mecca for beachgoers and others who enjoy aquatic activities. It's known for its genuine Hawaiian culture and an easygoing, laid-back attitude. With world-class surfing, an endless number of beaches to explore, and fantastic dining, this is the perfect spot for anyone looking for fun in the sun. Staying in Turtle Bay provides a taste of the North Shore's tropical nature with its beautiful beaches and sprawling mountains.
Our Recommended Lodgings to Stay in the North Shore, Including Haleiwa and Turtle Bay
Are you looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki? Want to stay near the many dining and shopping options? Choose to stay closer to Haleiwa. Or consider the one significant resort property on the north shore of Oahu, the Turtle Bay Resort. At only 45 minutes from Waikiki, it can feel like an escape on the island - offering less noise and crowds than the busier regions. If you're looking to stay over near the Laie area, consider the Courtyard by Marriot Oahu North Shore.
The Drawbacks of Staying in North Shore Including Haleiwa and Turtle Bay
There's no public transportation in Haleiwa, so you'll have to rely on rentals or taxis. The problem is that traffic can get congested around the North Shore. This area, especially Turtle Bay, is pretty quiet and low-key.
The Pros and Cons of Staying in the North Shore Including Haleiwa and 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
- Forced to deal with traffic
- Construction peppers this area
- Some parts are very secluded
Staying on Windward East Oahu
Including Kaneohe / Kailua
This region is on the East Windward side of the island and is a 20-30 minute drive east of Waikiki.
Why Should You Stay in Windward East Oahu Including Kaneohe / Kailua?
Kailua is not the secret it used to be. Recently, this small beach town garnered so much attention from vacation-goers. Kailua Beach is a perfect surf spot and, in recent years, has become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Here, you'll find a variety of local shops and places to eat and Target and Whole Foods. It's also home to the iconic Kailua Pier, where you can walk down the sandy pathway to the beach. It's a great place to enjoy a sunset with friends or go whale watching in season.
The Drawbacks of Staying in the Windward East Oahu Including Kaneohe / Kailua?
There aren't any actual significant accommodations or resorts located here. Most selections include B&Bs or vacation rentals in the area if you want to stay on this part of the island.
Our Recommended Lodgings to Stay in the Windward East Oahu Including Kaneohe / Kailua
There is one place we'd like to mention. It's just north of Kailua/Kaneohe in the town of Kahaluu. It's probably our favorite property here on the east Windward side of Oahu - it's the Paradise Bay Resort.
The Pros and Cons of Staying in the 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, Mokoli'i Island, 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
Best Places to Stay on Oahu: The Ultimate Guide for Every Type of Traveler
Best place to stay for families:
Waikiki is a great place to start. It's affordable and offers a variety of activities for all members of your family.
North Shore provides the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. The area offers many luxury resorts and vacation rentals at the edge of Waianae and Haleiwa. It also has many exciting attractions, like luaus, festivals, and surfing. With so many activities to choose from, you'll be able to bond with your whole family.
Koolina offers affordable, family-friendly accommodations short distance from Waikiki Beach, the bottomless snorkeling of Turtle Bay, and the world-famous Diamond Head Crater. It is also within minutes of many other charming beaches, shopping centers, and cultural attractions.
Kailua offers affordable resort homes and proximity to the beach. It's also has a wide variety of activities for families, including kayaking, golfing, and hunting.
Best place to stay for Beach Bums:
There are only so many hours in the day. And who wants to spend their time strolling around tourist spots when you can be swimming in the ocean?
The Waikiki neighborhood is the best place to stay in Oahu for those who love to play at the beach. It is a popular tourist destination with great restaurants, shopping, and attractions. The East Coast offers a charming view of the Pacific Ocean and a perfect mixture of beaches, food, and activities. Of course, North Shore provides great sprawling beaches.
Best place to stay for luxury seekers:
For luxury, check out the Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina. This resort features a pool, fine dining, and golf courses. The Four Seasons also offers a full-service spa for those looking to pamper themselves.
Best place to stay for backpackers:
For affordable beach activities and hip, nightlife considers the North Shore or Waikiki the perfect locations for backpackers in Oahu. You'll find affordable rates for your lodging.
North Shore is a perfect choice for those who want to stay close to the beach and the North Shore Mountains.
Waikiki is another good option for backpackers in Oahu. It is close to great shopping and nightlife. You can find excellent public transportation here.
Best place to stay for surfers:
The North Shore is a haven for surfers. It's also an excellent destination for anyone who enjoys the beach. We know the North Shore for having the best waves in the country.
You can also find plenty of things to do nearby, including world-class surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and cliff jumping.
Best place to stay for couples on a romantic getaway:
If you plan a romantic getaway with your significant other, check out the many resorts near Waikiki. These resorts offer all the luxury you would expect from a luxury hotel. They also provide an unforgettable Hawaiian experience.
Best place to stay for adventurer seekers:
Many great places to explore on the windward (east) coast. You can go kayaking in Kailua or at Mokoli'i Island.
Take a hike to the Windwardside for breathtaking views of the entire island. Or visit the tidepools, surf, or body-board underneath the lighthouse in Makapu'u!