Each region on Oahu is very different and it will give you a unique experience for your vacation. Within each region are luxury resorts, family-friendly hotels, and budget accommodations. In this blog post, I hope to help you figure out where to stay in Oahu and which region you will enjoy the most.
TOP 3 PLACES TO STAY ON OAHU
The most obvious choice is to base in Waikiki where all the action is. It’s a great place for your vacation but there are some other great options too as you will see. My overall top pick for THE BEST place to stay on Oahu is the Lotus Honolulu or The Modern Honolulu, which are luxurious resorts in great beachside locations.
QUICK PICKS: MY 4 FAVORITE HOTELS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Don’t have time to read my detailed breakdown of all the top places to stay and the best regions on Oahu? No worries! These are my four favorite hotels and resorts on the Island. If you book one of these four, you are guaranteed to have a great vacation in a great location!
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WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU – REGION BY REGION
I’ve split the island up into five regions when considering where to stay on Oahu. In each section, I will discuss what that region offers, the pros and cons of that region, and make some suggestions on the best hotels in that area.
Let’s start with Waikiki because it is the most popular place to stay on Oahu. The majority of the hotels are on this famous strip of sun-kissed beach. There are hundreds of restaurants, cafes, tour centers, transport options, and convenience stores. It has a great little surf break perfect for beginners. The water is warm, the cocktails are flowing and it is an all-around beach vacation vibe.
- Families: Waikiki is the number one choice for families. They are centrally located for all of the tours to different spots around the island. Kids have protected beaches to swim in without worrying about waves.
- Couples: Honeymooners and couples have found the perfect getaway spot in Waikiki. It is the perfect base to hit the beaches, adventure the island but still have the luxury of great accommodation, dining, and convenience on your doorstep.
- Older travelers: The older travelers among us love Waikiki for a few reasons. It’s simple. Everything is on your doorstep. The tours pick you up and drop you off at your hotel lobby. There are quality restaurants in all directions and the famous Waikiki Beach is within walking distance.
PRO’S OF STAYING IN WAIKIKI
- Hundreds of different accommodation options ranging from 5-star to hostels.
- A huge array of dining options
- Protected swimming areas with no big waves for kids and novice swimmers
- Surf lessons and perfect small surf waves
- Close to the popular Diamond Head Hike
- All tours start and finish in Waikiki
- Weather is always the best on the island in Waikiki
- Shopping heaven
- Outdoor gyms and running trails
CONS OF STAYING IN WAIKIKI
- Can get overwhelming with all the tourists
- The beach can be busy during the high season
- It can feel like a bit of a city beach compared to quieter island spots
WHERE TO STAY IN WAIKIKI
HILTON HAWAIIAN VILLAGE BEACH RESORT
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Family): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. It has luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon, and free fireworks and dance performance show every Friday. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island and always delivers a great vacation.
Why I recommend this hotel: Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries in the private lagoon. There are no currents, waves, or sea creatures to worry about. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach but also central to countless great restaurants and bars. Every Friday night guests of the hotel are treated to a traditional Hawaiian dance performance before the Hilton puts on an epic fireworks show. It’s my favorite fireworks show in the world because you are so close to the fireworks you can feel the reverberations on the ground while you are sitting!
Sheraton Waikiki (High-end): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool in Waikiki, overlooking the beach. The bar and nightclub, called Rumfire, at the Sheraton are a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.
Why I recommend this hotel: Imagine you are leaning over the edge of an infinity pool, the ocean is below you and you turn to your left and watch Diamond Head crater in the distance. That’s where you will be at the end of each day, having a Mai Tai cocktail in your infinity pool.
THE MODERN HONOLULU
The Modern Honolulu (Value): Not all 5-star hotels on Oahu cost a fortune, for around $200 a night, you’ll get a luxurious and spacious room with a balcony that gives you amazing ocean views. This is the best value-for-money 5-star hotel in Waikiki!
Why I recommend this hotel: It’s in a great location, just walking distance to all the restaurants and bars and a stone’s throw away from Waikiki beach. I find the Ukulele and sarongs as decor inside each room cute making guests really feel the Aloha vibe. They have a hidden bar just behind the study area in the lobby which is a real vibe and very unique. What’s more, you’ll get to show your dance moves at the popular nightclub in Waikiki at The Modern Honolulu. I love the food here because they use local ingredients where possible and they have one of the healthiest menu’s in Waikiki.
- Cheapest 5-star Hotel in Waikiki
- Luxurious modern design
- Pool, Restaurant, Bar, Nightclub
THE LAYLOW AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION
The Laylow Autograph Collection (Special Mention): The Laylow gets a special mention because I stayed in their luxury, boutique hotel in 2018 while doing some filming with them. I just loved the vintage, aloha vibes this modern hotel managed to create.
Why I recommend this hotel: The Laylow is part of the Autograph Collection, which was created by Marriott. The idea is to create a boutique-style, luxury hotel encompassing a local flavor. What Laylow has managed to do is create a luxury accommodation on par with a Marriott super hotel but with the feel of a smaller, one-off boutique. This place was so cool it was locals visiting the bar at night, not just the guests.
Spacious studio rooms with modern design, a large gym, a stunning pool, and a rooftop restaurant/bar. A daily, free shave ice stand and Ukelele lessons were several activities offered among many.
- Hawaiian/Aloha ‘modern’ Theme
- Best Boutique Hotel in Waikiki
- Great outdoor, rooftop bar/restaurant
POLYNESIAN HOSTEL BEACH CLUB
Polynesian Hostel Beach Club (Budget/Location): It is definitely the cheapest hostel in Honolulu, Hawaii. Surprisingly, you get quite a lot of value for your money here! The location is great because it is just a short walk to the beach, bars, and restaurants. This means you can walk to the beach, rent a surfboard and be out in the waves in just a few minutes. Plus… it’s a 4-star hostel!
Why I recommend this hostel: It’s a perfect place to meet other travelers especially backpackers around the world. Polynesian hostel around-the-clock security so that you and your belongings will always feel safe which makes a big difference to your trip. The rooms are quite nice and the beds are comfy, but what really makes this place so wonderful is its central location and the fact you make many new friends every night at the nearby bars.
Waikiki may be the most popular place to stay on Oahu, but Diamond Head is actually my favorite spot. Waikiki is great, especially on your first visit to Oahu but it can get a little over the top for some people. A million different designer shops, tourists wandering everywhere and it all starts to feel like a mini Las Vegas at times. Some people love it, some people hate it.
So, how is Diamond Head different? Location-wise it is actually pretty much part of Waikiki and everything is still within walking distance. Down the eastern end of Waikiki is Diamond Head, a small region with lots of big parks, less crowded beaches, walking trails, and outdoor gyms. You are within walking distance of the action in Waikiki for restaurants and the beach but also far enough away from the center of all the action that you can take a peaceful walk in the morning and avoid the heavy tourist traffic.
You will find that you can get hotel rooms for 30% less in Diamond Head than in central Waikiki even though they are only less than 800 yards or so apart. Much quieter and more value for money. Inside knowledge.
- Families: Diamond Head gives you all of the offerings we discussed in the Waikiki section. What you get is a few bonuses like huge parks for kids to play in. An outdoor gym for working out. Slightly quieter beaches perfect for kids but still enough food options and you are only ever a ten-minute walk from heading into Waikiki
- Couples: If you are willing to walk 10 minutes to dinner instead of dropping straight down into the center of Waikiki you will be able to score a nice hotel with a pool and near the beach for up to 30% less. It’s just on the fringe of Waikiki but still a great base to hit the beaches, adventure the island but still have the luxury of great accommodation, dining, and convenience on your doorstep. I’ve organized several honeymoon and couple vacations near Diamond Head and Waikiki and they’ve always been very happy with the decision but wouldn’t have known to book in that area beforehand.
PRO’S OF STAYING IN DIAMOND HEAD
- A little bit out of the busy streets of Waikiki
- Several huge parks and play areas
- Outdoor gym right near the beach
- Hundreds of different accommodation options ranging from 5-star to budget hotels
- Surf lessons and perfect small surf waves
- VERY close to the popular Diamond Head Hike
- All day-tours start and finish in Waikiki, which is just a ten-minute walk
CONS OF STAYING IN DIAMOND HEAD
- You may have to walk 10 to the center of Waikiki if there are specific things you want to visit or shop
- Less restaurants and bars right at your doorste (although that’s a PRO also)
THINGS TO DO NEAR DIAMOND HEAD
- Hike Diamond Hike Crater
- Manoa Falls Waterfall Hike
- Walk around Kapiolani Park
- Outdoor Gyms in Kapiolani Park
- Diamond Head Surf Beach
WHERE TO STAY IN DIAMOND HEAD
KAIMANA BEACH HOTEL
Kaimana Beach Hotel (High End): The drawcard with this hotel is that there is a big park between you and Waikiki. You essentially have a private beach, away from those staying in Waikiki. However, you are still within walking distance for shopping and restaurants.
Why I recommend this hotel: A luxury getaway within walking distance of Waikiki but far enough away you will feel the tropical vacation! Kaimana is a great beach and I love having the peaceful, lush, green Kapiloani park for morning walks. I used to come to this beach when I lived on Oahu when I couldn’t be bothered dealing with the Waikiki crowds.
THE LOTUS HONOLULU HOTEL
The Lotus Honolulu Hotel (Location): The Lotus Honolulu Hotel is a prime location between the end of Diamond Head and Waikiki. I’d honestly call this the most desirable location in Honolulu and the area I stay in every time I’m on Oahu. You are just a short walk away from the center Waikiki, have a beach right in front of you and a huge park behind you to explore, work out and enjoy. The best of all worlds.
Why I recommend this hotel: Diamond Head crater is the backdrop behind the park and a great viewpoint over the whole city. The hotel itself has a pristine interior and quite a modern design. Views from the hotel rooms can look at the incredible Diamond Head or the beach. I personally think this is one of the most underrated places to stay on Oahu.
THE NORTH SHORE
The North Shore of Oahu is one of my favorite places in the world. In the summer you have some of the most pristine beaches, snorkeling, turtles, and those surfer town vibes. In the winter things really kick into full swing on the North Shore as the waves pick up and the area just becomes the ultimate surfer paradise with the Banzai Pipeline the main attraction. The best surfers from around the world come and stay on the North Shore and the vibe is just awesome.
It is a fun region for families, couples, backpackers and eco-friendly travelers in the summer, and in the winter it is more suited to surfers, surf enthusiasts, and backpackers.
The waves in the winter are often too big for a family vacation if you are looking to build sandcastles and frolic in the waves. It can get really big. However, there are safe and sheltered spots for swimming on North Shore even in the winter if you don’t surf so it can still be a great spot for families but definitely something to consider.
- Families: The North Shore has some of the best beaches on the island. Waimea Beach is my favorite beach in the entire world. In the summer it is a paradise with crystal clear water, snorkeling, sea caves, sea turtles and cliff jumping. In the winter it is home of big wave surfing and such an intense bay! The North Shore is famous for its food trucks and garlic shrimp. It is a very friendly vibe on the North Shore. Lots of people ride their bikes up and down the coast, there are no high-rise hotels and it is mostly houses and cottages that make up the buildings in the region. It is a snapshot of how Oahu used to be although it will never be quite like the old days.
- Couples: There is an incredible resort on the North Shore called Turtle Bay Resort. This resort is one of the largest on Oahu and is away from all the hype in Waikiki. It is for people truly looking for a relaxing island getaway. It is right on the water and you can surf, swim with turtles, do yoga and enjoy the restaurant right on the beach.
- Surfers: If you are a surfer I shouldn’t need to explain the North Shore. In the winter all of the professional surfers come and live on the North Shore for a reason. It is the ultimate spot for surfing and that vibe runs true throughout the whole region with laidback vibes all through the North Shore. There is a good budget accommodation option below for staying on the North Shore.
PRO’S OF STAYING ON THE NORTH SHORE
- Best surf in the world
- Cool laidback vibes and much quieter than Waikiki
- Great snorkeling and beaches during the summer
- Food trucks are part of the experience
- A few nice hikes in the area like the short Peace Hike
CONS OF STAYING ON THE NORTH SHORE
- 1-hour drive to Waikiki
- Winter waves are too big for families/swimming
THINGS TO DO ON THE NORTH SHORE
- Watch the Pipeline Pro in January
- Explore the Peace Hike
- Waterfalls and nature walks
- Watch the sunset at Sunset Beach
- Snorkeling with Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
- Waterfall hikes
- Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center
WHERE TO STAY ON THE NORTH SHORE
TURTLE BAY RESORT
Turtle Bay Resort (High End): Turtle Bay Resort is known to be the best luxury hotel on the North Shore. This resort is only 15 minutes from Banzai Pipeline Beach where you can see the epic seasonal surfing competition. Turtle Bay offers a lot on the property including horse-back riding, surfing lessons, scuba diving, snorkeling with turtles plus its laid-back and relaxed vibe will make you want to extend your stay. When it comes to dining, this resort does have plenty of choices from its signature restaurant (Pa’akai) to pool bar (The Point).
Why I recommend this hotel: It is the kind of place where you just get it all. It has the restaurant the activities and everything bundled into one. You guarantee yourself a relaxing holiday where everything just runs smoothly and you have a great island getaway. The sheltered and safe swimming areas are great for kids and relaxing without big waves and currents to worry about. Activities run from the hotel include helicopter tours, snorkeling in the private lagoon, hot tub, horseback riding, hiking, and the resort even has its own surf school.
Turtle Bay Resort is the biggest hotel on the north shore of Oahu with 401 guest rooms and 42 beach cottages and ocean villas. Luxury ocean villas range from $479 to $900 for four guests. Standard rooms range from $250 to $470 per night.
THE COURTYARD BY MARRIOT NORTH SHORE
The Courtyard by Marriot North Shore (High End): The Courtyard on Oahu’s north shore boasts 142 rooms, a fitness center, a restaurant, and an outdoor pool.
Why I recommend this hotel: The lagoon-style pool is the center point of the hotel and a great spot to relax after a day of exploring the island. The hotel is incredibly new with a modern look and fresh amenities. If you know you want to stay on the North Shore and you don’t want the MASSIVE Turtle Bay Resort experience. This is your pick. You still get all the luxury of a big hotel, a pool, and a restaurant but remove the resort prices and get a high-end hotel price.
- Amazing, relaxing location
- Spacious, natural surroundings
- Great lagoon-style pool
BACKPACKERS VACATION INN & PLANTATION VILLAGE
Backpackers Vacation Inn & Plantation Village (Budget): Backpackers Vacation Inn & Plantation is definitely the cheapest place to stay on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.
Why I recommend this hotel: What appeals to me is the value for money. It offers basic accommodation but the ambiance is awesome. The location is great, easy access to the beach, and there’s free use of snorkeling gear. I suggest staying for a few nights at a hostel in Waikiki and then basing up here at this hostel to explore the North Shore! It’s perfect for surfers staying for more than a week. Be warned this hostel gets booked out far in advance during peak season as it really is one of the only cheap accommodation options on the North Shore of Oahu.
- Best place to stay for surfers
- Near Foodland and food trucks
- Good laidback atmosphere
THE WEST SIDE
The West Side is equally as beautiful if not better than the North Shore of Oahu in terms of natural beauty. The water clarity out here is amazing and it is one of the best spots to snorkel with turtles. The surf can also get pretty good out west and there are a few epic hikes too.
Most people make a day trip out west if they do visit although many people who come to Oahu probably never even head west. They are missing out.
Mostly only families stay near the west side because there are a couple of big family-style resorts out this way and not too much else.
- Families: Two of the most popular family resorts on Oahu are on the west side. The Disney Aulani Resort and the Ko’olina Resort. Both are amazing, secluded resort vacation spots. There is this great Disney Aulani Resort Review , which goes into detail about the resort.
PRO’S OF STAYING ON THE WEST SIDE OF OAHU
- Not busy like Waikiki
- Great weather
- Family style resorts
- Near good snorkeling, surfing, and hiking
CONS OF STAYING ON WEST SIDE OF OAHU
- 30/40-minute drive to Waikiki
- Not much atmosphere outside of the resort areas compared to Waikiki and North Shore
THINGS TO DO ON THE WEST SIDE OF OAHU
- Hotel Activities
- Snorkeling at Electric Beach
- Makua Beach
- Pink Pillbox Hike
- Lots of sea turtles
- Stand-up Paddleboard
WHERE TO STAY ON THE WEST SIDE OF OAHU
FOUR SEASONS RESORT OAHU AT KO’OLINA
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina (Tranquil): Unlike any other 5-star hotel on Oahu, this resort is not so crowded and busy with very laidback but luxurious vacation vibes. When it comes to giving extremely high standard quality rooms and service, no one can beat Four Seasons!
Why I recommend this hotel: The man-made lagoons make it ideal for kids and older guests. There is a golf course as well as multiple infinity pools for adults and kids. You’ll find several fancy restaurants and let’s not forget the full breakfast daily served for two. If true luxury is what you’re looking for, then Four Seasons Resort guarantees you that!
- Amazing golf course next to resort
- Best place to stay on west side
- Great lagoons for swimming
DISNEY AULANI RESORT
Disney Aulani Resort (High End): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.
Why I recommend this hotel: Disney Aulani Resort combines luxury accommodation with family fun. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind.
The kids club and massage center are just among a few of the many activities included in your stay. Attend ukelele lessons, free fire-pit story-telling at night, and more and more! Your kids will love this epic luxury resort on Oahu, Hawaii.
Ala Moana is down the western end of Waikiki. It is most well-known for having the largest outdoor shopping mall in America. Many tourists staying in Waikiki will come down to Ala Moana for at least one day to do some shopping. Ala Moana also has a super chill beach without too many waves in close although there is a good break out the back.
Ala Moana is within walking distance of the western end of Waikiki where you can find shops and restaurants although Ala Moana has many of its own restaurants. This is a good place to stay if you want to be central but want to avoid the tourist mecca of Waikiki.
- A mix of travelers and families: You are still close enough to everything but you are far removed from the tourist crowds of Waikiki. You can almost fit in with the locals and ex-pats living on Oahu. Ala Moana beach park has tennis courts, a walking track, an outdoor gym and lots of places to eat and chill on the beach.
PRO’S OF STAYING IN ALA MOANA
- A city by the beach
- Great weather
- Ala Moana Beach isn’t crowded
- The biggest outdoor shopping mall in America
CONS OF STAYING IN ALA MOANA
- 10-15 minute walk from Waikiki Center
- Not much atmosphere compared to Waikiki and North Shore
THINGS TO DO NEAR ALA MOANA
- Deep-Sea fishing tours leave from Ala Moana port
- Running trail, outdoor gym, tennis courts, volleyball courts
- Ala Moana Shopping Mall
- Sunset Sailing
- Nightclubs and bars
WHERE TO STAY IN ALA MOANA
Prince Waikiki (High End): Prince Waikiki is in a great spot. You are right next to the bridge that links Ala Moana and Waikiki and you are actually just on the Waikiki side although you are closer to Ala Moana center than Waikiki center. The harbor right below your hotel is a peaceful spot with all of the sailboats and it is actually one of the best sunset spots on the island.
Why I recommend this hotel: Right nearby you have Ala Moana beach park with all of the facilities like volleyball, tennis courts, walking track, and outdoor gym. The Ala Moana outdoor mall is within walking distance so you can carry all of your bargains back to the hotel.
ALA MOANA HOTEL
Ala Moana Hotel (Value): With a rooftop pool and prime location for the beach and shopping, it is just pure vacation convenience at the Ala Moana Hotel.
Why I recommend this hotel: Outside of the buzz of Waikiki you can find a rhythm at Ala Moana Hotel with a rooftop pool fitness center and just a 5-minute walk to Ala Moana Beach Park. The mall is literally a 1-minute walk from your hotel room, so it is a shopping paradise.
I hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide to the best places to stay on Oahu, Hawaii, and pick a great hotel for your vacation.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU
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