WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?

I lived on Oahu for two years and helped all of my visitors (everyone visits you for vacation when you live in Hawaii) pick the right region of Oahu to stay in.  Each region on Oahu is very different and you will have a unique experience. In this article, I hope to help you figure out which region of Oahu will be the best place for your stay on the island because everyone’s needs are different. I’ve split the island up into five regions when considering where to stay on Oahu:

In each section, I will discuss who this region suits, what can you expect in that area, the pro’s and con’s of that region and make some suggestions for different budgets on where to stay.

WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU

To give you a quick overview of the different regions so you can skip to the region that might best suit you, I’ve put together an infographic below about the different regions.

where to stay on oahu

 

WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU – REGION BY REGION

WAIKIKI

Waikiki is the hub of Oahu. The majority of the hotels are on this famous strip of beach. There are hundreds of restaurants, cafe’s, tour centers, transport options, and convenience stores. It has a great little surf break perfect or beginners. The water is warm, the cocktails are flowing and it is an all-around beach vibe

WHO STAYS IN WAIKIKI

It is a perfect region for families, couples, older travelers and even has a few hostels for backpackers.

  • 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. There are several man-made reef-breaks, which act as salt water swimming pools. Kids love these and it takes the stress out of beach days. Especially because the ocean and waves on Oahu can be unpredictable and stressful if you aren’t adept with the conditions. Lots of resorts have their own pool and the Hilton even has it’s own lagoon with water activities. For mom and dad, there are plenty of nightspots and relaxed bars throughout Waikiki. It is a safe neighborhood and it is also shopping heaven with lots of high-end retailers.
  • Couples: Honeymooners and couples have found the perfect getaway spot in Waikiki. Think of dining out and nice restaurants each night after a day of adventures each day. 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. I’ve organized several honeymoons and a couple vacations in Waikiki and they’ve always been stoked.
  • Older travelers: The older adventurers 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. You are never far from a refreshing dip in your hotel pool, the ocean or an air-conditioner.

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

 

THINGS TO DO NEAR WAIKIKI

  • Hanauma Bay Snorkeling tour
  • Para-sailing
  • Hike Diamond Hike Crater
  • Manoa Falls waterfall Hike
  • Pali Lookout Sunset Viewpoint
  • Sunset Sailing
  • Nightclubs and bars

 

WHERE TO STAY IN WAIKIKI

Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (High-end): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island.

Why I recommend this hotel: It has its own private lagoon. While lots of people love the beach it is perfect for families. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries. There are no currents, waves or sea creatures to worry about. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach so don’t worry the beach is right there also. It is one of the high-end hotels and definitely not cheap but you get what you pay for with the Hilton. Ever 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!

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

Sheraton Waikiki (High-end): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.

Why I recommend this hotel: The Sheraton is always exceptional no matter the location but 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. Later on, in the evening Rumfire is a great bar venue, which is actually part of the Sheraton. It is open to the public and is one of the best high-end venues on Oahu. It has a small dance floor but is mostly standing and seating areas for drinks, chats and good times.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

Ramada Plaza Waikiki (Mid-Range): The perfect way to enjoy Oahu in a beautiful hotel without blowing the bank. This hotel has a rooftop pool and a restaurant but will only set you back around $100.

Why I recommend this hotel: The first two options in the Sheraton and the Hilton are great but they are definitely not cheap. Ramada Plaza is really high-quality accommodation for a much lower price. You still have a rooftop pool a great restaurant and your location is awesome. You are ticking all of the boxes for your luxury getaway but you won’t be spending $300_ a night for your room. Instead, you can grab a room here for under $150 per night. Great for couples who are planning on adventuring a lot and still want a nice hotel but won’t necessarily be there all day every day to enjoy its splendors.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

The Laylow Autograph Collection (Special Mention): The Laylow gets a special mention because I stayed in their luxury apartment for four days in January of 2018 while doing some filming with them. I just loved the vintage style of the place and I personally prefer more personal accommodations.

The Laylow is part of the Autograph Collection, which was created by the Marriott. The idea is to create a boutique style, luxury hotel encompassing a local flavor. What the 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.

During our stay at the Laylow, we enjoyed all the facilities you would expect from accommodation produced by the Marriott. 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.

The Laylow Autograph Collection is ideal for the upmarket traveler, who wants to stay somewhere with more thought than a big chain but wants the luxury that big chain comes with. It’s the aloha vibes mixed with pure luxury.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.

Why I recommend this hostel: Unfortunately Waikiki and Hawaii, in general, are not cheap. But they are still worth visiting. You can grab a dorm room for under $40 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach. I get it, you have just come from Bali and you had a dorm room for $5 a night. This is Hawaii and there aren’t too many ways around it unless you camp, couch surf etc.

Having said that this location really is great. You are near a lot of attractions and can take public transport to a lot of great east coast beaches and hikes. It is the number one hostel in Waikiki and I’m sure you will meet other adventurers to go on hikes with!

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

DIAMOND HEAD

Waikiki may be the hub of Oahu but Diamond Head is actually my favorite place to stay on Oahu. Waikiki is great, especially on your first visit to Oahu but it can be a bit hectic. A million different designer shops, tourists wandering everywhere and it all starts to feel like a mini Las Vegas at times. However, Waikiki is just the perfect base for all the adventures. The compromise is to stay in Diamond Head. It is actually pretty much part of Waikiki. Down the eastern end of Waikiki is Diamond Head, a small region with lots of big parks, walking trails and outdoor gyms. You are within walking distance of the action in Waikiki 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.

WHO STAYS IN DIAMOND HEAD

*Smart People*

It is a perfect region for families, couples.

  • 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 the Waikiki madness.
  • 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 stoked.

PRO’S OF STAYING IN DIAMOND HEAD

  • A little bit out of the craziness of Waikiki
  • Several huge parks and play areas
  • Outdoor gym right near the beach
  • 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
  • VERY close to the popular Diamond Head Hike
  • All tours start and finish in Waikiki, which is just a ten-minute walk
  • Weather is always the best on the island in Waikiki
  • Shopping heaven

 

CONS OF STAYING IN DIAMOND HEAD

  • You may have to walk 10-15 minutes to the center of Waikiki if there are specific things you want to visit or shop
  • The beach can be busy during the high season
  • It can feel like a bit of a city beach compared to quieter island spots

 

THINGS TO DO NEAR DIAMOND HEAD

  • Hanamau Bay Snorkeling tour
  • Para-sailing
  • Hike Diamond Hike Crater
  • Manoa Falls waterfall Hike
  • Pali Lookout Sunset Viewpoint
  • Sunset Sailing
  • Nightclubs and bars

View from Diamond Head Crater

 

WHERE TO STAY IN DIAMOND HEAD

Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.

Why do I recommend this hostel/hotel: This is the perfect hotel if you want location but are willing to sacrifice a pool and some luxury items to save up to $200 per night. All of the hotels in this area are minimum $300 per night and often much more. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway. Didn’t you come halfway across the world to swim in the beach!

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

The New Otani 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 the masses!

Why I recommend this hotel: For $300 a night you can get yourself a luxury getaway within walking distance of Waikiki but far enough away you will feel the tropical vacation! There is a big stretch of sand in between you and the nearest Waikiki hotel. In fact, most people in Waikiki will never venture near your private little beach so you can really just enjoy the sun and salt water. I used to come to this beach when I lived on Oahu when I couldn’t be bothered dealing with the Waikiki crowds.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

THE NORTH SHORE

The North Shore is one of my favorite areas 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. The best surfers from around the world come and stay on the North Shore and the vibe is just awesome.

 

WHO STAYS ON THE NORTH SHORE

It is a perfect region for families, couples and backpackers 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 big, 30+ feet isn’t the biggest. However, there are lots of other things to do on the North Shore 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 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! Other popular beaches are the world-famous Pipeline Beach and Sunset Beach. 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 never quite will be like the old days.
  • Couples: There is an epic 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 pro’s 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. If you are a surfer you shouldn’t need to ask where to stay on Oahu, it’s the North Shore or nothing.

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 and garlic shrimp 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
  • In the winter the beaches aren’t good for swimming a lot of the time as the waves are too big

 

THINGS TO DO ON THE NORTH SHORE

  • Surf
  • Watch the Pipeline Pro in January
  • Explore the Peace Hike
  • Waterfalls and nature walks
  • Watch the sunset at Sunset Beach
  • Lots of sea turtles
  • Stand-up Paddleboard in the River
  • Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center

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WHERE TO STAY ON THE NORTH SHORE

Turtle Bay Resort (High End): The Turtle Bay Resort is one of the most famous resorts on the north shore of Oahu. The huge property of 880 acres boasts a private beach, crystal clear waters, white sand and even not one but two golf courses. The layout of the resort makes it possible for all guest to experience a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean from the comfort of their luxury room.

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 book here and it isn’t necessarily cheap but you guarantee yourself a relaxing holiday where everything just runs smoothly and you have a great island getaway.

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.

This is the most luxurious hotel on the north shore of Oahu and the perfect private hideaway for your dream vacation getaway to Oahu.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

The Courtyard by Marriot North Shore (High End): The Courtyard on Oahu’s north shore boasts 142 rooms, a fitness center, restaurant and 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. This is your classic guarantee hotel. You know you want to stay on the North Shore and you don’t want the big Turtle Bay Resort experience. This is your next port of call. You still get all the luxury of a big hotel, a pool, and a restaurant but you also get to enjoy the vibe and beaches of the North Shore.

One of the main attractions to staying at the Courtyard Marriott on the north shore of Oahu is the close proximity to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Oahu.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

Backpackers Vacation Inn and Plantation Village: (Budget): Hotels on the north shore of Oahu can be expensive. In fact, figuring out where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the Oahu’s North Shore for the budget traveler.

Why do I recommend this hostel/hotel: Backpackers Vacation Inn offers accommodation from dorm beds, private beach studios, and entire cabins right on the beach. If you are looking for a surf vacation, a chill beach vacation or a spot to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean, this is the perfect spot.

The beauty of staying here is that you get all of the beaches and the food trucks no matter if you sleep in a dorm or at the luxurious Turtle Bay Resort. That’s why I think the best way to do Oahu is to get accommodation that suits your basic needs and then enjoy nature because that is what you really came for!

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

CAMPI

 

THE WEST SIDE

The West Side is equally as beautiful if not better than the North Shore of Oahu. 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 cool hikes too. Most people day trip out west if they do visit although many people who come to Oahu probably never even head west. They are missing out.

 

WHO STAYS ON THE WEST SIDE

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.

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

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WHERE TO STAY ON THE WEST SIDE OF OAHU

Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina (High End): The Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina is the Hawaii getaway many dream about. Far from the crowds of Waikiki and with its own private beach and private lagoon you can truly unwind with the full resort experience.

Why I recommend this hotel: The Four Seasons Resort just has it all. The private lagoon means you and your family need not battle the elements while enjoying your swimming and playing time in the ocean. The private beaches, chairs and sun decks throughout the lawns are great for relaxing. It isn’t cheap but you get what you pay for with this relaxing Hawaii experience.

The golf course is right there on the grounds as is a small shopping village with boutique grocery store, bars, cafes, and restaurants.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

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 never be bored and the quality of entertainment and facilities is just beyond amazing.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

 

ALA MOANA

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. The mall literally has every shop you could imagine. 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.

WHO STAYS IN ALA MOANA

  • A mix of travelers and families: Ala Moana is the chill zone. You are still close enough to everything but you are far removed from the crowds. You can almost fit in with the locals and expats 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

  • Not busy like Waikiki
  • 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

  • Hanauma Bay Snorkeling tour
  • Deep-Sea fishing tours leave from Ala Moana port
  • Para-sailing
  • Running trail, outdoor gym, tennis courts, volleyball courts
  • Hike Diamond Hike Crater
  • Manoa Falls waterfall Hike
  • Pali Lookout Sunset Viewpoint
  • Sunset Sailing
  • Nightclubs and bars

WHERE TO STAY IN ALA MOANA

Prince Waikiki (High End): Prince Waikiki

Why I recommend this hotel: The 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. 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.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

 

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.

Click Here to check room prices and availability on booking.com

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Ala Moana

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5 Discussion to this post

  1. peter says:

    dunno… if i wanted tips on staying at 4-seasons or disney resorts, I might miss the rest of this article. Not much value here… sigh.

    • Jackson says:

      Can’t please everyone 🙂

      I’ve also written guides on the cheapest places to stay, best places on the north shore and more. check the site for those 🙂

  2. Basia says:

    where is the rest???

  3. Melissa says:

    thanks! that would be great before my trip

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