Where to stay on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. I do travel guides that are fun, informative, and entertaining. This article is a part of my series on Hawaii.
I’m gonna be answering the question that people often asked me which is, I’m going to Oahu, where should I stay in Oahu, what’s the cheapest place to stay in Oahu, Which is the best place to stay in Oahu with families?
That’s a great question, and so in this article, I’m gonna be telling you about all the different neighborhoods on Oahu that you could potentially stay in a hotel, break it down for you with the pros and the cons of each of these neighborhoods.
The first area that we’ll start in Waikiki. This is where most of the major hotels on Oahu are, Waikiki.
It’s about a 20 or a 30-minute drive from Honolulu Airport, and it has a lot of oceanfront hotels that are gonna be expensive, but you could get some good values if you go just a couple of blocks inland.
So let’s talk about the pros and then we’ll talk about the cons of Waikiki.
Pros of Waikiki
There are lots of oceanfront hotels, lots of oceanfront rooms, and if you’re staying in these hotels right on the beach, well it’s a pretty nice beach and the best places to stay in Oahu for families.
It’s a beautiful white sand beach. The waves are pretty calm, good for swimming, good for surfing.
And the other pros about staying in Waikiki, there’s lots to do! There are lots of restaurants, there’s lots of entertainment, there’s lots of choice in the hotels.
You’ll find there’s Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton, every chain you’d ever want is here in Waikiki. And you’re not gonna be far from an ABC store or a convenience store.
There’s an ABC store pretty much on every block. Waikiki sounds pretty great, right? Well, let’s talk about the cons of Waikiki.
Cons of Waikiki–
It is expensive. It’s probably one of the most expensive places to stay in Oahu for families, particularly these oceanfront hotels.
The rooms are gonna be expensive, the food’s gonna be expensive, the parking’s gonna be expensive. Everything is pretty expensive in Waikiki.
It’s also really busy. There are a lot of people on the beach. There were way more people with a couple of hours difference when it was bright and sunny.
You’re gonna have this beach with like 70% of all the tourists on Oahu ’cause that’s the percentage of people that stay in Waikiki. There are many people that, I feel, come to Hawaii, particularly the Japanese tourists that maybe never even leave Waikiki.
I didn’t mention this as a pro, but a pro of Waikiki is you don’t need a car to see everything around Waikiki, and cause parking is so expensive.
You might not want one if you’re staying here cause there’s a lot of good things to do within walking distance, a lot of good taxis, and public transportation in and around Waikiki.
But the other cons about Waikiki, people often feel and say it’s kind of like a city by the sea. There’s a pretty busy main street, and it feels a little bit like the Las Vegas Strip by the sea.
So you don’t come to Waikiki for a relaxing beach vacation, you come to Waikiki for a hustling, bustling vacation with lots of entertainment and food by the water.
So if you’re considering staying in Waikiki, let me give you some of the suggested hotels that I like in Waikiki.
Probably the favorite that I stay in Waikiki most of the time is the Marriott Waikiki. I like the Marriott just cause it has a pretty good value.
It has a lot of rooms, it’s one block from the beach. It’s in front of Kuhio Beach, a protected swimming area, which is pretty great for swimming.
You’ll find rooms at the Marriott Waikiki between about 200 and 500 dollars.
My second favorite hotel in Waikiki is the Westin Moana Surfrider.
This hotel is famous for the banyan tree. This is the first hotel in Waikiki right on the beach.
It’s got a middle building, it’s got two buildings on either side.
This one a little pricier than the Marriott, rooms generally 250 and up to 600, but you can get pretty good deals often if you stay in the historic banyan building.
They have remodeled it since 1901, but it’s just steps to the beach, it’s great.
It just has a cool vibe. You feel like you’re stepping back in time, and if you’re a Marriott member that you get lounge access.
Great place to have breakfast and look out right on the beach in Waikiki.
My third favorite hotel in Waikiki is the Sheraton Waikiki.
The Sheraton Waikiki, a little more expensive than the Marriott but a little less expensive than the Westin. Rooms prices there, maybe 300 to 700 dollars.
Sheraton is nice because, it’s right on the beach, And it’s in the middle of Waikiki, it’s got a great location, and cause it’s got this interesting triangle design.
Most of the rooms have great views of the ocean from a tall tower. It’s also got a really neat infinity pool that looks out on the water.
My fourth favorite hotel on Waikiki is the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
This is on the other end of Waikiki. The Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the biggest hotels in the world.
It’s a really impressive hotel with lots of different towers. It is truly a resort in and of itself, has lots of pools.
It has its lagoon. You can generally get fairly good deals at the Hilton Hawaiian Village as well.
Standard rooms run from about 200 to 450 dollars. What I like about the Hilton Hawaiian Village is on the other end of Waikiki or the beginning is it’s walking distance to the Ala Moana Shopping Mall.
So if you like shopping or you like the food court, you can check that out then you don’t need a car to get there.
Members of the US military want to check out the Hale Koa Hotel. It’s right next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
It is a military hotel only for military personnel, but because that’s the case, room rates are low and it is one of the cheapest places to stay in Oahu.
They start at 119 dollars, and it’s right on the beach. And if you’re coming to Waikiki and you like the beach but not really all the action and then you want someplace a little quieter but still nearby.
There’s the new Otani Hotel which is closer to Diamond Head. That one is on its little, almost private, secluded section of Waikiki Beach.
It’s about a mile walk down a little park, but it’s close to the action, a 10-minute walk but away enough that you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a city.
The good thing about the new Otani room rates, they’re lower than Waikiki. They start at about 180 and go up to about 300 dollars.
Waikiki is located in the city called Honolulu. Honolulu is the capital of the state of Hawaii. Honolulu has a few more places that you can stay outside of Waikiki.
One of them, the Ala Moana Shopping Mall, it’s right outside of Waikiki, and there’s the Ala Moana Hotel.
Ala Moana Hotel, a pretty good place to stay, you’ll get cheaper prices than in Waikiki, it is one of the cheapest places to stay in Oahu.
Rooms there you can get for 120 to 150 dollars kinda starting rate. It’s just walking distance to the mall for about one minute.
It’s about a five-minute walk to the Ala Moana Beach Park which is a pretty good beach park. And if you’re driving around the rest of Oahu, well, it’s close to getting to the freeway.
Waikiki is kind of a haul from the freeway, so it takes a while to get in and out of here, cause the traffic Ala Moana puts you, 15 minutes, pretty much closer to just about everything on this island.
Going the other way in Waikiki, on the other side of Diamond Head, there’s a hotel called the Kahala Resort and Spa.
It’s in Kahala, and it used to be the Hilton, then it was the Mandarin Oriental, but now it’s the Kahala.
This is a pretty upscale hotel. It’s just one hotel by itself. It’s located on a semi-private beach.
Every US President from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush has stayed at the Kahala. Room rates, on the higher end side, it’s a luxury hotel, start at 400 dollars go up to about 650 for standard rooms.
And the final spot in Honolulu that has a concentration of hotels is around the airport, Honolulu Airport.
There are about three hotels there, but I don’t know why you would stay there. Frankly, there is not much around the airport unless maybe you’re aircrew or you’re delayed on a flight.
You just need a place to crash till the next morning, but you can pretty much cross the airport area off your list.
The next stop, going clockwise around Oahu, from the airport is the resort area of Ko Olina. It’s a fairly new resort area on Oahu.
It’s new because actually, it has four man-made lagoons, they were man-made, but what put Ko Olina on the map is the Disney Aulani Hotel.
There are a few other hotels in this area, but Ko Olina is my favorite place to stay on Oahu.
The pros of Ko Olina, well, because there are only four or five hotels over here, it feels a lot more relaxed than Waikiki does.
The beaches are beautiful. The lagoons are protected from the waves. There’s good snorkeling in their lagoons, and you feel a little bit more like it’s a private beach though it’s a public beach.
Many of the hotels here provide beach chairs. You don’t have to pay extra for beach chairs, particularly if you’re staying at the Aulani or the Four Seasons Hotel which are two of my favorites in this area.
Ko Olina being relatively new is also very well-manicured and has quite an amazing golf course if you’re a golfer.
And being away from the city, it has a much more relaxed atmosphere than Waikiki. You’re not constantly bombarded by the sounds of cars and traffic and sirens.
But the cons of Ko Olina, well, like Waikiki, it’s expensive because you don’t have many choices. Also, some people can say it feels a bit manufactured and not that natural since it is manufactured.
And finally, it is a bit remote from things. There are only a few restaurants in Ko Olina, but about a 10 minute drive away is Kapolei, and there’s a Costco, a Zippy’s, and things like that.
So if you have a car, it’s not that far to get there. If you don’t have a car, you’re gonna be stuck just eating the really expensive resort food.
The next stop, continuing clockwise from Ko Olina, is Makaha. Makaha has one hotel, the Hawaiian Princess Resort, but you’ll find other vacation rentals by owners or Airbnbs in this area.
Makaha is better if you want cheaper hotels. So the pros of Makaha, it is less expensive.
You’ll find rooms that might start here at 150 dollars a night, 200 dollars way less than you’ll find in Waikiki or Ko Olina. It’s also great because it’s secluded.
It’s off the beaten path. You’ll feel much more like you have this area to yourself.
Now the cons, when I say it’s secluded and off the beaten path, it’s kind of the middle of nowhere.
I mean, it’s like an hour from Makaha to Waikiki, so you’ll be secluded and probably staying in this area pretty much for your trip here, unless you like driving a long time.
Also, unfortunately, Makaha is known for having a high crime rate. There’s also been several car breakings in the area, so make sure to not leave any valuables in plain sight in your vehicle if you’re staying in Makaha.
Continuing around the island from Makaha is the North Shore. Though if you were driving to get to the North Shore from Makaha, you’d have to drive south and back up through the middle of the island by the Dole Plantation to get there, but the North Shore.
It is some of Hawaii’s most famous surf breaks, the bansai of pipeline, mega waves here in the winter, but the North Shore is easygoing, laidback Hawaii.
It’s Hawaii without the mega resorts. What are the pros of the North Shore? Less crowded beaches in the summer and some really tasty food trucks, particularly if you like garlic shrimp.
The North Shore is like the capital of garlic shrimp in Hawaii.
The cons, well if you’re here in the winter, winter brings huge waves, and so actually that might be a pro if you’re like a pro surfer.
But if you’re not a pro surfer, then these beaches are not suitable for the average person to do anything on cause the waves are so huge and so dangerous.
If you’re going to the North Shore, the biggest hotel in the North Shore is the Turtle Bay Resort with 400 rooms. It’s at the northern tip of Oahu. It has its private beach, two golf courses.
It’s a relaxing, all-inclusive kind of place. Basic rooms at the Turtle Bay Resort go from 250 to 400 dollars.
If you continue around the bend, on the east side, is the Courtyard by Marriott with 140 rooms.
It’s the second biggest and one of the cheapest places to stay in Oahu on the North Shore. It’s a bit cheaper around 200 dollars a night, and the proof this hotel is it’s close to the Polynesian Cultural Center, the biggest attraction on this side of the island.
And the final neighborhood to consider in Oahu is the east side known as the Windward Side.
There’s towns here of Kailua and Kaneohe to name a couple, but there’s not much in the way of hotels out here.
It’s mostly bed and breakfasts, but it has nice quite beaches, and it’s only a 30 minute drive to Waikiki, so it’s not quite as remote as the North Shore or as Makaha.
So now that you know all that, where should you stay?
So my final recommendations, if you’re here in Oahu for just two to three days and it’s your first time, I would recommend Waikiki just because it’s so close to all the other major attractions.
It’s a lot easier to get around from here, you’ll have plenty of things to eat and plenty of things to do in Waikiki.
If you’re here for longer like you’re here for a week, say seven days, then I would suggest splitting your time between Waikiki and either Ko Olina or the North Shore.
So arrive in Honolulu Airport, go spend three or four nights over in Ko Olina or the North Shore, and then spend two or three nights in Waikiki.
That way you’ll get the best of both worlds. You’ll get some relaxed Oahu with nice beaches, and then to see all the hustle and bustle in Waikiki, you can stay here.
And the reason why I recommend that and not just driving into Waikiki all the time is I feel to experience Waikiki, you have to be here.
It’s crazy, it’s busy Waikiki. It’s a crazy town. Parking’s expensive, it’s hard to park, the traffic is awful, so it helps to stay in Waikiki to experience it. Whether you’re heading to Oahu, Maui, or Kauai,