Last updated on June 29, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Hawaiian Islands

Where to stay in Oahu

Oahu is the most popular destination of the Hawaii islands. In addition to all the landmarks and natural attractions, it is also home to Honolulu which is the state capital. 

If you are planning a trip here you will need some help. The island is as diverse and dynamic as it is beautiful. This means that every corner has something different to offer you based on your travel needs.

In this guide, you will learn all you need about where to stay in Oahu, with a few tips on what to do and places to eat.

The best part is that our information and recommendations are all up to date, ready for your trip now

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If you would like to get some more information on cultural events and the latest news then check out the local newspaper The Honolulu Star.

Where to stay in Oahu for families and couples and nightlife – In a nutshell

Here below a map that will help identify the best areas to stay in Oahu.

Best area to stay in Oahu
Best area to stay in Oahu
  • Best place to stay in Oahu for couples: there are a couple of options here. Ko Olina is a nice little town on the Leeward Waianae Coast for a romantic and secluded stay in a resort, without the busy chaotic tourism of Waikiki, however, also with not as many restaurants or bars in the area. It’s 30 minutes from the airport and about an hour from Waikiki, in case you want to do some shopping and have a special night out. The alternative is the North Shore, the “country” side of the island and one of the most spectacular coastlines in Hawaii. There is a lack of accommodations on this side. You can find a few vacation rentals and only one resort. The town of Haleiwa is the only one offering also a few restaurants and bars. Read more on areas for couples.
  • Best places to stay in Oahu for families: one of the most beautiful gentle beaches in Oahu is Kailua, north-east of Waikiki and just 30 minutes from the airport. Imagine blue water and white soft sand, perfect for children of any age. It’s probably the best spot for people that do not feel that confident with swimming and obviously for little kids. It’s more of a local experience, with small shops and family-run restaurants. In fact, there are no resorts around. You will have to go for vacation rentals and the choice is not that wide either. If you are after a more organised holiday, possibly in a resort, then Waikiki has to be. Read more on areas for families…
  • Best area to stay for nightlife: there are two undisputed night scene hubs on the island and these are Waikiki and Honolulu. They are known for their wild night clubs, boutique pubs and of course the famous booze cruises. With the latter, you basically have a bar on-water experience with a short trip around the bay while you get boozed up and have fun with your friends. If on the other hand, you are looking for something calmer then Honolulu has you covered with its active art scene. One of the most iconic options, in this case, is Art After Dark every last Friday of the month which is a late-night exhibition at the Honolulu Museum of Art.
  • Where to stay in Oahu with toddlers: as already mentioned, Waikiki is a great spot for nightlife. In saying that, it offers also many facilities and resorts that cater to families with toddlers, baby and small kids. Add also that Waikiki is a stone away from the airport so you will be in no time at your hotel. You just need to select the right accommodation to be close to the beach and at the same time far from the noise of the young crowd.
  • Where to stay in Oahu between December and February: in these months you should avoid the North Shore unless you are up for some big surfing, and I mean a huge one (around 30feet/10 meters). Obviously, it’s a coast you want to visit on a day trip, especially when big waves are forecasted. But that’s more to watch them. You can’t obviously swim in the sea.
  • Best place to stay for Christmas: for the best Oahu Christmas experience Waikiki is a great option. First of all, you have amazing weather to look forward to with nothing but warm sunny days in the forecast. Then there are numerous seasonal events. These are both public and private and you will have a lot of variety in terms of how to spend your holiday this special season. Whether it is a Christmas dinner, shopping in one of the many Christmas stores or live festive music at the beach, Waikiki makes Christmas every bit as magical as any other winter wonderland destination.
  • Where to stay in Oahu on a budget:  Oahu, like most of Hawaii, is not a cheap destination. It’s absolutely spectacular but it does come at a price. Just think that they need to fly in, if not by boat, most of the things. In saying that you can find a couple of hostels in Waikiki, Hostelling International Honolulu (see photos here) and Waikiki Beachside Hostel (see photos here), and one on the Northshore, the Backpackers Vacation Inn (see photos here)
  • Best places to stay in Oahu for a honeymoon: if you are looking for a romantic and secluded place then I would suggest these two areas. The first one is Ko Olina Beach and the Four Seasons Resort (see photos here), absolutely gorgeous with a tremendous view. Otherwise, check out the North Shore and the Turtle Bay Resort (see photos here), absolutely amazing. Another alternative, more isolated, in the middle of nature and straight on the beach, with turtles at your doorstep, is the austere Owen’s Retreat (see photos here), as essential as unique.
  • Best area to stay in Oahu on the beach: Waikiki has a great beach and it’s surely the best spot if you are thinking to spend time sunbathing as well as having a nice drink and a lovely meal at dinner (and why not some nightlife). Kailua has a more gentle beach and much less tourism (no resorts), great for families and people looking more for a local feeling.
  • Where to stay for Snorkeling: there are a few spots around the island so having a car would help immensely. You could explore most of them in a few days (Oahu is a small island after all). If you are looking more for a single spot and you are visiting in summer then Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore has some great reef around. An alternative, doesn’t matter what month you are travelling, is Ko Olina. There are here a few man-made coves with some fun snorkelling.
  • Where to stay without a car: the easiest place is Waikiki where you will find most of the attractions that Oahu has to offer, plenty of organised experiences, restaurants and bars. Public transportation is also available from/to the airport. Waikiki has also the widest choice of accommodations.
  • Best place to stay in Oahu for hiking: there are plenty of trekking options on the island. If you are visiting in the summer months and you like more isolation then the North Shore is the best area to stay in Oahu. In winter this side of the coast tends to have more rain than the Honolulu side, besides a huge surf.
  • Where to stay in Oahu besides Waikiki: there is nothing wrong with Waikiki, it’s just that sometimes is too busy. That busy that can tire you off. What is the alternative? Ko Olina is a great spot if you still want to stay in a resort area, but much quieter. The North Shore is more for nature seekers, however, it’s mostly based on vacation rentals. There is only one resort, a lovely one by the way, the Turtle Bay Resort.
  • Connection within the Hawaiian Islands: Oahu is very well connected with all the main Hawaiian Islands as Maui, Kauai and the Big Island with multiple daily flights at a very good price if booked well in advance. 
Three Tables Beach in the North Shore
Three Tables Beach in the North Shore

Where to stay in Oahu North Shore

North Shore is as authentic Hawaii as you can get.

Despite its wild popularity as a beach destination, it has managed to maintain a laid back small-town feel.

You are therefore pretty much guaranteed a home away from home experience. That is, of course, if the home for you is a seaside paradise.

The North Shore area is predominantly a surfer hotspot. there are however also a few beaches with calm water.

But it’s not only surfing and swimming. There is plenty more for you to do and see including trying out their many food truck and snack shacks.

You should also make time to visit fun and beautiful attractions like lush Waimea Valley botanical gardens or go hiking on the challenging but rewarding Sunset Pillbox trail.

Finally, you could get some retail therapy in the few stores scattered along the coast, including craft shops, boutiques and the farmer’s market on Thursday afternoons.

Here are a few suggestions of where to stay if Oahu North Shore

The Turtle Bay resort (see photos here) is an excellent option if you are travelling as a couple and you are looking for a resort break

One of the best things about this beachfront resort is the fact that all the rooms offer an ocean view.

It also offers access to awesome amenities like a scuba and surfing instruction plan, a spa, fitness centre, 18 hole golf course and a pool with waterslides.

And if you are feeling particularly fancy you could take a helicopter tour.

Check availability at Turtle Bay

The Backpackers Vacation Inn (see photos here) is a great option if you are travelling on a budget and you want to save some money.

It is a quaint little wooden hostel which is a conveniently short walk away from the beach. That way you get to be close to the water without draining your account.

You also have free parking and free Wi-Fi to look forward to.

Check price at Vacation Inn

Best place to stay in Oahu for couples

Oahu is a great island for couples. It offers that awesome island vibes with just the right balance between isolation and excitement.

There are many areas for you and your beau to consider.

Waikiki has plenty of accommodation for couples that prefer to have shopping, bars and restaurants right next door. However, it is a pretty popular neighbourhood and can get really busy.

If you are looking for a more romantic and private stay then consider staying in one of the two following areas away from the bustle of the main town centres.

Ko Olina (for a resort stay)

Ko Olina offers a unique experience that is ideal for couples. It is a planned residential and resort estate with everything from a golf course to a private marina.

It promises luxury and privacy allowing you to enjoy your time together whether it is a destination wedding, a bae-cation or even a honeymoon.

When you are not enjoying all the awesome facilities and amenities there is plenty for you and your partner to do around Ko Olina.

You could go shopping, swimming on the nearby beaches or even take a romantic sunset cruise.

Another great option is restaurant hopping with many options in and outside the facility. Longboards, in particular, would be awesome for a romantic night out with its amazing décor and food. The bar and grill also offers amazing sunset views from the outdoor sitting area.

The Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club is a great place to consider when planning a couple’s trip.

The resort offers the best of the Hawaii travel experience with things like beautiful views (see photos here), quick beach access and casual yet luxurious accommodations.

There are also a lot of fun activities for you to try out together both in the water and out including swimming and snorkelling with a massage area too, a fantastic option to fully relax.  

Check availability at Marriott

North Shore (close to nature)

There is so much more to North Shore than just the surfer culture.

Its abundance of natural attractions makes it ideal for the outdoorsy couple interested in connecting with nature during the trip.

Here, you could go hiking, cliff jumping and swimming with sharks.

It also has a variety of accommodation options including Turtle Bay (see photos here) and the Backpackers Vacation Inn (see photos here) already mentioned.

Check availability at Turtle Bay    Check price at Vacation Inn

Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach

Where to stay in Oahu for families – Kailua

Oahu has a lot to offer families but nowhere matches Kailua’s child-friendliness.

This picturesque paradise is surrounded by beautiful mountainous views of the Koolau Range as well as oceanfront views.

It is one of the least busy and least crowded parts of the island that has so far successfully managed to escape the tourist hub status.

Kailua has also one of the quietest beaches on the island, with calm water that better fits the kid’s requirements.

It is these factors, plus the numerous attractions, that make Kailua ideal for families with children of all ages.

So what is there to do in this quiet slice of paradise?

Well, you could go to the beach for some swimming or a waterside picnic. In this case, Kailua Beach and Lanikai Beach are the best options for families with children.

You could also take the kids to the park in which case Kailua District Park is ideal.

It includes a playground area for small kids, a swimming pool and sports facilities.

It also has plenty of green space where you can have a family picnic if you wish.

When you are done with all the fun and exploration, treat the family to a meal out at Kono’s Northshore.

This super casual spot serves the best authentic Hawaiian cuisine with their roast pork sandwiches and wraps being must-try items. It is perfect for takeaway food on your way to the beach or the park.

While here, you could stay at the Brand New Kailua Beach. This holiday home is a one-bedroom and one bath apartment which make it ideal for small families especially those with younger kids (see photos here).

Despite the limited sleeping arrangements, it is a pretty spacious option with a kitchen, living space, terrace and outdoor dining area. It also comes with free parking and free Wi-Fi and offers convenient access to attractions like the Enchanted Lake that the kids will enjoy.

Check availability in this holiday home

Best area to stay for everything – Waikiki

Waikiki is one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Oahu.

It caters to everyone’s needs whether you are a thrill-seeker looking for an active night scene or a travelling family with small children.

For the thrill-seekers and night owls, there are numerous activities both during the day and at night.

Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach

You could go parasailing, snorkelling or even canoeing on the Royal Hawaiian Beach.

You could also check out some of the restaurants. Make sure in particular to check out A House Without a Key which is a Hawaiian holiday popular for having some of the best tropical cocktails on the island in addition to the awesome food.

At night, there is just as much energy and variety in terms of activities.

High on the priority list, in this case, is visiting the popular nightspots like Rumfire which in addition to having a wide array of cocktails offers awesome ocean views.

There are also numerous other options further into town.   

If you are travelling as a family, there is just as much fun to be had.

It is just better to base your stay as close to the water as possible as here is where most of the kid-friendly attractions are.

You could also go out as a family for a meal out in which case California Pizza Kitchen is the best place. They serve great pizza and they also have pretty good salad options.

Clearly, there is something for everyone in Waikiki. Should you choose it as your Oahu destination, here are a few options on where to stay based on your specific needs.

  • If you are travelling as a couple you want to consider this Penthouse Studio (see photos here) for its incredible panorama. Its location offers amazing sweeping views of the ocean, mountains and surrounding highrise jungle and there is truly nothing more mesmerizing. The rooms feature casual and very beach-inspired décor creating a beautiful balance between indoors and outdoors. The one-bedroom one-bath apartment also comes with free Wi-Fi, access to an outdoor pool, air conditioning as well as secure parking.

Check availability at the Penthouse

  • The Trump International Hotel Waikiki (see photos here) is a great accommodation for both couples and families. This high-end option screams luxury from a mile away with the ritzy décor and modern architectural style. The rooms themselves are very spacious with great views from all rooms. The oceanfront hotel comes with a spa, a bar, a swimming pool and many other amenities. In a nutshell, it is perfect if you want to have a luxurious stay while in Waikiki.

Check availability at the Trump Int’l

  • The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel (see photos here) is a great economical option if you are travelling on a tight budget. It is affordable but this does not mean in any way that they compromise on quality. You will still get the same awesome beach access and ocean views from your balcony. In addition to this, the boutique hotel comes with simple but beautifully decorated rooms with free Wi-Fi and air conditioning.

Check price at the Otani Kaimana

Talk about Waiki how is great for nightlife but it’s also good for couples looking for a nice drink after dinner or families with small children

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Photo credits on a few photos in this post

This post was written with the great help of our local expert, Charlie Rice

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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