If you’ve never been, where to stay in Oahu can be one of the difficult decisions to be made. The Gardener and I have spent some time exploring the island and we have some favorite Oahu hotels.
The majority of hotels are concentrated near the beaches of Waikiki in Honolulu. Some belong to well-known chains: Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Trump, Disney. Some belong to more local groups: Outrigger, Aqua, Castle. And some have no affiliation in their name, such as Ilikai, Halekulani, Royal Hawaiian, and Kahala. I learned that it is worth it to explore beyond the well-known hotel chains and using a map when choosing a hotel.
Where to stay in Oahu – Waikiki
- The Moana Surfrider was built in 1901 and is a beautiful wedding-cake of a building. It is right on the Prince Kuhio section of Waikiki beach and has the gorgeous Beach Bar outside around an amazing banyan tree with live music every evening. The Beachhouse restaurant is on the beachside veranda and has fantastic food. The hotel has a spa, shops, and an excellent coffee shop. If you stay there, I recommend the rooms in the Diamond Head wing for great views of the beach and sunrise over Diamond Head. Be sure to check out the museum on the 2nd floor to learn more about Waikiki when folks came by boat and stayed for a long time!
- The Park Shore is part of the Aqua hotel group. It is located across the street from the Queen Kapiolani beach, on the east end of Waikiki. Many of the rooms have views of Kapiolani Park, Diamond Head, and the beach. This is not a luxury hotel, but it has a pool, our favorite Waikiki restaurant Lulu’s, and is at our preferred end of Waikiki.
- The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort is across the street from Prince Kuhio beach. It’s in a good location, has a nice pool and bar (Moana Terrace) with live music, and the orientation of the balconies give you great views of the beach and the mountains. This Marriott has lots of restaurants, shops, and amenities.
- The Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach is located on the Royal Hawaiian beach, the central busiest part of Waikiki. The beach is so nice here and one of the beach walls is right in front of the hotel, a perfect spot to walk out into the ocean and greet the morning sun. The hotel has very good food choices, including the Shorebird breakfast buffet and the Kani Ka Pila Grille. We love the Kani Ka Pila’s dedication to Hawaiian musicians, an evening here is not to be missed!
You may want to consider the Ilikai (a groovy vibe, the tower where Jack Lord is standing during the old Hawaii Five-O credits), the Hilton Hawaiian Village (very large property with a beautiful lagoon and shopping, just take care with the tower you get – it could be a huge hike to the beach), the Halekulani (another historic hotel, very luxurious, with fantastic dining and hula every evening at the House Without a Key), or the Kahala (other side of Diamond Head, favored by celebrities, dolphin lagoon).
On the eastern side of Oahu most places to stay are bed-and-breakfast or house rentals. A lovely hotel choice is the Paradise Bay Resort on Kaneohe Bay. This somewhat rustic hotel has suites and cottages available with kitchenettes, all perched on the hillside going down to the bay. Located in Kahalu’u on a quiet back street, this an unexpected, peaceful gem. A pool, kayaking, fishing, a floating sun deck, and meals on a large lanai with mountain views are all part of the experience at Paradise Bay. You are only a few minutes away from Kualoa Ranch!
Turtle Bay Resort is on the North Shore at Kahuku, north of Haleiwa and La’ie. This is an absolutely a beautiful resort and location. Fantastic rooms, fantastic views, surfing, golfing, good food and more! This hotel emphasizes the surf culture of Hawaii. Turtle Bay is surrounded by farmland and wildlife refuge, but the resort has lots of activities and amenities. You are just a short drive from the congregation of shrimp trucks in one direction or Ted’s Bakery and Haleiwa in the other. Sunset at the Point bar on the beach is an amazing experience.
Ko Olina in west Oahu is a resort area surrounding the Ko Olina Golf Club. There are 5 places to stay: Disney Aulani Resort, Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club, Four Seasons Resort Oahu, Beach Villas at Ko Olina, and condominium rentals. It is very easy to go back and forth between these resorts and their beaches and lagoons. There is also a Ko Olina Center shopping and dining area . One of the best luaus in Oahu is at Paradise Cove, at the west end of the resort area.
We’ve stayed in the Aulani. This is probably the most welcoming hotel we’ve visited, also the most expensive. Every detail has been planned in true Disney fashion. There are plenty of pools, character events, and fine dining. We saw many families enjoying themselves and spending all day long in the resort with plenty to keep the children happy. The concierge team will help you plan excursions to Pearl Harbor and other sites if you do want to leave Ko Olina. Just be aware, if you choose to stay here, that you are joining a Disney Hawaiian experience and you are not in Honolulu. For instance, Iolani Palace is at least 40 minutes away, Waikiki shopping is about 50 minutes, and Pearl Harbor is about 35 minutes.
Oahu map – where to stay
Grabbing a bite
Windward: try Haleiwa Joe’s in Kaneohe (in the gorgeous Haiku Gardens) .
Airport to Waikiki: Take Route 92 Nimitz Highway east. Nimitz will become Ala Moana Boulevard. Continue east through Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue.
Waikiki to Paradise Bay: Take Ala Wai Boulevard to McCully Street. Go west on the H1 and take exit 20A for Route 63 Likelike Highway. In Kaneohe, go north on Route 83. Turn right on Route 830 Kamehameha Highway (if you see the Hygienic Store you went too far). Turn left on Lihikai Drive. Paradise Bay Resort will be on your left.
Paradise Bay Resort to Turtle Bay Resort: Back track out to Route 83 Kamehameha Highway, turn right to go north. After you go through La’ie and then all the shrimp ponds and food trucks at Kahuku, turn right at Kuilima Drive to enter Turtle Bay Resort.
Turtle Bay to Ko Olina: Take Highway 83 Kamehameha Highway to the west and south. At Haleiwa take Route 99. Take Route 80 through Wahiawa and get on the H2. Take the exit for H1 going west towards Kapolei. At the end of the H1, take Route 93 Farrington Highway. Take the exit for Ali’inui Drive.
- Waikiki beaches from Best of Oahu
- Paradise Cove luau
- Honolulu Food Trucks from Roaming Hunger
- The Bus
Let’s talk story
We took one trip to Oahu where we stayed a few days on each side of the island. It was fun to have adventures in each place and soak up a little extra local flavor.
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