There’s no doubt: Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and while too much of a good thing can be bad, we can’t say the same for Hawaii.

That said, so much beauty and spoilt for choice makes it nearly impossible for you to decide where to stay in Hawaii.

Hawaii comprised of several islands with plenty to offer: tropical beaches with clear blue waters, mountains, active volcanos, warm waterfalls, some of the best surf in the world, diving, and the road to Hana for starters.

Each island, however, will offer a completely different vibe, list of things to do, and even weather pattern.

Read on to discover the best places to stay in Hawaii based on your travel preferences!

Quick Tips

  • Where to stay in Hawaii first time – Maui
  • Where to stay in Hawaii on a budget – Big Island
  • Best area to stay in Hawaii for nightlife – O’ahu
  • Coolest place to stay in Hawaii – Kaua’i
  • Best neighborhood in Hawaii for families – O’ahu

In a hurry? Here’s my top place for first timers:

FIRST TIME IN HAWAII

Maui

Maui is the island most often associated with Hawaii, with postcard-worthy views, world-class beaches, and plenty to do by day and by night. Fairly peaceful and relatively undeveloped, enjoy a little slice of paradise and see why so many people flock to Hawaii year after year.

Places to visit:
  • Ride the waves and practice your surfing skills
  • Take a walking tour of the fragrant Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
  • Be in awe of the unusual formation known as Dragon’s Teeth

Where to Stay in Hawaii

Best Holiday Villa in Hawai’i: Naupaka Breeze

Naupaka Breeze

Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our top picks for where to stay in Hawai’i, which all happen to be on the island Oahu.

This huge, clean and open-plan villa in the north of O’ahu sleeps up to 14 guests – hopefully that’s enough for your group! The back of the villa looks right over rugged, wave-battered cliffs. If you’ve never fallen asleep to the sounds of waves before, trust me that it’s one of the best kinds of sleep.?

Up here you get the true island experience; though the villa is only moments away from shops and restaurants, you wouldn’t know that from the sea view out the back. Instead of suburban fences, you have pristine beach just a couple minutes’ walk from the villa.

Best Beach House in Hawaii: Rustic Hawaiian Home

Rustic Hawaiian Home

This small sand-side home is built in a traditional Hawaiian style. It lacks luxury but it’s heaven for vacationers who enjoy outdoor eating and waking up to the sunrise. Every perfect day will start with morning cup of coffee in the backyard with soft early light over the ocean. In a word: bliss.

The house sleeps 6; perfect for a family or group of friends. It’s on the north shore of O’ahu, near Waimea Bay and a few popular surf schools.

Best Hostel in Hawaii: Seaside Hawaiian Hostel Waikiki

Seaside Hawaiian Hostel Waikiki

An intimate and friendly hostel near the pulsating heart of Waikiki, Seaside Hawaiian Hostel Waikiki has mixed and female-only dorms. There are lockers (you’ll need your own padlock) and Wi-Fi is available in common areas.

Shared spaces include bathrooms, a kitchen, a common room, and a terrace. There’s a basic free breakfast each morning and you can borrow snorkeling equipment and boogie boards or rent a surfboard to try and harness the power of the sea.

Other perks include a BBQ, laundry facilities, luggage storage, cable TV, and housekeeping.

There are plenty more places for backpackers around the islands though – be sure to check out these other amazing hostels in Hawaii!

Best Hotel in Hawaii: Sheraton Waikiki

Sheraton Waikiki

The Sheraton Waikiki is just a couple of minutes’ stroll from the beach. There are three terrific restaurants within the hotel as well as a food market. Book a range of spa treatments, work out in the gym, cool down in the swimming pool, zoom down the water slide, join a yoga class, take a personal training session, and relax in the hot tub.

Each room is en suite with a balcony, desk, TV, and video games. Parents are sure to appreciate the child-minding services.

FIRST TIME IN HAWAII
Maui, Hawaii
FIRST TIME IN HAWAII

Maui

Maui is the island most often associated with Hawaii, with postcard-worthy views, world-class beaches, and plenty to do by day and by night. Fairly peaceful and relatively undeveloped, enjoy a little slice of paradise and see why so many people flock to Hawaii year after year. It’s our top recommendation for where to stay in Hawaii for first-timers.

ON A BUDGET
Big Island, Hawaii
ON A BUDGET

Hawaii the Big Island

Big Island is, as the name suggests, Hawaii’s largest island. It is officially called the island of Hawaii. The volcanic island offers some of the state’s cheapest accommodation, making it our pick for one of the best places to stay in Hawaii on a budget.

NIGHTLIFE
O'Ahu, Hawaii
NIGHTLIFE

O’ahu

The liveliest of Hawaii’s islands, O’ahu is our recommendation for both families and nightlife lovers. There are many places to enjoy by day and by night, with something to suit people of all ages and with all kinds of interests.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Kauai, Hawaii
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Kaua’i

Although everywhere in Hawaii is pretty cool, Kaua’i just pips everywhere else to the post for our choice for Hawaii’s coolest locale. Wild and undeveloped, it has something of an air of ruggedness and mystery that can be difficult to find in places that are more in the spotlight.

FOR FAMILIES
O'Ahu, Hawaii
FOR FAMILIES

O’ahu

O’ahu isn’t only recommended for where to stay in Hawaii for families, but it’s also one of the best places to stay in Hawaii for people who wish to stay for a longer period of time with accommodations available for a month or longer.

Hawaii Island Guide

Hawaii may be a US state, but it is unlike anywhere else within the nation. Comprised of several islands, some of which are big enough to contain a number of communities, choosing the right island to visit in Hawaii is important to ensure that you get the vacation that you’re dreaming of.

There are eight main islands to choose between. The first four below are the most popular for tourism.

  • O’ahu: Home to the state capital, is energetic and vibrant. As well as a plethora of sleeping, dining, drinking, and shopping options, it also has great beaches, cultural sites, and a range of activities to suit diverse tastes. Honolulu (Hawaii’s capital) has Hawaii’s largest population, and more of a city feel. O’ahu is the easiest island to get around via public transport, and has the largest hostel scene. It’s also Hawaii’s most expensive island.
  • Maui: This island offers a much more laid-back appeal, and is perfect for people who prefer to spend their days lazing on beautiful beaches. Maui is known for having the most variety of all the beaches in Hawaii. It is one of the most popular islands in Hawaii and attracts many couples and honeymooners. If you’re seeking luxurious bliss, Lana’i is ideal.
  • Kaua’i’: This island’s ancient landscapes suit fans of the great outdoors, as it is just as known for its lush mountains as its beaches.
  • Hawaii (the Big Island): Not to be confused with Hawaii the name of the state, Hawaii is also the name of the largest island in this archipelago. This island is a geothermal wonderland, and home to 4 out of the 5 major climate zones in the world, and 8 out of 13 of the sub-zones.! It is most famous for the most active volcano in the world, Kilauea volcano.
  • Moloka’i: This island offers a taste of rural and traditional life.
  • Niihau is privately owned and rarely opened to visitors, and access to the small island of Kahoolawe is forbidden.
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Hawaii’s 5 Best Islands to Stay on

Whether you’re seeking memorable immersions in nature, a thriving night scene, dazzling beaches, family fun, romantic idylls, or something else, Hawaii offers it all. Here are places to consider when planning your trip to Hawaii.

Maui – Where to Stay in Hawaii for First-Timers

Maui, Hawaii

Maui is the island most often associated with Hawaii, with postcard-worthy views, world-class beaches, and plenty to do by day and by night. Fairly peaceful and relatively undeveloped, enjoy a little slice of paradise and see why so many people flock to Hawaii year after year. Since it’s a sin to visit the state without sleeping at least one night in Maui, we’ve chosen it as where to stay in Hawaii for first-time visitors.

Oceanfront Condo

Beautiful Condo on Maui: Oceanfront Condo

Modern, clean and right on the ocean. Seriously, the views from the living area remind me of being on a cruise ship: it’s like living on top of the water!

This place can take up to 9 guests, but realistically fits 6 comfortably. This way, everybody can enjoy the patio at once.

The condominium has all the vacation fixings: a shared pool and grill station. The owner has also left you boogie boards and other beach toys for the kids.

Hakuna Matata Hostel

Cozy Hostel in Lahaina: Hakuna Matata Hostel

Located in the old capital of Lahaina, Hakuna Matata Hostel is a chilled-out place to stay. There are mixed and female-only dorms as well as private rooms and you can meet other travelers in the indoor and outdoor common areas as well as in the communal kitchen.

There’s tons of equipment that you can use to enhance your stay and the facilities here are top class. Ultimately, Hakuna Matata stands above the rest of the hostels in Maui.

Montage Kapalua Bay

Incredible Resort on Maui: Montage Kapalua Bay

Close to the beach, this stunning resort boasts a spa, fitness center, tennis courts, swimming pool, and restaurant. Luxurious suites are available to suit different group sizes, each with everything you need to feel right at home.

Bathrooms are elegant and stylish with a spa bath, and there’s no need to worry about coming back sandy thanks to the washing machine and dryer in each guest suite.

Top Things to do on Maui

– Go snorkeling off Keawakapu Beach to see the many submerged antique cars in the artificial reef, or snorkel at Coral Garden and Turtle Town to be awed by the underwater world.

– Spend sunny days basking on glorious beaches.

– Take a whale-watching trip.

– Ride the waves and practice your surfing skills.

– Gaze down on the island from above with a helicopter tour.

– Learn more about local art and history at the Bailey House Museum.

– Take a dip in the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o.

– Experience a luau.

– Watch a performance at Maui Cultural Center.

– Take a walking tour of the fragrant Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm.

– See the gigantic ‘Iao Needle.

– Observe marine life at Maui Ocean Center.

– Drive the scenic road to Hana.

– Book tickets to see the award-winning show of Ulalena at Maui Theater.

– Be in awe of the unusual formation known as Dragon’s Teeth.

– Marvel at the Waimoku Falls.

– Sample local spirits and learn more about distilling processes at Hali’imaile Distilling Company.

– Get an adrenaline rush with a ziplining adventure in Ka’anapali.

– Play a game of golf at one of the varied courses.

– Hike the now-dormant Haleakala Volcano and watch the sunrise from the crater.

Hawaii’s Big Island – Where to Stay in Hawaii on a Budget

Big Island, Hawaii

Big Island is, as the name suggests, Hawaii’s largest island. It is officially called the island of Hawaii. The volcanic island offers some of the state’s cheapest accommodation, making it our pick for one of the best places to stay in Hawaii on a budget.

Not only does the Big Island have affordable accommodation, but it also has incredible tree houses, which guarantee a unique stay. Here are our picks of the best treehouses in Hawaii, and you’ll be surprised to find that a number of them are budget-friendly!

There’s plenty to enjoy here, from beaches and nature to culture and history. The island is also home to the state’s only World Heritage Site and one of the USA’s most exciting National Parks: Hawai’i Volcano National Park.

Jurassic Lodge

Best Treehouse in Volcano Village: Jurassic Lodge

There are treehouses that feel like resorts and then there are treehouses that feel like treehouses! This is something in between. The outdoors and steps leading up to the property feel like a Jurrassic Park movie but the inside is designed in a way to make a small space cozy.

This one-bedroom is great for a couple who want a scenic, secluded place to stay after their full day exploring the beautiful nearby parks.

Luxury Cabin

Best Vacation Rental: Luxury Cabin

Volcano Village has the most unique places to stay on the Big Island (and maybe all Hawaii). This cozy cottage is close to town and to Volcanoes National Park but the property feels secluded private.

This cottage-cabin hybrid boasts the luxuries that a stay at a fancy resort don’t have: outdoor sauna (from Finland), large jacuzzi, and FOUR indoor fireplaces! I don’t know how many fireplaces you need for a three-bedroom vacation home, but four seems like enough.?

The Big Island Boutique Hostel

Best Hostel on Big Island: The Big Island Boutique Hostel

Located at Hilo, The Big Island Boutique Hostel is safe, secure, clean, and friendly. The hostel and rooms are accessed by code pads and there are lockers.

The hostel has mixed and female-only dorms; private rooms for two are also available. There’s a basic kitchen for some DIY meal prep, as well as a bar and cool common room. A book exchange, clothes swap, free Wi-Fi, luggage storage, and parking add to the fun and convenience.

The Aeolian Residence

Budget Hotel on Big Island: The Aeolian Residence

The Aeolian Residence can be found in Waikoloa Village. There are several room options, including accommodation in charming wooden chalets, and the hotel provides terrific views of the ocean.

All rooms are en-suite and have either a patio or balcony. There’s a shared fridge and coffee machine that all guests are free to use. The garden is a pleasant spot to unwind.

Top Things to Do on the Big Island

– Experience the magic and wonder of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, with its stretching hiking trails, ancient petroglyphs, rainforest, desert, craters that send plumes of smoke into the air, beaches, and a lava lake.

– Stargaze at Mauna Kea, an unforgettable experience on any Hawaiian vacation.

– Marvel at the natural splendor of the Waipi’o Valley

– Learn more about ancient Hawaiian culture at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.

– Surf at the white-sand Hapuna Beach.

– Feast your eyes on the towering ‘Akaka Falls.

– See an abundance of colorful marine life with a spot of snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay.

– Admire the island’s scenery by horseback.

– Descend into fascinating lava tubes.

– Tour Hulihe’e Palace, a former royal palace on the sea.

– Hike to Kilauea Iki crater and watch glowing lava at sunset.

– Watch sea turtles snoozing on the black sands of Punalu’u Beach.

– Go night swimming with manta rays.

– Visit beaches of every shade, including white, yellow, grey, brown, black, and even green.

– Go golfing at Kona.

O’ahu – Where to Stay in Hawaii for Families and the Best Nightlife

O'Ahu, Hawaii

The liveliest of Hawaii’s islands, staying on O’ahu is our recommendation for both families and nightlife lovers. There are many places to enjoy by day and by night, with something to suit people of all ages and with all kinds of interests. It’s also one of the best places to stay in Hawaii for people who wish to stay for a longer period of time with accommodations available for a month or longer.

Bayview Condo!

Best Airbnb on O’ahu: Bayview Condo!

Situated in Kaneohe, this smart apartment can sleep up to six people. There’s a queen-sized bed in the separate bedroom, a sofa bed in the living room, and an airbed.

There’s a separate toilet in addition to the full bathroom and you also have your own full kitchen. There are shared laundry facilities. With a TV, Wi-Fi, hairdryer, safe, and more, you have everything you need for a comfortable home-from-home stay.

The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel by IH

Best Hostel on O’ahu: The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel by IH

A fun and friendly O’ahu hostel close to Waikiki Beach, The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel is a top spot to meet other people and explore. There are tours and shuttle services throughout the week, and you can join in with free pizza nights on the terrace.

Breakfast is also free. Catch up with your washing, surf the free Wi-Fi, and cut costs further by making your own basic meals in the kitchen. This is surely the best hostel in Oahu.

OHANA Waikiki Malia by Outrigger

Best Hotel on O’ahu: OHANA Waikiki Malia by Outrigger

Stylish and comfortable, this family-friendly hotel has a selection of en suite rooms and suites to choose between. Enjoy the outdoor swimming pool and fitness center and satisfy your hunger in the restaurant.

Other plus points include an elevator, vending machines, laundry services, and in-room TVs.

Top Things to do on Oahu

– Pay your respects at the Arizona Memorial, a place that remembers those who lost their lives during the Second World War.

– Visit the ill-fated Pearl Harbour.

– Go surfing at North Shore, the surf capital of the state, and one of the top places to surf in the world.

– Soak up the harbor views from the top of Aloha Tower.

– Shop till you drop at the open-air mall of Ala Moana.

– Visit the replica Japanese temple in the Valley of the Temple.

– Admire the scenic views from the Diamond Head Walk.

– Snorkel at Hanauma Bay.

– Sunbathe and swim at the famous Waikiki Beach, the picture-perfect Lanikai Beach, and the relaxed Kahanamoku Beach.

– Indulge in the traditional local dish of poke.

– Learn more about the Polynesian culture at the Bishop Museum.

– Be wowed by Shangri La.

– Bar hop in Honolulu.

– Inspire your inner creative at the Hawaii State Art Museum and Honolulu Museum of Art.

– Explore the bustling markets of Chinatown.

– Get back to nature at Homaluhia Botanical Garden.

– Watch the fireworks from Hilton Hawaiian Village every Friday night.

– See a show at the Hawaii Theater.

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Kaua’i – Where to Stay in Hawaii for the Outdoors

Kauai, Hawaii

Although everywhere in Hawaii is pretty cool, Kaua’i just pips everywhere else to the post for our choice for Hawaii’s coolest locale. Wild and undeveloped, it has something of an air of ruggedness and mystery that can be difficult to find in places that are more in the spotlight – staying in Kaua’i is a truly unique experience!

With fabulous nature and picturesque beaches, it’s a perfect place for anyone who loves exploring and our top recommendation for where to stay in Hawaii for the outdoors. Break away from the crowds and discover why we think Kaua’i is so special.

Ka Makana

Idyllic Vacation Home: Ka Makana

This vacation home is in a quiet corner of Hanalei – perfect for a family with a car who want a peaceful place to rest, recover and cook their own meals between outdoor excursions. The home is in the suburbs but once inside, it doesn’t feel that way: green foliage and volcano views come through the window, reminding you that you’re on vacation and have a whole island to explore!

The home has three spacious bedrooms, all with decent views. The master takes the cake though, with a private porch and one of those cute basket swings!

The Kauai Inn

Best Hotel on Kaua’i: The Kauai Inn

Located in Lihue, The Kauai Inn is a charming accommodation in Kaua’i. Close to the beach and within easy reach of the airport, it has rooms that can accommodate two, three, or four guests.

Every tropical-themed room has a private bathroom, TV, microwave, fridge, and phone. Wi-Fi can be accessed in public areas. Free tea and coffee can be enjoyed in the pavilion and there are BBQs for some al fresco cooking and dining.

The gorgeous gardens and inviting swimming pool provide even more reasons to book a stay here.

Rent Tent & Gear

Best Way to Camp on Kauai: Rent Tent & Gear

You’ll have to see it to believe it, but you can rent everything you need for beachside camping on Kauai. This Airbnb listing provides you with all the things you need. Then, you can go and find the campsite of your choice.

This is an awesome option for off-island travelers who don’t want to bring their own bulky camping gear (or don’t have any). The kit includes the camping basics plus gear to enjoy the beach. Happy adventuring!

Top Things to do in Kaua’i

– Hike the stunning Waimea Canyon, complete with craggy gorges, soaring peaks, lush valleys, and interesting flora and fauna. Alternatively, take the easy option and traverse the Waimea Canyon Drive to admire the vistas.

– Join a kayaking adventure along the Wailua River.

– Take a tour of the fun Kilohana Plantation and try the locally produced rum.

– Enjoy a variety of activities, including surfing, swimming, sunbathing, body boarding, and kayaking, at Kalapaki Beach.

– Spot numerous birds at Kilauea Lighthouse.

– Admire nature’s wonder at Limahuli Garden and Preserve.

– Snap a picture of the quaint and historic Waioli Huiia Church.

– Explore the underwater world at Tunnels Beach.

– Be blown away by the majesty of the cascading Wailua Falls.

– Watch the sun go down from Hanalei Bay.

– Wait for the water to spray from Spouting Horn.

– Soar above the dramatic Na Pali Coast, made famous by the movie Jurassic Park, in a helicopter.

– Feel the rush as you go tubing down the mountainside at Lihue Plantation.

– Shop for fresh goods at Hanalei’s Sunday farmers’ market.

– Follow the quiet and scenic two-mile-long Maha’ulepu Coastal Trail.

– Cycle the bike trail in Kapa’a.

– Kaua’i is somewhat lacking when it comes to hostels, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find anywhere budget friendly, sociable, or suitable for groups; there are plentiful Airbnbs and hotels to choose between.

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Hawaii

You could spend months exploring one of Hawaii’s islands, let alone all of them! We created this guide to help you decide which island is the best island for your next vacation. If you really can’t decide where to stay in Hawaii, we recommend Maui for first-timers and beach lovers alike.

Kauai is the best island for hiking, and also home to spectacular waters. If you’re worried about your travel costs, don’t be – Hawaii doesn’t have to be expensive! If you plan ahead and make the right choices, you can visit the islands and all of their hotspots even if you’re on a budget!

Oahu is the most convenient island for solo travelers, families, and groups alike. The Big Island is twice the size of Oahu and has plenty to see as well! Our top hostel pick is Seaside Hawaiian Hostel Waikiki, and our top hotel pick for where to stay in Hawaii is Sheraton Waikiki!

Ultimately though, you can’t go wrong. All of the island have plenty of beautiful beaches and offer a slice of tropical paradise.

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