Where to Stay in Hawaii: Choose the Best Island for You

Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and with so much offer, it can be difficult to choose where to stay in Hawaii. This travel guide will help you choose which island is best for you and lists our favorite places to Stay in Hawaii, no matter what kind of vacation you want.

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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 and Islands to stay on in Hawaii based on your travel preferences!

Editor’s Note: Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Hawaii here.

Check Lonely Planet's Hawaii Guide

 

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

Where to Stay in Hawaii

 

Where to Stay in Hawaii

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

 

Best Hostel in Hawaii: 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. (https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Seaside-Hawaiian-Hostel-Waikiki/Honolulu/12423)

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Best Hotel in Hawaii: 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.

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Best Airbnb in Hawaii: Heavenly Hawaii 4 Bed Ocean View

Great for couples, friends, and families, this clean and modern open-plan villa can sleep up to six guests. There’s a private master bedroom with a king-sized bed and four single beds throughout the other sleeping areas, two of which are open-fronted loft-style spaces that overlook the living room.

The kitchen is well equipped and the spacious bathroom has two sinks and a shower. Guests can use the hot tub and swimming pool, and the peaceful location is within easy reach of the beach.

Often, Airbnb has some fantastic apartments in Hawaii and it’s often the best deal.

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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 neighbourhoods, 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 beaches. 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 larest island in this archipalego. 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.

Neighborhood Hawaii

 

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 the best places to stay on your trip to Hawaii.

 

1. Maui – Where to Stay in Hawaii for First Timers

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. Maui is our recommendation for your first visit to Hawaii.

Maui, Hawaii

 

Top Things to do on Maui

  • Go snorkelling 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.

 

Best Hostel in Maui: 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 travellers 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.

View on HostelWorld

 

Best Hotel in Maui: Montage Kapalua Bay

Close to the beach, this stunning resort boasts a spa, fitness centre, 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.

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Best Airbnb in Maui: Maui Condo at Ocean with AC, WiFi sleeps 6

With two bedrooms and two bathrooms, this lovely apartment can accommodate up to six people. Close to the beach, you can enjoy awesome views of the sea and the gardens. The apartment has a kitchen and guests can use the building’s swimming pool. As a nice bonus, breakfast is included each morning too.

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Hawaii the Big Island – Where to Stay in Hawaii on a Budget

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 the best place to stay in Hawaii on a budget.

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.

Big Island, Hawaii

 

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 splendour 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 colourful marine life with a spot of snorkelling 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.

 

Best Hostel in 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.

View on HostelWorld

 

Best Hotel in 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.

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Best Airbnb in Big Island: HawaiianJungleHangout

Suitable for up to four guests, this ranch-style home is surrounded by lush gardens and has two bedrooms.

There’s also a bathroom, a full kitchen, and a cosy living room. You’ll also find a cool jungle hut with a tiki bar in the kitchenette, bathroom, bedroom, and washing machine.

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

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. It’s also the best place in Hawaii for people who wish to stay for a longer period of time with accommodations available for a month or longer.

O'Ahu, Hawaii

 

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 harbour 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 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 Hawaii Theater.

 

Best Hostel in 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.

View on HostelWorld

 

Best Hotel in 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 centre and satisfy your hunger in the restaurant.

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

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Best Airbnb in 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, hair dryer, safe, and more, you have everything you need for a comfortable home-from-home stay.

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

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.

With fabulous nature and picturesque beaches, it’s a perfect place for anyone who loves exploring. Break away from the crowds and discover why we think Kaua’i is so special.

Kauai, Hawaii

image source: Flickr

 

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.

 

Best Hotel in 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.

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Best Airbnbs in Kaua’i:

Hale Hoku Kalani – “Star of Heaven” Lodge

Sleep beneath the stars under canvas in a two-person tent. The tent is cosy and equipped with electricity. There are good shared facilities, including bathrooms, a kitchen, laundry facilities, and a swimming pool. There are areas where you can access Wi-Fi and stay connected too.

View on Airbnb

 

Kauai: Condo near beaches and shops.

This lovely condo is ideal for groups of up to five. It has a sofa bed in the living room as well as a double bed in each of the two separate bedrooms. There’s a full kitchen, perfect for people who want a self-catering stay, and guests can use the onsite pool.

A washer and dryer add to the convenience, there’s a TV and Wi-Fi to keep you occupied during any periods of downtime, and the parking is handy if you’re exploring Kauai by car.

View on Airbnb

 

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.

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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Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and with so much offer, it can be difficult to choose where to stay in Hawaii. This travel guide will help you choose which island is best for you and lists our favorite places to Stay in Hawaii, no matter what kind of vacation you want.

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