Oahu is one of the busiest, most populated, and most commercialized of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s incredibly popular among tourists and for good reason.

This island offers a fantastic mix of historical, cultural, and natural sites and attractions. It has everything from a busy capital to untouched natural areas, incredible beaches, and great water activities. And it also offers a good mix of Oahu accommodation options at every price point.

There’s a lot of information out there on Oahu, so it can get a little confusing.

Everyone has their favorite area and place to stay and you might get confused about which is best for you. But that’s why I’m here to help with this ultimate Oahu neighborhood guide, so you can find the area that suits your tastes.

Waikiki Beach Oahu
Photo: Bernard Spragg. NZ (Flickr)

Where to Stay in Oahu

Backpacking Hawaii and looking for a specific place to stay? These are my highest recommendations for places to stay!

Best Airbnb in Oahu: Luana Waikiki

Located in the best neighborhood to stay for travelers of all kinds, this studio offers enough space for up to 4 guests. It offers free parking and beautiful views close to the beach and to local shops. There’s a fully equipped kitchenette in the apartment as well as air conditioning and quality, comfortable furnishings and decorations. This is why it’s my top Airbnb in Oahu!

Best Hostel in Oahu: Polynesian Hostel Beach Club Waikiki

This hostel in Oahu is a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Oahu on a budget. It has a laidback vibe as well as indoor and outdoor areas that encourage socializing. You can hire a surfboard or snorkel from the hostel or eat free pancakes in the morning with all your new friends. The hostel is also eco-friendly, close to public transport and the beach, and offers dorm and private rooms.

Best Hotel in Oahu: Polynesian Residences Waikiki

This hotel in Oahu is like a luxury resort and offers the ideal combination of comfort and beach proximity. It has a fitness center, a sun deck, outdoor pool, laundry services and a BBQ area where you can have a meal outside. The rooms have kitchenettes with microwaves and fridges and are spacious enough to ensure your comfort.

Oahu Neighborhood Guide

FIRST TIME IN OAHU
Diamond Head
FIRST TIME IN OAHU

Diamond Head

If you want a mix of city and nature, then you should stay in the Diamond Head area. This is one of the best places in Oahu to stay if you love the outdoors and want to explore everything that this island has to offer.

ON A BUDGET
Ala Moana
ON A BUDGET

Ala Moana

When you’re trying to decide where to stay in Oahu on a budget, Ala Moana is a good choice. This is a commercial and residential local neighborhood that, despite its proximity to Waikiki, doesn’t see as many tourists.

NIGHTLIFE
Waikiki
NIGHTLIFE

Waikiki

Of course, you’ve heard of Waikiki. It’s the most popular area for tourists and is filled with everything you could want on a beach holiday.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Kailua
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Kailua

Kailua is one of the coolest places to stay in Oahu simply because it’s so beautiful. The name means ‘two seas’ and describes the two lagoons that make up Kailua Bay.

FOR FAMILIES
Kapolei
FOR FAMILIES

Kapolei

When you’re trying to decide where to stay in Oahu with kids, Kapolei is where you should spend your time. It’s safe and welcoming and contains lots of attractions that will keep the kids happy, active, and off your back.

Each region in Oahu is very different, from the busy, tourist saturated area around Honolulu to the wild, laid back region near Diamond Head. This Oahu neighborhood guide will help you find the area that suits your tastes, whether you want a quick holiday with easy access to everything, or if you’re looking for something more unique.

Diamond Head is a good choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Oahu for the first time. It offers easy access to Waikiki and all its charms but is a more relaxed area surrounded by lots of natural places and activities.

If you’re on a tighter budget, then spend some time in Ala Moana. This is a more local area, where few tourists ever venture, so you’ll be able to take advantage of local prices.

Kapolei not only has a safe and welcoming atmosphere; it’s also filled with activities and attractions that will appeal to kids. This makes it a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay for a family vacation.

The next area to consider is Waikiki. This is the most popular neighborhood for tourists, and it offers everything from easy access to the beach, great shops and fine dining restaurants, and an exciting party vibe. It’s also a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Oahu with kids despite the fact that it can get a bit noisy at times!

And then there’s Kailua, one of the coolest places to stay. It’s a little off the beaten track, offers a peaceful vibe with incredible beaches, and draws in adventure travelers from all over.

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Oahu’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in

Now you know a little bit about the best neighborhoods, read on to find out a bit more about each area. You’ll also find my top picks for the best hotel or hostel in Oahu, and some top things to do in each area.

#1 Diamond Head – Where to Stay in Oahu First Time

Diamond Head

If you want a mix of city and nature, then you should stay in the Diamond Head area. This is one of the best places in Oahu to stay if you love the outdoors and want to explore everything that this island has to offer. It’s close enough to Waikiki that you can enjoy going to the beach and exploring the local shops and restaurants but offers quieter surroundings.

Diamond Head was once an active volcano and is now one of the most famous geological landmarks on the island. It’s one of the best places to stay if you like outdoor activities. This area offers a huge range of activities, from hiking to beach activities and the views from some of the peaks are simply amazing. This is a fairly affluent neighborhood, with huge mansions and estates that make the streets a pleasure to explore.

Best Airbnb in Diamond Head: Diamond on Diamond Head

You’ll enjoy complete privacy with this guest suite which includes cosy furnishings and a private bathroom. It’s close to the beach and to local attractions and shops and is one of the best places to stay in Oahu for couples, solo travelers, or adventure travelers.

Best Hotel in Diamond Head: Diamond Head Beach Hotel

This hotel is in the best neighborhood in Oahu to stay in if you want to be close to the beach but away from the crowds. It offers laundry facilities, billiards equipment and all the essential amenities for a comfortable stay. The rooms are suitable for families or solo travelers. It’s much cheaper than a beach house in Oahu, but doesn’t skimp out on the luxuries, either.

Best Luxury Hotel in Diamond Head: Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head

If you’re looking for a comfortable place to stay, then this hotel in Oahu is a good choice. It’s close to local attractions like the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial and offers rooms with private bathrooms and balconies. There’s a small fridge in each room as well as entertainment equipment and the beach is within walking distance.

Things to See and Do in Diamond Head

  • Go hiking up the Diamond Head Hiking Trail.
  • Spend as much time exploring the 475 acres of the Diamond Head National Monument as you can.
  • Explore another culture at The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design.
  • Spend time on the beach at the Leahi Beach Park or the Makalei Beach Park.
  • See Oahu’s military history at the Battery Harlow.
  • Head into Waikiki for some shopping and eating.
  • Take a trip to the west side of Leeward Coast and enjoy some quieter beaches.
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#2 Ala Moana – Where to Stay in Oahu on a Budget

Ala Moana

When you’re trying to decide where to stay on a budget, Ala Moana is a good choice. This is a commercial and residential local neighborhood that, despite its proximity to Waikiki, doesn’t see as many tourists. You’re more likely to find interesting local shops and souvenirs in this area than overpriced luxury items.

You can also check out the epic selection of Oahu VRBOs if you need more inspiration.

Ala Moana offers the best of both worlds, easy access to Waikiki and a more relaxed local atmosphere. It’s the best neighborhood if you want a good night’s sleep during your trip as well as easy access to everything that Waikiki has to offer.

Best Airbnb in Ala Moana: Studio w/ sunrise views over Diamond Head

Suitable for two guests, this studio apartment offers comfortable surroundings in the heart of the city. It’s a great choice whether you’re deciding where to stay in Oahu for one night or for a longer visit. A private bathroom, small kitchenette, and pool access are included in the apartment as well as easy access to local beaches and to more private, hidden spots.

Best Hotel in Ala Moana: Pagoda Hotel

If you’re on a budget, this hotel is a great base for your visit to Oahu. It’s within walking distance of local attractions and offers lots of relaxing facilities like an outdoor terrace, hot tub, sun deck, and swimming pool. The rooms come in a range of sizes to suit every travel group and include all the usual amenities including a fridge.

Best Luxury Hotel in Ala Moana: Ala Moana Hotel

Offering a sauna, outdoor pool, fitness center, hot tub, and sun deck with skyline views, this 4-star hotel is an ideal base while you’re in Oahu. This all makes this hotel a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Oahu for the first time. Each room is air-conditioned and comes with a private bathroom and all the amenities. And there’s an in-house restaurant on-site for late-night meals.

Things to See and Do in Ala Moana

  • Head into Waikiki to check out the nightlife, shops, and restaurants.
  • Wander the streets of Ala Moana looking for quirky indie stores.
  • Head over to Ala Moana Beach Park for a picnic or game of volleyball!
  • Check out what’s on at the Hawaii Convention Center.
  • Spend some time in the Ala Moana Regional Park if you get tired of the city feel.
  • Head down to the beach at Magic Island for swimming, snorkeling, or surfing.
  • Check out local places to eat and drink like Moku Kitchen or the Honolulu Beerworks.

#3 Kapolei – Best Neighborhood in Oahu for Families

Kapolei

When you’re trying to decide where to stay in Oahu with kids, Kapolei is where you should spend your time. This is also where you’ll find some of the best bed and breakfasts in Oahu. It’s safe and welcoming and contains lots of attractions that will keep the kids happy, active, and off your back. Kapolei also has lots of restaurants, cafes, and shops to keep you occupied as well, along with easy access to the beach.

But it isn’t all shopping, eating, and screaming kids either. This is the best neighbourhood in Oahu to stay in if you want to learn about the local culture as there are lots of attractions geared at teaching you about the culture in an entertaining way. Unfortunately, you won’t find as many budget accommodation options in this area, so if the price of the best hotels scares you then try local apartments for a better deal.

Best Airbnb in Kapolei: Kapolei Home

Located in one of Oahu’s best neighborhoods for a peaceful, relaxed stay, this home is ideal for people who really want to explore the island. It offers a kitchen, living room, and backyard with a pool as well as a TV with Amazon Prime, Chromecast, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix etc, parking, and Wi-Fi. There’s also a washer and dryer in the house so you can get your laundry done while you’re there!

Best Hotel in Kapolei: Hampton Inn & Suites

This hotel offers 175 comfortable rooms and is a good choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Oahu for families. A free breakfast is offered every morning and there’s an outdoor pool on-site as well as laundry facilities. The rooms are spacious and have modern furnishings.

Best Luxury Hotel in Kapolei: Embassy Suites By Hilton Oahu Kapolei

Located in one of Oahu’s best neighborhoods, this hotel is a luxurious oasis. It’s within 35 minutes’ drive from the airport and offers a swimming pool, in house restaurant, and free breakfast. There are 180 rooms, all of them with private bathrooms and the usual amenities.

Things to See and Do in Kapolei

  • Spend a day speeding down water slides at the massive Wet’n’Wild Hawaii.
  • Learn more about the local culture and take hula lessons or watch some fire knife dancing at Chief’s Luau.
  • Head over to Laie, on the North Shore of the island, and learn about the local culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
  • Get adventurous with zip lining or off-roading at the Coral Crater Adventure Park.
  • Enjoy the beach at Kahe Point Beach Park, Paradise Cove Beach, or the Makaha Beach Park.
  • Learn more about the area’s history at the Naval Air Station Barbers Point Museum.
  • Play a few rounds of golf at the Barber’s Point Golf Course or the Ewa Villages Golf Course.
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#4 Waikiki – Best Area to Stay in Oahu for Nightlife

Waikiki

Of course, you’ve heard of Waikiki. It’s the most popular area for tourists and is filled with everything you could want on a beach holiday. It’s a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay for nightlife and for easy access to local beaches and great shopping. The whole area is based around the famous beach, with lots of shops, restaurants, and cafes packed close by.

If you’re in Oahu for a short holiday, then this is probably where you’ll stay. The water is warm, the people friendly, the cocktail ubiquitous, and the neighborhood safe. You’ll find a huge range of accommodation in Waikiki, from top quality luxury hotels to cheaper hostels and apartments. So, no matter your budget, you can spend some time in this area without breaking the bank.

Best Airbnb in Waikiki: Apartment w/ Ocean & Mountain Views

If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Oahu for the nightlife, this apartment is a great choice. It has enough space for up to 4 guests, stunning ocean and mountain views, and is a short walk from the beach, shopping areas, and restaurants. The apartment is fully furnished and nicely decorated with a rooftop pool available for your use.

Best Hostel in Waikiki: The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel by IH

This hostel in Oahu offers a unique Hawaiian vibe and comfortable surroundings. It’s a short walk from the beach and local shops, restaurants and cafes. This makes it a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay for the nightlife. The hostel offers free regular pizza nights, a rooftop terrace, free shuttle trips and tours, and private or dorm rooms.

Best Hotel in Waikiki: Wyndham Waikiki Beach Walk Hotel Honolulu

Located in the best area in Oahu to stay in, this hotel offers easy beach access and modern, comfortable rooms. It has an outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, gym, and booking desk where you can book tours. There’s a restaurant on-site for late-night meals and the area around the hotel is filled with restaurants, so you definitely won’t go hungry when you stay here.

Things to See and Do in Waikiki

  • Don’t miss out on seeing Pearl Habor, the famous historical site which marked the beginning of America’s involvement in the Second World War.
  • Check out the sobering USS Arizona Memorial.
  • Take the kids to Waikiki Aquarium to learn more about the area’s amazing marine life.
  • Learn more about the local culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
  • Spend a few hours exploring the Lucoral Museum.
  • Explore the ‘Ioloani Palace, the center of spirituality in Hawaii.
  • Go snorkeling or swimming at Hanauma Bay.
  • Spend a day at the world famous Waikiki Beach and partake in some watersports.
  • Enjoy a glass bottom boat tour and see the amazing marine life.

#5 Kailua – The Coolest Place to Stay in Oahu

Kailua

Kailua is one of the coolest places to stay simply because it’s so beautiful. The name means ‘two seas’ and describes the two lagoons that makeup Kailua Bay. The water in this bay is incredibly blue and beautiful, far outstripping some of the more popular beaches on the island. If you want to get away from the tourist traps and stay somewhere stunning, this is where you should be looking.

But that doesn’t mean that Kailua is boring or not set up for tourists. In fact, this sleepy town does attract some tourists and the locals are always welcoming and accommodating.

It’s the most adventurous travellers who end up in Kailua as it’s one of the best areas to stay in Oahu if you want to explore hidden areas on your own. And the food is amazing too. Kailua has become Oahu’s health and wellness hub and boasts restaurants and cafes that offer delicious fare that nourishes the body.

Best Airbnb in Kailua: Kailua Palm Studio

This vacation rental in Oahu is in the best area if you want to be close to the beach but enjoy some peace and quiet at the same time. It’s a short walk to the local beach and includes a private bathroom and kitchen and an outdoor lanai so you can enjoy the quiet neighborhood. The studio has a private entrance and is also within walking distance of local shops.

Best Hotel in Kailua: Serenity Home

This hotel is one of the best places in Oahu to stay if you want to be close to the beach on a budget. It offers a concierge and a tour desk to help you get around and see everything you want to see. And the rooms are comfortable and contain everything you’ll need during your stay.

Best Luxury Hotel in Kailua: Paradise Palms B&B

This hotel is a good choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Oahu for one night or for a longer visit. It offers well-appointed rooms with all the amenities you’ll need for your stay. And it’s close to the beach too, so you can swim and explore at your leisure.

Things to See and Do in Kailua

  • Try some of the local healthy restaurants like the Nalu Health Bar & Cafe or Down to Earth Organic.
  • Explore the local area on four wheels and discover hidden spots that most tourists never see.
  • Wander through the local streets and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
  • Grab your camera and make sure you explore the coastline with its simply magnificent landscapes.
  • Check out some pristine beaches like Lanikai Beach or Kalama Beach.
  • Get fresh food at the weekly Farmer’s Market.
  • Learn more about Oahu’s native flora at the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Visitor Center.
  • Explore the area’s ancient history at the Ulup? Heiau State Historic Site.
  • If you like hiking, then try the Pillbox Hike for lovely views.

FAQs about Finding a Place to Stay in Oahu

Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Oahu and where to stay.

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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Oahu

According to most travelers, the best areas are all in Waikiki. But this isn’t even close to the truth. The discerning traveler, who isn’t afraid to get off the beaten track, knows that there are many more beautiful beaches and towns in Oahu.

And if you really want to get to know this laidback island, then you need to get out of the main areas and out among the locals. That will give you not only a more authentic view of Oahu but pictures and memories that few travelers ever get!

Do you own an awesome hostel, hotel or apartment? Want to be featured in our list? Email [email protected] to find out how.

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