Oahu is one of the busiest, most populated, and most commercialized of the Hawaiian islands. It’s also incredibly popular among tourists and for good reason.
Oahu 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 the bonus? It also offers a good mix of Oahu accommodation options at every price point!
It is ideal to have some idea of where to stay in Oahu before you get there, so you don’t waste any time and get the most out of your trip. But since there’s a lot of information out there on Oahu, and everyone has their favorite areas and places to stay in Oahu, it can definitely get a little overwhelming figuring out what’s best for you.
But this is where I come in to help! I have prepared this ultimate Oahu neighborhood guide, so you can quickly and easily find the area that suits your tastes and focus on going loco on loco mocos!
So let’s dive right in to the best areas to stay in Oahu, Hawaii!
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Backpacking Hawaii and looking for a specific place to stay in Oahu? These are my picks for the best places and areas to stay in Oahu!
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 along with free parking and beautiful views close to the beach and the local shops. There’s a fully equipped kitchenette in the apartment as well as air conditioning and comfortable quality 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 Beach
This hotel in Oahu is a prime example of a typical Hawaiian luxury resort, offering the ideal combination of comfort and beach proximity. It has a fitness center, a sun deck, an 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 comfort.
Best Luxury Hotel in Oahu: Turtle Bay Resort
Located on Oahu’s North Shore, this incredible luxury hotel is definitely pricey but worth every penny you spend! Situated close to several tourist attractions like the Polynesian Cultural Center and the world-famous big wave surfing spots of Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay, this humongous property boasts almost 20 km of biking and hiking trails and a secluded shoreline – so you can go crazy surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and kayaking! Every room at Turtle Bay Resort is blessed with enchanting ocean views, and the 4 swimming pools and on-site bars and restaurants are to die for! This is the perfect place for those who want to be away from the crowds in Waikiki and spend time on their private beach space instead. No wonder it features in the list of the best eco-resorts in Hawaii!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each region in Oahu is very different – from the busy, tourist-saturated area around Honolulu to the wild, laid-back region near Diamond Head, making it one of the best places to visit in Hawaii. This Oahu neighborhood guide will help you find the area that best 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 but 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 to 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 the most incredible beaches in Hawaii, and draws in adventure travelers from all over.
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 for Your First Visit
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 to stay in Hawaii and in Oahu if you love the outdoors and want to explore everything that this island has to offer. Diamond Head is 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, especially the Diamond Head crater. 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: Condo with Spectacular View
Perched high up on the 36th floor, this beautifully decorated apartment boasts the most stunning views of the ocean and Diamond Head, apart from being 5 minutes away from Waikiki Beach, Kapiolani Park, and several restaurants and cafes. Ideal for up to 4 guests, this property is suitable for couples traveling together and families. The gracious hosts will also be happy to provide you with free parking, towels, and some beach gear.
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 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 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 Leahi Beach Park or 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 to spot dolphins, snorkel or simply enjoy some quieter beaches.
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Hawaii can be expensive, so when you’re trying to decide where to stay on a budget in Oahu, 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.
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 with Sunrise Views Over Diamond Head
Suitable for 2 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 Do in Ala Moana
- Head into Waikiki to check out the nightlife, shops, and restaurants. Consider a sunset cocktail cruise along the Waikiki coastline.
- 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, try snorkeling or surfing.
- Check out local places to eat and drink like Moku Kitchen or the Honolulu Beerworks.
3. Kapolei – Best Place to Stay in Oahu for Families
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. Kapolei is 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 neighborhood 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 community 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: Ocean-View Studio
Located in one of Oahu’s best neighborhoods for a peaceful, relaxed stay, this charming ocean-sunset-view home is ideal for people who really want to soak in the island life. You will have access to the private lanai (porch) in the courtyard, a cedar hot tub as well as an outdoor warm-water shower. This property is also suited for digital nomads keeping in mind the high-speed Wi-Fi on offer – at least you’ll be near the ocean while you work!
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 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 Makaha Beach Park.
- Learn more about the area’s history at the Naval Air Museum Barbers Point.
- 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
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 Waikiki 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, there are cocktails everywhere, and the neighborhood is safe. You’ll find a huge range of accommodations 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 with Ocean and 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 by ALOH
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 and want to make new friends to paint the town red with. The hostel offers free regular pizza nights, a rooftop terrace, free shuttle trips and tours, and private or dorm rooms.
Best Hotel in Waikiki: Polynesian Residences Waikiki Beach
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, an 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 comfort.
Things to Do in Waikiki
- Don’t miss out on seeing Pearl Harbor, the famous historical site which marked the beginning of America’s involvement in the Second World War.
- Check out the sobering USS Arizona Memorial.
- Learn more about the local culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
- Spend a few hours exploring the Lucoral Museum.
- Explore the Iolani 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 water sports.
- Enjoy a glass-bottom boat tour and see the amazing marine life.
5. Kailua – One of the Coolest Places to Stay in Oahu
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 make up 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: Kailua Beach Cottage
This cute and charming beach cottage is only a 3-minute walk from Kailua Beach and 2.6 km from Lanikai Beach. Ideal for 2 persons, you will have access to a garden, a restaurant, a fully equipped kitchen, free parking, and free Wi-Fi (digital nomads, rejoice!). This beachfront accommodation is perfect for those who want to truly live like beach bums – there is a private beach area and you can go diving too! The terrace boasts mountain views and you can go hiking and glamping in the area as well.
Best Luxury Hotel in Kailua: Modern Luxury Beach House Kailua
This lovely modern luxury beach house is located just 400 meters from Kailua Beach and 2.6 km from Lanikai Beach. Ideal for 4 guests, you will have access to a garden, free Wi-Fi, free private parking, and a fully equipped kitchen. Apart from the property‘s proximity to restaurants, cafes, and grocery shops, you can immerse yourself in the stunning ocean views as well as get in a bit of hiking and tennis.
Things to 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 Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site.
- If you like hiking, then try the Pillbox Hike for lovely views.
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FAQs on Where to Stay in Oahu
Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Oahu and where to stay.
What are the best beaches in Oahu?
Lanikai Beach and Waikiki Beach are consistently featured at the top of the list of the best beaches in Oahu.
How many nights in Oahu is enough for a good holiday?
I feel that you would need at least 3 to 4 days to properly experience Oahu and take in some of the beaches and attractions. However, it’s always best of course to earmark perhaps 5 days to explore the coastline properly and get some hiking too.
What are the best times of year to visit Oahu?
It makes sense to visit Oahu during the off-season or shoulder period which is early April and May and September to early October. There will be fewer crowds and the prices consequently lower.
What is the rainiest month in Oahu?
December is when it rains the most in Oahu.
Do you need a car in Oahu as a tourist?
While it is convenient to have a car in Oahu, it is absolutely possible to experience and have the best time in Oahu without a car! The island’s public transportation, ride shares, and bike shares ensure you will face no difficulty in getting around the island. Besides, most beaches and attractions will likely be within walking distance of your accommodation anyway!
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Oahu
We hope that by now, as we come to the end of our guide, you have a clearer idea of which area you want 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 that are just waiting to be explored.
And if you really want to get to know this gorgeous laidback island of Oahu, 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!
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags for Hawaii and Oahu and start exploring!
Updated May 2023
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