Though Oahu is the most populated of the Hawaiian Islands, it can be surprising to learn that there are only four major beach hotel resort areas. There are some hotels near the airport and accommodations dotted throughout the island, but for a beach vacation, you’ll mainly need to choose from the four major resort hotels. The following image indicates those major Oahu resort areas.
Here’s a brief overview of each of the major resort areas:
Waikiki Beach – dozens of hotels ranging from basic economy to mid-range to luxury accommodations. You don’t necessarily need a rental car if you stay in Waikiki Beach as you can use shuttles, taxis and public transportation. Many tour companies will pick you up at or near Waikiki hotels. There’s great shopping and many restaurants within walking distance. We share a bit more about Waikiki Beach in the below notes.
Kahala Resort on southeast Oahu – offers oceanfront luxury in the Kahala community of Honolulu. The Kahala Resort is the only hotel in the area. They have their own restaurants, Dolphin Quest and an adjacent golf course. They offer a shuttle service into Waikiki, which is less than 15 minutes away, for more dining and shopping options. See our Kahala Resort review.
Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore is the area’s only beachfront hotel and condo community. Turtle Bay Resort is an oceanfront, four-star resort built on a peninsula that’s flanked by two beaches. Most of their rooms offer at least an ocean view. Room rates tend to be fairly reasonable for the level of room and views that they offer.
The North Shore is our top pick on Oahu for a relaxing vacation. It’s more peaceful than Waikiki, yet it is accessible/drivable to many great sightseeing spots on the island. The resort offers horseback riding, golf and many more activities. Turtle Bay Resort has several good restaurants onsite. Outside of the resort, there are more restaurant options:
- North Shore’s famous shrimp trucks, which are only about a 5 minute drive away.
- Ted’s Bakery, which is also about a five-ish minute drive away.
- A scenic 20-minute drive to the iconic North Shore town of Haleiwa provides many other eateries.
Ko Olina is located in the southwest “corner” of Oahu. The Ko’olina resort community has a mix of condos and hotels. Ko Olina offers the second most number of hotels outside of Waikiki. The new Disney resort, Aulani has been very popular. There’s a newly opened Four Seasons Oahu, which was formerly the JW Marriott Ihilani. There’s also a Marriott Vacation (timeshare) resort here plus vacation condos.
The manmade lagoons at Ko Olina offer a relatively sheltered area for kids to swim and play. Area activities include golf, tennis, spas and more. We like Ko Olina, but one of the very slight downsides is that we feel that we have to drive further to get to some of the best sightseeing spots on the north and east shores of Oahu. If you stay here, you’ll definitely want to avoid driving to the east side of Oahu during rush hour.
In addition to hotels, you can also find vacation rentals and bed and breakfast accommodations around the island. For solo travelers on a budget, you can find hostels on Oahu, too.
More about Waikiki
By far the most popular area to stay on Oahu is Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. This area hosts Hawaii’s most iconic beach, hotels to match any budget, excellent shopping, gourmet and casual dining and most any water sport your heart desires. The urban vibe blends with the aloha spirit which perpetuates the popularity.
Waikiki Beach suits vacationers looking for an energetic environment where there’s a bit of nightlife. Waikiki Beach can be crowded at times. (See what our readers think of Waikiki Beach.) On the other hand, if you are looking for a quiet, calm environment for your Oahu vacation, we recommend that you stay on the North Shore, Ko Olina or Kahala resort areas.
Since Waikiki offers a huge selection of hotels to suit any budget, let’s look at it a bit closer. As you might expect, ocean front resorts tend to be more expensive while hotels a couple of blocks away from the beach are much more budget-friendly.
There are only eight Waikiki hotels in the heart of Waikiki that are on the beach. They are:
- Hilton Hawaiian Village
- Hale Koa (Military only)
- Outrigger Reef on the Beach
- Halekulani (Oahu’s top luxury resort)
- Sheraton Waikiki
- Royal Hawaiian
- Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach
- Moana Surfrider (Westin)
- I should also mention that New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel is oceanfront, though please note that this hotel is beach front, but not in the heart of Waikiki’s shops and restaurants. It’s close to Diamond Head.
If you can afford an oceanfront room in an oceanfront hotel, it’s paradise. It’s much quieter and absolutely lovely to look out onto the ocean.
Other hotels on Waikiki beach that have rooms with very good ocean views, but are directly across from the beach on Kalakaua Avenue are:
- Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort
- Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort (refurbished in 2018)
- Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
- Aston Waikiki Circle
- Higher rooms at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel
- ‘Alohilani Resort (rebranded after big renovation in 2018)
Waikiki hotels that we know of which have decent but more obstructive ocean/beach views:
- Embassy Suites Waikiki Beach Walk
- Higher rooms at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
- Park Shore Waikiki Hotel – some rooms have nice views of Diamond Head
- Higher rooms at Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger (refurbished in 2018)
Want to stay where there’s a great pool in Waikiki? See our list of the Waikiki hotels with the best pools.
Traveling with a family? See our recommendations for the best family hotels in Hawaii.
For more Oahu accommodation insights and reviews, see this TripAdvisor link.
>> Go back to the main page of the Oahu Vacation Guide