Things To See And Do In Diamond Head:
- Put on your walking boots and up to the Diamond Head crater for unbeatable views.
- Hit up the Honolulu Zoo with the kids for a fun day with the animals.
- Pack a picnic lunch and relax in Kapiolani Park.
- After your picnic, head on to nearby Waikiki Aquarium for an afternoon learning about Hawaiis coral reef systems.
- Sans Souci beach is an excellent and safe option for the family with a lifeguard on duty all through the day.
- The Barefoot Beach Cafe is a lovely local option for a quick meal or refreshing drink while you enjoy a day at the beach!
Would We Recommend The Alohilani Resort
I think the Alohilani Resort an awesome place to stay on Oahu with teens or for couples on a romantic getaway. The hotel is really pretty, feels modern, and its SO close to the beach.
The location is also pretty amazing. Its fairly close to Diamond Head and its easy to hop on the freeway without dealing with too much Waikiki traffic.
However, I wouldnt call this a family resort. There really isnt much specifically for kids to do. So if youre heading to Oahu with younger kids, I dont see a big benefit to stay here.
Staying On The North Shore
Including Haleiwa to Turtle Bay
When driving north out of Honolulu, you’ll eventually come to Oahu’s famous north shore. From Haleiwa to Turtle Bay and onward to Laie, this is what Oahu locals refer to as “the country.”
You won’t discover any big box stores or fancy restaurants up here, but what you will find are plenty of beautiful beaches and a variety of quaint surfing towns. Most of your accommodations options are going to be Vacation Rentals or B& B’s.
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, but still want to be close to shopping and dining, try and stick closer to Haleiwa. Or consider the one major resort property on the north shore of Oahu, the Turtle Bay Resort. At only 45 minutes from Waikiki, it can feel like an escape on the island – offering less noise and crowds than the busier regions. If you’re looking to stay over near the Laie area, consider the Courtyard by Marriot Oahu North Shore.
- Beautiful landscape and many stunning beaches, including Sunset Beach and the world famous Banzai Pipeline
- Summer conditions are great for water activities
- Less crowded & more laid back than other parts of Oahu
- Historical and cultural sights to experience, including Waimea Valley, and Queen Liliuokalani Church
- A variety of boutique-style/vacation rental choices available
- Limited choices and availability of accommodations
- Dining and entertainment options are limited
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Where To Stay In Kailua And Lanikai
Located on the windward side of the island , Kailua is a quaint little beach town thats home to some of the prettiest beaches in Hawaii. This part of the island is one of the major areas that people in the know or people who like to travel more off the beaten path/more locally tend to zero in on. And for good reason. 1) the aforementioned beautiful beaches, 2) the local community feel, and 3) the escape from Waikiki.
But its not perfect . Heres the rundown on Kailuaits been discovered. What used to be an honest to goodness local community is now slowly turning into what many locals disparagingly call a little California. Mixed in among the local breakfast joints and surf shops, youll now find a Target and Whole Foods. And building is on the rise. Now, as a visitor this isnt likely to bother you , BUT its caused quite a bit of strain on the local community in recent years.
The rise in popularity of sites like Airbnb resulted in a lot of property being bought by wealthy folks from the mainland and being rented out as short term vacation rentals to visitors. In addition to creating a bit of a housing crisis , it also changes the community .
What does that mean for you? To get this problem under control , theyve really cracked down on illegal vacation rentals .
Read about my favorite things to do in Kailua here.
Where To Stay At The Royal Hawaiian Beach
Sail on a catamaran, paddle a Hawaiian outrigger, surf, or stroll north a couple blocks for window-shopping and nightlife theres always something to do by the Royal Hawaiian Beach. With so many hotels in the area, it can be hard to choose, so weve put together a list of recommendations that will make booking a Hawaiian breeze.
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Best Luxury Hotel In Ala Moana: Ala Moana Hotel
Offering a sauna, outdoor pool, gym, and sun deck with skyline views, this 4-star hotel is an ideal base while youre in Oahu. This all makes this hotel a great choice when youre deciding where to stay in Oahu for your first time. Each room is air conditioned and comes with a private bathroom and all the amenities. And theres an in-house restaurant on site for late night meals.
Kahala Hotel & Resort
Another great hotel option a bit outside the main Waikiki strip, the Kahala Resort is located in the affluent neighborhood of Kahala.
Its one of the most luxurious beach resorts in Honolulu and a popular place to stay for repeat visitors to Oahu, as it offers luxury oceanfront rooms with a bit of privacy!
Spacious rooms have modern decor, private balconies, sunken soaking bathtubs and unbeatable views.
Finally, The Kahala even has its own secluded beach as well as a lagoon where you can swim with dolphins! This is a great place to stay for both couples and families as it feels extraordinarily private.
And finally, The Lotus Honolulu is another hidden gem.
Located in the quiet and calm neighborhood of Kaimana Beach, its situated between Diamond Head and relaxing Kapiolani Park. If you love green spaces, sheltered coves and quieter views of the beach, youll love it here.
The Lotus offers generous rooms decked out in luxury and every room has clear views .
Theres also plenty of amenities and activities offered on property. Participate in the lobbys daily free wine tastings, use their complimentary bikes to cycle around the boardwalk or treat yourself to an in-room massage!
Planning a Trip to Hawaii- Travel Checklist
See | If you have under a week, it’s recommended to visit just 1 island. Most people choose Maui for a honeymoon. If you love nature, check out Kauai. If you’re a first timer, visit Oahu!
For more on what to see, do and eat check out our Oahu itinerary post.
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Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
The largest resort in Hawaii, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is located on the westernmost end of Waikiki. The hotel features a total of 3,386 rooms, five pools, 20 restaurants and bars. Also has access to over 90 shops. A top option for families, not only do guest rooms feature balconies with ocean views, and the hotels kids program is top-notch.
Once you pass the hotels eight hectares of lush tropical landscaping, youll find direct access to a peaceful white sand beach. Join the hotels daily activities, ranging from hula to snorkeling lessons. Sign up for a catamaran or whale watching excursion or head to the nightly luau with a buffet dinner and dance performance.
Star Rating: 4*
Ocean View Cottage With Separate Suite
6 guests · studio + suite · 4 beds · 1 bath
This vacation cottage includes a separate suite nestled within Hawaii Kais beautiful landscape. It offers guests a private and peaceful accommodation with wonderful views of the ocean and lush mountain.
Location: Hillside Hawaii Kai
Downsides: Parking is steep, some mosquitos
We loved this property! The view, privacy, and accommodations were excellent. We would stay there again and hope to return in the future. | This place was GREAT! Surpassed all my expectations! So private and wonderful. | The location is convenient to shopping.
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Diamond Head Where To Stay In Oahu First Time
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. Its 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. Its one of the best places to stay in Oahu 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 Hostel In Waikiki: The Beach Waikik Boutique Hostel By Ih
This hostel in Oahu offers a unique Hawaiian vibe and comfortable surroundings. Its a short walk from the Beach and local shops, restaurants and cafes. This makes it a great choice when youre deciding where to stay in Oahu for nightlife. The hostel offers free regular pizza nights, a rooftop terrace, free shuttle trips and tours, and private or dorm rooms.
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Where To Stay In Ko Olina
This resort community on the west side feels a world away from Waikiki, but very much like a vacation spot instead of the more local Kailua and north shore. I have a sneaky feeling that when most people think of a Maui vacation this is the vibe theyre thinking of. Large resorts with every amenity you can think of, expertly manicured grounds, picturesque beaches that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing, and plenty of restaurants and shops within walking distance. Did I mention the faint sounds of ukulele music and palm trees blowing in the breeze? Thats pretty much Koolina.
There are a few large resorts , a golf course, marina, and a small shopping center with some restaurants, tennis, a couple of luaus. The town of Kapolei is also nearby which has conveniences like Target, Costco, a movie theater, a small waterpark, and quite a few restaurants.
The only downside of staying in Koolina is how remote it is from the rest of the island . You really dont feel like youre on Oahu when youre put in Koolina. You definitely need a car if youre planning to get out and explore other parts of the island. There are a couple of rental car locations at some of the resorts if you decide you just want to rent one for the day.
Read my full guide to Koolina here.
Waikiki Beach Drone Footage
Here some really cool drone footage taken by Just Be Out, of different sections of Waikiki Beach during the Stay-in-Place quarantine. You would have to go beyond a century in time to see it this peaceful…
Whether you are looking forward to surfing, canoe paddling, snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, sand combing, catching a golden tan, people watching, or marveling at a few beautiful Waikiki sunsets, its very easy to have a good time on the different areas of Waikiki Beach.
There is also a beautiful WaikikiBeach promenade, available for those who are interested in taking aleisurely stroll to absorb all the action.
The one thing I love most about Waikiki Beach is no matterwhere you end up, theres always lots of stimulating activitysurrounding you. Personally I like to grab my beach chair,sit back and take it all in.
But with that being said, thereare some sections that tend to be a little more calm than others, offerwider stretches of sand down to the ocean, and some sections that aremore dare I say, secluded.
Sand Replenishment Efforts
A sand replenishment program is taking place once again from eroding sections in Waikiki, including Royal Hawaiian Beach & Gray’s Beach that stretches from the Moana to the Sheraton Hotel. Last replenishment efforts took place in 2012, adding 24,000 cubic yards of sand.
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Best Airbnbs And Vacation Rentals In Downtown & Kakaako
Kakaako is a trendy part of town that used to be an industrial warehouse district. Its known for its new restaurants and condo complexes, colorful street art, close proximity to Ala Moana shopping center and beach park, and Kakaako Saturday Market.
This area is also conveniently near the convention center as well as many of Honolulus historic buildings and government offices. Its not far from Pearl Harbor and the HNL airport either.
Downtown Honolulu is one of the closest areas to stay near the Honolulu airport . Its close to the citys historic buildings and government offices as well as Chinatown.
Waikiki Best Area To Stay In Oahu For Nightlife
Of course, youve heard of Waikiki. Its the most popular area for tourists and is filled with everything you could want on a beach holiday. Its a great choice when youre deciding where to stay in Oahu 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 youre in Oahu for a short holiday, then this is probably where youll stay. The water is warm, the people friendly, the cocktail ubiquitous, and the neighborhood safe. Youll 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.
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Cons For Staying In Waikiki
Crowded: 71,000 visitors a day spending $2 billion a year means the small neighborhood can get packed. The beach is big though but arrive early for a spot.
Restaurants like Dukes, Hula Grill, Cheesecake Factory, La Mer, etc. fill up fast. Make a reservation a day or two in advance to get a table. Dont show up at 5:00 pm with a toddler and expect a seat without a 1 and a half hour wait. We made that mistake.
Not Great for Young Kids: The busy streets, crowded sidewalks, and lack of green space is not ideal for toddlers and young kids. It is a safe place to be but the busy roads and sidewalks can get stressful for parents.
Parking Fees: Resorts will charge an average of $40 a night for parking. Ouch. Day parking at malls and parking garages will run you $6 to $20 a day
Luxury Shopping: It felt like there was only luxury shopping in Waikiki to me. Stores like Hermes, Louise Vuitton, Coach, Chanel, etc. are everywhere. That may be a value-add for some, but for me, there were more luxury options than not. H& M, Zara, and the like can be found also.
Ambiance: Waikiki can feel a bit like a theme park, a little fake, and very hectic. Once you leave your resort, the weather is still amazing but it can be loud and chaotic on the streets. Waikiki might not be the relaxing Hawaiian vacation you were craving.
Hale Waa House Of The Canoe Guest House Rental
4+ guests · 4 beds · 2 baths
Hale Waa is a comfortable 2 story guest house with friendly hosts in the main house. This property is in a residential area within walking distance to the beach and with convenient transportation going downtown. It is a great option for a small group of family or friends.
Location: 5 minute walk to Kahala Beach
Kahala 2 bedroom house 2bed/1bath, sleeps 4
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Where To Stay In Oahu: Waikiki Or Not
Oahu is by far Hawaiis most populated and most visited island and its home to the states capital, Honolulu, and its major tourist hub, Waikiki. Waikiki is home to about 95% of the islands hotel rooms, so naturally, its where most visitors end up staying. But its certainly not the only place to stay on Oahu.
This post may contain some affiliate links, which means Ill make a little money on anything you choose to purchase. But of course, I only recommend my absolute favorites to you. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Hulaland possible.
For being a relatively small island, Oahu is surprisingly diverse. Youve got the big city feel of Honolulu and Waikiki, the quiet country of the north shore, the smaller beach towns on the windward side, and the resort community of Koolina on the west side.
Side Note: Oahu is the main island in the Hawaiian Island chain, but its not whats referred to as the Big Island. Its actually one of the smaller islands in the chain. The Big Island is officially called Hawaii island.
In this post, lookout for two things: 1) Ill give you the lowdown on each part of the island so youll be able to figure out where you want to stay in general and 2) Ill give you specific recommendations on hotels and resorts in those areas.
So Im going to break down the island, make recommendations by area of the island and then Ill give you a rundown of best suggestions for families, honeymooners, and budget friendly options.
Who Would Like Waikiki
Waikiki is the Vegas of Hawaii, without the gambling. Waikiki offers something for anyone of any age to enjoy.
Honeymooners, singles, LGBTQ, couples, seniors, and families of all ages will have a ball in Waikiki. There are family-friendly resorts like the Hawaiian Hilton Village that offers a man-made lagoon and a Friday fireworks show. Couples can enjoy happy hours in dive bars to oceanfront sunsets. Singles will find an active club scene or a pool to relax to their hearts content.
Waikiki is built to make all of its 71,000 daily visitors happy.
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