From idyllic, sea turtle-filled beaches to world-class shopping and entertainment, there’s a lot to see and do on Oahu. The “gathering place,” as it’s known in its native Hawaiian, Oahu is arguably the best island in Hawai‘i for first-time visitors because it has so much to offer every type of traveler. But what about the best area to stay on Oahu?
This quick guide will answer that very question. Or, if you’re ready to go, book your trip with Fora to get all the insider tips, plus awesome hotel perks and upgrades.
Either way, you’ll know exactly where to stay on Oahu on your Hawai‘i vacation.
The best areas to stay in Oahu: regions & neighborhoods
Visiting Oahu is bucket list-worthy, to say the least. The bustling capital of Honolulu contrasts beautifully with the island’s incredible, natural scenery. There are four major regions of Oahu worth staying in: the aforementioned Honolulu, the North Shore, the Windward Coast to the east and the Leeward Coast to the west. Here’s how they break down.
Honolulu isn’t just one of the best areas to stay in Oahu, it’s one of the best places to stay in Hawai‘i period.
Our insider’s travel guide to Honolulu offers even more exciting details, but here’s a snapshot: Honolulu is by far Hawai‘i’s biggest city, offering everything from amazing cuisine to pristine, white-sand beaches and turquoise-blue water.
If you’re spending a week in Oahu, there’s no way you can miss Waikiki. This is the nightlife capital of Oahu, and it’s here you’ll find the island’s best clubs, bars and restaurants.
Or, if you’re itching for some quiet, you can stroll along the beach at night while the ghost crabs skitter about. Just know that during the daytime you’ll find Waikiki’s beaches to be extremely crowded, as they’re among the hottest (figuratively speaking) destinations in the world.
If you don’t mind the crowds, though, there’s a never-ending list of things to do in Waikiki, like visiting the Honolulu Zoo or taking surfing lessons.
Waikiki also offers an extensive array of accommodation options, from five-star resorts to budget-friendly hotels. And remember: plan your trip with Fora to decide which choice fits your vibe and unlock great hotel perks.
Diamond Head is located a short walk from the east of Waikiki. This less-developed neighborhood of Honolulu offers a balanced blend of city and nature.
Gorgeous trails surround clean city parks, fantastic local dining options and family-friendly resorts and hotels. Hiking the path to Diamond Head State Monument is a great way to earn your steps for the day, with breathtaking views of Waikiki and the Pacific offering a worthwhile reward.
Don’t forget, connect with Fora for the inside scoop on family-friendly attractions in Oahu.
Ala Moana (aka Downtown Honolulu)
One of the best places to visit in Hawai‘i for shopping is in Downtown Honolulu at Ala Moana, Honolulu’s busiest district. Tens of thousands of locals and travelers from all over the world at any given time come here. Everything from luxury attire to handmade goods can be found, along with some of Hawai‘i’s best imported dining options and places to stay.
If you’re looking for cultural immersion, however, you can tour the ‘Iolani Palace, the former home of the Hawaiian Royal Family. The palace was built hundreds of years ago, offering a glimpse of Hawaiian life before Hawai‘i became a US territory.
2. North Shore
Whereas Honolulu stays popular in the south, the beaches of the North Shore are far more leisurely throughout most of the year. In fact, if you were looking for a relaxing Maui vacation, but prefer Oahu’s convenience, you’ll find a very similar experience in North Shore. Either way, booking with Fora can help you with all the details, like where to stay in Maui, North Shore or anywhere else.
The North Shore starts to pick up during the “winter” months (if you can actually call them that, given Oahu’s perfect weather), when the waves start rolling in for surfing season.
The three best areas to stay in Oahu along the North Shore are Turtle Bay, Haleiwa and Waimea. Each offers a cozier atmosphere than Honolulu’s urban sprawl.
However, don’t take that to mean there are a lack of things to do here that aren’t beach related. Hawai‘i travel planners can write volumes on all the nature hikes and watersport opportunities across the North Shore, only about an hour away from Honolulu.
3. Waianae Coast (aka Leeward Coast)
The Waianae Coast, better known as the Leeward Coast, has plenty of sleepy beach towns like Makaha that play host to many fantastic hotels and relaxing resorts. It’s the best area to stay in Oahu if you want a more relaxed experience. The coast is more developed than North Shore but still showcases an abundance of Hawai‘i’s natural greenery and stunning shorelines.
Again, if you’re looking for something a little more developed, Kapolei is quickly becoming Hawai‘i’s second largest city. It’s a great place to stay for families looking for more affordable accommodations outside of Honolulu’s frantic pace. But don’t worry, the city’s only about 20 to 30 minutes away from everything the capital has to offer.
4. Windward Coast
The Windward Coast is probably the best area to stay in Oahu if you’re looking for a good mix of things to do.
The Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie is the area’s top attraction, aside from Oahu’s magnificent beaches. Here you can sample authentic Hawaiian food at a traditional Luau while local performers sing, dance and spin torches and fire knives.
If you want a less intensive experience, Kailua’s relative seclusion offers watersport rentals, relaxing island tours and more. You’ll also find many of Oahu’s best hotels and resorts here, along with a small variety of boutique-style lodging options. And as always, booking with Fora can help you decide which one of these makes the most sense for your vacation.
Let a Fora Advisor help you find the best area to stay in Oahu
Ultimately, the best area to stay in Oahu depends on what you want out of your Hawai‘i vacation, and the best person to talk to about that is a Fora Advisor.
Not only can they give you awesome insider tips you won’t find anywhere else, but they can also book your trip on your behalf so you can focus on the fun. Even better, Fora Advisors have access to all sorts of incredible perks like hotel upgrades and VIP extras for free.
Ready to travel? Connect with Fora to plan and book your getaway today.