Where to Stay in Honolulu: Best Areas & Hotels

Written by Linda Barnard
Nov 17, 2020
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Expect a warm "aloha" when arriving in lush, tropical Oahu. It's part of a culture of hospitality on this island paradise in the Hawaiian Islands chain. Famed Waikiki Beach in Hawaii's capital city, Honolulu, draws sun and surf seekers and those looking to experience Polynesian culture day or night. Set along a curve of pale-gold sand with a dramatic Diamond Head crater backdrop, Waikiki has a variety of hotel options.

Save by choosing a hotel across the street from the beach on the main shopping stroll, Kalakaua Avenue, or head just a few blocks farther inland for even better value. The top sightseeing areas of Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, the King Kamehameha Statue downtown, and the nearby Chinatown shopping district require a rental car, bus trip, or organized tour.

Where to Stay in Honolulu for Luxury

Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach

Located about 10 minutes along the coast from Waikiki on a stretch of quiet, private beach, Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina offers top-notch service. Stunning grounds surround this hideaway hotel. Surfing, scuba, stand up paddleboarding, and cooking classes are available, but you may prefer to chill in a poolside cabana or beach lounger on the sand at the lagoon.

Guests say Halekulani Hotel lives up to its name: "house befitting heaven." Serenity seekers find their paradise at this beachfront stay, which comes with a stunning Diamond Head view. Polynesian therapeutic rituals are available at on-site SpaHalekulani and there are two hotel restaurants: French-influenced La Mer and al fresco Orchids.

Prince Waikiki brings affordable luxury with its recently renovated towers across the road from the tail end of Waikiki Beach. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the beach and marina, while the spacious bathrooms include luxury amenities. The infinity pool has dramatic views, too.

Where to Stay in Honolulu: Mid-Range

Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach

Hip hotel, The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club has a 1960s beach-bum vibe with mid-century modern décor and a signature courtyard pool with "Wish You Were Here" written on the bottom. Rooms and suites are done up in surfer style. Mahina & Sun's restaurant is off the courtyard, and an Olive & Oliver boutique with excellent coffee is right off the lobby. It's a short walk to the beach.

Also a few blocks from the beach and shopping, Vive Hotel Waikiki is a boutique stay combining excellent value and an island welcome, serving guests chilled pineapple juice on arrival. Complimentary continental breakfast is available in the Living Room, where you can also chill during the day with a book from the Recycled Reads Library. Library and music-themed suites offer a modern-glam option.

Next door to the recently renovated dining and shopping hub, International Market Place, on Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger is close to the beach and entertainment options, including the Royal Hawaiian Center. The nightly "The Magic of Polynesia" show at the hotel is a perennial hit with guests.

Where to Stay in Honolulu on a Budget

Waikiki at night
Waikiki at night

Coconut Waikiki Hotel prides itself on its "classic island-chic style" and puts sun seekers a short walk to the beach, or in a lounger on the pool's sun deck. It's close to restaurants and shopping. Start the day with the complimentary continental breakfast.

You'll pay a bit more at the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach, a short walk to the beach and across the road from the International Market Place. The on-site TR Fire Grill Restaurant, as well as Holoholo Café and Market and the coin laundry add convenience to a stay.

Affordable Ewa Hotel has a private rooftop deck with lounge chairs for sunseekers. In addition to rooms, it offers suites and studios, all with kitchens. All accommodations have a coffee maker and mini-fridge. A short walk to the beach and Kapiolani Park, the hotel is also dog-friendly.

Centrally located Pearl Hotel Waikiki is a simple stay with attractive room rates that make up for the lack of amenities, like a pool. It's a five-minute walk to the beach and close to shopping. There's a range of rooms and suites, some with full kitchens and lanais.

Where to Stay in Honolulu for Families

Umbrellas on the beach, Waikiki
Umbrellas on the beach, Waikiki

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is located at the Ko Olina Resort & Marina and offers little visitors a variety of experiences, from character breakfasts to stargazing and Disney movie nights. Aunty's Beach House club provides a break for parents while kids enjoy supervised play.

The private snorkeling lagoon, splash zone, and pool parties delight youngsters, while parents can get pampered at the Laniwai Spa. Villas have kitchens and washer-dryers.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has six swimming pools, including one for kids and a 5,000-square-foot family activity pool with a water slide. Kids' Camp Penguin has games, music, hula lessons, and lei-making.

There's great wading and swimming for wee ones in the sheltered Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. The Starlight Luau dinner and show is held Sunday to Thursday, and a fireworks display lights up the sky every Friday evening.

Where to Stay in Honolulu for Romance

Sunset on Waikiki
Sunset on Waikiki

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort is the classic "Pink Palace of the Pacific," located on Waikiki beach, where it has been welcoming guests, including music and movie stars, since 1927. It offers a mix of room styles, including lofts and suites, both in the main building and towers. The signature banana bread draws raves.

Quiet, wallet-friendly Lotus Honolulu Diamond Head puts the emphasis on alone time for couples, with views of the mountains, beach, and Kapiolani Park. Amenities include free bikes, yoga in the park, and continental breakfast. A shuttle bus takes shoppers to Ala Moana Center.

Where to Stay in Honolulu near the Airport

Honolulu airport
Honolulu airport

Choosing to stay near the airport makes catching a late night or early morning flight out of Honolulu a less stressful endeavor. The Airport Honolulu Hotel is just two miles from Honolulu International Airport and runs airport shuttles 24 hours a day. It is a good-value choice.

This is also a popular choice for families visiting the Pearl Harbor Naval Station, Hickam Air Force Base, or Fort Shafter. Rooms at the 2-star hotel are tidy and comfortable. All come with microwaves and coffee makers. There are also family rooms if you have the kids in tow.

The Best Western The Plaza Hotel is slightly pricier, but guests also get more upscale rooms that have been recently renovated. These come with microwaves and bright patterned curtains and matching bed runners, and they are spacious and tidy. Kids stay free.

The hotel offers a free hot breakfast buffet, and it has an on-site restaurant and a swimming pool. It is also pet friendly. Airport transportation is free. If you're traveling for business, there is a business center on-site.

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