30 May Why You Should Visit Oahu and Where to Stay
If you are planning to visit Oahu, where you stay can make a big difference. We want to share some local knowledge to help you get a better value for your travel dollar and craft a more personalized travel experience.
Why You Should Visit Oahu
Oahu – the third biggest island in the Hawaiian chain is home to the state capital, the biggest airport, the world famous Waikiki beach, Diamond Head, and the only interstate “highways” that don’t actually go between states. I also believe it’s the most underrated island in all of Hawaii as many visitors opt for Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island because they are less developed and less crowded (perfectly good reasons).
But here are some reasons why you should visit Oahu (in no particular order):
A chance to live more like a local: Once outside of Waikiki, you can easily feel like you’re part of the everyday world of Oahu. In fact, there are almost no hotels on the rest of the island. The other islands are more tourist centric, meaning big resorts and everything catered towards tourists (culture, art, etc..). If that’s what you’re are looking for, great. But if you want to eat what locals are eating, do what locals do, etc., then Oahu is your best best for all of that.
Big attractions: Natural beauty? Check. Historical landmarks? Check. Museums, boat rides, other tourist attractions? Check. Check. Check. Oahu has a little bit of everything and maybe a bit more to offer in regards to variety than other islands. I would also argue that there are a lot more attractions on Oahu that are more easily accessible. This includes hiking, snorkeling, surfing, shopping – things you can organize on your own rather than needing to go through a travel agency (though they have those here, too).
Here’s a short list of popular Oahu attractions and sites (with personalized local commentary from me). : )
– Waikiki beach: (not my favorite place but nice to see). It’s gotten really developed and I usually go (and I’m not ashamed to say) for people watching. Especially tourists!
– Diamond Head crater. Straight-forward hike up to the top and great views of Waikiki and the Ko’olau mountain range. Worth doing at least once.
– Hanauma Bay: Some of the best snorkeling in the world and just a neat experience. It’s also just a beautiful area to go to the beach, relax, etc. It’s an old volcanic crater!! A must!
– North shore: Watch surfers, eat in Haleiwa, sample the shrimp food trucks, just drive and enjoy the beauty and laid back lifestyle. Did I mention eating?
– Chinatown: Some of the best Asian food in the country. If you don’t go to Asia or haven’t been, this is the next best thing (one of my favorite places to eat is the Pig & the Lady restaurant)
– Pearl Harbor: The most visited attraction on the island. Pay respect to the fallen at the Arizona memorial and tour old war ships.
– Hike: So many waterfalls and great views on Oahu. There’s too many to list but check out these posts to get started.
– Eat: Oahu has the best variety and the best prices in the state.
Before even looking at different locations I have to ask: are you planning to rent a car during your visit?
Not Renting a Car
If you decide NOT to rent a car, then you’ll probably want to find a hotel or Airbnb that has many things in walking distance or is on a bus route. While I hesitate to recommend this, on Oahu, that would be the Waikiki/Honolulu area.
Why? Waikiki has access to everything in walking distance – the beach, shopping, restaurants, etc. Also, there’s a lot of transportation options like the trolley system or The Bus that can help you get to places. There will be a ton of variety in the types of lodging available because of the sheer number of hotels and Airbnbs in the area.
The downside? It’s touristy. It’s crowded. Honolulu is a major city with all the things major cities have (loud noises, traffic, pollution, etc.). You’re definitely in the thick of it all, but if you’re looking for overall convenience and – again – not renting a car, you’ll want to stay here.
This definitely gives you more options regarding places you can stay and use a home base to go explore. If you’re renting a car, it should be because you want to see and experience as much of the island as possible. It also maximizes your time. Traveling to Hawaii is expensive and you might not have weeks to explore. This means that to get the most value out of your time there, you’ll want to have control of your time and not wait for things like the bus.
Jedd’s recommendation: I would definitely suggest renting a car as it’s the best value for your time and money to see and experiencing things on the island.
If you rent a car there are two big options here to consider: stay in town, or stay in the country.
TOWN vs. COUNTRY
“Town” refers to the metropolis area of Honolulu. It’s a pretty big area and is the business heart of the island. This means that every morning from all directions people are headed to town. This is the BIGGEST thing to be aware of when planning your itinerary for your visit to Oahu.
From 6:30am – 9:00am there is a ton of traffic heading to town and from 4:30pm – 7:00pm going away from it. So when making your choice of where to stay, you want to take this into consideration and choose activities where you are going against the flow of traffic.
“Country” refers to basically any area outside of the main city. Do not be fooled into thinking that it means anywhere outside of the city is typical country, farm life. It does mean that these areas are usually less busy and chaotic.
Photo credit: Blog post images 3, 4, 6, 7 by brother Josh Chang
The Complete ‘Where To Stay On Oahu’ Guide
There is a lot more I can tell you about Oahu than I can fit in this blog post. For a more detailed guide on the different areas around Oahu that I recommend, I put together a free PDF guide for you. It has 14 pages packed with the following:
- A list of the best places to stay, depending on the goals of your trip
- Pros, cons, vibe, and nearby attractions for each area
- Hotel and Airbnb recommendations
- More details on what to consider when booking your stay
Use the form below to get your free PDF Guide!
Free: Where to Stay on Oahu Guide
Get our in-depth local's guide to staying on Oahu. Includes recommended areas based on your trip goals, plus pros and cons break down for various regions of the island.