Updated: December 2017

Oahu / Honolulu Vacation Planning: Best Places to Stay on Oahu

One of the many great things about a trip to Hawaii is the variety of lodging and activities you find on the different islands. The Hawaiian Islands include: Hawaii (the big island), Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai, and Oahu. This guide will focus on introducing you to Oahu, which is in the busiest island, and home to the capital city of Honolulu and 73% of all the people. The famous Waikiki beach and Diamond Head crater are here, as is the Pearl Harbor Memorial. The island is shaped kind of like an inverted heart, and Pearl Harbor and airport are located in the central southern area where the curls of the heart meet.

Making your way east, you run into Honolulu, which has all the makings of a big mainland city, except for the fact that it sits right on beautiful Waikiki Beach. The north side of the island is famous for its amazing surfing conditions, with high winds and big waves. The center part of the island is devoted largely to pineapple plantations, with not much tourist loding outside of the Honolulu area.

Oahu Activities

Tourist activity is focussed mainly on the Honolulu area, where you can learn to surf, snorkel, scuba dive, sail, etc. - all just minutes from your hotel. You can also visit Sea Life Park, where you can swim with dolphins (not cheap, $150 for an hour). Or try a Kualoa Ranch ATV tour or a helicopter flight. For just under $200, you can take a 45 minute deluxe island flight, seeing the rainforests, reefs, beaches, and more. Or spend a day at The Polynesian Cultural Center touring the 7 villages of Polynesia, including Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, Marquesas and Hawaii (and stay for the Polynesian feast for dinner!).

Best Oahu Sight Seeing Tips

Things to do in Honolulu and Waikiki: Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is on the warm, sunny, southern shore of Oahu and it is a tourist mecca. Honolulu is a big city, and highrise buildings line the beach strip, making it feel very commercialized and not like an island paradise (although looking out to see or towards Diamond Head, most visitors sunning on the beach don't seem to mind!). This is a great surfing and swimming beach (almost 4 miles of white sand!), crowded both with couples and families. A popular half-day sightseeing trip is just west of the airport and Honolulu at Pearl Harbor. The famous floating memorial here commemorates the lives lost during the Japanese attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941. For some more scenery around Honolulu, take Tantalus Drive up into the hills above city for majestic views from 2000 feet up. Up around the corner from Diamond Head you'll find the popular Hanauma Bay. This ancient volcanic caldera is a natural lagoon ideal from snorkeling and relaxing. On the north shore you'll find the Waimea Falls Park, where shuttle buses take tourist to the famous waterfall. Don't forget to check out some of the surfing beaches here as well - watching guys ride these giants will take your breath away.
Best Oahu Golf Courses
See our Oahu Golf Guide below.

Best Oahu Beaches

With most tourist activity on the south shore of Oahu, this is also where the major beaches are. Of course, Waikiki as we have already mentioned is the principal beach in Honolulu. The Ala Moana beach is also nearby, staffed by lifeguards, this is a good family park. Hanauma Bay Nature Park is another popular swimming, snorkeling and picnicing area. As a nature preserve, you are instructed not to touch the coral reefs of feed the tropical fish. The nice beach here makes it an ideal spot both for the active swimmers/snorkelers and sunbathers. Sandy Beach, again on the south shore, is popular with bodysurfers when the surf is up, but it is otherwise a good swimming beach. On the north shore, Sunset Beach park is a favorite as the best surfing spot on the island. Even if you don't surf, it makes for some great sightseeing to watch the other surfers. Waimea Beach Park is also popular, as is Ali'i Beach. Swimming is good in the protected bay, and good surfing conditions abound on thie north shore hotspot.

Our Oahu Guide Continues: