Where to Stay in Oahu, Hawaii, for a Local Experience

Renovated in 2018, the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach hotel is all about the wow factor
Renovated in 2018, the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach hotel is all about the wow factor | Courtesy of Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach / Expedia
Photo of Charlene Fang
3 February 2021

Oahu’s unique city-beach and laid-back island vibe welcomes travelers looking to live out their aloha and luau dreams. There’s everything from cool urban boltholes to beachfront cottages and flashpacker hostels to stay at on the most popular island in Hawaii. Here’s our pick.

The Surfjack

Boutique Hotel, Independent Hotel
Map View
The Surfjack
Courtesy of the Surfjack / Expedia

Every once in a while, you get a hotel makeover that manages to blend a cool, modern aesthetic with affordable rates and local flavor. In Hawaii, that’s the Surfjack, where the wave-loving vibe and design highlights, such as the tiled Wish You Were Here message on the bottom of its plunge pool, make for a memorable stay. Graphic prints and wood accents enliven the uncluttered rooms, which include a refrigerator and private balcony. Other perks include free beach bike rentals, a rotating calendar of events and the poolside Mahina & Sun’s, for elevated Hawaiian fare and American standards.

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Queen Kapi'olani Hotel

Hotel
Map View
Queen Kapiolani Hotel, Honolulu
Courtesy of Queen Kapi'olani Hotel / Expedia
Following a spruce-up, the Queen Kapi’olani Hotel is now a hip, modern stay, with a lobby that features colorful, Pop-art prints by local artists Mike Field, Nick Kuchar and Katie Borde. The rooms’ main USP remains the same: views of Waikiki Beach and the majestic Diamond Head crater. But updated amenities – flat-screen TVs, Serta Dream mattresses, laptop-sized safes, Hawaiian Tropics goodies – is more than welcome. Wondering who Queen Kapiolani is? Check out her portrait on the second floor Royal Art Gallery, alongside other members of Hawaiian royalty. Drop by before heading to the third-floor rooftop pool deck for food and cold brews.
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Manoa Valley Inn

Inn
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Manoa Valley Inn
Courtesy of Manoa Valley Inn / Expedia

Expect super-comfy beds and a hearty, home-cooked breakfast at this quaint historical inn. Situated in the residential neighborhood of Manoa Valley, a five-minute stroll from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, it has seven air-conditioned rooms with ensuite baths, a saltwater pool and a lush tropical garden to unwind in. For history buffs, the house was built in 1912 and later added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

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Halekulani Hotel

Resort, Hotel
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Halekulani
Courtesy of Halekulani Hotel / Expedia
There’s a bit of a ritzy-beachy vibe happening at the Halekulani Hotel, from the whitewashed rooms, bathed in shades of white with marble and wood accents, and overlooking Waikiki Beach and the magnificent Diamond Head, to the formal dress code required by Franco-Hawaiian restaurant La Mer and its prime position on Grey’s Beach, once used by Hawaiians as a place of healing. The resort’s freshwater pool, while smaller than most, must be the prettiest in Oahu, with an orchid design said to be crafted from more than a million mosaic tiles. The hotel also offers weekly behind-the-scenes tours, as well as a legacy tour that retells its storied past.
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The Laylow Hotel

Chain Hotel
Map View
The Laylow Hotel
Courtesy of the Laylow Hotel / Expedia

Calling all millennials: make yourself at home at the Laylow Hotel, where rooms come with sturdy platform beds, mid-century chairs and Instagram-worthy monstera-leaf wallpaper. This urban bolthole is not just style without substance, though: guest perks include exclusive Lather bath products, a welcome basket with two pairs of their signature slippers, cruiser-bike rentals and a ukulele (because, Hawaii). Not to forget there’s the Hideout, serving modern hapa Hawaiian cuisine and some of the finest mai tais in town.

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Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach

Resort, Independent Hotel, Luxury
Map View
Alohilani Waikiki Beach
Courtesy of Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach / Expedia

Sixty steps – that’s all it takes to get from this hotel to Waikiki’s sandy shores. Renovated in 2018, this hotel is all about the wow factor. There’s the huge aquarium in the lobby, filled with colorful tropical fish; two restaurants from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto; an infinity pool that’s popular with local scenesters; and rooms decorated in an understated luxe style (imagine cream hues and warm-wood accents). Shell out for one of the nine suites and all-day access to the Longboard Club is thrown in, plus there are deep-soaking tubs and expansive lanais (verandas) for extra bragging rights.

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  • Hotel LaCroix Waikiki

    Hotel
    Map View
    Hotel LaCroix Waikiki
    Courtesy of Hotel LaCroix Waikiki / Expedia

    In the olden days, koa wood wasn’t allowed to be owned by anyone except Hawaiian royalty. Today, it’s used everywhere in Hawaii, whether it’s constructing surfboards and outrigger canoes or decorating hotels such as Hotel LaCroix Waikiki, where hardwood floors and bedheads impart Hawaiian chic to all spaces. The hotel sits at the crossroads of Ainahau Triangle and Fort DeRussy parks. Skip the smallish standard rooms for an upgraded corner studio or the kitchenette rooms, which come with a spacious balcony. For a real splurge, though, the Platinum City View opens out to a large lanai (veranda) overlooking the city. Amenities-wise, there’s a pool, sauna and compact fitness center, and they’ll happily welcome your furry friend, too.

    Ke Iki Beach Bungalows

    Apartment
    Map View

    There’s no air conditioning or amenities at Ke Iki Beach Bungalows, but you really won’t need either, being directly on Ke Iki Beach and a 10 minutes’ drive from the buzzy town of Haleiwa. The laid-back bungalows (each named after a tropical flower) make up for its shabby chic vibe, with a view of the North Shore’s famous 30-foot surf in the wintertime and a fully kitted out layout whatever the season – the largest can sleep up to eight. Being right next to the Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, Shark’s Cove and Waimea Bay also means time getting gnarly comes oh-so easily.

    Hotel Renew

    Budget Hotel, Independent Hotel
    Map View
    Hotel Renew
    Courtesy of Hotel Renew / Expedia

    Cool-seeking couples will find no issue with a stay at Hotel Renew. This wallet-friendly option is bathed in minimalist black, grey and pink hues, within whistling distance of Waikiki beach. Handy on-the-house extras include a free brekkie, in-room PS3 console, beach gear and admission to the Honolulu Museum of Art and Bishop Museum. While rooms don’t have balconies, the menu of essential oils is a nice touch that’ll make you feel right at home.

    The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel

    Hostel
    Map View
    The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel
    Courtesy of the Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel / Expedia

    If staying in a hostel has been a no-go since you upgraded to a suitcase, you might reconsider for the Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel. Located an easy surfboard-carrying stroll away from Kuhio Beach, the rooms are well maintained and come with air conditioning. Regardless which room type you choose (with the exception being the semi-private rooms), there’s an ensuite bathroom, while the one-bedroom suite includes a full kitchen for longer stays. As at every decent hostel, there’s a roster of affordably priced tours, excursions and events, including a free pizza night. They also loan you boogie boards, beach floats and chairs, and the rooftop space is a great meeting spot if you’re looking to connect with like-minded travelers.

    These recommendations were updated on February 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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