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Where to Stay in Honolulu | Best Areas & Hotels

Where to Stay in Honolulu | Best Areas & Hotels

The question of where to stay in Honolulu is undoubtedly going to come up if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii. If you’ve never visited the islands before but want to know what the best attractions are and where you should stay, then our article might be able to help you.

Where to Stay in Honolulu in 2022

Honolulu is the capital city of Hawaii, and as such, it’s one of the most famous and busy tourist destinations in the entirety of the US. The city has all of the characteristics of the metropolis of a tourist hotspot.

There are plenty of landmarks and locations that tell the history of the natives, luaus and festivals that celebrate the culture, and plenty of other attractions as well.

Figuring out where to stay in Honolulu really depends on what you’re looking to get out of your trip to the city. Most people that come to the islands are only interested in the beaches, and for good reason.

If you’re one of those tourists, then all you really need to focus on when it comes to Honolulu is the Waikiki area. However, the city also has plenty of other natural beauty that you can see, trails that you can hike, and bars where you can share a drink with your friends and party until you drop.

Moreover, as it befits an exotic island, there’s no shortage of aquariums either, so ecotourists won’t leave unimpressed. The bottom line is this: Honolulu is a major tourist attraction for a reason, and anyone that comes here will definitely find something fun that they can do.

Our advice would be to look through our article and focus on the attractions that catch your eye the most, and base your accommodation decision on that.

Honolulu’s 5 Best Parts of Town

Close-up of a printed map showing where to stay in Honolulu

SevenMaps/Shutterstock

There are plenty of smaller areas of the city, but in our opinion, these are the five major districts that you should pay attention to:

  1. Waikiki: Surfing, sky-high hotels, and the Honolulu Zoo
  2. Downtown Honolulu: The best place on the islands if you’re looking for a bar
  3. West Honolulu: Ionai Palace, the statue of Kamehameha I, and other historical landmarks
  4. North Honolulu: Great hiking trails and plenty of natural beauty
  5. East Honolulu: A little bit of everything for just about everyone 

Honolulu’s Best Areas and Hotels

The city of Honolulu covers an area of 68.4 square miles, and the population is above 300,000, so it’s not a small city by any stretch of the imagination. Mind you, that’s not counting the whole Honolulu metro area, which counts nearly a million.

Luckily, despite the size, you can essentially divide the city into a few major areas, making it easy to navigate.  Most of the hotels are concentrated in a single general area near the coast, making it easy to find an option that you’ll like.

On the other hand, this does mean that you’ll have to take public transportation or have a long way to walk if you want to get from your hotel to a particular attraction or landmark that you want to see.

We’ll do our best to point out the best hotels in each area, but keep in mind that not all of them are going to be close to the attractions that we mention.

1. Waikiki

Aerial view of Waikiki Beach with the volcano in the background

Karamysh/Shutterstock

Waikiki has a ton of interesting attractions that many visitors unfortunately seem to overlook. One of these attractions is the Waikiki Aquarium, which is the home of many exotic fish species that you won’t be able to find around the islands, as well as a few domestic breeds.

Some of the most popular exhibits in this location would have to be seahorses, seadragons, and pipefishes. However, if that’s not really to your liking, then there are plenty of other tours that you can check out.

If we move on from aquatic life to land-based animals, then you’ll also find that this area is the home to the Honolulu Zoo. There are quite a lot of exotic animals that you can check out, close to a thousand, in fact.

Additionally, while most of the Hawaiian islands have plenty of fantastic beaches that you can visit, the Waikiki area is absolutely covered in them.

Here, you’ll be able to rent out a lounge chair and work on your tan, do a bit of swimming, or maybe even try and play a few games of beach volleyball with your friends. Since Waikiki is also Honolulu’s nightlife hub, it’s probably the most famous spot on the islands.

As a result of this, it’s pretty common to have large groups of tourists in this area and have the hotels in the vicinity be booked up, so you’ll need to plan ahead of time if you want to stay here.

Things to Do

  • Buy a ticket to the Honolulu Zoo and walk through the location and check out all of the different animal species that you can find here.
  • Visit the Waikiki Aquarium and see all of the different colorful aquatic life housed here, and maybe learn a little bit from the fish exhibits that you find.
  • Go to the beach and have some fun in the sun, or just sit down in a beach-side bar and escape the heat with the help of a nice cold drink.

Where to Eat

  • Barefoot Beach Cafe comes with live music performances and BBQ on the weekends.
  • Hau Tree is a seaside eatery with some great options for brunch.
  • Tikis Grill & Bar is a great place to get a cocktail and some traditional Hawaiian food.

Waikiki Budget Hotels

  • Park Shore Waikiki comes with a 42-inch flat-screen TV in every room, a rooftop swimming pool that guests can use, and fitness and yoga classes are provided as complimentary hotel services.
  • Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach provides the guests with access to a gallery market that’s always open, where you can get a selection of different foods, and you also have a swimming pool and a furnished sun terrace that guests can use.

Waikiki Mid-Range Hotels

  • Hilton Grand Vacations Club comes with concierge services that can help you schedule scuba diving and deep-sea fishing trips and even get you a spot on the local golf courses.
  • Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach has an HD flat-screen TV in every room, a swell pool, a saltwater heated infinity pool, a kids pool, and a hot tub that guests can use, as well as several on-site restaurants.

Waikiki Luxury Hotels

  • The Ritz-Carlton Residences provides all of the guests with access to a full-service spa that offers customized treatments that you can choose from, as well as several in-house restaurants that serve Italian, Japanese, and French cuisine.
  • Trump International Hotel Waikiki comes with an in-house steak house that you can visit and get yourself some classic American dishes, a 24-hour fitness center where you can work out, and a 55-inch flat-screen TV in every room.

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2. Downtown Honolulu

Downtown Honolulu pictured from the top of a building with the sun setting behind the clouds in the background

Structured Vision/Shutterstock

Yet another location known for its nightlife is Downtown Honolulu, which is probably its main attraction. Given the sheer number of bars and nightclubs that you can visit, you’ll never run out of entertainment and recreation, even if you do get bored of the beaches.

Speaking of, people usually visit Hawaii to lounge on the beautiful seaside and swim in the ocean, so they usually forget that there are plenty of other things that they can try out as well.

Going down any street in the Downtown District of Honolulu is sure to result in you finding a bar that you like and then spending the entire night drinking and partying. If you’d like to avoid nasty hangovers, though, there are also plenty of jazz lounges where you can just chill out and enjoy the mellow atmosphere.

This area is also the home of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, where you’ll be able to learn a bit more about the people that moved here, the intricacies of their culture, and the troubles that they had to go through.

You can also go to the Oahu Nature Tours and check out the many beautiful spots around the island of Oahu. The busy nightlife district of any city is going to be a bit more costly than most of the other sections, and Honolulu is no different.

Everything from the cafes to the hotels that you find in this area is going to cost you a lot more than trying to find a room or get a drink in any other part of the city.

Things to Do

  • Go around the island on one of the many available nature tours and check out some of the most breathtaking sights and important historical locations.
  • Look through all of the bars in this area and check out the mood and the music in all of them before deciding on where you’d like to spend the night.
  • Visit the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and check out the different cultural exhibits, martial arts exhibits, the teahouse, and even the gift store if you want to buy something.

Where to Eat

  • Frostcity is the best place in the area if you want to get a nice frozen treat.
  • Leonard’s Bakery is where you go if you’re in the mood for some pastries.
  • Koko Head Cafe offers breakfast udon, as well as a lot of Pan-Asian dishes that you can try.

Downtown Honolulu Budget Hotels

  • Ala Moana Condo by Orgoto offers a sun terrace that guests can use, a swimming pool where they can do a few laps, free wifi, and private parking; there’s a flat-screen cable TV in every room.

Downtown Honolulu Mid-Range Hotels

  • Pagoda Hotel provides all of the guests with a mini-fridge, a microwave, an AC unit, a coffee maker, and a flat-screen cable TV in every room; you also have an in-house restaurant and an on-site restaurant that you can visit.

Downtown Honolulu Luxury Hotels

  • Ala Moana Hotel offers an a la carte breakfast every morning in the in-house cafe, all of the rooms come with a flat-screen cable TV, and you also get a swimming pool and a fully-equipped fitness center that you can use at any time.

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3. West Honolulu

Iolani Palace pictured in West Honolulu, one of the best places to visit in the city

Richie Chan/Shutterstock

West Honolulu is the best place in the city for tourists that want to see some of the most significant cultural attractions that Hawaii has to offer. This is the area where you’ll be able to learn the most about the people that lived on the islands, their cultural heritage, and a bit more about the city as well.

One of the most appealing attractions in this area of town is the Iolani Palace. This used to be the residence of the Hawaiian monarchs back in the day, and as such, the inside is covered in opulent paintings, decorations, and furniture.

If you’re already in the area, you might also want to visit the Aliiolani Hale and the statue of King Kamehameha I. The Aliiolani Hale is the building that serves as the home of the Hawaiian State Supreme Court, which also used to serve as the former seat of government of the ruler of Hawaii.

The statue, on the other hand, was built to commemorate the king that united all of the islands after a major conflict back in 1810.

This area is also the home of the Hawaii State Art Museum, where you can go and check out all of the different paintings, sculptures, and different art exhibits that are on display. West Honolulu is the best place for history buffs and people that like to experience the culture of the places that they visit.

On the other hand, there aren’t all that many attractions in this part of the city that aren’t culturally enriching, so it might not be the place to go if you’re looking for a party in the city.

Things to Do

  • Aloha Tower is a historic landmark in the city, as well as a shopping mall and a dining marketplace that you can visit.
  • The Iolani Palace is a landmark that all tourists absolutely must visit and check out all of the regal beauty that it has on display.
  • Visit the statue of King Kamehameha I and check out the monument that was built in honor of one of the most influential people in the history of Hawaii.
  • Check out Aliiolani Hale with its massive garden in the front, and maybe take a tour around the building that used to serve as the heart of the ruling class back in the day.

Where to Eat

  • Nanding’s Bakery offers mongo loaves, ubo rolls, Spanish rolls, and plenty of other pastries.
  • Hawaiian Pie Company offers exactly what you might think based on the name alone.
  • Honolulu Cookie Company is where you go if you want to try some cookies with less conventional flavors like mango and macadamia.

West Honolulu Budget Hotels

  • Pacific Marina Inn comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a sun deck that all of the guests can use, all of the rooms come with a microwave, a refrigerator, and a cable TV, and you also get an in-house restaurant that you can visit at any time.

West Honolulu Mid-Range Hotels

  • Airport Honolulu Hotel provides guests with an on-site convenience store that they can visit, an outdoor swimming pool and a fully-equipped fitness center that they can use, and rooms that come with an AC unit and a flat-screen cable TV.

West Honolulu Luxury Hotels

  • Best Western The Plaza Hotel has an amazing free hot breakfast buffet, a business center that’s always open, and rooms that come with free wifi and a flat-screen cable TV.

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4. North Honolulu

Punchbowl Crater pictured for a piece on the best places to stay in Honolulu

Honolulu, HI – 25 January 2020: Entrance to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in punchbowl crater on Oahu, Hawaii/Steve Heap/Shutterstock

Probably the most appealing spot for visitors in this area would have to be the Hawaii Nature Center. This is your exploration base if you’re looking for nature tours, hiking trails, or picnic spots in the scenic forest.

This is the perfect spot for nature lovers that prefer to spend their vacations in the mountains rather than by the sea. You can visit all of the different trails in the area, see the city from a birds-eye view, and get a bit of exercise and fresh air in the process.

You can also go and visit the famous Punchbowl Crater and the cemetery that’s housed there. The crater is what’s left of a volcano that used to be active on the island back in the day, and the cemetery stands as a reminder of all of the brave US soldiers that died during World War II.

The one unfortunate part of this area is the fact that there are no hotels to speak of. Honolulu has a ton of hotels in Waikiki but very few anywhere else. As a result, we’ve selected the best hotels that are best for exploring North Honolulu location-wise, but they’re still located in the Waikiki area. 

This does mean that you’ll have to travel a bit in order to get to the attractions that you want, but public transport is relatively cheap so it shouldn’t be much of a hassle.

Things to Do

  • If you go a bit to the north, you’ll be able to get to some of the best hiking trails on the island that leads to the famous Manoa Falls.
  • Put on your hiking shoes, take a bottle of water with you and check out all of the different paths that you can take, and see the beauty of the island from up on high.
  • Visit the Punchbowl Crater Cemetary and check out what was once a site on an active volcano but now serves as a memorial to the people that fought in WW2.

Where to Eat

  • Makiki Inn is a great place to go if you want to grab some breakfast for take-out.
  • Waioli Kitchen & Bake shop is a great place to sit on the terrace and have a nice coffee and a light breakfast in the morning.
  • Morning Glass Coffee is the best place to get your morning cuppa joe.

Waikiki Budget Hotels

  • Hotel LaCroix Waikiki comes with a front desk that’s always open and available for any issues that you might have, as well as a 42-inch flat-screen TV in every guest room.
  • Aqua Skyline at Island Colony provides you with access to an outdoor swimming pool and a hot tub that you can enjoy, as well as a 40-inch flat-screen cable TV and a PlayStation 3 that you can play on it.

Waikiki Mid-Range Hotels

  • Park Shore Waikiki offers an authentic Japanese-style breakfast in the in-house restaurant every morning, fitness and yoga classes in the gym, and a rooftop swimming pool.
  • Aston at the Waikiki Banyan comes with a flat-screen cable TV, a PlayStation 3, and a full kitchen in every room, as well as an outdoor swimming pool on the roof.

Waikiki Luxury Hotels

  • Hilton Hawaiian Village comes with free wifi and a free parking spot for every room, an activities desk that offers surfing, snorkeling, stand-up paddle board, and kayaking lessons, and a full-service spa that guests can take advantage of.
  • Sheraton Waikiki provides all of the guests with access to four separate on-site dining options, a massive outdoor swimming pool that they can use, and a flat-screen TV and a coffee maker in every room.

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5. East Honolulu

East Honolulu skyline with Ala Wai Canal in foreground for a piece on where to stay in Honolulu

G Ward Fahey/Shutterstock

East Honolulu is a relatively tame part of the city, but it has a little bit of something from all of the other districts. There are plenty of interesting attractions that you can visit, quite a few bars and cafes where you can enjoy a drink with your friends, and a lot of beaches.

The Dolphin Quest Oahu is a very popular attraction in the area. It allows you to either catch a show where the dolphins perform tricks with their trainers or have more of a hands-on experience and actually get in the pool with the stars of the show. 

East Honolulu is also the home of the Shangri La Museum. This facility houses many fascinating pieces of Islamic art, culture, and design.

If you’re a fan of galleries and would like to see the exhibits that display works from famous artists, then this is the best place for you. This area has the same issue as the previous one, namely the lack of hotels and the need to travel from Waikiki in order to get to the attractions that you want to visit.

However, the Waikiki area is immediately next to this one, so the trek to the attractions or the beaches isn’t all that much of a hassle, and you can usually just walk the distance.

Things to Do

  • Visit the historic Diamond Head State Monument and learn a bit about the events that happened here.
  • Dolphin Quest Oahu is one of the most popular attractions in the area, where you can swim with these majestic mammals.
  • Go to the Shangri La Museum and walk through Heiress Doris Duke’s estate to look through her acclaimed Islamic art collection.

Where to Eat

Waikiki Budget Hotels

  • White Sands Hotel provides you with access to an in-house restaurant that you can use, as well as a 37-inch flat-screen LCD TV in every room.
  • Kaimana Beach Hotel has a flat-screen cable TV, a mini-fridge, an AC unit, and free wifi in every room, as well as complimentary Lather bath amenities.

Waikiki Mid-Range Hotels

  • Waikiki Malia by Outrigger has a reception desk that’s always open and available to take your calls, as well as both a fitness center and a dry cleaning service that guests can take advantage of.
  • Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa provides all of the guests with a complimentary breakfast buffet every morning, an outdoor swimming pool, and a satellite TV in every room.

Waikiki Luxury Hotels

  • Halepuna Waikiki has an on-site fitness studio with classes that guests can attend, an infinity lap pool and a hot tub that they can take advantage of, and a full-service spa.
  • The Royal Hawaiian comes with an on-site cocktail bar where you can get a drink with your friends, two outdoor swimming pools that you can use, and a high-speed wifi connection in every room.

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So, Where Should You Stay in Honolulu?

So we might have gone through a bit too much information on the city, and it’s okay if you’ve gotten a bit lost. Here are all the bare essentials before you go on your trip:

  • North Honolulu has plenty of hiking trails and a lot of natural beauty that outdoorsmen and nature enthusiasts will really appreciate.
  • East Honolulu has a little bit of everything for everyone, and the prices of the drinks aren’t as high as certain other parts of the city.
  • West Honolulu has a lot of significant landmarks and is a treasure trove of information on the island for history buffs.
  • Downtown Honolulu is the place to be if you’re trying to find a party in town and if you like to spend your vacations drinking and partying until the morning comes.
  • Waikiki is the best place for anyone that likes to spend their vacation on the beach. It also has a lot of fun attractions and is home to most of the hotels in the city.

Regardless of where you stay, you’ll be close to the beach, in the company of friendly locals, and of course surrounded by beautiful weather and even better scenery. Happy travels!