The capital of Hawaii and the gateway to a journey of island hopping throughout this Polynesian archipelago, Honolulu is an amazing city. It’s multicultural, it’s got great food, some beautiful historic buildings, skyscrapers, the famous Waikiki Beach and tons of nature on its doorstep.
But it’s not necessarily just an island paradise – it’s a city. Being a city, there are more than a few different areas to stay in. It’s difficult if you’ve never been here before to work out WHERE to stay in Honolulu.
That’s exactly why we decided to create this handy guide to the seven best neighbourhoods in Honolulu. We’ve got you sorted with tons of things to do and places to stay in each one to help you out.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get into it!
Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Honolulu
- Queen’s Surf Beach – Best neighbourhood in Honolulu for your first time
- Waikiki Beach – Where to stay in Honolulu close to everything
- Waikiki Downtown – Where to stay in Honolulu for nightlife
- Fort DeRussy – Best neighbourhood in Honolulu for families
- Manoa – Where to stay in Honolulu on a budget
- Ala Moana – Best neighbourhood in Honolulu for couples
- Kapi’olani Regional Park – Best neighbourhood in Honolulu for nature lovers
Where to Stay in Honolulu
If you’re on the look-out for just one amazing accommodation option, then look no further than our top three very best places to stay in Honolulu…
Best Hostel in Honolulu
Located in the middle of just about everything in Hawaii’s biggest city, THE BEACH is the perfect place for backpackers to stay and enjoy the beauty of the big island. This place is, without doubt, the best hostel in Honolulu, with loads of activities, a fun atmosphere – and the beach is just half a block away!
Best Budget Hotel in Honolulu
A cool, midrange hotel, Holiday Surf Hotel is your best bet if you’re looking for a budget hotel in Honolulu that won’t completely break your bank. The rooms come with kitchenettes, so you can keep costs low and rustle yourself up some breakfast. Great value for money and helpful staff too.
Best Luxury Hotel in Honolulu
With its grand entrance and many, many rooms, Moana Surfrider is our top pick for the best luxury hotel in Honolulu. It’s got a pool that edges the beach itself, grand stately interiors, numerous types of rooms, and balconies with sea views. This cool Honolulu hotel comes complete with restaurants and bars as well.
Honolulu 7 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
So you want to stay in Honolulu? No problem. We’re about to take you through the seven best neighbourhoods in Honolulu. Each one’s a little different, making this a great destination for anyone!
(Best neighborhood in Honolulu for your first time!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Queen’s Surf Beach – rent bodyboard and try your hand on the waves
- BEST place to visit in Queen’s Surf Beach – go see the animals at Honolulu Zoo
With plenty of waves, sand and activities to get involved with, Queen’s Surf Beach is, without doubt, the best neighbourhood in Honolulu for your first-time visit. It’s a great introduction to life in the Hawaiian capital, that’s for sure.
Located just the other of the Waikiki Wall, towards Diamond Head, Queen’s Surf Beach has a ton of stuff going on. You can spend time here hitting the surf on a bodyboard, playing a few games of volleyball, or trying a spot of snorkelling. The water’s warm and clear and great for paddling!
- Walk the length of the Waikiki Wall for the perfect holiday snaps
- Queen’s Surf Beach, like much of Honolulu, is full of great eateries right next to the surf; so we say, head to Barefoot Beach Cafe @ Queen’s Surf Beach – expect to be dining beachside on Hawaiian dishes
- Join in a sunset yoga class on the grassy park of the beachfront itself (just close to Barefoot Beach Cafe, in fact)
- Take a surf lesson at the Ohana Surf Project; they’ll teach you how to surf as you pick up tips and techniques from the knowledgeable instructors (it’s perfect for adults and children alike)
Best Hostel in Queen’s Surf Beach
Easily the best hostel in Queen’s Surf Beach, Polynesian Hostel Beach Club is the perfect, laid-back place for backpackers to spend a few nights soaking up what Honolulu has to offer. One of the cheapest places to stay near the beach, it’s got a great location, basic rooms, and amazing staff.
Best Budget Hotel in Queen’s Surf Beach
Castle Waikiki Grand Hotel is what we’re saying is the best budget hotel in Queen’s Surf Beach. It’s pretty pricey, but then again: this is Hawaii! This top Honolulu hotel is still affordable though, boasts clean rooms with kitchenettes, an outdoor pool, and awesome views of the sea and surrounding nature from its balconies.
Best Luxury Hotel in Queen’s Surf Beach
Most definitely the best luxury hotel in Queen’s Surf Beach, Park Shore Waikiki boasts beautiful views of the beach and the sea – that’s for starters. It’s also got incredible service, very attentive staff, restaurants, bars and a lovely outdoor pool. Top attractions in Honolulu are close by – so is the beach!
(Where to stay in Honolulu close to everything!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Waikiki Beach – just chill out on the sand: it’s Waikiki Beach!
- BEST place to visit in Waikiki Beach – marvel at Kuhio Hula Mound with its huge banyan tree populated by singing tropical birds
This central area of the Hawaiian capital is quintessential Honolulu. Famous Waikiki Beach is where everybody heads to have a good time, shop, eat, drink, sightsee, or simply sit on the sand; naturally, it’s a popular spot for locals and holidaymakers alike. And it’s really not hard to see why.
Waikiki Beach, the best place to stay in Honolulu close to everything, is edged by a long boulevard that’s lined with hotels, restaurants and cafes galore. There’s a great buzz to the place and moreover: it’s easy to get from here to just about any surrounding area of the city.
- See the Torch Lighting and Hula Show that happens underneath the Kuhio banyan tree just about every evening – it’s totally free and you get to soak up local history and dance (notably the Luau)
- Grab a drink or two at aptly named The Beach Bar; it’s a popular spot for colourful cocktails, live music and is a casual, child-friendly location in fact
- Take a ride on a catamaran for an hour or two – hit the high seas with a few drinks and see what the city looks like from the luxury of your comfy seat on the boat itself
- Try a spot of locally sourced coffee at Honolulu Coffee – this cafe is set inside a beautiful, breezy colonial-style building
Best Hostel in Waikiki Beach
Set in the best neighbourhood to stay in Honolulu that’s close to everything, Waikiki Beachside Hostel is a great all-rounder. The staff are great, there’s space to hang out, entertainment in the evenings, events, snorkel and surf hire. The dorms are simple but clean and chilled. The best hostel in Waikiki Beach.
Best Budget Hotel in Waikiki Beach
This small hotel has a surprising amount to offer. There’s a selection of rooms to suit different budgets and it’s right near the beach, as well as the city centre – the best of both worlds. Being the best budget hotel in Waikiki Beach, you can expect value for money at the restaurant and bar on the ground floor, too.
Best Luxury Hotel in Waikiki Beach
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa – well, of course it’s going to be the best luxury hotel in Waikiki Beach. Hyatt Regency is known for luxury and this one does NOT disappoint. Dine out on the terrace with beach views, unwind with a spa treatment, relax around the pool… it’s all here!
(Where to stay in Honolulu for nightlife!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Upper Waikiki – go watch the sunset from the SKY Waikiki bar
- BEST place to visit in Upper Waikiki – you simply have to go to The Myna Bird Tiki Bar!
Away from the beach, and further to the north and west – near to the Ala Wai Canal – is the bustling area of Upper Waikiki. Here is the place to stay in Honolulu for nightlife; it may be busy in the day, but its bars and restaurants are positively packed after dark.
With lots of lively neighbourhood bars to try out, tapas restaurants, sports bars, and traditional tiki joints – even rooftop bars and late-night clubs – there’s something for everyone’s style of living it up after the sun goes down in this cool neighbourhood in Hawaii.
- Head to the Tapas Restaurant & Lanai Bar for an LGBTQ-friendly night out with tapas-inspired snacks, karaoke, great prices, and really friendly staff – and drinks, of course!
- Hit a few frames of pool at the Honolulu Tavern – it’s a local neighbourhood kind of bar with very reasonable prices and a happy hour; very friendly and classic dive bar
- Night owls can dance all night from 10pm onward at SKY Waikiki’s very own upscale nightclub
- Or hit up Play Bar Nightclub – an unpretentious place to pull some shapes
- Cure your hangover with a big bowl of udon noodles at Marukame Udon Waikiki
Best Hostel in Upper Waikiki
This top hostel in Honolulu may be a little basic, a little simple, but it’s all about one thing: laid-back living. Seaside Hawaiian Hostel Waikiki provides beds for low prices and a social atmosphere that’s good for meeting other travellers. We rate the shared kitchen, too. Definitely the best hostel in Upper Waikiki.
Best Budget Hotel in Upper Waikiki
For the best budget hotel in Upper Waikiki, we’d recommend booking yourself into Coconut Waikiki Hotel. It’s like a boutique hotel – a compact, cosy but stylish place to stay. The hotel is super clean and looked after, rooms have kitchenettes, and there’s a great breakfast served up every morning!
Best Luxury Hotel in Upper Waikiki
One of the coolest hotels in Honolulu, The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club will bowl you over from the moment you step through the doors. It’s a stylish mix of beachy vibes and modernist furnishings: surf chic. The best luxury hotel in Upper Waikiki also features a cute pool. Very Instagrammable.
Editor’s Recommendation! These are the staff pick for the top hostels in Maui (for all budgets!)
(Best neighborhood in Honolulu for families!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Fort DeRussy – have yourself a family BBQ at the park
- BEST place to visit in Fort DeRussy – go take a look at the tanks and helicopters on display at the Army Museum
Fort DeRussy is a lovely area just at the western end of Waikiki Beach. It’s the perfect spot to take your family on holiday, with plenty of natural parklands to enjoy as a well as a wide section of beach to run around on, too. It’s a chilled-out area and the best neighbourhood for families in Honolulu.
Formerly home to the US military base, the ex-barracks at Fort DeRussy themselves are now where you’ll find the U.S. Army Museum of Hawai’i. But there’s more to do than history: it’s lined by the Fort DeRussy Boardwalk, where you can walk from Waikiki Beach all the way to Kahanamoku Beach.
- Pack up a picnic and eat it under the swaying palms close to the sand
- Stroll along the Fort DeRussy Boardwalk for a great family day out; soak up the sights and sounds of the coast till you reach the soft sands of Kahanamoku Beach
- Let your little ones run riot around the playground at the Ainahau Triangle
- Take out a kayak and hit the waves with your kids in tow – it’s a fun way to get to grips with the Honolulu coast that isn’t just lying around on the sand!
- The best way to experience the beach? In luxury, of course – so rent a cabana for the day!
- Watch the fireworks that go off every Friday night
Best Hotel for Backpackers in Fort DeRussy
Imperial Hawaii Resort at Waikiki may not be a top Honolulu hostel, but it is the best hotel for backpackers in Fort DeRussy. This is a good budget option and may be a little dated, but is still clean and set in a prime location just minutes from the beach. What more could you ask for?
Best Midrange Hotel in Fort DeRussy
This area doesn’t have “cheap” hotels, but this one is our top pick for the best midrange hotel in Fort DeRussy. This hotel has large, minimalistic rooms with kitchenettes and large comfy beds. You could opt for a suite if you want more room. With a large outdoor pool, it’s just a 5 minute stroll to the beach.
Best Luxury Hotel in Fort DeRussy
When it comes to high-end hotels in Honolulu, Halekulani has to be up there as one of the best. With its prime position right on the seafront, this place boasts beautiful gardens dotted with palm trees, colonial-style dining areas, beautiful outdoor pool… We’re talking wedding venue vibes at this top luxury hotel in Fort DeRussy.
(Where to stay in Honolulu on a budget!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Manoa – take a hike around the Manoa Valley
- BEST place to visit in Manoa – go take a stroll around the Japanese gardens
A large area spanning north from Highway 1 all the way to Manoa Falls in Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, Manoa – encompassing Manoa Valley – is not just a great area to get to grips with local life or nature: it’s where you should stay in Honolulu if you’re on a budget.
With the University of Hawaii at Manoa making up a big portion of this area, Manoa is also home to a sizeable Asian community; here you’ll things like a Japanese garden, Japanese Cultural Center, Korean churches, a Hindu temple and even a Chinese cemetery. On top of this, it’s all about the nature here.
- Go and see a game of baseball at the Les Murakami Baseball Stadium
- For breathtaking views of the skyscrapers of Honolulu and the sea beyond, join the trailhead for Kolowalu or the Puu Pia Trails – perfect for anyone who loves to hike
- Or try to find your way to Manoa Falls in the thick forests for a truly Jurassic Park type feeling
- Get yourself pepped up for the day with a cup of joe at Morning Glass Coffee; they also serve up some seriously tasty sandwiches here
- Catch a show at the Manoa Valley Theatre – a community theatre that puts on a variety of dramatic productions
Best Hostel in Manoa
You couldn’t get more friendly, welcoming or homely than this branch of Hostelling International – it’s the best hostel in Manoa by a mile. Located close to the university, this top Honolulu hostel is nestled in a charming local area. It’s clean, it’s run by an amazing family, it’s got lovely gardens, it’s reasonably priced. It’s one of the best hostels on Oahu.
Best Budget Hotel in Manoa
As the best budget hotel in Manoa, you can expect some very good value from this place – and that is just what you get. Blue Manoa Studios is a charming place, with rooms that have everything you need for a comfortable, wallet-friendly stay. Balconies with sea views, wood floors, kitchenettes… it’s great!
Best Luxury Hotel in Manoa
This B&B is awash with some truly over the top furnishings and decor for a quirky stay in Manoa. Set in an old colonial house with a grand piano, there’s also a sculpted outdoor pool set in tropical gardens, there’s a beautiful terrace, and rooms are large with antique furnishings. It’s the best luxury hotel in Manoa!
(Best neighborhood in Honolulu for couples!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Ala Moana – swim in the lagoon at Magic Island
- BEST place to visit in Ala Moana – for all things retail the Ala Moana Center is a must-do
For the best neighbourhood for couples in Honolulu, we would suggest making a beeline for the upscale area of Ala Moana. Famous for the big, upscale shopping mall that is the Ala Moana Center, there’s also a lot other options for entertainment around this busy district.
The Ala Moana Regional Park, for instance, is perfect if you and your partner are into outdoor activities (namely, hiking), whilst there’s also a sandy beachfront to lounge around on, too. Not only that but you can head out to Magic Island, a spit of land that makes for fantastic views.
- Tuck into some tasty Hawaiian BBQ at the highly-rated L&L, situated in Ala Moana Regional Park
- Where you can also rent a bicycle and pedal around Ala Moana Park Drive – or explore further afield
- Head to the park to have a game of tennis alongside the sea in one of the many courts
- Shop for all things Japanese at Nijiya Market, a Japanese grocery store
- Go for some unique yoga at Yoga Floats along Ala Moana Beach – it’s all about yoga poses but on neon-lit floats in the shallows (amazing!)
- Search for life under the sea with Scuba Diving Honolulu
Best Hotel for Backpackers in Ala Moana
Ala Moana Hawaii Studio isn’t a hostel, but it’s great for independent travellers. Our pick for the top hotel for backpackers in Ala Moana, this place is, in reality, an apartment block with a number of studios with tons of amenities. Expect a gym, pool, rooms with kitchenettes, and amazing views of the sea and the city.
Best Budget Hotel in Ala Moana
With rooms reflecting the seascape of Hawaii itself, also boasting marble bathrooms and great views, the Ala Moana Hotel is the best budget hotel in Ala Moana. It may not be dead cheap, but it’s value for money: it’s close to the beach as well as the famous Ala Moana Center, a huge shopping complex.
Best Luxury Hotel in Ala Moana
The best luxury hotel in Ala Moana, The Modern Honolulu boasts stylish, minimal rooms: the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the sea. There’s cool design throughout at this top Honolulu hotel, complete with a chic pool area and sleek, plant-strewn bar and restaurant. Very, very nice.
Heading to Hawaii? Save some money with our guide to the coolest hostels in Hawaii!
(Best neighborhood in Honolulu for nature lovers!)
- COOLEST thing to do near Kapi’olani Regional Park – hike around Diamond Head (definitely, 100%)
- BEST place to visit near Kapi’olani Regional Park – head to Kaimana Beach for a well-deserved chill
Basing yourself near Kapi’olani Regional Park means you’ll be in the best neighbourhood in Honolulu for nature lovers. If you’re a nature lover yourself, this is where you’ll want to be. Situated at the foot of the famous Diamond Head Crater, the parkland offers plenty of chance for exploration.
Naturally, it’s easy to get from here to the Diamond Heat volcano itself – for fantastic hiking and fantastic views, of course. There’s also a small, quieter beach (than other parts of town) located here, where you can relax after a hike. And of course, Kapi’olani Regional Park makes for a great stroll, too!
- Go see a concert in Kapi’olani Regional Park itself at the Waikiki Shell – simply put down a rug, bring some snacks (and drinks), and enjoy
- Sit in a hammock on Kapi’olani Beach and sway in the breeze, drifting off to the sound of the surf
- Hike to the summit of Diamond Head Crater and grab a coconut and pineapple smoothie at the top; this really is an incredibly scenic spot, but it’s even better with a refreshing beverage in hand
- Walk to the Kahala Lookout – it’s a famously perfect spot for a stunning sunrise
- Enjoy a long lunch at Hau Tree Lanai with its beautiful garden and Pacific Rim cuisine
Best Hostel near Kapi’olani Regional Park
Situated at the southern end of Waikiki Beach, this branch of Hostelling International has got to be the best hostel near Kapi’olani Regional Park. Although rooms are simple, they’re clean and the owner is super helpful and welcoming. Nature is just on your doorstep at this great, budget Honolulu hostel.
Best Budget Hotel near Kapi’olani Regional Park
The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel is perfect for nature lovers. This top budget hotel near Kapi’olani Regional Park is surrounded by treetops, the beach, and the grassy regional parkland itself. It’s a quiet place to stay that won’t cost a bomb. The best thing to do here is to sit on the balcony and soak it all up, but the bar’s not bad either!
Best Luxury Hotel near Kapi’olani Regional Park
Situated just moments away from the epic Diamond Head Crater, this amazing hotel features jaw-dropping views of the crater itself. With classic, classy design, this place boasts ornate wood carvings, a natural colour palette and a relaxing atmosphere. Easily the best luxury hotel near Kapi’olani Regional Park.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Honolulu?
Honolulu is a dream. It’s got a ton of things going for it: from the history, the food and the hiking to the beaches and the surfing, the Hawaiian capital is simply awesome. With different areas to choose from, you can make the most of your Honolulu holiday by choosing the one that gets you most hyped.
For us, the top neighbourhood in Honolulu has to be Waikiki Beach. It’s the best place to stay in Honolulu that’s close to everything and it’s PACKED with things to do – we mean, it’s Waikiki Beach!
It might not be your scene though, which is totally fine. There are still a whole load of other neighbourhoods in Honolulu, so you’re bound to find something that suits you.
If you’re a Honolulu regular and know even more cool stuff to see and do that we haven’t mentioned, now’s the time to tell us all about it in the comments below!
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