Ready to plan a Hawaii vacation? Oahu is the ideal place to start — home to Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, the legendary North Shore and world-famous Waikiki Beach. Often called “the heart of Hawaii”, the island enchants millions of tourists annually with its natural beauty, historical sites and fun activities.
While there, expect to experience the aloha spirit just about everywhere — with beautiful beach days, surfing, hiking, culture, luaus and traditional Hawaiian music.
Most of Oahu’s hotels are situated in Waikiki. Here are few exceptional options.
One of most elegant properties in Waikiki, the Ritz Carlton offers posh, residential style rooms and multi-bedroom suites with incredible views and upscale amenities. With floor-to-ceiling windows and private, spacious lanai, the rooms are stylish, modern and luxurious. There are gourmet kitchens and kitchenettes with professional appliances, washers and dryers, and oversized bathrooms and closets.
You’ll love the hotel’s expansive outdoor deck (the highest in Waikiki), and the multiple swimming pools and hot tubs. There are great dining experiences; award-winning restaurants like Quiora for Italian cuisine, La Via for modern-French food, and Sushi Sho, an intimate, ten-seat Japanese experience.
Although the hotel is not directly on the beach, you have access to everything you might need for a lovely day, including free chairs, towels and coolers.
Known as the Pink Palace of the Pacific, the Royal Hawaiian is a stunning landmark on the beach in Waikiki. Built in 1927, this luxury hotel has picturesque views of the ocean and Diamond Head, and more than 500 beautifully designed rooms and suites in the original structure as well as in the newer tower.
The hotel’s restaurants and cafes are considered the best in Waikiki. There’s Surf Lanai, a delightful beach cafe, Azure, a gourmet experience, and the famous Mai Tai Bar, for tropical drinks and casual fare overlooking the ocean.
History buffs will love the free walking tour, guided by a cultural expert who brings the past to life with descriptions from days gone by. There are many fun shops on site too, and a spa. On the beach, you can rent surfboards and take surf lessons, ride in an outrigger canoe, cruise on a catamaran or just lounge by the pool — under a pink umbrella, of course.
On Waikiki Beach, Halekulani is a sophisticated resort with a tranquil ambiance and abundance of jaw-dropping waterfront views. With nearly 500 luxurious and spacious rooms, the breezy property was established in the early 1900s and has been modernized over the years.
The resort’s picturesque hibiscus pool deck is simply breathtaking, with unobstructed vistas of Diamond Head and the Pacific. You’ll love the fantastic restaurants and bars onsite, too, which include House Without a Key, a casual restaurant with nightly music, Orchids, which has an elegant al fresco patio and serves food throughout the day, and La Mer 86, a truly special experience, and the only Oahu restaurant with five stars from the Forbes Travel Guide.
With a name that means “house of welcoming waters,” the Halepuna has beautiful views from light-filled, ocean-facing rooms and sleek, modern interiors in neutral tones.
One of the newer, high-tech hotels in Waikiki, it has many perks, including a spacious urban escape pool deck overlooking the ocean, with plenty of lounge chairs, cabanas, a hot tub, and food and drink service.
There’s also an art collection, gym and onsite restaurant called the Halekulani Bakery which has lovely patio seating. The food here is fantastic, with a casual menu offering “something for everyone,” including freshly-made pastries.
A few blocks from the beach, the Shoreline is a fun and funky hotel greeting you with splashy color from the moment you step into the rainbow-hued lobby. This hotel offers rooms of different sizes and suites with private balconies, and free wi-fi. You also receive a generous welcome basket filled with locally-made goodies.
The rooftop pool deck is a hip hangout where you can soak in the city and mountain views without walking to the beach. The neighborhood is bustling — there are restaurants, bars and boutiques just steps away from the lobby.
Marla Cimini is a freelance travel writer and contributor to Fodor’s Hawaii Travel Guides.