Oahu is known as “the gathering place” for a good reason: It’s home to Hawaii‘s capital and largest city, Honolulu, its international airport and a population of almost one million, which is almost two thirds of the state’s residents.
Yet beyond the statistics, Oahu is also home to a fantastic array of world-class hotels and beach resorts—after all, the 5.7 million travelers who visit the island each year need a great place to stay. From the legendary sands of Waikiki to the big wave beaches of the north shore, here are the best beach resorts on Oahu.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
To be near enough to Waikiki to take advantage of its many activities, but just far enough away (in Kahala, a residential area of Honolulu located 10 minutes by shuttle to the east) to feel what it’s like to live on Oahu, stay at The Kahala Hotel & Resort.
This upscale beach resort in Oahu is set on an 800-foot arc of palm-tree-lined beach and all of its 338 rooms and suites feature chic and airy Hawaiian décor and views of the ocean, plus Diamond Head and Koko Head craters. There’s a beachfront pool and hot tub, a 26,000-square-foot seawater lagoon that’s home to resident dolphins, four restaurants and the Kahala Spa, which offers treatments based on Hawaiian healing traditions.
Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
As Waikiki’s oldest (and perhaps coolest) resort, the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa puts you right on the sand while elegantly mixing historic and modern elements. Opened in 1901 and celebrated for its Victorian-era porches (with rocking chairs) and the magnificent 115-year-old tree that shades its Banyan Courtyard, this 793-room resort is ideal for families or couples.
Rooms are in three wings—those in the Historic Banyan Wing are smallest but have charm, those in the Diamond Wing are larger and offer city or ocean views, and those in the Tower Wing are largest and have balconies—while all have Westin’s Heavenly Bed. Two restaurants, two bars and the Moana Lani Spa make this a great base in Waikiki.
The original Halekulani debuted in 1917, but its name—translation: “house befitting heaven” in Hawaiian—remains perfectly appropriate today. This 453-room luxury hotel is located on lively Waikiki Beach and yet with the calming ambience created by its monochromatic décor, comprised of seven shades of white, you’d never know it. Rooms are 500-to-700 square feet and most have at least a partial ocean view. We love the Diamond Head Ocean Front rooms that, like the hotel’s suites, offer panoramas of Oahu’s famous landmark.
Guests can also enjoy a glass-tile mosaic pool, lomi lomi massage at SpaHalekulani, and traditional Hawaiian music, dance and appetizers at House Without a Key. Special occasion? Reserve a table at La Mer, Hawaii’s longest AAA Five Diamond-rated fine-dining restaurant.
Hilton Hawaiian Village
It’s hard to beat this 22-acre enclave that features Waikiki’s largest pool (the 10,000-square-foot Super Pool), almost 500 palm trees, a wide white-sand beach, and a surreally blue aquatic playground called the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon. That said, it helps to be a people person to enjoy Hilton Hawaiian Village, because with its astounding 2,860 rooms, 18 restaurants and bars, and 90 shops, this resort is big enough to be, well, a village.
There are five towers from which guests can choose: Ali’i and Rainbow, which are beachfront; Tapa and Diamond Head, located centrally within the village; and Kalia, adjacent to the Mandara Spa. The property also has five pools, among them the Paradise Pool with its 77-foot water slide and the elevated Ali’i Pool for Ali’i Tower guests only, as well as a wedding chapel overlooking the lagoon.
The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort
Nicknamed the “Pink Palace of the Pacific” for it’s a rosy hue and romantic Spanish-Moorish architecture, the Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort has long stood out on Waikiki Beach. The original building, which cost $4 million in 1927, debuted as a hotel in 1947 (after housing troops during WWII) and underwent a $110 million renovation in 2009 that polished its historic charm while adding 21st-century amenities; upgrades to the Mailani Tower followed in 2015.
Guests in the 528 rooms and suites enjoy Old Hawaiian-style pampering in the Historic Wing (vintage koa wood seating, patterned wall coverings) and more contemporary island decor (inspired by the ocean and corals) in the Mailani Tower. Other luxurious amenities include a cabana-lined beachfront pool, fine-dining and casual dining options, and the garden setting of the Abhasa Spa.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
Four Seasons opened its first Hawaii resort on Maui in 1990, but it took another 26 years to land on Oahu with the 2016 debut of the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. Originally a JW Marriott built in 1998, this 371-room enclave is located on the island’s west coast about 35 minutes from Honolulu in an area known for its fabulous sunsets.
Ideal for families looking for both water and land activities—which range from snorkeling and outrigger canoe rides to golfing and tennis—the resort’s rooms are spacious (640 square feet) with airy island-inspired design (banana-leaf wall coverings and furniture made with local woods) and offer ocean or garden views. There are four pools, including one designed for families and another for adults only, plus a lagoon, five restaurants and lounges and a spa.
The largest property on central Waikiki Beach, the 31-story Sheraton Waikiki underwent a $188 million renovation in 2011 (with additional investments ongoing through 2019) to give this towering 1,636-room, 1970s-era behemoth a number of cool and contemporary amenities—including Waikiki’s first infinity pool, an adult-only oasis that floats above the sand and sea and offers panoramic views.
For families, the Sheraton offers Helumoa Playground, two interconnected pools with a 70-foot-long waterslide, spray fountains and two whirlpools. Also popular is Rumfire, an oceanfront restaurant serving tropical rum cocktails along with Pacific Rim-inspired small plates, while top activities on Waikiki Beach include surf lessons, stand-up paddle boarding, boogie boarding and outrigger canoe rides.
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
If the Disney film Moana inspired your or your kids to want to visit the South Pacific, this 21-acre, 351-room property on Oahu’s west coast in Ko Olina, is the place to do it. Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is one of the best family resorts on Oahu and offers all the usual Disney amenities (including favorite characters wearing Aloha shirts and surf shorts) and focuses on Hawaii’s rich culture and traditions, from hula and lei-making to appreciating one of the country’s largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art throughout the resort.
There are multiple activity pools with slides and waterfalls/rapids, the complimentary Aunty’s Beach House kids club for children 3-12, two restaurants and 481 adjacent Disney Vacation Club villas—and like all things Disney, escaping to Aulani commands a premium.
Turtle Bay Resort
Most people visit Oahu to enjoy the postcard vistas and vintage surf vibe of Waikiki, but to truly experience the beauty of the island and the thrill of its legendary surf breaks, one needs to head to the north shore. That’s also where you’ll find Turtle Bay Resort, which offers accommodations to suit most budgets—from spacious Resort Rooms done in relaxing pale turquoise to romantic Beach Cottages and three- or four-bedroom Ocean Villas with private pools and Jacuzzis.
There are plenty of things to do for all ages (surf lessons, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and golf) as well as seven restaurants and bars, including Pa’akai for fresh-caught seafood and Roy’s Beach House for casual Pacific Rim fare, and sustainably sourced treatments at Nalu Spa.
Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
Views of Diamond head from the beach and pool? Check. Hawaiian-inspired favorites such as ahi poke or a fresh-grilled fish sandwich at Duke’s Waikiki? You bet. Affordable room rates right on the beach (with complimentary Wi-Fi, a free beach tote and two bottles of water replenished daily)? Affirmative. These are just three of the reasons why 524-room Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort continues to be a popular option for families and couples looking for a budget-friendly hotel in Oahu.
The property’s location is also ideal for exploring the dining, shopping and entertainment options of Waikiki and enjoying daily Hawaiian cultural activities and discounted outrigger canoe rides.