Where to Stay in Hawaii

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

The island archipelago of Hawaii is one of the world’s most picturesque destinations. Home to countless waterfalls, awe-inspiring coastal lookouts and a smattering of jungle for good measure, this island has it all.

The state of Hawaii is made up of six main islands – Hawaii, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Each with a distinct personality of its own, these islands are a real joy to explore. From the big flashy resorts of Kauai to the beach shacks of Turtle Bay, there is an accommodation option to suit every style of traveler.

It is Hawaii’s natural beauty that entices over 8.3 million tourists to visit every year. The very much active volcanos of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and the Thurston Lava Tube are some of the most impressive landscapes known to man.

Hawaii is also home to some of the best surf spots in the world. Locals have a deeply spiritual connection to the sea, which you can feel when you watch them ride the waves. There are dozens of surf schools across the island. Will you brave the waves?

Let’s take a look at where to stay in Hawaii – which island and what neighborhood.

Kailua-Kona – Island of Hawaii

Kailua-KonaSource: atommy / shutterstock

Kailua-Kona is one of the Big Island’s biggest towns and is home to some of the island’s most loved cultural landmarks. Within the town’s streets, you will find Hulihee Palace and Mokuaikaua Church. Both of these landmarks date back to the 1800’s and Mokuaikaua Church is the oldest Christian church in Hawaii.

The thatched houses at Kailua Bay are one of the most photogenic man-made structures in the state and are a reconstruction of King Kamehameha I’s vacation home.

At the Honokōhau Settlement and Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, you will find another cultural gem preserved forever more. This sacred parkland features ruins of early fish ponds and dozens of ancient petroglyphs. To this day, the Honokōhau Settlement and Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park is a breeding site for critically endangered turtles.

The beaches around Kailua-Kona offer some of the best shallow snorkeling spots in Hawaii.

Good For: Active Travelers, Beach Bums, Backpackers, Couples, Culture Vultures, Families, Nature Lovers: All Kinds of Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church, Honokōhau Settlement and Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, Keauhou Bay, Hualālai, Honl’s Beach, Magic Sands Beach Park

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Kona Seaside Hotel – Just a two-minute walk to the beach, Kona Seaside Hotel is in a perfect location. Guests are welcome to make use of the free WiFi throughout the property, and the outdoor swimming pool too. All rooms feature a TV, coffee machine and private ensuite bathroom.
  • Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel – A hotel with personality and plenty of space to go around, guests have the option of staying in a double room or studio apartment. There is a swimming pool on site and a fully stocked bar. All rooms have air conditioning, fridge and a TV with cable channels.
  • Courtyard by Marriot King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel – A family-orientated hotel offering sea views and pool complex. There are two restaurants on site serving international cuisines throughout the day. All rooms have a coffee machine and mini fridge. Family rooms are available, or adjoining rooms on request. The hotel offers guests use of the private beach area.

Volcano – Island of Hawaii

Kīlauea VolcanoSource: Yvonne Baur / shutterstock
Kīlauea Volcano

One of the most visited spots in all of Hawaii State is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. A living, breathing, fiery example of Mother Nature at her finest, lovers of the natural world will feel right at home on Old Volcano Road.

Although in recent times this area has been evacuated due to eruptions, the village is alive and well. It is living proof of man’s resilience to the elements. If you do wish to stay in this area of Hawaii, be sure to do research before you travel, to get up to date information on the volcano’s activity.

The active volcanoes of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are two of the most significant in the world and are under constant surveillance from volcanologists, geologists and geographers.

For lovers of landscape photography, Volcano is a dream come true. Remember it only takes two hours to drive around the entire Big Island – all the area’s other natural wonders are within easy reach.

Good For: Active Travelers, Backpackers, Nature Lovers, Couples, Families, Hikers, Like a Local Travelers: All Kinds of Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, Nāhuku – Thurston Lava Tube, Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, Hōlei Sea Arch, Kaimū Beach Park

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Kilauea Lodge – Set in a gorgeous 1938 house, Kilauea Lodge is a homely and affordable accommodation option. Double, twin and family-sized apartments are available. Apartments can sleep up to five people. A tropical breakfast is included in the room rate and the hotel has a hot tub and spacious garden area.
  • Volcano Innvolcano Inn is an eco-friendly accommodation option on Old Volcano Road. The breakfast is pretty impressive, with an all you can eat American-style buffet each morning. Guests are welcome to enjoy one of the three salt-water hot tubs and the tropical garden. All rooms have ensuite with fluffy bathrobes and free toiletries.
  • Aloha Junction Bed & Breakfast – Traditional bed and breakfast style accommodation with all the mod-cons. Each room has a kitchen, electric fireplace, and cable TV with Netflix. Many of the rooms have their own private patio area with outdoor furniture. Breakfast is served at 8 each morning, and complimentary snacks throughout the day.

Koloa – Kauai Island

Koloa - Kauai IslandSource: Jennifer Wan / shutterstock
Koloa – Kauai Island

The neighborhood of Koloa on Kauai Island offers visitors the chance to experience authentic Hawaiian living while having access to all the facilities you wish for on your dream holiday.

The island of Kauai is only 25-miles long and 33-miles wide, so it only takes 2.5 hours to drive around. This means that wherever you choose to stay, you’re never too far from the jewels of Kauai.

There are many resort style hotel complexes in the Koloa area that cater to your every need. Several of these hotels offer all-inclusive packages, but if you decide to leave the resort there is a lot to discover.

Did you know that the first successful sugarcane plantation in Hawaii was founded in this neighborhood in 1835? In 1948, it merged with Grove Farm to become one of the most successful plantations in the state.

Good For: Holiday Makers, Families, Luxury Travelers, Older Travelers, Beach Bums, Nature Lovers

Neighborhood Highlights: Old Koloa Town, Poipu Beach, Allerton Garden, Spouting Horn, Kauai ATV, Baby Beach, McBryde Garden, Shipwreck Beach, Koloa Zipline, Moir Gardens

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Sheraton Kauai Resort – This five-star resort offers guests a superb fitness center, two outdoor swimming pools and private beach area. All guest rooms have air conditioning, cable TV, mini fridges and coffee making facilities. There are multiple restaurants, and onsite guests are invited to dine on the oceanfront lawn.
  • Castle Kiahuna Plantation & The Beach Bungalow – Situated a three-minute walk from the beach, this hotel sits within a 35-acre property overlooking Poipu Beach. All suites have kitchen facilities and either an ocean or garden view. All have air conditioning, WiFi and cable TV. There is a huge swimming pool and massive hot tub.
  • The Point at Poipu by Diamond Resort – A small, boutique-style hotel just a six-minute walk from the beach, The Point at Poipu offers one and two bedroom apartments that feature a balcony, kitchen and private bathroom. The bathrooms all have a luxury bathtub and complimentary toiletries. Guests have access to the gas BBQ on the shared patio terrace.

Kapaa – Kauai Island

Kapaa - Kauai IslandSource: Felix Nendzig / shutterstock
Kapaa – Kauai Island

If you want to be surrounded by Hawaii’s most abundant natural beauty, look no further than secluded Kapaa. This little-known neighborhood on the east coast of Kauai Island is a real hidden gem.

Retaining the heritage island vibes throughout the neighborhood, there is a strong community feel within this 10,000-people CDP. The main town of Kapaa has narrow streets lined with a diverse range of independent craft shops and family-run eateries. Kapaa has been dubbed Kauai’s most charming town and it is hard to argue otherwise.

If you really want to get into the swing of things, Hawaiian style, book yourself in for a ukulele lesson at Kamo Ukulele Co. Founder Samuel Bonanno is passionate about the island’s national instrument and is only too happy to share his naanao (wisdom) with passing visitors.

Ho’opi’i Falls is the Kapaa neighborhood’s most impressive natural wonder and is not to be missed.

Good For: Active Travelers, Backpackers, Beach Bums, Couples, Culture Vultures, Families, Like a Local Travelers, Nature Lovers: All Kinds of Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Ho’opi’i Falls, Kapa’a Beach Park, Keālia Beach, Kamoa Ukulele Co, Kapaa Town Park, Lae Nani Beach, Houna Lani Garden, Sleeping Giant Trail, Fern Grotto, Kamokila Hawaiian Village, Smith Family Garden Luau

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Castle Kauai Kailani – Castle Kauai Kailana features idyllic apartment rentals offering guests access to a small outdoor swimming pool and sun-trapped garden. All apartments come fully furnished, complete with fully-equipped kitchen, private bathroom, and spacious bedroom. Family apartments and couple’s apartments are available. WiFi is free and unlimited throughout the property.
  • The ISO – These are some truly gorgeous boutique studios that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Each studio offers coffee making facilities and a drinks fridge. All apartments are newly renovated and have modern decor with a bright and airy feel. The Bull Shed Restaurant is open daily for dinner and specializes in locally-inspired seafood dishes.
  • Aston Islander On The Beach – Just a seven-minute walk from the beach, the Aston Islander offers an oceanfront swimming pool and luxury hot tub. All rooms have air conditioning and a private balcony or mini terrace. Some rooms offer an ocean view, others a garden view. Guests have access to tennis court and golf course. Ideal for couples.

Waikiki – Oahu

Waikiki, OahuSource: aines / shutterstock
Waikiki, Oahu

The Waikiki neighborhood is possibly the most popular tourist neighborhood in all Hawaii state. An area awash with hotels, B&Bs, and holiday apartment rentals, if you are only in Hawaii for a little while, Waikiki is the place to base yourself.

Offering easy access to Hawaii’s most significant modern historical landmark, Pearl Harbor, Waikiki is the gateway to the state’s eventful past. There are a number of Pearl Harbor museums, monuments and memorials to explore in order to help you gain a better understating of the events of December 7th, 1941. Getting to Pearl Harbor from Waikiki is easy; there are dozens of shuttle bus services. Alternatively, book an Uber.

In terms of natural wonders, Honolulu’s Waikiki neighborhood puts you in a great spot. Waikiki sits just north of dormant volcano Diamond Head, one of Oahu’s most iconic geographical landmarks. Hanauma Bay is brilliant for snorkeling.

Good For: Active Travelers, Backpackers, Beach Bums, Budding Historians, Culture Vultures, Families, Nature Lovers, Whistle-Stop Travelers: All Kinds of Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona Memorial, Hanauma Bay, ‘Iolani Palace, Waikiki Aquarium, Polynesian Cultural Centre, Royal Hawaiian Centre, Lucoral Museum

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Imperial Hawaii Resort at Wakiki – These are spacious suites in the heart of Waikiki neighborhood. Each suite has a double room and living room with a sofa bed, sleeping up to 4 people. Guests have access to the outdoor swimming pool and the hotel’s fitness center. 600-meters from US Army Museum of Hawaii.
  • Ilima Hotel – A six-minute walk from the beach, the hotel offers a swimming pool, fitness center and terrace ideal for sunbathing. All studios come with kitchen facilities, air conditioning and a balcony. There is free parking on-site. The studio apartments are bright, spacious and modern in design. Free WiFi throughout.
  • Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel – Right on the beach front and adjacent to Honolulu Zoo, all rooms have a classic Hawaiian touch – like the bright red walls and potted orchids. Many rooms offer ocean views from their balcony. There is a bar on site as well as a swimming pool and decent fitness center. Parking is available.

Kapolei – Oahu

Kapolei, OahuSource: BeeRu / shutterstock

Locally known as Oahu’s second city, Kapolei can be found to the west of Honolulu on the south coast.

Giving you the option to retreat to your resort or get out and explore, Kapolei is an ideal neighborhood for families in particular. There is plenty of family fun to be had in Kapolei, from Wet’n’Wild Hawaii Waterpark to the traditional dance performances at Chief’s Luau.

Wet’n’Wild is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii and is loved by locals and visitors alike. The park spans across 29-acres and features an incredible 25 water rides and slides.

The Ko Olina Lagoons are one of Kapolei’s most loved coastal features. Although man-made, the Ko Olina Lagoons offer travelers some of the best sandy beaches in the south of Oahu. The four lagoons, named Hanu, Kolola, Napa and Ulu, are ideal swimming spots for children and are watched over by lifeguards all day long.

Good For: Active Travelers, All-Inclusive Travelers, Culture Vultures, Families, Young Travelers, Whistle-Stop Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Wet’n’Wild Hawaii, Ko Olina Lagoons, Pearl Harbor, Naval Air Station Barbers Point Museum, Kahe Point Beach Park, Paradise Cove Beach, Chief’s Luau, Makaha Beach Park

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Marriot’s Ko Olina Beach Club – One of the most highly recommended hotels in Kapolei, all rooms have a fully equipped kitchen, living room, dining room and laundry facilities. Guests have access to the swimming pool, poolside bar and hotel spa. Many rooms offer ocean views and a balcony. Marriot’s Ko Olina is only a one-minute walk from the beach.
  • Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina – This luxury beach resort features multiple restaurants and bars, with a spa complex too. Guests can use the hotel’s tennis courts and golf course, as well as choose their own mattress topper – either firm, plush or signature. There is a turndown service and daily housekeeping. All rooms have a deep-soaking bathtub and walk-in shower.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Oahu Kapolei – Complimentary breakfast is included in all room rates, continental or buffet style. The hotel has its own restaurant and bar, as well as a shared lounge and outdoor swimming pool. Guests can make use of the hot tub, fitness center, and free shuttle service. Rooms feature classic decor, modern facilities and comfortable beds.

Wailea – Maui

Wailea - Maui Source: Stan Jones / shutterstock
Wailea – Maui

On the island of Maui is the little-known tourist resort town of Wailea. Home to just 5,900 permanent residents and away from the melee of resorts, Wailea offers visitors the chance to experience Hawaii’s tranquility and coastal beauty.

Being such a secluded spot means that only the premium hotels have set up shop here – initially, just five of them. For travelers who are keen on feeling like they have Hawaii to themselves, Wailea is the best neighborhood for you.

Wailea is home to a vast expanse of exquisite white beaches – five to be exact. Convenient, right? Wailea Beach is the most impressive of them and offers visitors excellent snorkeling and calm spots for a gentle swim.

Golfers will be pleased to learn about the courses that can be found here. Wailea Blue, Gold and Emerald come together to create the 54-hole course of the world famous championships.

Good For: Active Travelers, Couples, Beach Bums, Luxury Travelers, Off-the-Beaten Track Travelers, Sporty Travelers, Nature Lovers

Neighborhood Highlights: Wailea Blue Golf Course, Wailea Gold Golf Course, Wailea Emerald Golf Course, The Shops at Wailea, Wailea Tennis Club, Wailea Point, Ulua Beach Park, Kamaole Beach, Oneuli Beach, Makena Beach

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Residence Inn by Marriot Maui Wailea – This luxury hotel is only 800-meters from the Wailea Beach. It is a family-friendly resort with queen studios that can sleep up to five people. The breakfast buffet is complimentary, as are evening refreshments at the hotel’s bar. Suites all have fully- equipped kitchens, and a grocery shopping service is available.
  • Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort – A Concept by Hyatt – Set right on the beachfront with four infinity pools, two restaurants, and a spa with a comprehensive treatment menu, Andaz is one of the most luxurious resorts on Maui. All rooms feature a private balcony, 40-inch flat screen TV, minibar and coffee machine. This is an eco-award winner.
  • Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa – Offering a kid’s club for all ages, along with multiple swimming pools, this is the perfect family resort in Wailea. It’s only a four-minute walk to the beach and many rooms offer ocean views. All rooms come with air-conditioning, TV and WiFi. Rooms have extremely comfortable beds and lavish ensuite bathrooms.

Kaunakakai – Molokai

Kaunakakai - MolokaiSource: Patrick Basuel / shutterstock
Kaunakakai – Molokai

On the lesser-visited island of Molokai is the coastal town of Kaunakakai. This quaint and charming port town has just 3,500 residents, and offers visitors the chance to experience rustic Hawaii at its finest.

For travelers who want to get off the beaten track and away from the big tourist crowds, Kaunakakai is a must. This place has been frozen in time, or so it feels.

Kaunakakai is home to Hawaii’s longest pier, which spans over the reef below. Locals often fish for dinner off the pier and welcome visitors to try their hand too.

There are a number of rather cute independent shops in Kaunakakai, including a couple of sumptuous bakeries.

Beach bods will love Kaunakakai for its clean and quiet beaches; Kamiloloa Beach is the definition of a picture-postcard paradise. When the wind picks up, the sea can get a bit choppy, so be sure to swim safely.

Good For: Active Travelers, Backpackers, Beach Bums, Nature Lovers, Off-the-Beaten Track Travelers, Like a Local Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: Kamiloloa Beach, Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove, Halawa Valley, Papohaku Beach Park, One Alii Beach Park

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Castle Molokai Shores These are beachfront apartment rentals that feature a tropical garden and full sized swimming pool. Family friendly, the apartments can sleep up to four people. All rooms offer an ocean view that is particularly beautiful at sunset. Free WiFi is available throughout the property.
  • Hotel Molokai – A cute and cozy, locally-run hotel in Kaunakakai, many rooms have their own kitchenette area, complete with microwave and mini-fridge. Some rooms come with a private terrace area. The hotel has a private outdoor swimming pool and fully stocked bar. Onsite parking is available.
  • Ka Hale Kealoha – ‘Ka Hale Kealoha’ translates to mean ‘House of Love,’ and this locally-owned apartment is ideal for couples on a romantic getaway. A one-bedroom holiday rental apartment offering sea views, the apartment features a living room area, private balcony and a BBQ area. Located in a great sunset spot.

Where to Stay in Hawaii:

  • Kailua-Kona - Island of Hawaii
  • Volcano - Island of Hawaii
  • Koloa - Kauai Island
  • Kapaa - Kauai Island
  • Waikiki - Oahu
  • Kapolei - Oahu
  • Wailea - Maui
  • Kaunakakai - Molokai