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Hawaii is something else. The islands have far surpassed being ‘just a tourist destination’ and have become a dream destination for many travelers. Hawaii’s natural beauty is unrivaled. From the beautiful beaches, dramatic volcanic landscapes, and abundant native animals like sea turtles – it is no wonder you want to visit.
Now you’ve just got to figure out where to stay in Hawaii. The islands are associated with luxury hotels, but there are lots of options to suit different budgets. This guide will take you through the best places to stay in Hawaii.
The best areas to stay in Hawaii
Hawaii consists of eight major islands. However, only six of these islands can be visited by the public. Niihau and Kahoolawe are referred to as the ‘Forbidden Islands’. While there are certain loopholes to visit, we don’t recommend going to all the extra effort. These two islands have little tourist infrastructure, and you’ll miss out on the Hawaiian holiday experience.
So, which Hawaiian islands should you stay on? We’ve broken them down into a short list below.
- Big Island (aka Hawaii Island): Big Island is the largest island in Hawaii. The island is praised for its diversity and is best for tourists who want lots of space to explore and sightsee.
- Kauai Island: Kauai is nicknamed the ‘Garden Isle’ because of its abundant rainforest. It is generally considered the most beautiful island in Hawaii. It has been used as a filming location for many Hollywood movies. Kauai is best for tourists who want to hike and enjoy natural beauty and attractions.
- Oahu Island: Oahu is urbanized and metropolitan. The island has lots of cultural activities like museums and galleries. Oahu also has a lively nightlife scene. Oahu is your best choice if you want somewhere to party in Hawaii.
- Molokai Island: Molokai is the most authentic of Hawaii’s islands. The island is less influenced by tourism and has a large percentage of native Hawaiians permanently residing there. If you want a residential, off-the-beaten-track atmosphere, Molokai is where to stay in Hawaii.
- Lanai Island: Lanai is the smallest Hawaiian island and the perfect spot for a romantic getaway. Lanai is a private island with just one resort – the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Needless to say, Lanai attracts a luxury-seeking crowd.
- Maui Island: Like Lanai, Maui also caters to a luxury crowd. However, Maui is bigger and has many luxury hotels to choose from, which is best if you like varied accommodation choices. Maui is also known for its natural beauty and beautiful valleys.
These six Hawaiian islands are popular tourist destinations, and deservedly so. You may want to go island hopping around Hawaii’s islands. Alternatively, just choose one destination so that you can take the time to explore the whole island.
Either way, you’ll need more detail about each island. Now you’ve got a brief idea of Hawaii’s main islands, let’s take a closer look at each option.
1. Big Island
Good things come in small packages, but Big Island is an exception. Hawaii Island got its nickname for its size. Just to put things into perspective, all of Hawaii’s islands put together could not outsize the Big Island.
The island isn’t just the biggest, though; it is also the youngest and most volcanically active. Kilauea is Big Island’s extremely active volcano. It is actually responsible for continuing to increase the size of the island with its explosions. So, not only is the Big Island the biggest, it should become even bigger over the next thousands of years.
Big Island has three main residential areas, although resorts and remote properties are dotted all over the island. If you are looking for where to stay on Big Island, Hilo, the Kona Coast, and Kohala Coast are the most popular options.
Luxury: Fairmont Orchid
Fairmont Orchid is where to stay in Hawaii if you want heaven on Earth. You can never go wrong with a Fairmont if your budget allows. The five-star hotel sits on the oceanfront of the Kohala Coast with 32 private acres of facilities and landscaped gardens. Guests receive access to a heated outdoor pool, ten tennis courts, numerous hotel waterfalls, and a golf course. If you are visiting Hawaii on a budget, don’t despair. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Mid-range: Waikoloa Beach Marriot Resort
Waikoloa Beach Marriot Resort is a top-tier mid-range hotel. The property features an outdoor infinity pool overlooking Anaeho’omalu Bay. There is a fitness center, business center, and spa. Waikoloa Beach Marriot Resort has a tropical vibe, and the outdoor pools overlook the Pacific Ocean. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Budget: Big Island Hostel
If you are visiting Hawaii on a budget, don’t despair. Big Island Hostel is a fantastic budget-friendly choice and ideally suited to solo travelers. The brightly colored hostel features a mix of dormitory and private rooms. You can access a fully furnished shared kitchen, a shared lounge, and free wi-fi. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
VRBO: North Shore Condo on Black Sand Beach
This rental is the coolest place to stay on Big Island. Situated right on the shore of Honolii Black Sand Beach, this vacation rental is the ultimate memorable stay in Hawaii.
The unique space features an exterior spiral staircase to a roof terrace and observation deck. You can enjoy home-cooked meals al fresco with the surfers to keep you entertained. See it on VRBO
2. Kauai Island
Kauai Island is the Aphrodite of Hawaii’s most popular islands. The ‘Garden Isle’ is a haven for nature lovers and hikers, with many untouched landscapes that you can only access on foot. If you want a tropical getaway, Kauai is where to stay in Hawaii. Walking through lush rainforests and hiking up valleys and mountains covered in greenery, Kauai feels like a scene out of Jurassic Park – just without the dinosaurs.
Now that you’ve been introduced to Kauai properly let’s look at the best places to stay on the island.
Luxury: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is a stunning place to stay in Hawaii. The hotel is full of natural features within its natural gardens – from wooden furnishings to natural lighting in rooms and a lagoon-style outdoor swimming pool. The outdoor pool is open 24 hours a day, so you can go stargazing from the pool at night. The property houses several restaurants, a spa, and a quiet adult area. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Luxury: Koloa Landing Resort
Koloa Landing Resort is one of the most eye-catching places to stay in Hawaii. From its torch-lit walkways to its on-site spa, this resort is somewhere to relax and unwind. Jump in the hot tub, work up a sweat in the fitness center, or use the concierge services to plan a day in Kauai. Located a 15-minute walk from Poipu Beach, it is also close to plenty of shopping and dining. Studios have kitchenettes, washers and dryers and its pool was voted as one of the top 5 in Hawaii. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Kauai Shores Hotel is value for money. This hotel combines retro chic with simple, clean, and affordable located right on the Pacific Ocean. The basic two-story hotel is comfortable with basic king bedrooms and a private balcony. Enjoy the on-site pool while being steps from shops, restaurants, and the beach. It’s easy to get out and explore with their complimentary bike amenity. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Budget: The Kauai Inn
The Kauai Inn is where to stay in Hawaii on a budget. Not only are the rates cheap and cheerful, but each room also comes with a fridge and microwave. These facilities are excellent for making food last and limiting the costs of eating out. Kauai Inn also has an outdoor swimming pool and gorgeous views of the Hula’eia Mountains. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
VRBO: Beautiful Oceanfront Condo
This condo is a dreamy place to stay in Hawaii. Guests can enjoy a private balcony overlooking Wailua Beach. The condo is a great base to access Kauai’s gold coast.
When you want downtime, you can make use of high-speed free wi-fi – perfect for catching up with family or quickly performing work duties. Check it out on VRBO
3. Lanai Island
Lanai is the smallest Hawaiian island, and 98% of it is privately owned by Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. This means that Lanai stays relatively quiet, and off-season, the island gets quieter still.
Lanai has an exclusive, luxurious atmosphere. This island is an excellent candidate for those planning a high-end getaway or romantic holiday. Lanai is extremely popular as a honeymoon destination, and the resort organizes a number of special excursions and experiences. Some couples take the romance one step further and get married on Lanai – which the most romantic amongst you may wish to consider for the future.
While accommodation choice in Lanai is quite limited, there are still some different options to explore. Let’s take a more in-depth look.
Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Lanai
Four Seasons Resort Lanai is where to stay in Hawaii if you want to splash out. The five-star resort is second to none and pretty much owns the entire island. You can relax in your ocean-view suite, visit the resort’s stables, organize a private tour with concierge services, or enjoy the tennis courts and outdoor pools. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
For something a little different, we also stayed at the Sensei Lanai Resort nestled in the forest of Central Lanai. The wellness retreat is an adults-only resort where you can unwind and disconnect. See more on TripAdvisor
Mid-range: Hotel Lanai
Hotel Lanai is a landmark property in a restored 1923-built plantation home. Located in the heart of Lanai City, it was completely restored in 2018. We stayed here before its restoration and found it to be a great central location. Each spacious room comes with traditional Hawaiian furnishings, and the property has a light, airy decor. If you want a comfortable mid-range accommodation option in Lanai, Hotel Lanai is an excellent option. Compare prices and read reviews on TripAdvisor
Budget: Dreams Come True on Lanai
Dreams Come True on Lanai is a laidback B&B perfect for those on a budget. The guest kitchen will help guests save money on eating out, and the communal garden is a wonderful place to dine al fresco. You won’t find better value for money in Lanai. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
VRBO: Holiday Home in Central Lanai
Staying at this holiday home is an elegant way to experience Lanai. Forget luxury hotels; this traditional plantation-style home has spacious rooms and ample outdoor seating, and it’s all yours. The property includes free parking and is a great base to explore Lanai without staying at a resort. See more on VRBO
4. Oahu Island
Oahu is metropolitan and urbanized. Unlike the other islands, it feels more populated and there’s more infrastructure all over the island, except in some specially protected areas. Oahu attracts thousands of tourists and has the most permanent residents in Hawaii. If you want to be in the heart of all the action, Oahu is where to stay in Hawaii.
Oahu’s southeast coast is the most urbanized and is home to Hawaii’s state capital, Honolulu. Honolulu might be small compared to other US cities, but the city has that glitzy coastal aesthetic. In pictures, Honolulu could almost pass as a tiny Miami. Waikiki Beach curves in front of densely packed skyscrapers, which overlook the beachgoers and catamarans lined along the golden sand.
Now that you’ve been thoroughly introduced to Oahu, let’s look at the best places to stay on the island.
Luxury: The Kahala Hotel & Resort
The Kahala Hotel & Resort is a beautiful five-star property in Oahu on Kahala Beach. Guests can unwind in style with a luxury spa featuring a hot tub, steam room, and expert beauty technicians and massage therapists on-hand.
In the morning, you can head straight to the resort’s private beach or head out to explore Oahu. Kahala Hotel even offers complimentary shuttles to popular destinations including Ala Moana Shopping Centre. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Mid-range: Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach
Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach is situated right between Waikiki Beach and the busy strip of Kalakaua Avenue. The property is an ideal base to explore Honolulu and the lively neighborhood of Waikiki. Guests can also let their hair down at the hotel, with a sundeck swimming pool and bar. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Budget: The Beach Waikiki Hostel by ALOH
Not many hostels are as cute and tastefully decorated as The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel. The Beach Waikiki Hostel is the perfect budget-friendly place to stay in Oahu. Located just a block away from Waikiki Beach, guests have a shared kitchen, lounge, and private parking area. You can choose between dormitory, single, double, and family rooms. Some rooms feature their own microwave and fridge for extra privacy and comfort. Surfboards and snorkeling equipment are available for rental. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
VRBO: Deluxe Oceanfront Condo
This condo is ideally situated on the Waikiki beachfront. In fact, you can jump straight out of bed and onto your private balcony for views of the beach. The bedroom is the most impressive room in the condo. It features sliding patio doors to create an open-plan balcony effect.
This is the best rental in Oahu if you want to experience the Hawaiian beach lifestyle. See it and more apartment rentals on VRBO
5. Maui Island
Maui Island has the nickname the ‘Valley Isle’ and is famed for its beautiful low landscape situated between two volcanoes. The volcano Haleakala still sits in the center of the island as its tallest peak. On Maui you find gorgeous beaches, hidden waterfalls, and a dramatic national park to explore.
Maui’s beauty is widely recognized and definitely no secret. However, the island is also seen as somewhat of a package deal – with lots of incredible attributes to entice visitors apart from its stunning, natural looks. Conde Nast has voted Maui as the ‘Best Island in the US’ for an impressive 20 years in a row. And, for first-time visitors to Hawaii, Maui usually gets the top recommendation. If you are heading to Hawaii, chances are you will visit Maui at some point.
So, where will you stay in Maui? Let’s take a look at the best accommodation options on the island.
Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton Maui
The Ritz-Carlton is gorgeous. The property is a statement, to say the least, sitting on 52 acres and featuring an outdoor pool with sweeping ocean views and well-landscaped gardens.
Guests can enjoy hundreds of facilities and activities, including stand-up paddle boarding and whale watching. Inside, the five-star property is just as impressive, and every guest room features a marble bathroom. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Mid-range: Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is set on 23 acres of lush waterfront property. Guests can drink and dine al fresco on the resort sun terrace, which is suspended above its sands.
Sheraton isn’t short on facilities either. The four-star resort has a fitness center, a beautiful pool, and three tennis courts. The main benefit of resort holidays is the activities, and you can join in several organized activities like scuba diving and hula dancing lessons. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
Budget: Aloha Surf Hostel
Aloha Surf Hostel is a ‘no nonsense’ hostel with a lot of personality. The hostel has a surfer chic atmosphere and decor, and the property looks somewhat like a luxurious beach shack. If you want to join the surfing community in Maui, Aloha Surf Hostel is a great budget-friendly choice. Compare prices and read reviews on TripAdvisor
VRBO: Oceanfront Condo with Pool Access
This cozy condo is part of the Ma’alaea Banyans Resort. Guests receive access to an outdoor swimming pool and spa, although you are only meters away from the beach if you want a dip in the ocean.
From your private balcony, you can often spot migrating whales as well. This vacation rental is easily one of the best places to stay in Maui. See more on VRBO
6. Molokai Island
Molokai is more often flown over than visited. But if you are wondering where to stay in Hawaii for an authentic experience, Molokai is your best option. The island is primarily residential, and you won’t find the in-your-face commercial tourism the other islands offer.
Hawaii is full of fascinating traditions and quirky things to do and see. You can learn some fun facts about Hawaii in our existing article here. Molokai is definitely where to stay in Hawaii to get an authentic introduction to Hawaii, its culture, traditions, and history. If you don’t mind a less touristy, slow-paced holiday experience, Molokai is where to stay in Hawaii.
Let’s take a look at the best accommodation options on the island.
Luxury: Molokai Island Oasis
As you may have guessed, Molokai isn’t one for five-star resorts and flashy hotels. However, privately owned Molokai Island Oasis is a little slice of luxury.
Guests have exclusive access to the beachfront apartment – with all the space and amenities to settle in like you would at home. The property even has a private pool. If you want luxury in Molokai, this is one of your best options. Booking.com
Mid-range: Pu’U O Hoku Ranch
Fancy an authentic experience but don’t quite want to try a homestay? Pu’U O Hoku Ranch is a fantastic mid-range accommodation choice.
The property is a bio-dynamic and organic ranch, farm, and retreat. You’ll have spacious private cottages and a hotel experience – just with the chance to get closer to traditional Hawaiian culture. Enjoy the privacy of your cottage while the working farm and ranch unravel around you. Compare prices and read reviews on TripAdvisor
Budget: Hotel Molokai
Hotel Molokai is a relaxing and budget-friendly place to stay on Molokai. The hotel is situated along the oceanfront and is designed in traditional Polynesian style. You can pass your days away swinging in the hammock or going for a dip in the pool while listening to the crashing waves.
Each guestroom has a microwave, fridge, and coffee machine, which is great for saving money. There is also free wi-fi and parking available. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
VRBO: Ultimate Oceanfront Penthouse
Did someone say luxury? This property is tastefully decorated and has an outdoor pool, BBQ facilities, and a fantastic location. If you want somewhere lovely to stay in Molokai, consider booking this two-bedroom penthouse. The private balcony with ocean views is the cherry on top. See rates and availability on VRBO
Hawaii’s islands are stunning; there’s no denying it. Choosing where to stay in Hawaii is a lot of fun – there are just so many incredible options. The diversity, natural beauty, hiking opportunities, and photogenic natural attractions make Hawaii one of the most exciting holiday destinations in the world.
Wherever you choose to stay in Hawaii, we hope that you enjoy your trip.