Where to stay in Oahu for first time: 3 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in Oahu as a first-time visitor can be overwhelming. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find safe places to stay in Oahu for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safest areas to stay in Oahu for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map. I’ll also share where I stayed in Oahu and recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

Oahu is one of the most popular islands to stay in Hawaii. It is the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is known for its diverse landscapes, vibrant culture, and popular tourist attractions like Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and the North Shore.

The capital and largest city of Hawaii, located on the southeast coast of Oahu. Honolulu is a bustling urban center with a mix of modern skyscrapers and historical sites.

Pearl Harbor is a historic naval base that was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, leading to the United States’ entry into World War II. The USS Arizona Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center commemorate this historic event.

The North Shore of Oahu is renowned for its massive waves, making it a mecca for surfers. During the winter months, professional surf competitions are held at famous breaks like Pipeline and Sunset Beach.

Oahu is rich in Hawaiian culture, with opportunities to experience traditional hula performances, visit historical sites, and learn about the Polynesian heritage.

Is Oahu safe for tourists?

Yes, Oahu is generally safe for visitors. But, like any destination, rental car break-ins, and pickpocketing can occur, so it is essential to be aware of your surroundings, take care of your belongings, avoid leaving valuables in unattended vehicles, avoid swimming in the ocean alone, and follow any local guidelines.

I also advise using insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes, staying hydrated, using sunscreen to protect yourself from the strong Hawaiian sun, and being aware of potential hazards like coral reefs while swimming.

Where to stay in Oahu for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Oahu for first-timers and tourists are Waikiki, Ko Olina/Kapolei, and North Shore. While these areas are generally safe, it’s always important to practice common sense safety measures such as securing your belongings and being aware of your surroundings wherever you go.

Waikiki is the most popular area to stay in Oahu for first-time visitors who want to be in the heart of the action. This is a bustling tourist destination with a world-famous beach, vibrant nightlife, and numerous shops and restaurants. It’s generally safe, well-lit, and heavily patrolled. 

North Shore, famous for its surf culture and big waves, is a more laid-back area with a rural feel. It’s also home to the historic town of Haleiwa and the beautiful Waimea Bay. It’s generally safe, but be mindful of the powerful ocean conditions.

Ko Olina, on the leeward coast, is known for its upscale resorts, lagoons, and golf courses. It’s a serene and safe area. Kapolei is a growing city with shopping centers, family-friendly attractions, and easy access to beautiful beaches.

Avoid staying in Waianae on the west coast, as it is a poverty area with homeless people everywhere and lots of petty crime. Waianae is a beautiful area, if you visit, you can leave before dark, and stay at the nearby Ko’olina Resort.

During my trip to Oahu, I stayed at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel in Honolulu, south Oahu. It was a great mid-range hotel in an excellent location, close to everything, only 5 mins walk from the world-famous Waikiki Beach. My room was clean and comfortable with a beautiful view of Diamond Head.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Oahu for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Oahu first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Oahu first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Oahu, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Oahu have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

3 Safe areas to stay in Oahu for first-timers and tourists:

1. Waikiki

Waikiki is undoubtedly the most popular base in Oahu for first-timers. It is a bustling neighborhood in Honolulu known for its iconic beach, vibrant nightlife, shopping, and numerous dining options. 

Waikiki is conveniently located, making it easy to explore the southern and eastern parts of the island. Many tours and activities depart from Waikiki, and it offers easy access to popular attractions like Diamond Head, Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium,Hanauma Bay, or Pearl Harbor.

Waikiki Beach is world-famous for its soft white sand and excellent conditions for swimming and surfing. Many hotels in Waikiki offer stunning oceanfront views and easy access to the beach.

Waikiki is also close to some cultural and historical sites, such as the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, the Waikiki Historic Trail, Iolani Palace, Bishop Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art.

Kalakaua Avenue, the main street in Waikiki, is lined with shops, boutiques, and international brands. You’ll find everything from high-end retailers to local surf shops, making it a great destination for shopping enthusiasts.

Waikiki offers a diverse range of dining options, from casual beachside cafes to upscale restaurants. You can find a variety of cuisines, including Hawaiian, Japanese, American, and more.

The area comes alive at night with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment options. You can enjoy live music, traditional Hawaiian performances, or simply take a leisurely stroll along the lively streets.

Considerations: Waikiki can be crowded, and the beach may get busy. It’s a more urban setting compared to other areas on the island.

Best places to stay in Oahu in Waikiki for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Trump International Hotel Waikiki, 5-star hotel with first class amenities and services located in the central area, right next to Fort DeRussy Beach Park, easy distance from Waikiki Beach Walk Mall, Waikiki Beach, and the seafront boardwalk. It has an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a library, and superb breakfast.

Luxury ($$$): Halekulani, 5-star beautiful beachfront hotel, located on Kalia Road, close to everything, a short drive from Diamond Head and Ala Moana Shopping Center. The hotel has free airport shuttle services, family rooms, a spa center, and an outdoor pool. It is a little expensive, but it’s worth the holiday.

Mid-range ($$): Sheraton Waikiki Beach Resort, popular 4-star hotel conveniently located on Kalakaua Avenue, easy access to Waikiki Beach, Waikiki Shopping Centre, and Honolulu Zoo. You can find lots of restaurants and shops nearby. It features an adult-only infinity pool, a kid pool, a tour desk, and child care services. 

Mid-range ($$): Queen Kapiolani Hotel, 4-star non-smoking hotel located on Kapahulu Avenue near Diamond Head, only 1 block from Waikiki Beach, Honolulu Zoo and Kapiolani Park. There are tons of restaurants and stores for shopping nearby. The hotel has an outdoor pool and sun terrace that offer stunning views of  Diamond Head.

Mid-range ($$): Prince Waikiki, 4-star modern hotel located on Holomoana Street, a short distance from Ala Moana Blvd, Ala Moana Beach, Hawaii Convention Center, and Ala Moana Beach Park. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with fantastic ocean views.

Budget ($): VIVE Hotel Waikiki, great 3-star boutique hotel, located 5 mins walk from Waikiki Beach and the international Marketplace. It features modern rooms with  beautiful views of the sea, the city, or the mountain. It has 24-hour reception, private parking, laundry services, and family rooms.

Budget ($): Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites, 3-star hotel located on Ala Moana Boulevard, near Ala Moana Beach and Park, a bit away from the busy Waikiki beach but still close to everything. It is only a 5-10 mins walk from beaches, shopping malls, groceries, and restaurants. Rooms are well equipped with a kitchenette.


2. Ko Olina/ Kapolei

Ko Olina is a resort community located on the western side of Oahu, known for its luxurious accommodations, pristine lagoons, and a relaxing atmosphere. 

The western location of Ko Olina means you can enjoy stunning sunset views over the ocean. Many visitors find the sunsets from this part of the island to be particularly breathtaking

Ko Olina is about a 30-40 minute drive from Honolulu, making it a good choice if you want a more secluded experience without being too far from the island’s main attractions.

Kapolei is a secondary urban center on the island, located near Ko Olina. It is home to numerous family-friendly attractions like Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii and Coral Crater Adventure Park. Its location on the leeward side provides easy access to major highways, making it convenient for exploring Oahu. 

Best places to stay in Oahu in Ko Olina for tourists:

Luxury ($$$): Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, 5-star beachfront hotel located in Ko’Olina Resort, on Oahu’s sunny west coast. The hotel is only 5 mins drive from Ko Olina Marina and Golf Club, and 30 mins drive from Pearl Harbor and Honolulu International Airport. It has 3 swimming pools, 5 restaurants, and beautiful guest rooms.

Mid-range ($$): Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, 4-star beach hotel  located off the H1 freeway, near Ko Olina Beach. It has a beautiful ground, a private beach area, multiple pools, and airport shuttle services. The rooms have  a fully equipped kitchen, and a washing machine.

Mid-range ($$): Embassy Suites By Hilton Oahu Kapolei – FREE Breakfast, 4-star hotel located in Kapolei, close to Ko Olina beaches and Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii. It features free breakfast,  an outdoor swimming pool, private parking, and a 24-hour front desk. 

Budget ($): Residence Inn by Marriott Oahu Kapolei, 3-star accommodation located on Kunehi Street, Kapolei, short drive from Kalaeloa Airport and Coral Crater Adventure Park. You can choose to stay in the room that has a kitchen if you like to make your own meal.


3. North Shore

The North Shore  of Oahu is an excellent choice for your stay if you’re seeking a more relaxed and authentic Hawaiian experience. The North Shore is renowned for its natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere, and world-famous surf spots. 

The North Shore is a surfing mecca, particularly during the winter months when massive waves attract professional surfers from around the world. Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay are some of the iconic surf spots to witness incredible wave-riding performances.

Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, and Laniakea Beach are known for their golden sands and turquoise waters. During the summer months, the ocean is calmer, making it ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

The charming town of Haleiwa serves as the commercial center of the North Shore. It features unique shops, art galleries, and a variety of dining options, including famous shrimp trucks. Haleiwa also provides a glimpse into the area’s history and local culture.

A visit to the North Shore wouldn’t be complete without trying the famous shave ice at Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa. It’s a refreshing treat and a popular stop for both locals and visitors.

Located on the northeastern side of the North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center offers an immersive experience into the cultures of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands. It features traditional performances, hands-on activities, and a Polynesian-themed luau.

Best places to stay in Oahu North Shore:

Luxury ($$$): Turtle Bay Resort, 5-star beachfront resort with a private beach, conveniently located on Kamehameha Highway, great base to explore northern Oahu.  It is a short distance from Haleiwa town, Polynesian Culture Center, and Banzai/Pipeline and Waimea Bay. The hotel can help with helicopter tours, horseback rides, and bike rentals.

Mid-range ($$): Kalani Hawaii Private Lodging, this accommodation located in Pupukea, 5 mins walk from Sunset Beach, a famous surfing competition beach. It has a free onsite secure parking, family rooms, and airport transfer.

Mid-range ($$): Courtyard by Marriott Oahu North Shore, 3-star good value for money hotel located in Laie on the north east coast of Oahu, close to Polynesian Cultural Center and Brigham Young University Hawaii. It is the Great base to explore the North Shore and East of Oahu.


In conclusion, Waikiki, Ko Olina/Kapolei, and North Shore are the best places to stay in Oahu for first-timers and tourists. These are safe and popular destinations on Oahu, providing a range of accommodations and amenities for visitors to stay and explore the island.

 You can continue reading about Hawaii in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Oahu. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

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