Oahu is Hawaii’s most visited island (largely because it’s home to the state’s capital, Honolulu, and its major tourist hub, Waikiki). Waikiki (a beachfront neighborhood in Honolulu) is home to about 95% of the island’s hotel rooms, so by default, it’s where most tourists end up. Waikiki is basically a big city on the beach. Think endless high rises, flashy shopping centers, all the major chain restaurants, and a million people. All of the major hotel chains are represented as well as plenty of budget options and even trendy new boutique hotels.
And then there’s the rest of the island. So the big question is…to stay in Waikiki or not?
Why You Might Like Waikiki
So…if it’s so crowded, why do people stay there? Simple. It’s Hawaii’s oldest resort area (the Moana Surfrider was built in 1901), and people have been flocking there ever since. It’s also a really beautiful beach with stunning views of Diamond Head in the background. Most people who have never been to Hawaii end up in Waikiki, usually because flights to Honolulu are cheaper than the other islands, and because they’ve heard of it. They think, “it’s popular for a reason…it must be where you’re supposed to go.”
Here are a few more reasons why people like staying in Waikiki:
- You can find cheap hotels. Just like any major city, the more hotel rooms there are, the more competitive prices are.
- You don’t need a car. Shuttles are a dime a dozen from the Honolulu airport to Waikiki and most visitors just stay in Waikiki/Honolulu and don’t venture out to the rest of the island.
- Waikiki is pretty densely populated with attractions (museums, historic and cultural sites, the zoo and aquarium, etc.) so most of it’s easily walkable.
- There’s a good (and reasonably priced) trolley system around Honolulu/Waikiki and Oahu has a decent public bus system for getting around to some of the major tourist attractions.
- There’s a LOT of shopping. From luxury designer brands at the Ala Moana to major chain stores at the Royal Hawaiian Center, to cheap souvenir outlets everywhere, Waikiki is a shopper’s paradise.
- There are a ton of restaurants. You’ll find major chains (Cheesecake Factory, Hard Rock Café, etc.) and pricey resort restaurants as well as local joints (as you venture away from Waikiki into Honolulu).
Why You Might NOT Like Waikiki
Now, a few reasons you may not like Waikiki:
- It’s very crowded. On the beach, you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with fellow sun worshipers.
- There’s soooo much traffic! Even if you have a car and you’re willing to get out and explore, expect a headache getting around.
- There’s so much to see on the island besides Waikiki (the truly beautiful parts!) and getting around by bus isn’t too convenient.
- If you do rent a car, many Waikiki resorts charge as much as $40/day to park it.
- You may come home feeling like you’ve had more of a city vacation instead of an island vacation.