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A trip to Hawaii can be a once in a lifetime experience, but wow can it be hard settling on a good place to stay! If you’re on a budget and trying to avoid paying resort prices, or you’re just looking for a little something different (maybe a more local experience?) then a condo or vacation rental on Oahu is perfect for you!
Hawaii has a great variety of accommodation options, which makes it the perfect place to try out a vacation rental. Since Hawaii is a major vacation destination, there are of course MANY condos to choose from but besides condos, Hawaii has a ton of “ohanas.” Ohana means family (any Lilo and Stitch fans out there???) and in Hawaii the term is applied to separate living units located on the same property as the main house. Many homes in Hawaii are divided up into multiple spaces (each with its own private entrance, bathroom, kitchenette, etc.) while some have a guest cottage on the property. Because so many homes are configured this way, it’s easy to find a private apartment or cottage on the same property with a local host.
There are several ways you’ll save money on a trip to Oahu by staying in a condo or vacation rental. The biggest way you’ll save money is that it’s soooo much cheaper than staying at a resort or hotel. On many islands you can find condos or ohanas either right on or just a block or two from the beach. Plus, resorts can get expensive really fast if you have more than two adults staying in a room. Rental units are perfect for larger parties who can rent an entire house or multi bedroom condo and split the cost. Another big benefit that rentals offer is the full kitchen (or kitchenette depending on what you book). Having a place to cook some meals and a fridge to store snacks and drinks can really save you a lot.
What should you look for in a vacation rental?
Before you start looking around for specific condos or rentals, it’s best to have a general idea of where you want to stay. If you’re not very familiar with Oahu, you should read this post to get the lay of the is(land) and decide which area you’d most like to stay. But before you start looking, you should know that by far the bulk of accommodations are located in Waikiki (a neighborhood of Honolulu), and Oahu just passed legislation that limits the rentals in “local” parts of the island. More on that below.
Consider what you need. What’s important to you? Are you looking for a specific location near a certain beach or resort area? Do you need a full kitchen? Reliable Wi-Fi? A full house or just studio? Be clear about what you want before you start searching.
Read reviews. Before you even consider staying at a property, you should read up on what people who have stayed there have to say. Remember, you’ll only hear the good points from the host but reviews usually give a much more honest story. And when I’m weeding through listings, I also put a lot of weight into the photographs provided. If the photos look professional, it probably means that the owner runs their vacation rental in a professional manner and that is a indication that it’s a good place to stay.
Ask plenty of questions. When you’re seriously considering staying at a specific property, you should correspond with the owner and ask them any questions you may have.
Count the extra costs. Be sure to factor in any security deposits, cleaning fees, and booking fees.
Know the cancellation policy. Each property and owner may have different terms so know what they are before you commit.
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So now that you know what you’re looking for…how do you find it?
I think the best place to find (and book) Oahu vacation rentals is Vrbo. They’ve been around forever and are probably the most reputable booking platform online (with owners and vacationers alike), which means that you’ll find more quality properties listed on Vrbo than anywhere else online. I used to book more often with Airbnb, but I’ve begun to find that they often don’t have what I’m looking for (especially when I want to book a condo/unit within a resort property).
Vrbo has an enormous amount of traditional vacation rental listings (condos in resort areas), but they also have so many options that are more “off the beaten path” in local areas. But overall, you’re going to find properties listed by owners who take their rental business very seriously and are committed to providing you the best accommodations possible.
How does it work? By doing a simple search by island (or specific area), you’ll be able to find a wide (price and type) range of accommodation. You can refine your search to fit certain criteria (part of the island, price, style, etc.) before you start weeding through specific properties.
The number of search results you’ll find by island can be extremely overwhelming, so I would suggest putting as many filters as possible (especially price and number of bedrooms) and then viewing the results on a map so you can get an idea for where everything is located.
I know what people are looking for specifically varies greatly, but I often get asked for the best (i.e. cheapest) beachfront condos, so I’ve rounded up a few specific properties that I like the looks of:
Oahu Condos Under $100/Night
RELATED: 15 Things to Do on Oahu
As you can see, all of these properties are located in Waikiki (the most populated area of Oahu for tourists). This is where the cheapest rentals are located (under $100/night). It used to be possible to find options on other parts of the island, but the pickings are getting slimmer since recent legislation was passed that limit the short term rentals on Oahu. Before the current bill was passed, it was estimated that there were as many as 10,000 vacation rentals operating on Oahu (most illegal), which put a real strain on local housing. The new bill limits short term vacation rentals (less than 30 days) to resort areas in Waikiki, Turtle Bay (on the north shore), and Ko’olina (on the west side). Unfortunately, you won’t find many properties under $100/night in Ko’olina or Turtle Bay, but if you up your budget to $200-300 there should be some options. This means that if your budget is firm, Waikiki is the place to stay for a good deal.
Also, these rates are STARTING rates, meaning that’s the cheapest rate you’ll find during the slow season (usually late August through September and end of January through February) so if you’re putting in dates for high season (holidays and summer months), the rates may be higher.
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