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Finding just the right place to stay on Oahu can be tricky, especially with recent legislation limiting zoning for vacation rentals in residential areas.
If you’re looking for alternate accommodations (not a hotel or a resort), I tend to recommend condos over apartments and houses anyways as it puts less of a burden on local housing demands, however on Oahu, the options are self limiting now
Basically, properties that don’t have a permit to operate as a vacation rental and are outside of certain zones have been shut down (it’s estimated as many as 10,000 properties were being rented without permits on sites like Airbnb!) so if a hotel or resort isn’t in the budget (or you’ll looking for more amenities), a condo is a good option.
The condo situation on Oahu is interesting. Compared to the other islands, there are definitely fewer condos and complexes that cater to visitors as many of them (especially in Waikiki/Honolulu) have full time residents.
In this post, I’m recommending several condo complexes (also called condo-tels or condo resorts) by area on Oahu that I think are good places to stay. I’ve also got descriptions of each area so you can figure out what part of the island is most appealing to you.
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.
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). So all of the condo complexes I will be linking to are bookable within Vrbo.
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.
Disclaimer: This is by no means an exhaustive list of every condo complex on Oahu. There are soooooo many, and there likely are some that aren’t on this list that are perfectly good places to stay at. I’ve compiled this list largely based on location, ratings and reviews, and an overall vibe of what I’m looking for in a place to stay.
North Shore Vacation Rentals & Condos
Oahu’s famous north shore stretches all the way from Laie to Haleiwa and is what locals call the “country.” You won’t find a Target or Costco up there. But you will find gorgeous beaches (only swimmable in the summer), and sleepy little surf towns. The only resort on the north shore is Turtle Bay and it’s lovely. There are some condos situated in the Turtle Bay resort area.
Villas at Turtle Bay: Clustered around the main resort, these villas and condos are the perfect blend of the resort amenities (beaches and resort shops and restaurants) and the added comforts of a vacation rental (kitchen, laundry, etc.) Find specific condo units here.
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Ko’olina Vacation Rentals & Condos
This resort community on the west side feels a world away from Waikiki, but very much like a vacation spot instead of the more “local” Kailua and north shore. In Ko’olina you’ll find a Four Seasons, Marriott, and the big Disney resort as well as a small shopping center. There’s also a Target and Costco in nearby Kapolei. Otherwise, Ko’olina is a little remote from the rest of the island, which could be a good thing!
Ko’olina Beach Villas: The Ko’olina Beach Villas is a large resort complex that sits on its own lagoon in between the Marriott and Disney’s Aulani Resort. The pool is lovely and the units are large and new. Find specific condo units here.
Makaha Shores: Situated on a gorgeous beach on the west side, this is a much more local area and although a little bit removed from the rest of the island, it’s a good bang for your buck. Find specific condo units here.
Waikiki Vacation Rentals & Condos
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/Honolulu 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. But there are also a few condo properties that I like in the area.
Illikai Hotel & Luxury Suites: The Illikai is the best place to get the classic Waikiki experience. It’s got a great location, modern units, but it costs a fraction of the price as nearby resorts. Find specific condo units here.
Waikiki Banyan: This large tower is a couple of blocks from the beach, but many of the higher floors have ocean views. There’s a good sized pool and tennis courts. You’ll definitely get a city vibe staying at this property amidst the high rises, but the price is right. Find specific condo units here.
Tips for Booking an Oahu Vacation Rental
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.
Oahu Condos Under $100/Night
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:
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.
All photos in this post are from Vrbo.com listings.