Travel Rankings & Advice

Honolulu - Oahu Neighborhoods & Towns

Sitting in the northern part of the Hawaiian archipelago, Oahu is the most popular island of the state. Visitors tend to spend the most time in Honolulu or Waikiki, while active travelers tend to head to the north and south coasts.


Consider purchasing a map to get around Honolulu, but keep in mind that most say the city's layout conforms to local geography rather than to an understandable grid. Learning some local Hawaiian terms before traveling might be helpful: mauka (MOW-Ka), which means "toward the mountain" while makai (Mah-KAI) means "toward the sea." Popular coastal attractions include the neighborhood of Waikiki, Aina Moana State Recreation Area, and Diamond Head. Inland Honolulu is mostly residential.

The famous 'Iolani Palace the only official royal residence in the United States is in downtown Honolulu on South King Street. The palace housed Hawaii's last two monarchs, King David Kalakaua and his sister, Queen Lili'uokalani, at the end of the 19th century.

The Pearl Harbor naval base is northwest of downtown Honolulu near the Honolulu International Airport (HNL). Pearl Harbor is home to the Navy's U.S. Pacific Fleet, as well as several memorials commemorating the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


The popular neighborhood of Waikiki is just a few miles south of Honolulu's downtown. Most of the island's resorts are located along its streets, and the neighborhood's 1½-mile stretch of beach is one of the most prized coastlines in the world.

North Shore

Oahu's North Shore couples beautifully pristine beaches with a laid-back ambiance. The towns of Hale'iwa, Kahuku, and Laie are some of the busiest towns on the North Shore; many recommend Hale'iwa for its restaurants and shopping. The North Shore is also a popular surfing destination, especially on Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and the Banzai Pipeline. But the surf can be extremely rough in the area (especially in the winter months), so surfers and swimmers should exercise caution and obey lifeguards at all times while in the water.

Windward Coast

If you'd like to stay on the Windward Coast, a few hotels can be found in Kailua. These will put you within walking distance of nearby beaches and restaurants. However, this central region is mainly residential.


Oahu is a relatively safe island with little crime, so water safety should be your main concern. Tides can be very strong, especially in the winter, so enter the water with caution and under the supervision of a lifeguard. Be sure to wear plenty of sunblock, as well, especially at higher altitudes.

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