Aloha! Welcome to Hawaii, the tropical island chain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With a culture as rich as its volcanic soil, this pretty paradise is known for its stunning beaches, gorgeous flowers and friendly people. Hawaii is made out of eight main islands, as well as many other smaller islets, atolls and reefs. But where to stay in Hawaii?
Six of the big islands have resorts and hotels. (The seventh, Niihau, is limited to half-day tours, while the eighth, Kahoolawe, is uninhabited.)
To find a hotel in paradise, check out our list of where to stay in Hawaii. From luxury resorts to intimate rooms by the beach, you’ll be saying “aloha” to the 50th state in no time.
Home to the state capital, Honolulu, Oahu is where most of the state’s population lives, works and plays. Attractions on the island – which is dubbed the Gathering Place – include shopping in Waikiki, hiking at the Diamond Head State Monument and the historic Iolani Palace.
This “Pink Palace of the Pacific” has been around since 1927. Now celebrating its 90th anniversary, this iconic resort sits on a prime stretch of Waikiki Beach. Built where Queen Ka’ahumanu had her summer palace, Royal Hawaiian has 528 luxury rooms and suites divided between the flamingo-pink Spanish-Moorish original building, bordered by a lush garden with a majestic banyan tree, and a newer 17-story Royal Beach Tower.
Overlooking the volcanic crater at Diamond Head, Halekulani shines as the hotel that has it all. From a lanai (outside veranda) in each room to the jazz lounge to the refreshing spa, there’s always some way to be entertained or pampered. This hotel boasts three excellent restaurants. You’ll find seafood specialties and Sunday brunch at Orchids, oceanfront dining at A House Without A Key, and French dishes made with fresh island ingredients at La Mer, a AAA Five Diamond rated restaurant.
Maui, also known as the Valley Isle, is the island of beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets. Kaanapali Beach is known for the daily cliff-diving ceremony off of the beach’s northernmost cliffs. Every evening at sunset, a cliff diver lights the torches along the cliffs at the beach, diving off in a re-enactment of a feat by Maui’s revered King Kahekili.
This AAA Five Diamond Rated hotel is nestled inside the massive Kapalua Resort and located next to the sacred Honokahua Burial Site. With two gorgeous 18-hole golf courses, four tennis courts and a fitness center that’s open 24 hours a day, there’s always something to do. There’s also a three-tiered pool, six restaurants and a spa with treatments based on ancient Hawaiian traditions.
For the traveler on a budget, this beachside resort offers cottages, rooms in its 12-story tower and suites looking directly out at the sunset. Activities include three swimming pools, water sports and a nightly luau on the sand. Dine at the oceanfront Ocean Terrace Restaurant or snack on ice cream at the Royal Scoop and the poolside Beach Bar. As a bonus, the Royal Lahaina Resort does not have a resort fee – unlike many other Hawaii hotels.
Southernmost in the archipelago, the Big Island is nearly twice as big as all the others combined. It is also home to active volcanoes – like the continuously erupting Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Just as the climate ranges from sandy beaches and tropical forests to the snowcapped peaks of Mauna Kea, the attractions range from sacred villages and historic sites to resort towns and cattle ranches.
First of all, Kings Land by Hilton Grand Vacations club has a free shuttle to the beach every 30 minutes, making it a breeze to hit some waves. Rooms in the all-suite hotel feature full kitchens, washing machines and dryers. Amenities include four pools, whirlpool tubs, a complimentary fitness center and business center as well as breakfast and lunch at the onsite bistro. Not to mention the championship golf courses at Waikoloa Beach Resort.
This little hotel has both an affordable price and a great location. It’s close to Hilo Airport and tucked next to Hilo Bay. Waterfalls and volcanoes are a short drive away. The Hilo Seaside Hotel, meanwhile, has its own koi pond, onsite dining at the Coconut Grill and complimentary bicycles for guests. And there’s a discount for AAA members.
Geologically the oldest island, Kauai is where flora and fauna run wild. “Jurassic Park” was filmed in the Moreton Bay fig trees in Allerton Garden, one of the many gorgeous botanical gardens and plantations on the Garden Isle. Chickens roam wild and free, and some natural wonders are only accessible by helicopter.
The beautiful rooms at this luxe resort evoke classic Hawaiian style. Spread out in low-rise buildings alongside a gorgeous stretch of the beach, the Grand Hyatt Kauai has six restaurants featuring Italians dishes, sushi, fresh Hawaiian seafood and more. The 45,000-square-foot spa uses ancient healing traditions in an open-air setting, and houses a 24-hour gym and yoga classes. Two outdoor pools, connected by swimmable “river pools,” are surrounded by lounge chairs and palm trees. A saltwater swimming lagoon along the beach and a water playground with waterfalls and a waterslide provide plenty of entertainment.
The villas here lie on a lush cliff on Kauai’s north shore, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Guests stay wet with a main pool, two plunge pools and a children’s pool, as well as a sauna and steam room. An on-site food market and casual restaurant keeps travelers well-fed. There’s also a concierge to help manage your vacation activities, which can include snorkeling, diving and horseback riding. Limahuli Garden is 10 miles away, while Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge is 7 miles away.
Lanai, known as the Pineapple Isle, is a tiny island with a fascinating landscape and history. There are no traffic lights and only 30 miles of paved roads on the entire island. But Lanai does have shipwrecks, dolphins, snorkeling and hiking at Pu’u Pehe, aka Sweetheart Rock, as well as three world-class golf courses.
This extravagant AAA Five Diamond Rated hotel overlooks the ocean – guests can spot dolphins just off the beach! In addition to the central pool, there is an adults-only pool with private sanctuaries and whirlpools. Or relax in the spa tucked away in the resort’s lush gardens. There are five restaurants, including One Forty, an AAA Four Diamond Rated steak and seafood restaurant, and Malibu Farm, a offshoot of the popular Los Angeles spot.
This charming little inn is both historic and budget-friendly. Built in 1923 for pineapple executives, this was only hotel on the island until 1990. Hotel Lanai’s central location in Lanai City makes it a great place to start your explorations. The attached Lanai City Grille serves casual, family-style dinner and fresh seafood dishes. Nearby attractions include the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center and the Lanai Art Center.
Life goes by at a slower pace on the Friendly Isle. Like a sign in the airport says: “Slow down, you’re in Molokai.” Home to some of Hawaii’s most secluded beaches, much of the island is still wild and unspoiled. Kalaupapa National Historical Park on the north shore is home to the tallest sea cliffs in the world, while the south shore is home to a historic coconut grove and the longest fringing reef in the United States.
Each unit in this condo hotel has cable TV, a full kitchen and a private balcony. This oceanfront property also has a pool. Guests also enjoy access to free public Wi-Fi. The town of Kaunakakai and the Ironwood Hills Golf Course are only a short drive away.
This hotel is spread out in two-story bungalows modeled on a Polynesian village. Guests can lie in a hammock on the beach, swim in the outdoor pool surrounded by coconut palms, book excursions at the front desk, rent scuba or snorkeling gear, or dine on tasty local dishes at the hotel restaurant. Plus, parking is free!
Are you an expert on the islands? Share your thoughts on where to stay in Hawaii in the comments below!