Finding a great place to stay on Oahu that won't bust your budget!
With a bit of planning, you can have that gorgeous Pacific Ocean view each day, without having to take out a second mortgage to pay for it!
When my husband and I first went to the Island of Oahu, in Hawaii in April of 2005, we really were unprepared. Although the internet was alive and kicking, there weren't as many travel resources as there are now so when we went, we stayed at a hotel in Waikiki Beach and just rented a car to go around the island, as I wanted to visit all the places I remembered from when I lived on the island back in the late 70's. That Waikiki hotel, the Outrigger Reef Hotel was $300 a night before taxes and fees, but since we were there for only five nights, we thought it was reasonable. After all it was right on the beach and we had a gorgeous view (they upgraded us to a top floor OceanFront Room, even though we paid for a Partial Oceanview), but little did we know that we would want to come back again and again and that the next time we went, we HAD to stay for more than just 5 days. The longer you stay, though, the more money it would cost...
Time to come up with a game plan.
Pat's at Punaluu
53-567 Kamehameha Hwy, Hauula, HI 96717
Little did we know that during those 5 days we passed a true gem multiple times as we drove along the Kamehameha Hwy headed up to the north shore, near a small town called Hauula. Back in 2005, Pat's at Punaluu was pretty nondescript. In fact, the building, which was painted a VERY retro avocado green pretty much blended into the surrounding tree canopy. I remember remarking to my husband what a great location for a condo building, but how god awful ugly and run down it looked. I happened to mention the place to my mom and she remembered that place from when we lived on Schofield Barracks and how there used to be a nice restaurant attached to the building and the gorgeous views. The restaurant had long closed and was boarded up (it has since been torn down) and they were residential condos built back in 1972. Little did we know they were in preparation for a major facelift...I really didn't give them another thought until Jason and I decided to go back to Oahu for vacation (Sarah was still young so she stayed with the grandparents) and when I was looking for places to stay, I stumbled across Pat's at Punaluu, the name of the condo complex. Well, it turns out that about 1/2 the building are full time residents, with the other 1/2 being short and long term rentals.
Some of the condos have been quite extensively renovated and look amazing. Others are a little more basic on the inside and accordingly have a lower price point. On our last visit, we stayed at a 3rd floor end unit condo (pictured below). It is 720 square feet, with 1 bedroom and a pull out sofa bed and for $175 a night, you couldn't beat it with a stick! The owner's name is Kathleen and you an find her listing on Vacation Rentals By Owner at https://www.vrbo.com/180197
Oh and I have to say, the bed in the master bedroom is SOOOO comfortable.
A few things about Pat's at Punaluu...it was built as a residential building and at least half of the people who live there are long time residents, so this is NOT a resort. You have to abide by the renter guidelines and treat this place like you would your own home. Don't be THAT person. It's all about respect. If you want fancy, if you want to be catered to, this is not the place. This is a builsing with working class families and retired people. There is a bus stop right out front for the main form of public island transport, THE Bus. There is a slight smell in the air in the parking lot from the septic processing tank, but it's not bad. The views, the price, the friendliness of the people who live there and the beach is SO worth it.
The beach is very nice, the water is super calm and great for swimming and lounging and VERY few people there at all. Like maybe 2 other people at a time. Plus they have a nice area right by the beach with tables and chairs to just relax and listen to the surf. We've stayed here a total of three times (each in a different condo) and enjoyed our stay each time.
One thing to note about Pat's is that the bedrooms are NOT on the Oceanside of the building. They are on the west side or street side. If you have your bedroom window open, and you probably will for the breeze, know that you won't be lulled to sleep with the sound of the waves. We didn't have issue with noise, because we were so exhausted every day, but please be aware of it. Kamehameha Hwy runs directly out in front of the building so if there is a firetruck that goes by or police, you may hear it...but you'll be so zoned out from all the fun you've had that day, so you probably won't notice! Pictures of the scenery are all ones I took myself, so you are getting the beach to the right and the mountains to the left...it is paradise.
We stayed in a different unit in 2009 (pictured below) when we visited the islands to celebrate my graduation from the Florida institute of Technology. It was very nice, tastefully decorated and for $155 a night, was a great price, as this was a top floor corner unit and the views were spectacular. It has a corner, wrap around lanai with great views and a very nice cross breeze due to two sliding glass doors. Full kitchen and comfy bed. On the 7th Floor and can accommodate 2 people. Not exactly kid friendly, but good for a couple getaway. Vacation Rentals By Owner as well. The views from this condo were just as gorgeous at the ones I posted above. I didn't have any digital files of images of this place on my laptop, so here are pictures from the VRBO listing, and I can assure you, the condo looks just as you would expect. :) https://www.vrbo.com/134630
I would also recommend this unit, rented by owner Betty Knake. We rented from her the first time we stayed there in 2007 and she was such a pleasure to work with. Her husband is the Condo Association President and she is the association Treasurer. Here is on of her units.
Just a few things I've observed over the past few times we've been there:
The access to the building is secure. You have to have a key fob to use the elevator and to access any doorways that lead to the residential hall ways. Never in the times I stayed here did I ever feel unsafe. That doesn't mean you ever let down your guard, but I wouldn't do that in my own hometown!
Personally I feel that you don't want to be below the 3rd floor. The bottom units get little sun on their patio because they are covered by the extended balconies of the upper floors, you don't have such a nice view, because the dunes will obstruct the ocean and you will have more bugs on the ground floor.
Those are the units I would recommend. :) The beach is very nice, the water is super calm and great for swimmung and lounging and VERY few people there at all. Like maybe 2 other people at a time. Plus they have a nice area right by the beach with tables and chairs to just relax and listen to the surf.
One thing to note about pats is that the bedrooms are NOT on the Oceanside of the building. They are on the west side or street side.We didn't have issue with noise, because we were so exhausted every day, but please be aware of it.
Sugar Mill Beach House
Located on Kamehameha Hwy, directly across from Kualoa Ranch
If you are taking a large family trip and are looking for a place to stay, where you can all stay in the same place and not have to split up among different hotel rooms, I highly recommend taking a look at the Sugar Mill Beach House. It is a three bedroom, completely refurbished beach house located directly across from Kualoa Ranch on the east side of the island, with secure, gated covered garage parking. It rents from $450 a night, which at first might seem a little costly, but if the cost is shared among extended family, it is quite reasonable. We stayed there for a week in 2014 with my parents when we did our family vacation and we split the cost. After we stayed there, I wrote this review on the VRBO website:
"I've thought over & over about what to say about the Sugar Mill Beach House and I really think the best way for me to begin is to ask if you have ever walked into a place and felt like you just "belonged" there? The moment I stepped through the doors of the rental house, I was overcome with a feeling of being HOME. Granted in a much nicer, seaside paradise, but let me tell you, if you have any questions or concerns about renting through VRBO or about this house, just let it go. This house is WONDERFUL. I was staying here with my husband, our daughter, my parents and it was the perfect beach-house for us.
Every morning we would wake to the sounds of the local rooster & the clucking chickens (*don't worry, you'll be up with the sun anyway & honestly, you'll miss them when you get back home!), have coffee on the upper or lower porch watching the sunrise and listening to the surf. The beds are SO comfortable there is NO way you won't have a restful night's sleep, the view is utterly spectacular and the kitchen was well appointed and spacious (surpassing my mom's expectations), so there was not a single thing we missed during our stay. The house is open enough where you feel like you have plenty of room to yourself without always running into one another, but are still able to have that family vacation feel. One of the owners, Joey, met with us one night and she is absolutely a dream...kind, friendly and so easy to work with!
If you like to kayak, I highly recommend kayaking out to Chinaman's Hat, as they provide 2 double seat ocean kayaks. My husband, daughter and step-dad went kayaking on a number of the mornings when the water was calm and being able to explore Chinaman's Hat was a thrill for them all. There is a large propane grill provided, so we were able to grill out on 3 separate evenings, which is nice to be able to do, because you can get sick of eating out all the time on vacation. We flew kites at Kualoa Regional Park down the street & the Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Farm is right down the road, which is a great place to stop. Additionally, you are right across the street from Kualoa Ranch where there are tons of activities and about a 10 minute drive from Mikes Huli-Huli Chicken, where you must go. Trust me on that one!
Honestly, I wish I had won the lottery while I was on vacation, because if I had, I would have tried to buy this place from Joey! I miss it so much...to quote Jack Sheppard from "LOST": "We HAVE to go back!"
I have to say, the only downside that may be for some, is the fact that there is no real beach. There is a retaining seawall that during high tide causes some mighty splashy surf!!! There are TONS of local beaches in the area so that really should be a big factor!
Park Shore Waikiki Hotel
2586 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815 Hotel: (808) 923-0411
During out last two trips to Hawaii in 2014 and 2017, we knew we wanted to spend a few days in Waikiki. In 2014, the reason was that it was the first time my mom had been back to Oahu since we moved in 1980. My mom's husband (I refer to as my dad...long story!) had never been to Hawaii, so I wanted them to have the Waikiki/Honolulu experience, knowing that we would then be going up to stay at the Sugar Mill Beach House for a week where we would get the relaxing island life vibe we were used to on our previous trips.
there are SO MANY hotels to choose from in Waikiki, it can be quite overwhelming. If you want to be smack dab on the beach with that million dollar ocean front view of Diamond Head, you are going to pay for it. If you've never been to Honolulu/Waikiki Beach, let me tell you a few things.
You're smack in the middle of a major city that just happens to have one of the most reknown beaches in the world right there. Due the the high amounts of visitors, many of them from Asia that have a LOT of disposable income due to the exchange rates, you will see every single high end, luxury store imaginable: Cartier, Hermes, Bulgari, Salvatore Ferragamo, Vivienne Westwood, Tesla, Tiffany & Co...just to name a few and the hotels are stacked up on one another. Those that have beachfront property don't come cheap. BUT if you go a little further down the main "strip" of Kalakaua Avenue, there is a gem of a hotel in a GREAT location with amazing views and more reasonable prices. If you know how to use airline or credit card miles to your advantage, you can even get your stay for a fraction of the price. We were there for three nights in 2017 and all we had to do was pay for parking and the ever popular, but much derided "resort fee".
The Park Shore Hotel is located at the far end of Kalakaua Avenue, right next to Kapiolani Park, the Honolulu Zoo and directly across the street from the beach. It is one of the few hotels located across the street from the beach that does NOT have their view obstructed by another hotel. Both Kuhio and Queens Beach are directly across the street.
Look at those views! The one on the top right with the waves was taken one morning from the Waikiki Wall (seen in the pictures below, jetting out into the water). We had an Ocean Front room that was paid for using our British Airways Avios (miles) and the views were just amazing...
Now on to paying for this little gem. First off, sign up as an Aqua Hospitality A-List insider and SAVE 10% PLUS get a complimentary room upgrade, based on availability at check-in, and a welcome gift upon arrival.
Let's say, you're mom and dad wanting to take your 2 kids to Hawaii on a family vacation after school gets out. I would HIGHLY suggest you plan on being there for the King Kamehameha holiday. It is truly something everyone should experience, as it is of such important cultural significance, and the Park Shore Hotel is a GREAT place to view the parade, because the parade ends at Kapolani Park and will pass right in front of your hotel!
Now, you have to know I am a planner when it comes to vacations, so it's NOT out of the ordinary to check prices a year in advance, because you can get some great deals. For example, a poolside room from Sat. 6/8 to 6/12 starts at $168.00 a night. Just so you know, the hotel pool is a rooftop pool on the 3rd floor and these rooms area steal at that price. Your view might not be as ideal, but your kids would love having the pool in such close proximity!
A 4 night stay, with taxes and fees, would be $873, which really isn't that bad at all, considering you are right there in the heart of Honolulu. Now if you are expecting the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton, you know that's not what you're going to get for this price, but I can tell you this, I won't stay in a POS hotel. The rooms are clean, the beds are comfortable, there is a Starbucks right downstairs, the valet parking is extremely reasonable and the restaurant attached to the hotel, Lulu's, is great and reasonable priced! There is an ABC store where you can pick up all your basic needs that you may have forgotten or need during your stay: Ibuprofen, Band Aids, sodas, beer & alcohol, food, sunscreen, you name it!
Let me put it to you this way, my family and I are already planning our next visit for June of 2020 and yes, we will be spending 3 night here, before we head up to the North Shore where we are renting a house for a week. Think about it. Would we stay here a 3rd time if we didn't like it?
Now for my final recommendation...it's not a cheap place, but you can get it at a discount, dependent on the times you book or if you have points you can use!
Turtle Bay Resort
57-091 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, HI 96731
I remember first visiting the Turtle Bay Resort back in 1978 when it was owned by the Hyatt Hotel chain and was known as the Hyatt Kuilima. It is located in a positively amazing location and over the last 40 years it underwent a number of ownership changes, including the Hilton chain taking over after Hyatt bailed out in 1983. For a while it went downhill, but over the last decade or so, it really has had a resurgence in popularity as both a resort and filming location for many popular movies and television shows (most notably, "LOST").
I remember spending weekends here with my family when I was younger and their magnificent Sunday brunch that drew people from all over the island. Now the I'm older when we, as a family, were trying to decide where to spend part of our vacation, there was no question that the Turtle Bay was on the itinerary. When it comes to the cost of rooms for the night, the range varies wildly, so the more flexibility you have the better. I chose the dates of August 19th through 23rd and was quoted an average total of $311 per night for a total 4 night stay of $1246.00. Please note that this does not include taxes or the dreaded resort fees that bring the total to $1625.00. That comes to around $400 a night for a Partial Ocean View Room.
One thing to know is that there really is NO bad views at this hotel, due to its location on the property. Take a look at the pictures from our Partial Ocean View room when we were there in June of 2017. This is a true resort and they offer so much...Horseback riding, Segway tours, hiking, helicopter flights, surfing lessons, yoga on the beach, spa services, you name it! There is nothing like watching the sunset, listening to live music by the pool.
Since this is the only resort on the north side of the island, they sort of have carte blanche to charge what they want, they aren't that unreasonable compared to the cost of some resorts on Maui or Kauai. We were fortunate in that we had points that we were able to cash in to cover our stay, but even if we had to pay for our stay, know that the Turtle Bay does have frequent stays. We are firm believers that if you spend all of your time on Oahu just down in Waikiki and never get out and explore all the amazingness the island has to offer, you really are limiting yourself and missing so, so much!