What Is The Difference Between Oahu Honolulu And Waikiki?

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Are you planning a vacation in Hawaii but just can’t get decide between Oahu, Honolulu, and Waikiki?

Well, my wife and I had this trouble when we were planning our honeymoon.

After days of doing extensive research, we both agreed on what is best for us and had the best honeymoon ever.

However, what worked for us might not work for you.

That is why I will be providing you with the differences between Oahu, Honolulu, and Waikiki and help you decide what is best for your needs.


Oahu is a haven for tourists, offering an abundance of attractions and activities to enjoy. From Lankai Beach to Diamond Head crater, Oahu has both beautiful beaches and historical sites!

Oahu Island maps
Oahu Island location

Whether you’re here for world-class shopping, dining, and nightlife in Honolulu’s urban core or exploring nature on one of its many hiking trails or nature preserves around the island, you will have a wonderful time.

Oahu is an island of contrasts. While Honolulu and Waikiki are world-renowned tourist spots, Oahu offers a more relaxed vibe with plenty of exploration opportunities away from city life.

With stunning beaches, lush rainforests, waterfall hikes, and a rich cultural heritage. Oahu is home to one million people of whom about 350,000 live in the capital Honolulu, and 26,000 in Waikiki.

Oahu Island Hawaii
Oahu Island

Oahu offers activities not found elsewhere on Hawaiian islands, such as:

  • surfing competitions at Waimea Bay
  • or diving off Makaha’s shores

Beyond the beaches and attractions, Oahu boasts exciting nightlife, diverse food flavors from around the island, and artsy culture to suit all tastes.

Visitors can explore the Chinatown district or take part in traditional festivals like Cherry Blossom Festival or Lei Day Celebrations for some truly memorable experiences.

We didn’t have the chance to explore the whole of Oahu because it is a huge island. However, we went swimming on some very private beaches and explored what was for us one of the most beautiful hiking trails.


Honolulu is Hawaii’s capital and most populous city that lies on Oahu – one of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Although Oahu, Honolulu, and Waikiki share the same island, there are distinct differences between them.

Honolulu view on Hawaii
Honolulu view

Honolulu offers more than just picturesque beaches.

It’s a vibrant urban center featuring trendy restaurants, lively nightlife spots, and an impressive selection of museums and galleries.

Here are some things you can do while in Honolulu:

  • Snorkel at Hanauma bay
  • See the waterfalls at the Ko’olau mountain range
  • For adventure seekers: Cliff jumping at La’ie point
  • For people with a bucket list: Go shark diving

Plus, the University of Hawai’i at Manoa – Hawaii’s largest university – is situated here too! Visitors looking to discover Hawaii’s culture, history, and natural beauty should explore Honolulu.

Food enthusiasts from over the world come here for a great variety of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, American, and Polynesian cuisine.

If you are going to Honolulu, make sure to visit a place called Kamake’e Corridor. They have both outdoor and indoor seating areas and the food is delightful.


Waikiki is one of Oahu’s most iconic and beloved beach neighborhoods, situated on the south shore near Diamond Head.

Once a playground for Hawaiian royalty, today it serves as an international tourist destination known for its white sand beaches, world-class shopping and dining establishments, vibrant nightlife scene, luxurious resorts, and stunning natural attractions.

Waikiki beach Hawaii
Waikiki beach

Since I am a foodie, I went every night to a place called Dukes Lane Market and Eatery which is a great restaurant in Waikiki.

Waikiki is a district in Honolulu, the capital of Oahu. With over 28,000 hotels, this beautiful district is made strictly for tourism.

Things that Waikiki has to offer include:

  • The famous Waikiki beach
  • Diamond head (massive crater)
  • See the Queens Waikiki Luau (entertainment show)
  • Leonard’s Bakery (my wife made me include her favorite bakery in the list)

Waikiki stands out from other parts of Oahu due to its vibrant culture.

Here you can enjoy hula dancing performances and live Hawaiian music concerts while exploring attractions like Kapiolani Park or Waikiki Beach Walk – an outdoor shopping and dining hub.

What Is The Difference Between Oahu Honolulu And Waikiki?

Oahu is one of the eight islands of Hawaii, with a capital called Honolulu. The most famous district of Honolulu is called Waikiki.

Each place offers different vibes and even though they are on the same island, each one is different than the other.

Waikiki beach map
Honolulu, Waikiki beach

To make this clearer, I have divided their differences into five main categories.


Oahu: Misty plateaus, tropical coastal areas, lava deserts, bamboo forests, and craggy ocean cliffs.

Honolulu: Bays, craters, ridges, and valleys.

Waikiki: Bays and beaches.

Basically, Oahu is an island that is shaped like a diamond and has two volcanoes on its territory.

Honolulu is the capital which makes it packed with buildings and other structures, while Waikiki was strictly built for tourism and consists of hotels and beautiful beaches.


Oahu: 596,5 miles square

Honolulu: 68,42 miles square

Waikiki: 3,4 miles square

With only 3,4 miles square, Waikiki is the smallest of the three but has the most tourists.


Oahu: 1 million people

Honolulu: 350,000 residents

Waikiki: 26,000 residents

Oahu as a whole has a population of one million people, 350,000 of which live in the capital Honolulu, while only 26,000 reside in Waikiki.

This makes Waikiki less crowded than the capital.


Oahu: Snorkeling, surfing, hiking, swimming, and nature walks.

Honolulu: Historical sites, trying the local cuisine, shopping, nightlife, and swimming.

Waikiki: Surfing, snorkeling, swimming, nightlife.

Waikiki beach is best for water sports and enjoying a day at the beach. Honolulu is best for visiting historical sites, dining in its many restaurants, and shopping.

Oahu being an island, has hundreds of beaches, hiking trails in beautiful mountains, and many surfing spots.


Oahu: Has many options that will meet all budgets and needs.

Honolulu: A bit more expensive than overall Oahu accommodations since it is the capital. Check out the hotels here.

Waikiki: The most expensive accommodations when compared to Honolulu and Oahu.

Waikiki is a tourist paradise which makes it a bit more expensive.

It is a sought-after destination and there are thousands of hotels which is good for picky tourists but a bit more expensive than overall Oahu or the capital Honolulu.

Final Words

Oahu is best for people that like to explore the wilderness, Honolulu is for people that like city life, and Waikiki is for people that want to spend their days on sunny beaches. Since my wife and I were going on a honeymoon, we decided to visit Waikiki and had a great time.

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