5 Reasons to Stay in the Ko Olina Resort Instead of Waikiki

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Photo of Lagoon 2 with the Beach Villas at Ko Olina in the background

Now don’t get me wrong here. I love Waikiki…I just don’t recommend it as the ideal location on Oahu for an awesome Hawaii vacation. (see Disclaimers below)

What do you think of when you envision an idyllic trip to Hawaii? Is it relaxing on beautiful and secluded white sand beaches, hearing the balmy breezes as they pass by the coconut trees and watching stunning sunsets while listening to gentle waves washing up against the shoreline?

Or do you picture being surrounded by throngs of visitors, traffic, city noise, lights, buildings, sirens, police, prostitution and panhandlers?

While I recognize this may seem like somewhat of a stark and unfair contrast…I also must say that it is not really that far off from the reality of things. You see, Waikiki and Ko Olina are two very different places. So different in fact that they might as well be on different islands…but they are not. And THAT is the beauty of it my friend!

You see, you can have your cake and eat it, too, as they say. You can enjoy the peace, quiet and meticulously landscaped Ko Olina Resort community and head into Waikiki any time you want for a day trip, a night on the town or an afternoon of shopping until you can’t carry any more bags!

Without further ado, here are five reasons to stay in the Ko Olina Resort instead of Waikiki:

1- More Bang For Your Buck

If you have a party of six and plan to stay in a hotel in Waikiki, you could end up spending just as much, if not MORE than you would for a 2bd or 3bd luxury villa in Ko Olina, complete with an open kitchen, living, dining area and huge lanai, many with expansive ocean views. The entire group can stay comfortably in one villa with all the amenities of home and all the luxuries of a five-star hotel.

Traditionally when comparing vacation rentals to hotels, you get much more for your money with vacation rentals than you do from hotels. That is certainly the case, even amongst other properties in Ko Olina. It is not uncommon to pay $500-$800/night for hotel rooms in Ko Olina at the Disney Aulani or the Marriott Ihilani. While both are beautiful resorts the accommodations will still mostly be hotel-style rooms. With the Beach Villas at Ko Olina and Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club at least guests can enjoy more spacious and family-style living, most often for less cost than a hotel.

2- More Relaxing and Quiet

The 600+ acre Ko Olina Resort provides some distance between the oceanfront resorts and lagoons and Farrington Highway so you don’t really hear much traffic noise at all. The only road that goes through resort is Aliinui Drive and the speed limit is 25 mph. In fact, there is only one way in and out of the Ko Olina Resort so there is technically no through traffic at all; only residents and visitors to the resort.

There is limited public parking available in the resort and as a result the beaches do not get nearly as crowded as the beaches do in Waikiki. Lagoon 2 next to the Beach Villas at Ko Olina tends to be the most private and exclusive beach of the four lagoons, due to the lower total guest counts at the Beach Villas when compared with Lagoon 1, shared by Marriott Ihilani and Disney Aulani, and Lagoon 3, which is fronted by the three Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club towers.

When you are at the beaches in Ko Olina you don’t have to worry about being distracted or disturbed by constant sounds of the city. You can take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the calm surroundings.

3- More Family/Kid Friendly

One of the biggest advantages the Ko Olina Resort has over other Oahu destination locations is how family and kid friendly it is! The lagoons are calm and protected and many of the pools in the different resort areas have shallow sections for kids or relatively shallow depths in the pools anyway which makes it easier for kids to swim.

There are shops and restaurants that cater to families as thousands of families visit the Ko Olina Resort every year. Visitors can stop by the shops at the Disney Aulani and can dine in the Disney restaurants, even if they are not guests there.

The vacation properties in Ko Olina tend to lend themselves well to traveling families as there are many options with two and three bedrooms, full kitchens and other family-friendly amenities. All of the vacation rentals my team manages have a travel crib and high chair for those traveling with a toddler or baby. We also provide beach towels, beach chairs and miscellaneous sand toys. Most of our properties have one or two boogie boards as well.

4- More Safe; Like MUCH More Safe

In retrospect, I really should have listed this reason FIRST! After all, that is how the saying goes…SAFETY FIRST.

Look no further than the Honolulu Police Department’s Crime Mapping tool to see for yourself the vast differences between the Ko Olina Resort and Waikiki when it comes to reported crimes:

Between Aug. 1, 2014 and Aug. 25, 2014 there were six crimes reported in Ko Olina: four thefts, one vehicle theft and one vehicle break-in. It looks like the regular thefts occurred on or near the Disney Aulani property and usually any vehicle issues are most likely to occur in the open public beach parking areas and not in secured parking areas at the resort hotels and villas as those are monitored more closely by security personnel.

Now contrast the minimal Ko Olina crime results with those in the general Waikiki areas during the same 25-day period where there were well over 350 crimes reported! And that is being generous. If you search in the Honolulu/Waikiki areas using the HPD Crime Map link above and filter for Aug. 1-25 you may easily get 800+ results if you expand the search to cover much of the Honolulu area.

One of the many reasons why Ko Olina has a lower incidence of crime is due to the 24/7 security presence in the resort, both at the front entry and throughout the various communities, beach parking lots and oceanfront areas. Also, it is just generally a safer and less crime-prone location and has a reputation for being safe, secure, secluded and most of the residents in the resort have a watchful eye for any suspicious behavior.

This should certainly be an important consideration for anyone traveling to Hawaii, but especially those traveling as families with young children or elderly family members. Hawaii is generally a wonderful and safe place, but it certainly has its issues with theft and other common crimes, especially in the more populated areas in and around the city of Honolulu.

The various resort properties in Ko Olina each have their own on-site 24/7 security patrols as well as video surveillance, secured access entry doors and parking. It is a safe resort to walk about at any time of the day or night and that is one of the things that I love about it. Of course all visitors to Hawaii should use caution and be alert while traveling, no matter where they are, but Ko Olina certainly provides one of the safest locations available to visitors.

Now don’t let these crime numbers deter you from coming to Hawaii at all! Remember that all cities, states and countries have challenges dealing with crime. If you are smart, observant and cautious then the chances are you will be just fine  on your trip and will enjoy an incident-free vacation to Hawaii, regardless of where you stay. Just be informed and be careful…which is advice worth taking regardless of where you travel in the world.

5- More Versatile

When you wake up in the morning you can decide what Hawaii experience you want that day and you can experience it. Whether it is relaxing all day on one of Ko Olina’s four tranquil lagoons or skydiving on Oahu’s North Shore; you can make it happen.

Having Ko Olina as your home base during your vacation gives you much more versatility and options than if you were stuck in the middle of Waikiki/Honolulu, the busiest and most crowded city in Hawaii.

While it is true that if you were staying in Waikiki and wanted to get out to a secluded beach to enjoy some peace and quiet, you could, it would just be a lot more challenging logistically than walking out of your Ko Olina Villa with your towel over your shoulder and out to one of the four lagoons.

Many of our guests have shared that they loved the versatility experienced while staying in Ko Olina. They could conveniently relax at the pools and lagoons all day whenever they felt like it, or hop over to Kapolei to catch a movie or do some shopping. Or take the 20-30 minute drive over to Pearl Harbor to visit the Arizona Memorial. Or enjoy the scenic drive out to the North Shore or up the Leeward coast of Oahu to Ka’ena Point. Or go hike Diamond Head and finish off the day with dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Waikiki.

When I travel I want as much versatility as possible. I feel like it gives me more freedom; more options.

That’s it for now!

I could actually share many more reasons to stay in Ko Olina instead of Waikiki, but we’ll save those for a future article perhaps.

If you happen to be caught in that quandary of where to stay or perhaps your group is divided and at odds with each other about what location deserves their hard-earned accommodation dollars, feel free to give me a call (808-492-6242) and we can talk through the pros and cons together and try to help you get a better idea about what would be best for you…because that’s what it is all about: making the most of your soon-to-be memorable Hawaii vacation!


Munro Murdock

Disclaimer I

If you’ve read this entire article then you already understand that it was not written for every traveler, necessarily, but more as a general recommendation for the average family traveling to Hawaii, as that is what most vacationing groups to Hawaii consist of: families.

However, I also recognize that there are certainly a LOT of visitors to Hawaii that do not fit the family classification, per se.

Hence the disclaimer, which is this: if you want to party hardy…stay in Waikiki. If you want to shop til you freakin’ drop…stay in Waikiki baby. If you want to walk miles a day, because you didn’t rent a car…stay in Waikiki. If you are coming to Hawaii for a convention or conference at the Hawaii Convention Center…stay in Waikiki (because that is where the event is being held…and where the Convention Center is located!). If you don’t want to rent a car and really like walking places and taking tour buses to see the sights on the island…stay in Waikiki.

When it comes down to it I suppose there are thousands of reasons to stay in Waikiki. Depending on WHO you are and WHY you are coming to Hawaii, there just might be a few more compelling reasons to stay somewhere else…somewhere like the Ko Olina Resort. That’s for you to decide.

Disclaimer II

Keep in mind that this is just one person’s opinion/perspective on this subject and yes, I am a little biased being that I specialize in Ko Olina Resort real estate and vacation rentals. I believe Ko Olina has much more to offer for the money for vacationing families than any Waikiki hotel or resort.

My purpose in writing this article was predominantly for those vacationing families that are coming to Hawaii for the first time and that don’t really know what the differences might be from one area to another. I’ve talked with so many prospective guests about the Ko Olina Resort vacation rentals that I manage and they are trying to decide where they should stay on the island. Their options might be Waikiki and the North Shore. Or the North Shore, Ko Olina and Kailua. Or Waianae, Makaha and Waikiki. I have had many conversations where prospective guests have asked me what the main differences are between Ko Olina and Waikiki…simply because they don’t know and their only basis for making a decision is what they have heard or read online.

The point being that those who have NEVER been to Hawaii sometimes struggle with understanding that all of these areas on the island are VASTLY different and will provide unique experiences relative to location.

I try to educate my guests so that they can make the decision that will be best for them. I encourage visitors to Hawaii to stay in those areas that will offer them the most benefit and convenience based on what they want to do while they are here. I have referred guests to friends and other property managers in my company with vacation rentals in Waikiki, the North Shore and outer islands. At the end of the day, in the vacation rental business, it should be all about helping the guests to find the best accommodations for their party based on what it is that they are looking for.

by Munro Murdock

Realtor-Associate, MBA, Property Manager

Munro MurdockMunro has a passion for technology, client service and attention to detail. He developed the vision for the luxury Hawaii vacation rentals portfolio showcased on this site and is continually seeking out ways to streamline processes and enhance the guest experience.

Munro has facilitated joint partnerships with well-established luxury partners and industry leaders such as Luxury Retreats, Private Trade Winds,, and Lavish Getaways. These relationships enable the team at Beach Villas Vacation Rentals to maximize both rates and occupancy for owner clients while making the portfolio of luxury villas available to a broader audience of travelers.

Munro is actively involved in helping clients buy and sell real estate in Hawaii. In 2014 he and his team have sold more than $22 million in Ko Olina Resort real estate. He enjoys helping buyer clients find the right property for their needs and also loves working with sellers to maximize the value of their properties when they are ready to sell. If you or anyone you know is looking to buy or sell real estate in Hawaii, be sure to talk with Munro first.