If you’re planning your first trip to Hawaii, it’s safe to say you may be a little confused about which island is which and, better yet, which cities are on which island.
If you’re confused about the difference between Oahu, Honolulu, and Waikiki and are wondering—is Oahu in Honolulu?—this blog post is for you. Keep reading to understand the nuances of these names, so you can ensure you’re planning your trip to the correct destination!
Oahu is one of the eight islands that make up the state of Hawaii. The six major islands travelers visit are Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and the island of Hawaii.
Oahu is nearly 600 square miles, making it the third largest island in Hawaii. For reference, it’s almost as large as the state of Rhode Island. The Hawaiian Island (or “Big Island”) is the largest island, followed by Maui, which is slightly larger than Oahu.
Despite its size, Oahu is the most populated island in Hawaii, with a population of nearly 1,000,000 people. For reference, the entire population of all the other islands is under 500,000 people. Of the 9,000,000 tourists that visit Hawaii annually, nearly 65% of them come to Oahu.
Honolulu is Hawaii’s largest city and the state’s capital. Honolulu is found on the southeastern edge of the island. It encompasses the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Pearl Harbor National Memorial, Iolani Palace, Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, and other famous landmarks and points of interest in Hawaii.
However, the confusion about Honolulu comes from the fact that Honolulu County encompasses the city of Honolulu and the entire island of Oahu. Many travelers coming from other islands may say they’re traveling to Honolulu instead of Oahu since they are traveling to Honolulu County. The other counties in Hawaii are named after the islands (Maui County, Hawaii County, and Kauai County), so it’s easier to make sense of them.
However, most people who talk about Honolulu are referring to the city, not the county, so in this case—Oahu is not in Honolulu. Honolulu is on the island of Oahu!
If you’re traveling to Hawaii, you’ll likely hear lots of people talk about Waikiki and wonder if there’s an island you’re missing. Waikiki actually isn’t an island—it’s the most famous neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii, located on the island of Oahu.
Waikiki is a world-class tourist destination filled with shopping, restaurants, luxury resorts, and tons of fun things to do. Waikiki stretches from Ala Wai Boulevard to Kapahulu Avenue, but many people would argue that Diamond Head State Monument is the eastern edge of Waikiki. In Waikiki, you can visit Waikiki Beach—one of the most popular beaches on Oahu for surfing, sunbathing, and boating.
Summary: Is Oahu in Honolulu?
Waikiki is a neighborhood in Honolulu, and Honolulu is a city on Oahu. If you plan a trip to Oahu, you can visit both Waikiki and Honolulu. However, if you’re planning a trip to Oahu, you’re also planning a trip to Honolulu County!
Can you drive from Oahu to Honolulu?
Honolulu is one of the cities on Oahu, so once you fly into the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, you can quickly drive to Honolulu. However, you cannot drive between the Hawaiian Islands.
Why is Oahu so populated?
Oahu is the political, business, and entertainment center of Hawaii. Because it offers more jobs and opportunities than any other island, it is more populated.
Is Honolulu the Big Island?
No, Honolulu is not the Big Island. Honolulu is a city on Oahu. The “Big Island” is a nickname for the Hawaiian Island, the largest island in Hawaii.
Book Your Vacation to Oahu to Relax in Paradise
Now that you understand the difference between Oahu, Honolulu, and Waikiki, you’re ready to plan your trip to Oahu, Hawaii. You can use my travel guides about the best resorts on Oahu or free things to do on Oahu to help you plan your trip.
Check out all my travel guides below and have a fantastic trip to paradise!
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I haven’t been to any of the islands in Hawaii yet. It seems inundated with lots more tourists than normal right now. I do hope to get there in the next couple of years though.
Yes, I agree! We went last year when it island was quieter, and it was really nice. I’m hoping to get back in the next few years too to explore a new island 🙂
I haven’t been to Hawaii yet but it’s definitely on my bucket list! Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂
Thank you, Daniela! I hope you have a great time when you get the chance to visit!
This is a great post. I use to be so confused by all the Hawaii geography. Like, the Big Island isn’t the Main island (or rather most popular), but Honolulu isn’t where people are flocking… lol. This is a nice, quick way to figure it all out!
Haha, right? For months before our Oahu trip, my husband (unknowingly) told all his coworkers he was going to the Big Island, only to be shocked after getting there it was actually a completely different island, haha.
My favorite is Oahu. Maui has beautiful coastal views (actually, you can’t go wrong at any of the islands), and the road to Hana was a blast!
I would love to go to Maui one day – I’ve never been. It’s on my list for the next few years!
Oahu has been on my list for years. Since we live in a tropical paradise, sometimes it’s hard to leave one for the other on vacation. Your article really helped me better understand Oahu better! Thank you!
I can understand that! People are always shocked when they hear I’ve never been to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs, but the last thing I want to do is leave a desert to go to a desert for vacation, haha.
Heading to Hawaii in two weeks! Love all of your photos and am excited to visit, but I do agree the geography is a bit confusing! Thanks for the help.
Yay! Have a great time! I hope this post helped 🙂
I lived on Oahu for 5 years and your post had lots of great information. Most people don’t understand the differences in the islands. Your post will be helpful.
That’s so great to hear! Yes, it’s pretty confusing, so I hope this post is helpful for people!
For those of us that aren’t very familiar with Hawaii…this is going to save a lot of embarrassment 🙂
Right? That’s the goal! 😉
Hawai has been on my list for so long – thanks for sharing this lovely post, can’t wait to be there 🙂
It’s a GORGEOUS destination! Have fun when you visit! 🙂
I had no idea Honolulu wasn’t an island the way everyone talks about it! LOL This was so helpful- slightly embarrassed that I didn’t know any of these things!
It’s my DREAM to visit the islands in Hawaii sometime soon – I never did when I lived in San Diego. This is such a helpful guide!
Having not been to Hawaii yet, you are so right! I have no idea how they are different from each other. This information is super helpful to discern the differences and plan your trip!
This is a helpful post for people who aren’t familiar with Hawaii. I would love to go, but as I would be travelling from the UK I always assumed it would be pretty expensive in Hawaii. Do you think it’s possible to have a really good experience in Hawaii on a budget?
I am so glad you found this post helpful, Bex! Yes, I do think you can have a great experience in Hawaii on a budget. Here is one of my posts about the best things to do on Oahu for free! https://www.travelbybrit.com/best-things-to-do-on-oahu-for-free/