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Jump to All Islands in Hawaii Introduction to Short-Term Vacation Rentals

O'ahu, the most popular and populated of the Hawaiian islands, receives constant influxes of tourism that have greatly increased the demand not only for local housing but also for short-term housing. This consistent flow of tourism to O'ahu specifically has made purchasing and renting out property popular, especially for those interested in obtaining a condominium within one of O'ahu's four resort zones; Honolulu, Turtle Bay (North Shore), Ko Olina, and Makaha. These four zones are the only locations for legal short-term rentals on O'ahu, with the exception of the buildings that obtained NUCs (Non-Conforming Use Certificates) prior to their halt in issuance.

Below, you will find information on all of the short-term rentals available across O'ahu's four resort zones (including Waikiki, Ala Moana, and downtown Honolulu, which all fall into the greater Honolulu resort zone).

A Brief Guide to Short-Term Rentals on O'ahu

According to the City and County of Honolulu, short-term (or vacation) rentals are lodgings providing guest accommodation for less than 30 consecutive days. To maintain housing for long-term residents, short-term rentals are only legal in resort-zoned areas and a couple of apartment-zoned areas. Likewise, the HOA or property rules must allow short-term vacation renting.

For properties not included in the aforementioned list, they must fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Individual properties with a NUC (Non-Conforming Use Certificate). There are 793 NUC properties, which can be found here.
  2. "Grandfathered" STRs that have operated since prior to October 22, 1986, were issued a NUC, and have renewed their NUC every year in order to continue legal operation (Note that today NUCs are no longer issued and have not been issued by the city of Honolulu since September of 1990). These "grandfathered" properties include the Aloha Surf, Hawaiian Monarch, Island Colony, Palms at Waikiki, Royal Garden at Waikiki, and the non-Waikiki properties the Ala Moana Hotel and the Executive Centre.
  3. Certain properties under Bill 41 that are within the "apartment precinct", zone "A-1", and zone "A-2", which include the Waikiki Banyan and Waikiki Sunset.

For a building to be "grandfathered", it must have a 24-hour hotel desk and meet the current Land Use Ordinance's (LUO) definition of a hotel, which is "a building containing lodging and/or dwelling units offering transient accommodations, and a lobby, clerk’s desk or counter with 24-hour clerk service, and facilities for registration and keeping of records relating to hotel guests." They must also meet the LUO's old definition, which also required that 50% of the property's units be without full kitchens.

Updates to Short-Term Rental Laws on O'ahu

Changes to short-term rental laws on O'ahu were originally planned to change when on April 26, 2022, Mayor Blangiardi signed into law Bill 41 (CO 22-7), which received significant backlash due to the bill's increase of the minimum stay time at short-term rentals from 30 days to 90 days. The main points put forward from this bill were as follows:

  • Rentals with terms of less than 90 days (originally 30 days) would become illegal, with punishments including large fines starting on October 23, 2022
  • Short-term rentals with terms of less than 90 days need to be registered as well as would be placed under restrictions and requirements, such as a $1,000 registration fee and a $500 annual fee
  • Waikiki Banyan and Waikiki Sunset units are now considered legal short-term rentals

However, after going to court, Federal Judge Watson ruled on October 14, 2022, that the City and County of Honolulu would not implement the new minimum stay increase of 90 days (thus keeping the 30-day minimum standard).

waikiki short term rentals, oahu short term rentalsPhoto: wanderlustyle.com

One of the most popular places for owning a short-term rental (or staying at a short-term rental, on the visitor side) is Waikiki, where the mega-popular area alone has over 25 buildings with units that operate as legal short-term rentals. Many of these buildings are actual hotels that offer a few units as short-term rental condos for sale, and as such offer hotel amenities like a 24-hour front desk, concierge, pool, fitness center, and even on-site restaurants. As a result, this is an incredibly popular location for short-term rentals as many people who visit O'ahu stay in Waikiki hotels, opening many opportunities for owning property that can be rented to vacation-goers.

As for pricing, short-term rentals in Waikiki can begin in the high $100,000s to low $200,000s and run all the way up to a few million dollars. In other words, there are options available for people of different budgets, with smaller short-term rental condos available at more affordable prices and larger condos (or those located in popular and large hotels) available for those who have a bigger budget. Please note, however, that though short-term rentals can be a nice option for passive income-making, a large portion of the money you earn will be taken by the hotel in charge of your building. As much as 50% or more of your gross rent can be taken by the hotel in the form of maintenance fees.

Regardless, the popularity of the Waikiki area in the realm of short-term rentals may very well make this area worth your time and effort. Not only will you and guests have access to a short-term rental in this popular tourist-heavy area, but the wide breadth of neighborhood amenities (such as Waikiki Beach, Kalakaua Avenue, the Honolulu Zoo, and much more) makes this an exciting area to own property.

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oahu short term rentals, ala moana short term rentalsPhoto: Hawai'i Magazine

One of the only condotels housing legal short-term rental units in the Ala Moana area is none other than the Ala Moana Hotel (also known as the Ala Moana Hotel Condo), which hosts an impressive amount of units and amenities available for both guests and owners. Something important to note regarding the Ala Moana Hotel is its restriction of owners occupying their condo as full-time residents, as the hotel imposes maximum time limits on long-term residential occupancy.

Ala Moana is an excellent location to own a short-term rental, especially at the Ala Moana Hotel, which sits adjacent to the famous Ala Moana Center. With activities like shopping at the largest open-air shopping center in the world, visiting Ala Moana Beach Park just down the street, or dining out at one of the amazing neighborhood restaurants surrounding the hotel, there is so much to love and admire about Ala Moana.

Condos at the Ala Moana Hotel can begin at around the mid-$100,000s and go up to the mid-$200,000s.

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oahu short term rentals, honolulu short term rentalsPhoto: Go Hawai'i

Downtown Honolulu, the business district specifically, is home to many high-rises dedicated to businesses and commercial centers. One of the only condotels in this area is the Executive Centre, which is located in the center of the business district. This condotel is particularly popular for business travelers, as its location near the center of the district makes this a convenient spot in relation to conference centers and professional spaces.

When considering prices for condos at the Executive Centre, they can start at the mid-$100,000s and go up to the mid-$400,000s, depending on the size of the condo and what kinds of updates it has received.

Jump To: Brief Guide to O'ahu STRs | O'ahu STR Law Updates | Waikiki | Ala Moana | Honolulu | Ko Olina | Makaha

oahu short term rentals, north shore short term rentalsPhoto: Kuoni

The North Shore is home to some of the most beautiful scenic spots on the entire island, including gorgeous beaches, long stretches of land dedicated to farming and agriculture, mountains, and more. This makes the North Shore a great spot to visit if you want to escape the "concrete jungle" of Honolulu, with the properties on the North Shore being more spread out over beautiful, green landscaping.

The main spot where you will find short-term rentals in the North Shore is within the Turtle Bay Resort, which spans 1,300 acres and dedicates half of this land towards conservation efforts. The incredible condos located within the resort (depending on the location) have stunning varying views of the championship golf courses, the Pacific Ocean, beaches, and even the mountains in the distance. On top of the resort-level amenities offered throughout the property, those who are able to acquire (or stay in) one of the Turtle Bay short-term rental units will be immediately immersed in luxury island vacation life.

As for condo prices, the Ocean Villas at Turtle Bay tend to run much more expensive than other short-term rental condominium spaces around the island, and this can be attributed to the immense amount of resort amenities, the quality and size of the units themselves, and their great location. Generally, these units can begin at around the low to mid-$3 millions and go up to around the mid-$4 millions.

Jump To: Brief Guide to O'ahu STRs | O'ahu STR Law Updates | Waikiki | Ala Moana | Honolulu | North Shore | Makaha

oahu short term rentals, ko olina short term rentalsPhoto: Beach Travel Destinations on Pinterest

Much like the Turtle Bay Resort units (especially the Ocean Villas at Turtle Bay), the short-term rentals in the Beach Villas at Ko Olina offer a unique experience for both owners and guests. These stunning and contemporary units offer a departure from the generally smaller units found in other resort zones around O'ahu (especially those found in the Honolulu resort zone), with the luxury Ko Olina villas ranging from 1,170 to 1,650 square feet for 2- or 3-bedroom residences. Not to mention, these villas have access to the variety of luxury amenities offered around the Ko Olina Resort, which include swimming pools, a beach and lagoon, a fitness center, a shopping mall, a golf course, and more.

Like the Ocean Villas at Turtle Bay, the Beach Villas at Ko Olina are priced higher than many other short-term rental condominium spaces around the island due to their location, their access to luxury resort amenities, the quality and size of the units, and their more contemporary features. As a result, these units can begin in the low to mid-$1 millions and go up to the low-$3 millions.

Jump To: Brief Guide to O'ahu STRs | O'ahu STR Law Updates | Waikiki | Ala Moana | Honolulu | North Shore | Ko Olina

oahu short term rentals, makaha short term rentalsPhoto: hawaiihomeboys.com

As the only resort zone located in the Waianae area (and just under 12 miles from the aforementioned Ko Olina Resort), the Makaha short-term rental units offer yet another unique option for both owners and guests. These short-term rentals come in the form of single-family homes within a gated community known as Mauna 'Olu, which is unlike any other short-term rental location around the island. These single-family homes run larger than most of the other short-term rental units on O'ahu, though these are arguably the most secluded and isolated (given that Makaha is the last of the leeward towns on the island and is only accessible by driving North on the West shoreline's Farrington Highway). Regardless, these units are sure to be popular options for those who want a gated community experience in a new, spacious home featuring between 2 and 4 bedrooms, a private 2-car garage, and even community amenities like a swimming pool, recreation center, and fitness room.

Prices for these upcoming short-term rental condo units have yet to be disclosed, so more information will be included about these residences as it is released.

O'ahu Short-Term Rentals Interest Form

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