What’s the best transportation method in Honolulu / Oahu?

What’s the best transportation method in Honolulu / Oahu?


  • September 2020 to include Charley’s Taxi
  • March 2019 to include Uber at Honolulu airport photos


Honolulu, Hawaii is a big tourist attraction. It is also the biggest city in Hawaii, so transportation options are fairly decent. Here are my opinions on the different transportation methods available to you.

In this post, we discuss Uber (including special rules for the airport), TheBus, rental cars, tour buses, Waikiki trolleys, and taxis. 

1. Uber

Before I mention any other transportation methods, I need to express my love of Uber, the ride-share company. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a taxi-alternative that hires regular people to use their own cars to give people rides. It sounds strange, but many people enjoy it and Uber drivers have to maintain a good rating to continue driving. This means bad drivers, aggressive drivers, or creepy drivers will be weeded out.

Don’t have an Uber account? Click here to get $20 off your first Uber ride!


  • Cheaper than a taxi. For example, an airport ride for me costs TAXI: $28+ tip, UBER: $12
  • if you split an Uber ride between friends and family, it becomes really cheap!
  • The drivers drop you off at your destination — no excess walking needed
  • There are drivers on the road 24/7 servicing Honolulu!
  • If you like drinking, you don’t have to worry about driving
  • No actual cash required (your credit card is linked to your Uber account) and no tips are expected
  • Skip the traffic! Honolulu is one of the worst places for traffic in the U.S.


  • It can sometimes be difficult for the driver to find your GPS location in places like Waikiki, where there are lots of buildings
  • When there is a heavy demand and not enough drivers, you will see “surge,” which increases the trip fare.
  • It’s mainly for traveling in the city — not many drivers are driving around the more rural areas looking for riders
  • Mainly for direct trips, and not so much for making stops along the way (though your driver could accommodate you)

My Opinion

I think Uber is great for vacationers. The normal fares are great, even when traveling longer distances. More importantly, it’s less stress: no schedules, no times, no need to plan ahead. If you want to get started, click here. You’ll need a credit card to link to your account. When you’re ready to ride, you’ll need a smartphone, the Uber rider app installed, and a data plan. The one issue is most drivers will stay in the Honolulu and central area — it may take longer to find rides in out-of-the-way areas.


Airport Pickup Advice

If you do use Uber for pickups from the airport, please know there are special zones for Uber pickup! There’s one for inter-island pickups and another for domestic/international pickups.

Both are done in the median, which is where commercial vehicle pickups are. If you are doing international/domestic pickups, your spot will be at the end of the airport building, where it says “RIDE SHARE”, like in the pictures below.

uber aiport pickup honolulu airport
I took these pictures catching an Uber after a trip from Seattle.


2. TheBus

TheBus (yes, that is the actual name of the bus system) is the public bus system here on Oahu. It’s won some awards. I personally took it since I was a little kid.


  • Fairly cheap: $2.50 for adults + you can get a transfer slip $2.75 one way, or $5.50 for all-day pass (as of 1/1/2018)
  • Very relaxing: you can read or listen to audio books while you ride
  • There are some very scenic routes where you can tour the island
  • There is a helpful app with estimated time of arrival features


  • Infrequent or non-existent buses in more remote areas
  • Buses can come early or late — they have no obligation to meet the bus schedule
  • Transfers can be confusing or time-consuming
  • They can become crowded
  • Most stop running at 11pm, 12pm
  • The bus stops aren’t always covered (watch out for rain!)

My Opinion

If you are spending most of your time in Honolulu, this is not a bad option because the buses are more frequent. However, you do need to spend some time looking at schedules, knowing the numbers, and knowing where to get off. That can be stressful. For best results, I think this should be used in combination with Uber.


3. Rental Car

Renting a car is a great idea for those that want more control over their travel. I wrote several articles about renting a car here and here.



  • parking fees
  • getting lost
  • cars that look like they are tourist rentals are more heavily targeted by petty thieves when they know you will be gone for long periods of time (like a hike)

My Opinion

I think rental cars are very useful if you plan to do a lot and plan for day trips. If you’re at a hotel like Turtle Bay or the Aulani Disney, having your own car is highly recommended. I guarantee you’ll be stressed out by directions, one way streets in Waikiki/downtown, and traffic though.


4. Taxi / Charley’s Taxi

You know what a taxi is. No reason for me to explain :).

I received some information from someone at Charley’s Taxi, a local taxi company that’s almost 80 years old. Note they are meant for people who don’t mind scheduling the taxi ahead of time:

  • Charley’s has a flat rate of $29, not including taxes.
  • This flat rate doesn’t change if there’s heavy traffic.
  • And that’s for a minivan with room for 4 passengers with 4 checked bags and 4 carry-on bags. An UberX may be cheaper if there’s no surge pricing but can’t fit 4 people with bags like that. An Uber XL can fit that much, but the fare will be close to $40 without surge pricing.
  • The typical taxi meter fare between Airport and Waikiki is $35-38, not including taxes.
  • Charley’s doesn’t operate from the taxi queue. We do only pre-arranged rides, so there’s less waiting.
  • We require drivers to pass a fingerprint background check and medical exam
  • All drivers undergo safety and service training, and we regularly inspect vehicles for cleanliness and safety.

All that is meant to say that a locally owned and operated company (since 1938) provides a top notch transportation service in Honolulu.

Our website has lots more information if you’re curious.


  • there is an organized taxi queue at the airport
  • Uber and Lyft pickups at the airport are more heavily regulated, so you may not be able to find as many Uber drivers, meaning taxis are more favored at the airport regulations have eased up on Uber/Lyft drivers, so prices are reasonable and availability is high now
  • they have vans, which is good for larger groups
  • Japanese speaking drivers available


  • more expensive than Uber fare from airport to my home: Taxi: $28 + tip, Uber: $12
  • if you are caught in traffic, your fare will increase heavily (meanwhile Uber rates are around 20cents per minute.. meaning being stuck in an Uber for an hour would only cost $12 extra)
  • less accountability for drivers than Uber, because of a lack of a rating system

My Opinion

I feel Uber is a lot better than a taxi in many ways. Use Uber!


5. Tour Bus

For those of you that who want to just sit back and enjoy yourself while on vacation, a tour bus is probably the best choice for you. They pick you up, take you to different places, talk about he sites, and lead you the whole way! Stress free! There are many tour buses and packages available, but Roberts Hawaii is a popular one in Hawaii.


  • very little stress, little planning involve
  • you will be around other tourists
  • great for non-English speakers since guides can speak your language


  • a bad option for adventurous people
  • no deviation from plans
  • the cost can be a bit more than if you were doing it yourself, but the prices also usually an all-inclusive fee


I’m more of an adventurous person, tour buses generally aren’t interesting to me. I enjoy my freedom. Also, I don’t usually care about tour guides explaining history to me… I’d rather just read about it myself. Lastly, you’ll usually find older married couples on tour buses.


6. Waikiki Trolley

I have never been on the Waikiki Trolley, but I see it all the time. It looks fun, it’s completely unwalled, and it’s great if you’re a tourist. They also have cool, double-decker buses now! Here’s their website.


  • ride in an open-air vehicle


  • you go to wherever touristy areas they go
  • no air-conditioning

My Opinion

Why not be an ultra-tourist and ride the trolley at least once?


12 thoughts on “What’s the best transportation method in Honolulu / Oahu?

  1. Is Uber reliable outside of the main Waikiki hub? We are looking at using Uber to return from a wedding at Kualoa Ranch but heard that getting an Uber out there at 10pm is not a good bet. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hey JH, outside of Waikiki, there are some spots, but they’re more denser, such as near the Stadium or near the military bases. If you’re out at Kualoa Ranch, MAYBE you might get some driver dropping off someone at the Kaneohe Marine Corp Base or something nearby and they’ll get a ping so they don’t drive back to town empty-handed, but that’s a big maybe. I believe Uber has a scheduling feature… https://www.uber.com/info/anz/scheduled-rides/ . Have you heard of the new wave of car renting apps out there? For your situation, it might be worth looking into such as https://www.drivehui.com/ from Servco

  2. It sounds strange, but many people enjoy it and Uber drivers have to maintain a good rating to continue driving.

  3. I have read a lot of trip blogs, but your blog is the best one. You share with us your experience and I am very grateful for this. Thank you for all information provided in this post.

  4. Hi Ron,
    While you mentioned that Uber is the cheapest option, I had a quick look at Uber’s website and found out that the price from the airport to Kuhio Avenue is between USD64 to USD84! That’s not very cheap is it?!
    Anyway, my wife and I will be going to Honolulu in September, and of course being a ‘local’, you’d probably know of loads of places to visit. I’m planning only three days in Oahu, before flying to the big island. What are the MUST SEES/DO’S in Oahu?

    1. Hey Joe, I normally don’t look at comments on my blog, but I happened to see yours and was surprised. So I played with the UBER fare estimate and… you’re right! I think it has to do with a special pricing for Airport pickups (not destinations). I think the rule is you need a special license to pickup from the airport with Uber. They’ve been cracking down. And that must affect the fee. If you try reverse your orders (kuhio ave to airport), you’ll see normal pricing. I guess you’re better off with a taxi then, which is maybe $30 to waikiki (avoid those nasty traffic hours though).

      OAHU must do? You can look at my 5 day plan and just pick 2 or 3. I definitely recommend spending 1 day kayaking/snorkeling/chilling at the beach in Kailua and then doing the Lanikai pillboxes hike. Prettiest and friendliest part of the island.

      1. Came across your blog when doing some research. Uber is not that expensive. If you input “hnl” in estimation, Uber uses center of the airport as location and has a long detour! Using the correct location shows 26(uberX) to 50(uberXL) to me. Even 64 dollar is still bellow the cost of rental a day $30 rental + $40 hotel parking + gas.

        1. Hi, thank you for the information. It may have changed, because my last airport ride was not bad either. They had some changing legislation where there would be no rides, but then there was a large fee, and then now it’s normal fare.

  5. Good info and spot on really. Whenever possible, renting a car is the way to go for sure. You’ll pay extra to park at hotels (almost always) in Hawaii but the freedom is worth it as we cover at https://lookintohawaii.com/hawaii/43536/need-rental-car-hawaii-information-all-islands-hi and https://lookintohawaii.com/hawaii/41504/do-i-need-to-rent-a-car-in-waikiki-information-oahu-hi

    After that, TheBus is the next best option https://lookintohawaii.com/hawaii/41505/thebus-information-oahu-honolulu-hi

    Uber is good but not available in every part of every island, generally just the more touristy areas. Use it for short trips around Honolulu if you’ve walked really far and don’t want to walk back to your hotel. Or if you’re drinking, then it’s a great option.

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