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.
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.
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- 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 country areas looking for riders
- Mainly for direct trips, and not so much for making stops along the way (though your driver could accommodate you)
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.
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
- 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
- Transfers can be confusing or time-consuming
- They can get crowded
- Most stop running at 11pm, 12pm
- The bus stops aren’t always covered (watch out for rain!)
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
- great for exploring the North Shore or if you are staying away from the city
- the price per day drops a lot if you rent for more than a week
- you can drive a fun car
- you can make stops if you see something interesting or want to take a picture
- 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)
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.
You know what a taxi is. No reason for me to explain :).
- 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
- they have vans, which is good for larger parties
- 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
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
Why not be an ultra-tourist and ride the trolley at least once?