Best Transportation Options for Almost Every Situation While in Oahu
Getting from point A to point B is part of daily living, and it’s certainly a part of any vacation. From getting to your hotel to the airport to enjoying every day of your stay, you’ll need some form of transportation to fully experience everything that Oahu has to offer.
And while renting a car is certainly a tried-and-true way to get around, it’s not always the best.
Don’t get us wrong; renting a car is a good option. In fact, we recommend it at one point in this post, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to get around Oahu—nay, sometimes it’s not even the best option depending on what you want to do.
Here’s what we think are the best transportation options for your most common Oahu vacation scenarios.
From the airport to your hotel and vice-versa
There’s a good chance that you booked a hotel in Waikiki for your Oahu vacation. If that’s the case, then getting to your hotel from the airport means you’ll have to go through downtown Honolulu and brave the city’s notorious traffic. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is; You’ll encounter some form of traffic at some point between the airport and your hotel.
Yes, renting a car sounds like the de facto option, but these days, that’s being overtaken by ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. However, while these services are essentially a taxi service, they are also potentially expensive especially when you take the travel time to Waikiki into account.
Because of the expense associated with taxis, rideshares and rental cars, visitors are more attracted to other services such as airport shuttles. They’re reliable, relatively inexpensive compared to other transportation options, and the customer service is usually top-notch.
Your shuttle driver will usually do the heavy lifting when it comes to your luggage, and you can even have the option of being greeted with a lei when you arrive. Pretty nifty, if you ask us. You can even save more by booking a round-trip service.
Visiting Pearl Harbor
Getting on a Pearl Harbor tour like E Noa Tours’ Salute to Pearl Harbor is actually a better value-added proposition than going there via Uber or a rental car.
Again, this is where having someone do the driving wins out. You avoid looking for parking, standing in line for a ticket to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, and you get to interact with a friendly tour guide to boot. Your tour guide will also regale you with historical anecdotes and facts about Pearl Harbor during the tour.
But that doesn’t mean that you won’t have time to experience Pearl Harbor by yourself. While at Pearl Harbor, you’ll have a chance to walk around on your own to see various exhibits, check out the gift shop, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet a Pearl Harbor survivor.
Overall, you’ll have a richer experience, and knowing what time you’ll be picked up and when you’ll return to Waikiki makes it even easier to efficiently manage your day for other activities.
Tooling Around Town
Going to Diamond Head, checking out other beaches, and just doing your own sightseeing is going to be something you’d want to do sooner or later, so it stands to reason that you’d want to have your own car. This is one of those times when we highly recommend renting a car, which you can do in various places around Waikiki.
For as little as $40 per day, you can tool around the island on four wheels and enjoy what the island has to offer for adventurers such as yourself. All the name-brand car rental companies have an office in Waikiki—Avis, Enterprise, Hertz—but be sure to check out local outfits too. In fine, shop around. You’ll never know what kinds of discounts are available.
Now, here’s the reason why renting a car to tool around for a day is a better option: Parking fees in Waikiki are absurdly expensive—up to $50 a day in some hotels. Save yourself that expense by returning your car rental at the end of the day.
If you want something of the two-wheeled variety, then renting a scooter would be a good option to consider. Rental prices start at about $35 per day.
Circle Island Sightseeing
Going sightseeing around the island is probably one of the most popular visitor activities on Oahu, second only to a visit to Pearl Harbor. And just like visiting Pearl Harbor, we recommend going on a tour such as Fly Shuttle’s Beauty and the Feast: A Circle Island Experience.
Having a structured tour experience like the one we recommend is actually better than going on your own. For one thing, you won’t have to think about your itinerary—all that is planned for you. For another, you don’t have to deal with the headaches of driving. Oh, and did we mention that your tour guide will be narrating about Hawaiian lore and other interesting tidbits along the way? That kind of perk alone makes the entire experience worth every penny.
Checking Out Restaurants and Shopping
Being a cultural melting pot and international hub, Honolulu has its own share of world-class dining and shopping venues. A lot of these popular spots are within walking distance in Waikiki. However, Oahu’s cultural and social doors open up when you venture to places like Ala Moana, Kaimuki, Kaka’ako, Chinatown and other neighborhoods. You can get a good vibe of how locals live and eat in these places, and the best way to check out these cultural hotspots would be via a ridesharing service such as Uber or Lyft.
Why Uber or Lyft? Well, why not? In addition to being very convenient, you skip the arduous task of finding parking wherever you go. And since most of Honolulu’s popular dining and shopping spots are within 10 miles of Waikiki (even the ones that are very popular with the locals), rideshare fares can be fairly cheap.
At the time of this writing, the Waikiki Trolley—Honolulu’s hop-on, hop-off trolley service, isn’t in operation due to the pandemic. However, they’re slated to return on the road sometime in the summer. If you’re thinking about visiting the islands around that time, then the trolley could be a great way to move about.
This post wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t at least mention TheBus – Honolulu’s iconic mass transit system. While mass transit systems in some cities can be unreliable and downright dangerous, the same can’t be said about TheBus. Bus lines are generally consistent and keep to schedule, and the buses themselves are relatively clean inside and out. What makes TheBus an even more attractive option for travelers on a budget is that a day pass only costs $5.50.
The only caveat with using TheBus is that you’re at the mercy of its schedules. Prepare to wait up to an hour for a ride, especially if it’s on a less popular route. Not a good thing especially when you have things to do and other places to see.
Uber and Lyft have essentially rendered taxi cabs redundant and outdated to some extent. However, they’re still around and still serve the entire island of Oahu. Given the ubiquity of ridesharing services, it’s interesting to note that some people still prefer taxi cabs such as TheCab and Yellow Cab Honolulu. It’s probably the reason why these companies are still in operation. Some even prefer cabs for airport shuttle services. This essentially means that no matter what you do or where you want to go, you will always have the option to take a cab as your means of transportation.