Honolulu, Oahu Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu – Image courtesy of royalcaribbean.com

How to get around Oahu

Oahu, known as 'The Gathering Place', is home to Hawaii’s capital city of Honolulu.

The best way to get around Oahu is by hire car, bicycle, public bus or taxis. There is no scheduled air or sea travel around Oahu.

Transport options in Oahu

Slow, courteous driving is the rule on Oahu. Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. Speed limits are posted and enforced. If you're stopped for speeding, expect a ticket, as police rarely just give warnings.

The main hazards of driving in Oahu are narrow, winding and occassional steep roads. In rural areas, watch out for livestock and wildlife, as well as unpaved and potholed roads.

Turning right on red is allowed (unless a sign prohibits it), but island drivers often wait for the green light. At four-way stop signs, cars proceed in order of arrival. If two cars arrive simultaneously, the one on the right has the right of way. When in doubt, politely wave the other driver ahead.

Downhill traffic must yield to uphill traffic where there is no sign. For one-lane-bridge crossings, one direction of traffic usually has the right of way while the other must obey the posted yield sign.

Texting on a mobile phone while driving is illegal. Talking on a mobile phone is only allowed for adult drivers (age 18 and over) who use a hands-free device.

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious criminal offense. It's illegal to carry open containers of alcohol (even if they're empty) inside a car. Unless the containers are still sealed and have never been opened, store them in the trunk instead.

The use of seat belts is required for the driver and all passengers, even those riding in the back seat. Child safety seats are mandatory for children aged three and younger. Those aged four to seven must ride in a booster or child safety seat, unless they weigh over 80lbs, in which case they must be secured by a lap-only belt in the back seat.

Diamond-marked carpool lanes are reserved for high-occupancy vehicles during morning and afternoon rush hours. When emergency vehicles (police, fire or ambulance) approach from either direction, carefully pull over to the side of the road.

Car hire: All the major car-hire companies have locations at Honolulu International Airport as well as branch offices in Waikiki, usually in the lobbies of resort hotels. Car-hire companies in Hawaii include Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty and various local agencies.

Rates are very competitive and usually include unlimited mileage. It's best to reserve a hire car in advance as it's not uncommon for all cars to be rented out during busy periods, even in Honolulu.

Free parking is usually available outside of cities and major towns. However, larger hotels, especially in Waikiki, typically charge US$10 to US$40 or more for overnight parking.

US citizens with a driver's license from another state can legally drive in Hawaii if they are at least 18 years old; international visitors require a valid driver's license issued by their home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Most hire companies require that you be at least 25 years old, possess a valid driver's license and have a major credit card, not a debit or check card. However, a few major companies will rent to drivers between the ages of 21 and 24, typically for an underage surcharge of around US$30 per day.

Traffic in places like Waikiki and downtown Honolulu is a constant problem. During the rainy season, you need to drive with caution along rural routes.

Moped and motorcycle rentals are uncommon in Hawaii, but are available in some tourist resort areas. The minimum age for renting a moped is 16 years old; for a motorcycle it's 21 years old. You'll need to produce a valid driver's licence issued by your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Mopeds may not be driven at speeds above 50kph (30mph). Helmets are not legally required for anyone 18 years or older, but rental agencies often provide them for free.

Note: When visiting Oʻahu’s beach parks, hiking trails or anywhere off the side of the highway, take all valuables with you. Don’t leave anything visible inside your car or stowed in the trunk. Car break-ins are common all over the island and can happen within a matter of minutes.

Taxi: Taxis are readily available at the airport, resort hotels and shopping centers, and can be ordered by phone.

Taxis are metered and charge $3.10 at flag fall, plus $3.60 per mile and 50¢ per suitcase or backpack.

Honolulu hosts numerous taxi companies, including TheCab, Charley's Taxi and City Taxi. Uber and Lyft are also available.

Bicycle: Cycling is an excellent way to explore Oahu, which is a fairly rider-friendly place. You'll find many local cyclists on the roads and drivers are used to seeing people riding along the shoulder.

Hawaii’s Department of Transportation publishes excellent and comprehensive Bike Oʻahu route maps online (http://hidot.hawaii.gov/highways/bike-map-oahu). A handy three-color system gives routes ratings of green (good for novices), yellow (best for experienced cyclists) and red (not suited to bikes at all).

Roads in Oʻahu are reasonably flat, with the exception of the mountain route between Honolulu and Kailua.

It's recommended to use TheBus to get away from the high-traffic areas of downtown Honolulu/Waikiki and then start riding in more cycle-friendly places including Pearl Harbor and ʻAiea to the west and the southeast of Oahu. Note: All buses have front-loading racks that accommodate two bicycles at no extra charge – just let the driver know first.

Waikiki has several good bicycle rental shops, including Big Kahuna Motorcycle Tours & Rentals, BikeADelic, EBikes Hawaii and Hawaiian Style Rentals.

Bicycles are required to follow the same rules of the road as cars but are prohibited from freeways and sidewalks. State law requires all cyclists under the age of 16 to wear helmets.

Bus: The main bus network on Oahu is named TheBus. It offers a frequent schedule, reliable service and inexpensive fares. Tickets for even the longest route are much cheaper than any other option in Hawaii and the Circle Island route takes passengers around the entire island of Oahu.

Ala Moana Center is Honolulu’s central bus transfer point. The system covers most points on the island and it's a great way to experience the island's best trips, including the classic North Shore and Windward Coast loop. However, many scenic wilderness areas and viewpoints are not served.

Buses run regularly on major routes, seven days a week and from early morning into the evening. The website has full schedule and route info. All buses are wheelchair accessible.

The one-way adult fare is US$2.50 (children aged six to 17 are $1.25). Use coins or $1 bills; bus drivers don’t give change. A free transfer good for two connections is available from the driver.

A US$35 visitor pass valid for unlimited rides over four consecutive days is sold at Waikiki’s ubiquitous ABC Stores and TheBus Pass Office.

A monthly bus pass (US$60), valid for unlimited rides during a calendar month (not just any 30-day period), is sold at TheBus Pass Office, 7-Eleven convenience stores and Foodland and Times supermarkets.

Seniors (65 years and older) and anyone with a physical disability can buy a US$10 discount ID card at TheBus Pass Office, entitling them to pay US$1 per one-way fare or US$5 for a pass valid for unlimited rides during one calendar month (or US$30 for a year).

Private chartered bus services are also available – a great option for groups of visitors who want to explore Oahu together.

Oahu Map

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Latest update: How to get around Oahu: 13 June, 2020

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