Do You Need a Car in Honolulu?

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Honolulu is Hawaii’s capital and the biggest city on the islands. It’s full of beaches, restaurants, shops, and sightseeing destinations like Pearl Harbor. Given the sheer number of things to do, you may feel like a car would be necessary to get around the city. 

You do not need a car in Honolulu if you plan on staying in the city. However, if you want to visit the rest of Oahu, it’s highly recommended that you get one. While you likely won’t need a rental car for the entirety of your stay, you’ll probably need one for a portion of your trip.

In this article, I’ll tell you about the pros and cons of having a car in Honolulu. This will allow you to determine whether a vehicle is necessary for your stay or whether you’ll be okay with public transport and ridesharing apps. 

The Pros and Cons of Getting a Car in Honolulu

If you’re planning to spend your time in Waikiki, you’ll quickly find that most things you’ll be interested in doing–including attractions like Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium–are likely within walking distance of your hotel. 

So, if you have no plans to enjoy Hanauma Bay or visit Kailua and Lanikai, you’ll likely be okay without a car in the city. Additionally, if you’ve already got transportation to and from the airport, you can probably get around without a car.

However, if you plan on leaving the city or need a way to get to your hotel once you land at Honolulu International Airport, you’ll need a way to get around. So, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of getting a car in Honolulu fully before deciding one way or another.

The Pros of Getting a Car in Honolulu

  • You will be able to get anywhere on the island you want at any time.
  • You won’t be beholden to public transport schedules or the availability of cabs and rideshare drivers, allowing you to decide on your own itinerary. You’ll also have the freedom to determine how long you want to spend at an attraction or if you want to turn back at the last minute before you get there.
  • You’ll be able to save a significant amount of time since you won’t have to wait for public transport or taxis.
  • You’ll be able to explore a wider number of attractions, including ones that airport shuttles and public transport do not ply to.
  • You won’t have to worry about restrictions on carrying luggage and other personal items on board your vehicle.

The Cons of Getting a Car in Honolulu 

  • You’ll have to pay for gas and insurance for your rental vehicle. Gas is more expensive in Honolulu, Oahu, and the other islands in Hawaii than in the rest of the country, so it can add up.
  • You will have to pay for parking, including overnight parking. Overnight parking can get extremely expensive, including in hotels.
  • Cars are not needed if you plan on staying in Waikiki. Most things to do are within walking distance, and there is an extensive and well-connected public transport system.
  • You cannot drive a car if you have consumed alcohol. You will need someone who will stay sober when you go out if you plan on renting a car of your own.

Getting Around Honolulu Without a Car

If you don’t have a car, you can still get around to most places in Honolulu using other methods, such as public transport and rideshare and carshare apps. Some of your options include:

  • The Bus: As the name implies, TheBus is Oahu’s public bus transportation service. It services 103 routes and has been named “America’s Best Transit System” twice. Fares are relatively inexpensive, and a day pass costs about $7.50 for an adult rider. However, there are limits on how big luggage carried in the buses can be, and you can only carry one small metal bag per person on board.
  • Rideshare Apps: Uber, Lyft, and holoholo are the primary rideshare apps available in Honolulu. The biggest drawback with Uber and Lyft is that they implement surge pricing during busier times, though this isn’t the case with holoholo, a locally owned rideshare app. However, long trips with any of these can get expensive, and renting a car from a local rental agency is generally preferred for longer trips.
  • Shuttles: There are several shuttle companies on the island that travel from Waikiki to the main sightseeing destinations on the island. Additionally, many hotels run private shuttles of their own.
  • Private Tours: If you have a set itinerary, there’s a chance you may be able to book a private tour with an experienced guide who will also provide the vehicle for the day.
  • Carshare Apps: Carshare apps essentially allow you access to a private vehicle for the day, with the app acting as the middleman between you and the car owner. DriveHui is the most popular option in downtown Honolulu and ensures you have a car without worrying about overnight parking. Plus, you support local car owners who get a portion of the fee you provide the app for the service.
  • Waikiki Trolley: If you plan to stick in Waikiki, you can make use of the Waikiki Trolley. It’s a hop-on, hop-off tour of Waikiki with four lines, and you can buy either a 1-day, 4-day, or 7-day pass. Tickets range from $5-$25 for a one-day pass, depending on the line, and a ticket for all 4 lines for one day is $55 for an adult.  
  • Rent a Moped or Bike: If you’re traveling short distances in Honolulu, you can rent a moped, scooter, or bike. Keep in mind that renting a bike requires you to be physically fit to peddle places. However, it’s also less expensive than renting a moped or scooter.
  • Walk: As discussed, most things in Waikiki are within walking distance, so if you don’t plan on leaving the area, walking is the best–and most cost-friendly–option.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your schedule, spending time in Honolulu without a car is possible. However, if you plan to leave downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, having a car is recommended to make your time easier and more enjoyable. Just make sure to only rent a car for the days you need it, so you don’t spend a fortune on gas and parking!

Brittany Rajeckas

Brittany is a lifelong travel lover who can't get enough of hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities. When she's not actively traveling, she's usually already planning her next trip into the great unknown.

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