In-Depth Guide to Getting Around Oahu

August 20, 2022

Getting around Oahu will be a breeze with our easy-to-use tips.

Imagine snorkeling in Hanauma Bay one day, shopping and dining in Waikiki the next, and later hiking to the top of Diamond Head Monument and exploring Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona.

This bedazzling Gathering Place has exciting options, so you'll need to know how to travel around Oahu! From the moment you get off the airport shuttle, you'll need a transportation plan.

Why Oahu

Everyone wants to vacation in Oahu. The state's capital offers everything you could want in a destination; national monuments, rainforest hikes, five-star cuisine, and breathtaking ocean vistas. But how do you get from your luxury resort to the botanical gardens? We have tips on the best way to get around Oahu.

Oahu is located in the central Pacific and has the perfect blend of lively entertainment, stunning beaches, and world-class museums. Other attractions include the Dole Plantation, Iolani Palace, Honolulu Aquarium, Shangri-La Mansion, Hanauma Bay, and Diamond Head Monument! Whew, that's a mouthful!

With so much to do, you may find yourself overwhelmed in this urban paradise, which is why we've taken one less burden off your plate. First, you'll need a travel gameplan …and Tripster has all you need to know about the best way to get around in Oahu.

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Of all the Hawaiian Islands, this magical metropolitan has something for everyone, which is why it's the perfect tropical getaway. But, before you start doling out your daily activities and excursions, you need to figure out how you plan to get around the island. If getting around Oahu without a car is your goal, or Oahu by bus—we have alternatives.

There are plenty of transportation options available throughout the state. But don't settle on the first choice you find! Instead, use our guide to learn the advantages and disadvantages of traveling around the island.

blue coastline aerial view of city scape on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

How to Get Around Oahu 

Alas, there are always several preferences when it comes to vacation transportation! But we have the ultimate guide to getting around in Oahu.

The choices are endless, whether it's by car, bus, bike, or Uber. Of course, there's also ride share, hotel shuttle, and the Waikiki Trolley, but relax; we'll cover them all!

We also have tips on getting around Honolulu, and how to get around in Waikiki, Honolulu's vibrant beach town donned with cocktail bars, trendy restaurants, and Kuhio Beach hula shows.

But first, let's talk cars, or more directly, whether or not to rent one for your Big Pineapple visit. We'll discuss the pros and cons of each method of transportation.

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Your answer depends greatly on how you'd like to spend your time. For example, say you're in chill mode and want to hang by the pool sipping Mai tais and catching waves the whole visit – you might consider a less frequent way like walking, ride-sharing, or a service like Uber.

However, if you're a non-stop adventurer who can't walk by a museum or national monument without taking a gander, a rental car may be the way to go. If you are unsure what to do, check out our 10 Things to Do in Honolulu for some tips.

Aerial view of downtown Honolulu on a sunny in with mountains in the background on Oahu, Hawaii, USACar Rental

If convenience is important, renting a car is the way to go. The island is only 44 miles long and 30 miles wide, so gas won't be terribly expensive, and it could be the most efficient way to see Oahu.

You can always split your time and rent a car for half your visit to save money. If you're staying in Waikiki, renting a car for a day or two might be a good idea since there are so many things to do within walking distance.

Pro Tip: Parking can be a bear in Oahu; it's often expensive and scarce. Plan accordingly and do some research.

A rental car is great for those who prefer control and flexibility throughout their vacation. You can easily rent a car from the Honolulu International Airport or the many companies around the island. You'll find all the major rental companies in Waikiki like Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz.

Plus, having a rental car is one of the quickest ways to get to the beaches and shrimp trucks on the North Shore. It also allows you to take a scenic drive along the Oahu coast.

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events on Oahu

When you choose to rent a car, you also need to budget for gas and parking fees. These costs can add up quickly, especially when navigating a new island and sitting in traffic. You also might want to check with the hotel to see if they have a parking fee.

Pro Tip: Another option for getting around Honolulu is the local rental car company, Discount Hawaii. With no prepayment needed, you can cancel without charges. Also, book early; cars sometimes run out.

View of the pool and several chairs to layout on with umbrellas at The Modern Honolulu in Oahu, Hawaii, USA

photo credit: Hawaii Isla 808 via Facebook

Hotel Shuttles

Many popular Oahu resorts and hotels offer shuttles to various stops around Waikiki Beach. Unfortunately, while these shuttles are convenient, they are not always complimentary, though they could be a fraction of the cost of a cab or Uber. The hotel concierge and front desk employees can provide you with this information.

Before relying on these shuttles, know the schedule and fee to ride. And though they can be cost-effective, it might take more time to arrive at your destination as you'll be waiting for and dropping off other passengers.

Related Post: The Best Waterfall Hikes in Oahu

Another drawback is that these shuttles could have many stops along the beach and city, so they may run on a limited schedule.

Now, you might be asking how to get around in Honolulu without a car. Well, keep reading!

Tall Coconut Palm trees line this section of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii.Honolulu Bus System "TheBus"

In some cities, the bus is the last form of transportation you'd consider riding. Not in Oahu! It's one of the best ways to get around Honolulu and other parts of the island. "TheBus" is affordable and boasts 93 routes and 4,200 stops around the island. It's easy to use and covers most of the island with extensive bus routes.

Related Post: Oahu's Windward Coast: Must-See Sights & Stops

Oahu has the best bus system of all the islands and is the least expensive. More pros…the buses run every 15 to 30 minutes. Attractions accessible by bus include Shangri La, Koko Crater Trail, and Kailua Beach Park. Adult fares cost $2.75, and children's fares run $1.25 each. Discounted one-day passes are also available.

No matter what you plan to do in Oahu, TheBus is an exceptional way to get around. Remember, know what route you need and have cash for the bus fare.

The only con is that it's the slowest option with so many stops, so be prepared to spend a little more time traveling.

Not to fear, we have more advice on the best way to get around in Honolulu!

Waikiki Trolley

Waikiki Trolleys are everywhere in downtown Honolulu. The trolleys offer plenty of stops along Waikiki Beach and other areas of Honolulu. However, it would help if you bought a pass to hop on and off the trolley as you wish. With stops only available in Waikiki, your travel destinations are limited.

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The trolleys are spectacular for quick trips up and down the road but shouldn't be relied on for day-long excursions. The double-decker hop-on hop-off system has five lines that stop by the Ala Moana Center, Diamond Head State Monument, and other key attractions.

The Waikiki Trolley has three lines to choose from: the Pink Line, Red Line, and Blue Line. In addition, guests can buy a day pass (one, four, or seven day) for $45 to $70 with reduced rates for children and seniors. Some passes include admission to Iolani Palace, Honolulu Museum of Art, and other hot spots.

Wide shot of a large orange double decker Waikiki Trolley driving passed tall palm trees and people on the beach in Oahu, Hawaii, USA

photo credit: Waikiki Trolley via Facebook

Uber or Lyft

New to the island are popular online transportation companies, Uber and Lyft. Both brands allow locals to drive guests around Honolulu in their own vehicles. These options are affordable, convenient, and easy to manage with your smartphone. They also remove the stress of where to park.

Since the drivers are friendly natives and locals, they'll give you tips on getting around Waikiki; where to go, stay, and eat.

Be advised that ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have more drivers in the busier sections of town, such as Waikiki Beach and greater Honolulu. Other areas of Honolulu may not be as populated with drivers. However, the price and ease are worth the wait.

Leverage Arranged Transportation

Oahu is filled with exciting tours and excursions. Often, these excursions will pick you up from your hotel. This complimentary option is great for ease throughout your day. You won't have to worry about traffic, extra costs, or parking.

Remember that you won't have the freedom or flexibility with these options. So, before you hop on an arranged shuttle to your destination, ensure you have everything you need for your tour or excursion.

Related Post: What to Do in Oahu: 10 Tourist Mistakes to Avoid

Check out Oahu's Circle Island Tour starts at Waikiki Beach and takes guests to popular destinations like Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, and Chinaman's Hat.

Due to driveway or traffic restrictions, these arranged shuttles may require you to walk a short distance to a nearby hotel.

A sandy trail through some palm trees with a mountain in the background at sunset with clouds in the sky in Oahu, Hawaii

photo credit: Jessica Wong via Unsplash

Get Your Steps In

Walking the Waikiki area is surprisingly easy. There are plenty of outstanding restaurants, attractions, adventures, and outdoor fun, all within walking distance. Moreover, getting around Honolulu without a car is free and convenient! Just remember to bring a light jacket in case of a quick rain shower.

Related Post: Your Guide to Famous Waikiki Beach

Also, some sights like the Honolulu Museum of Art and Iolani Palace are within walking distance of each other.

Taxi Ride

Taxis are available all over the island but are not the cheapest or most effective transportation option. In addition, taxis (and your payment) are at the mercy of the dense traffic, so they may not be the best way to get around Honolulu.

It's wise to avoid taxis, if possible. However, depending on your travel destination and time, a taxi might be your only option. Fares are locally regulated with an initial fee of $3.50 plus $5.88 per mile traveled. Airport cab rides to Waikiki or downtown cost between $40 to $50.

diamond head at waikiki coastline

Getting Around Oahu Can Be Easy

With so many transportation choices, you won't have a problem getting around Oahu. Doing your research will help you determine how to travel in Honolulu and get around Waikiki. We hope our guide helped with which transportation option is truly the best for your budget and trip.

Remember Tripster can help with your travel needs, from shows and attraction tickets to your pick of accommodations. We offer the best online rate on places to stay in Oahu and vacation packages with convenient e-ticketing.

Have Any Additional Tips for Getting Around Oahu?

If you have advice on how to get around Oahu without a car, please let us know in the comments below!


close up of Erin smiling on a sunny day

Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

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    • avatar of Teresa in blue tripster shirt
      Teresa Tripster says:

      Hi Dede! Using a rideshare service can be a great option. It removes any stress of where to park; however, if you rent a car, plan, plan, and plan some more! Locate parking garages and lots before you embark on your adventure.

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