By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in Honolulu?

Do you need a car in Honolulu > Should you rent a car in Honolulu USA > Honolulu ( HNL )
Car: Do you need a car in 2? No car: Is it worth hiring a car in 2? Slider: Should you rent a car in 2? Should you rent a car in 2?

Honolulu car hire quick facts

Cheapest rate for one week Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Honolulu but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
How much should I expect to pay in the peak season? Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]




  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.
Free parking score Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking.Total 388 - of which 18 have free parking. [full notes - parking]




  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.

Honolulu public transport quick facts

"Top trumps" train score

Higher scores go to the systems which take you to the most amazing places.



  • [full notes - top trumps trains]
  • A good rail system doesn't mean you shouldn't hire a car, but it often means you have a decent range of options.

Overall public transport score {coming shortly}

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel.



  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Honolulu good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score {coming shortly}

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Honolulu



Need, worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Honolulu", "is it worth hiring a car in Honolulu", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme:

Do you need a car in Honolulu?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city.

Is it worth hiring a car in Honolulu?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares?

Should you rent a car in Honolulu?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?

For any first-time visitors to (the state of) Hawaii, it is natural to get a little bit confused about what’s on offer here. The state of Hawaii is made up of multiple islands. The largest is also called Hawaii, and otherwise known simply as “Big Island”. Yet here is Honolulu, the state capital of Hawaii, the state’s largest city and its main international gateway, but this isn’t actually on the island of Hawaii. Welcome the island of Oahu.

Do you need a car in Honolulu? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Honolulu?", this often breaks down to two key questions:

  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Honolulu? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?

Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Honolulu as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Honolulu?

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Normally, our car hire advice simply looks at whether it’s worth getting a rental car in one destination or another. It doesn’t make too much comment about how to actually get to the destination, or where else to visit in the same trip. Yet in the case of visiting Hawaii, we think it’s worth first pointing out that (in our opinion at least), the most impressive attractions in this region are either the Volcanoes National Park on Big Island, or the dramatic hills and valleys on Kauai.

Why should you rent a car in Honolulu?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Honolulu?

  • For the same reasons as anywhere else – general flexibility. However, please see our comments below first.
  • A rental car is generally more useful if you are staying well outside the main resort areas in Honolulu.
  • A rental car is useful for exploring the island, but this can also be done by bus.

Why not? Visiting Honolulu without a car

What is public transport like in Honolulu? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 2?

Travel within Honolulu witout a car

  • A rental car really isn’t needed if you are spending most of your time in the urban area of Honolulu – buses and taxis are fine.
  • Hotel parking can be upwards of $30/day.
  • Parking elsewhere can be expensive, unless you are just visiting stores with large parking lots.
  • Honolulu is heavily congested – it can be a lot easier to go by bus.
  • Plenty to see in Honolulu, you will probably spend most of your time here.

Beyond Honolulu – rest of Oahu without a car

  • A one day car rental removes any worry about overnight hotel parking.
  • You can reach most parts of the island by scheduled bus or by taking a tour.
  • Pearl Harbor is easy to visit by bus or by taking a taxi there.


Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

So right from the start, arriving into Honolulu International airport, you will see that there are plenty of buses right outside the terminal. These buses provide a wide range of connections not just into Honolulu itself, but also around the whole island.

You will also see that these buses are called wiki wiki, a local term meaning “fast” which was the inspiration for Wikipedia and other community edited websites.

In congested Honolulu, you’ll probably prefer to let the bus driver deal with traffic than to have to worry about it yourself. Honolulu is also slowly getting round to building its own elevated mass transit railway system. Even if you prefer just to take a taxi into town, Honolulu is quite a densely packed city, and the airport is nice and close to town. No visit to Honolulu is complete without also going to see Pearl Harbor. This can easily be done by taking a short bus or taxi trip.

It is still worth saying that Oahu has some great driving roads. Even if you are only here a short visit, it’s well worth taking at least one trip across the island. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better to do this in a hire car. Plenty of options are also available using scheduled buses, organised tours, or by travelling as a small group in a taxi.


So, should you rent a car in Honolulu? In summary, getting a hire car in Honolulu is worth doing if you’re planning on sticking around for a while, or if you are staying in a property that is much further out from the main urban area. Generally though, it’s not really worth the hassle.

A rental car certainly does make sense on some of the other Hawaiian islands, but there’s not so much justification for one here, especially if you are only planning a short stay.

Verdict – no

Would you hire a car in [table “1” does not have that cell /]

Have you driven in [table “1” does not have that cell /]
? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in [table “1” does not have that cell /]

Do you need a car in [table “1” does not have that cell /]
? For some or all of the time? 

Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

Category: USA

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