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.
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.
Travel within Honolulu witout a car
Beyond Honolulu – rest of Oahu without a car
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.