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North America > United States > Honolulu

See: Why rent a car in Honolulu ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Honolulu?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Honolulu?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Honolulu car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Honolulu with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Honolulu? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Honolulu, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

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.

Please note that is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Honolulu is in car rental price band: 5/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Honolulu? 

Sometimes. Economy rental prices are average by global standards.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Honolulu between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 2/10

Non car score:4/10

Balance: 6

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -


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? Visiting Honolulu using a hire car

Why do you need 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

Why don't you need a car in Honolulu ?

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.

Ratings: How does Honolulu compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Honolulu? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Honolulu, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Honolulu? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Honolulu (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Honolulu? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Honolulu airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Honolulu car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 3

2019 - 4

2021 - 6

Average score - 5



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.


Do you or don't you need a car in Honolulu ?

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