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Do you need a car on Oahu?


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One of the most common questions I’m asked is about Oahu car rental.  Is it necessary? Most visitors will stay in Waikiki where everything is close and easy to get to via bus or trolley. Others will choose to stay farther away such as Ko’olina, Haleiwa or Kailua to avoid the bright lights and city atmosphere. It can be really difficult not knowing what will fit you and your family the best so here are some tips that will help you decide on your transportation while here.

Oahu car rental vs. Waikiki Trolley vs. The Bus in Waikiki can be a tough choice.

The Waikiki Trolley | Courtesy of HTA Tor Johnson

If you plan on staying in or near Waikiki for the most part, you really don’t need an Oahu car rental.  From the airport to Waikiki is about a $15 shuttle ride (sometimes roundtrip is discounted if you buy it in advance) or about a $30 taxi ride. Even Uber is an option here, although due to pressure from the taxi union, customers must be outside of the airport area (about a 20 min walk away – and that’s if you know where you’re going!). Once you’re in Waikiki, you can get around easily with The Bus or the Waikiki Trolley. The trolley even has tours for areas in or near Waikiki. A Roberts Hawaii tour or a ride on Bus #52 will get you to farther spots on your itinerary such as the North Shore or circle island.

Oahu car rental - sometimes a car just can't be beat.

Relaxing car ride | Courtesy of HTA

So when is an Oahu car rental necessary? Well, if you like getting lost and taking your time exploring, then a car would be a good idea. Or, if you’re in Hawaii for business and will be on your way to different companies, stores, etc. the last thing you’ll want is texting your clients asking for directions from the bus stop. Parking can be difficult depending on where you are.  Generally, parking is not a problem until you get into downtown Honolulu. Be prepared for rush-hour traffic, non rush-hour traffic, construction delays and the local “favorite”…water main breaks. If you’re traveling with children and plan on carrying a lot of baggage, stroller, snacks, etc. with you everywhere you go, a car will also be handy whenever they want to crash out from the awesomeness of their fun-filled days.

In my opinion, an Oahu car rental is also necessary if you plan on not staying in Waikiki. Hotels like Aulani at Ko’olina, or Turtle Bay Resort at the North Shore are very far from the more popular attractions of Oahu. Driving to restaurants, shopping centers and even going downtown can be easily done with a car (or taxi/Uber). Especially in the North Shore area, you’ll find yourself wanting to stop the car to take a photo or have a bite to eat at those shrimp trucks in Kahuku. The only time I wouldn’t recommend a car is if you plan on staying inside the resort throughout your whole vacation and using their transportation services like shuttles and tours to get where you need to go.

Local tips: I always fill a few bottles with water and throw them in the back of the car. You never know when you’ll stop at a beach and want to get that sand off your feet. As a local, I often see tourists loving their convertibles…in traffic. Keep in mind that while the thought of yourself in Hawaii in a convertible with the wind blowing through your hair is romantic, it’s also burning hot! The sun will burn your skin and the top of your head no matter how comfortable the wind is. Plus, it gets worse when you’re stuck in traffic, which is bound to happen. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen tourists start closing up their convertibles after just a few minutes driving around.

If you’re looking for a good deal on Oahu car rentals or any of the other islands, Discount Hawaii Car Rentals is a popular choice. The exception is Lanai Island, which you will need a 4-wheel drive to go exploring as much of the island is deliciously untamed and its roads unpaved. For jeep rentals, Dollar Lanai is a good choice.

Related Links

Beat of Hawaii recently updated their post for “Ten Ways to Score a Discount Hawaii Car Rental” for 2017. I did a quick read and it sounds like they have a lot of great information if you’re looking for car rental deals. Make sure you read the comments since past Hawaii visitors are also giving their opinions on Hawaii car rentals.

Dollar Rent A Car can be found on almost all of the islands if you’re looking for a general rental car. Limos and private cars can also be fun and affordable if you have a large group. Many people also opt for mopeds instead of cars as they are much easier to park and are a fun way to explore the islands.

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