What to Know Before You Go
What can I say about Oahu Transportation?
Vehicles, Vehicles everywhere . . .
Or so it seems during commuting hours!
Honolulu ranks as having some of the worst traffic in the United States rivaling Los Angeles and other large cities. A normal 20-minute drive can turn into 2 hours or more during rush hour.
My friend Pat just spent about a month in California’s San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area and she thought their traffic was worse. Maybe that’s because Oahu commuters only drive an average of 10 to 25 miles to get to work in Honolulu.
Don’t despair… driving is not the only method of Oahu transportation… Oahu also gets credit for having one of the best bus systems in the United States known as TheBus.
OAHU TRAFFIC TIPS:
- Space is limited on this approximate 600 square mile island so parking spaces tend to be small, especially in Honolulu. Mid size or small vehicles are easier to maneuver around the city.
- It is common for cars to stop and wait for a parking space to become a
- vailable in congested parking lots.
- Do not try crossing busy intersections at signal lights in stop-and-go traffic. If you don’t make it through and obstruct cross traffic you may get a ticket.
- Plan to drive during off-peak hours or drive in the opposite direction as
- those going to and from work in Honolulu.
Freeway onramps can be short sometimes requiring vehicles to nearly stop while trying to merge onto the freeway into heavy traffic. Most drivers will let one car merge in front of them before moving on.
You will notice people showing their gratefulness to considerate drivers with the “shaka” hand gesture. This should not be confused with the familiar not-so-kind hand gesture!
I think road rage and horn honking is less common in the islands. If you choose driving as your mode of Oahu transportation, try practicing patience like most of the locals. Give yourself plenty of Hawaiian time and drive with aloha!
Hint: Aloha has many meanings but when driving “patient with a pleasant attitude” fits best.
Oahu Transportation, TheBus*
TheBus is pretty awesome as it will take you almost anywhere on the island. You can even ride the TheBus around the island for an inexpensive Oahu circle island tour.
Many Oahu buses have lifts for ease of entry and are equipped with bike racks that hold 2-3 bicycles per bus. Most routes operate from about 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 10 to 30 minute intervals during peak hours. Pick-up times are less frequent on Sundays and holidays.
Please note bus transfers between buses are no longer available as of October 2017.
TheBus has switched to a 1-day pass system which allows unlimited rides/transfers for that day. Adult fares are now $2.75 one-way and $5.50 for the 1-day pass (seniors $1 one-way and $2 for the 1-day pass)
If you have a US Medicare card it only costs $1 to ride TheBus!
Wow, this means someone with a US Medicare card can actually do a circle island tour of Oahu for $2 with multiple stops along the way. A $5.50 fare for younger adults is not bad either.
Monthly passes can also be purchased.
Check out TheBus website for detailed information.
Use the Google maps transit feature to find out how to get to your destination. Try the HEA feature from your smartphone to locate your bus and find out when it is due to arrive at your stop.
TheBus also operates TheHandi-Van. If you are disabled the handivan info is located on TheBus website homepage (click the blue link above).
- Buses can be crowded with standing room only especially during commute hours. It is possible that a bus will pass you by if it is too full. Lots of locals ride TheBus to work to avoid parking in Honolulu.
- You can only take 1 small carry-on piece of luggage on the TheBus, so it is not a good option for getting to Waikiki from Honolulu International Airport unless you travel really light.
- Many Oahu visitors forego choosing cars as their method of Oahu transportation. They depend entirely on Oahu’s bus system during their stay.
- Ala Moana Shopping Center is a major hub and transfer point for TheBus.
For an all-day Oahu circle island tour, I recommend taking bus 55 from Ala Moana Center to Turtle Bay Resort which is about half way around the island on North Shore. This takes about 2 hours with frequent stops. It will give you a taste of local culture as you delight in East Oahu’s lush tropical landscape and idyllic coastline.
Turtle Bay is a gorgeous oceanfront resort with to-die-for ocean views. You can have an oceanfront lunch, spend a relaxing day at the beach or walk the scenic pathways along the ocean where it’s common to see turtles.
Then just hop back on Bus 55 continuing along the surfer’s paradise known as North Shore and transfer to Bus 52 in Haleiwa. Bus 52 takes you back to Ala Moana Center in about 2 hours completing your inexpensive local-style Oahu island tour.
*I am not endorsed by, sponsored by or affiliated with Oahu Transportation known as OTS (Oahu Transit Services, Inc.) Opinions are my own.
Oahu Transportation, Airport to Waikiki
How to get to Waikiki from Honolulu International Airport:
- Rent a car
- Hire a limousine
- Take a taxi
- Ride a shuttle
Of course if you are really traveling local style a friend or family member would be picking you up at the airport!
In the Honolulu airport baggage claim area there are booths where visitors can ask questions and courtesy phones to call taxis and shuttles. You can also just exit the baggage claim area, cross the street and look for the taxi, shuttle and car rental shuttle waiting areas.
OAHU CAR RENTALS
If you decide to rent a car after arriving in Honolulu there is an Oahu car rental building with car rental vendors across the street from Baggage Claims G and H in the main terminal. Exit baggage claim, cross all the streets and look for an open-air building to the far right of Honolulu Airport’s main parking garage.
If you reserved a car in advance just hop on your rental car’s shuttle bus to get to your car rental location.
Car Rental Tips:
- Street parking in Waikiki is limited and parking at hotels can be pricey. If a car is your Oahu transportation choice you might want to factor in parking fees charged at your hotel.
- I suggest reserving a car in advance especially during peak holidays like Christmas season. I went to the Big Island for Christmas one year and there were only a few cars left and the price had doubled!
- If you only want to rent a car for a couple of days your hotel concierge should be able to direct you to car rental services right in Waikiki or reserve a car online and take TheBus back to the airport to pick it up.
Oahu limousine services are usually the most expensive airport transportation but can be fairly reasonable considering several people can ride for the same price as 1 passenger. I have seen ads for as little as $60 for 3 passengers.
Keep in mind locals use limousines for weddings, graduations, birthday parties and other celebrations. If you have your heart set on a limo call ahead to reserve.
Taxis are more expensive for a single passenger but their advantage is that they go directly to your hotel and the price is usually the same for 3 passengers as it is for 1. Their rates start at about $30.
OAHU AIRPORT SHUTTLES
Shuttles usually drop people off at multiple hotels so it can take awhile to get to your particular hotel. Shuttle fees start at about $11 if reserved in advance and you have the option of booking your return trip to the airport.
Some shuttles also offer a lei greeting for an additional fee when you arrive at Honolulu International Airport.
Oahu Transportation, Public Rail System
An Oahu public transit rail system was hotly debated for years but is now under construction called Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART). Upon completion it will be an overhead rail system running between Kapolei and Ala Moana Center that ties in with TheBus fare system.
TIP: HART will have a stop at Honolulu International Airport and will allow luggage but unfortunately it is not going all the way to Waikiki.
This newest mode of Oahu transportation is projected to alleviate some of Oahu’s commuter traffic congestion. The first phase is slated to start in late 2020 with expectations to be fully operational in 2025.