So you’re in Hawaii, booked a hotel, and have all kinds of fun stuff planned out.
So how do you get around?
Thankfully you’re on an island, so a car isn’t strictly necessary.
In fact, depending on where you plan to visit, you’ll find plenty of alternatives to driving yourself around.
Here’s a list of five different ways to navigate the islands, ranging from most autonomous (and most expensive) to most affordable (and most limited).
1. Rent a car
The typical vacation option, car rentals are easy to get right out of the airport and are by far the safest option.
Families will definitely want to get a car rental, especially if you’re traveling with young children and need extra space for supplies.
If you’re staying on the Big Island, you definitely want to rent a car: the volcano means that there’s a lot of empty land on the Big Island, and getting from Kona to Hilo (the two major towns on the island) will take you 90 minutes by car.
Likewise, anyone visiting Kauai should strongly consider a car rental, since the island mostly consists of natural attractions—you’ll need a way to get from one beautiful vista to the next.
This advice applies to anyone who likes to go off the beaten path or avoid tour buses: if you want freedom, you’ll have to pay for a car rental.
The problem with cars, though, is finding parking.
You’re going to be on an island, so land is scarce—finding somewhere to park your car isn’t always easy, and parking fees can add up if you’re in Honolulu.
A word of advice: book your rental before you land.
Especially if you’re visiting Kauai or the Big Island, rentals can run out when you’re there, so you’ll want to reserve a car early.
2. Hire a cab or shuttle
If you don’t feel like driving yourself around (or don’t have a valid US driver’s license), cabs are a good way to get around.
Shuttles are also a great option that are more affordable than private taxis.
If you aren’t planning to go too far out of the way, cabs can still be fairly affordable, especially with the popularity of Uber and Lyft.
Just don’t expect to go from one end of the island to another on the cheap.
If you’re going sightseeing, consider booking a sightseeing activity in which transportation is provided.
Even if you’re not going sightseeing, many activity providers offer pick-up and drop-off at additional cost, if not for free. Just look for transportation options when booking online.
3. Take the bus
If your really want to feel like a local, riding public transit is as real as it gets.
It may sound strange at first, but Hawaii’s bus system—named simply ‘TheBus’—is an excellent way to get around.
For one, it’s the only transit system to be recognized more than once by the American Public Transportation Association as “America’s Best Transit System.”
This is for good reason: during peak hours in Honolulu, buses arrive at their stops every twenty minutes.
A one-way fare on TheBus is $2.50, which lets you board and sit on the bus as long as it runs. You also get a single-use transfer that can be used to board a connecting route within a few hours.
Of course, using the bus isn’t without its caveats.
First off, the bus can be significantly slower than driving, depending on how many stops are on your route and how far you plan to go. Not to mention traffic: during rush hour, buses can’t find a faster route, no matter how crowded the streets are.
In addition, you aren’t allowed any luggage on the bus. Large bags, surf boards, etc. can’t be brought on board. Bikes, however, are allowed on the bike rack in the front of the bus.
Next, you’re limited in terms of schedule: TheBus only runs from around 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., so outside of those hours you’ll need to figure out an alternative means of getting around.
Lastly, buses can get crowded during peak hours. If you aren’t getting packed in, you might find that there isn’t room on the bus for you on the busiest routes.
With that in mind, using TheBus is still a viable option for visitors that want to get around. Most smartphone navigation apps can also get you bus route information, making it easier than ever for visitors to use TheBus.
4. Try the new bike share in Honolulu
Officially launched just this summer, the new Biki stands all around the city—scattered on many different roads from Diamond Head to Chinatown—offer bike rentals for $3.50 per 30 minutes.
Biki boasts over 1,000 bikes offered across 100 stations, all within the city of Honolulu.
While the base cost is more expensive than a bus ride, a monthly Biki pass costs $15 and gets you an unlimited amount of 30-minute rides: this means that you can ride as far as you want for free, as long as you return the bike in less than 30 minutes.
Considering how many Biki stations are around town, 30 minutes is plenty of time. If you’re getting close to your 30-minute limit, just find the closest station, park your bike, and grab another one.
For reference, a monthly pass for TheBus costs $60 for adults, making the new bike rentals seem like a much better deal for anyone who wants to explore the city.
There’s also an option to buy 5 hours of ride time for a one-time purchase of $20. See more bike share fee options on the Biki website.
One major advantage of the bike share program is that you won’t have to worry about parking or security—just leave your bike at the closest Biki stand when you’re done.
The cheapest and by far most restrictive option, there’s no reason to pay for transportation if you plan to stay in or near your resort.
You’re going to be on an island, after all, so everything’s fairly close together.
Walking also gives you time to take in the sights of beautiful Hawaii.
Sure, you might not be able to go out and see or do everything, but…
If it’s further than a short walk, did you really have to get there anyway?
We’re trying to get you all the information you need to make your stay in Hawaii ideal. What else do you want to know about getting around? Ask away in the comments!