Getting Around on Oahu in Hawaii: Should you rent a car?

Driving towads Sandy Beach

Last updated: November 30, 2022

When we visit the island of Oahu in Hawaii, we usually stay in Waikiki and always rent a car, especially since we’re there for short stays. Renting a car allows us to visit the island at our leisure and more comfortably than other alternatives. In this post, we will help you to decide if you should rent a car.

Driving towads Sandy Beach
Driving towards Sandy Beach

There are a few factors to consider when deciding to rent a car or not:

  • Where are you staying?
  • What are you planning on doing during your stay?
  • How long are you staying?
  • What is your budget?

Staying in Waikiki:

If you’re staying in Waikiki and plan on just spending most of your time there, it might not be worth the hassle of renting a car because it’s easy to get around in Waikiki by walking, cycling, bus or shuttle. Popular attractions like the Polynesian Cultural Centre offer a shuttle service for a fee so you don’t need a car to get there. The Waikiki Trolley also operates a hop-on-hop-off bus that takes you to many popular tourist attractions and day passes for each line or multiple day passes for all lines can be purchased. It’s also very easy to take the bus, an Uber/Lyft ride, or use a bike from the Biki bike share into Kaka’ako and downtown Honolulu since it is not always easy to find parking. If you’re planning on visiting Kailua, Lanikai, Hawaii Kai, or the North Shore during your trip, you may want to rent a car to save on time. For example, it is possible to take the bus from Waikiki to Kailua but once you get there, you’ll either need to walk to the beach or rent a bike. When you factor in walking and waiting to get on the bus, the bus journey, and the walk to the beach, you’re looking at 1.5-2 hours as opposed to a 35-45 minute drive.

Do the math: how much will it cost to rent a car and park it as opposed to paying for a ride into Waikiki? Taxi and Uber/Lyft fares into Waikiki range from $30-$60 per way so you might be looking at $60-$120 in taxi/Uber fares to start. We purchased 300 minutes worth of rides valid for one year with Biki for $30. Depending on the time of the year, we have found car rentals for $12 per day and with free parking, it has been a lot more economical and convenient to rent a car as opposed to take taxis and use Uber/Lyft. Pre-COVID, during peak, we’ve paid about $30 per day for a car rental and the average is usually close to $20 per day; check out Hawaii Drive O for quotes. For longer stays, you can also consider paying for a ride into Waikiki and then renting a car for the day from Waikiki to explore on your own.

If your hotel does not offer free parking, there are lots but prices have gone up significantly and you will need to budget about $40+ per day. We also recommend you find out what’s included in any resort fees your hotel will charge you because the trend is to charge extra for parking, i.e free parking was included in the Royal Hawaiian’s resort fee but now valet parking is an extra $40 per day. While free street parking is not easy to come by, if you know where and when to look, it can be found if you have patient and flexibility. There are also way less spots now that Biki docking stations for bikes have been installed. If you want to know more, email us.

Staying in Ko’Olina:

If you’re staying in Ko’Olina, one of the resort areas in the north-west of the island, you may want to rent a car unless you plan on eating most of your meals on the resort property and don’t plan on doing any self-guided excursions. That being said, be aware that it can cost anywhere from $40-$120 one way, depending on the method of transportation to get to Ko’Olina from the airport. Parking is $35+ at most of the resorts in this area so factor that into your cost estimate.

Staying in Lanikai/Kailua:

If you are staying in Lanikai/Kailua and plan on spending all your time there, you can easily get around by bike and foot but if you plan on visiting other parts of the island, especially on those rainy days that can occur more frequently on the Windward side, a car will come in handy.

Staying in All Other Areas:

If you are staying in other areas, consider the information and factors shared above.

Do you rent a car when you visit Oahu? Are there any other factors that should be included in this post? Do you recommend using Biki?

Useful Links:

  • Biki Bike Share: A new bike share program with 100+stops in the Honolulu/Waikiki Area.
  • The Bus: Information about fares, routes, and the timetables for the transit system on Oahu.

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