If you’re staying in Waikiki on your Oahu vacation, then you’re probably wondering if you need a rental car or not. Let me first say that a rental car is not a necessity. You can get around Oahu with public transportation and packaged tours. That being said, there is a certain degree of freedom and flexibility that a rental car offers that might enhance your visit to Oahu, which might make you consider renting a car. In this article I’ll give you some good food for thought to help you determine if you want to rent a car or not.
Before I dive into the details, I want to make you aware of an option you may not have considered. If you are on the fence about renting a car, then consider renting a car for part of your stay. You can find rental car desks right in Waikiki, there may even be one in your hotel. For example, there’s a Hertz desk at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Enterprise brings rental cars to you. You could potentially rent a car for a single day and return it at the end of the day. Then, the next day rent a car again, if desired/needed.
Now let’s look at the upsides and downsides of renting a car.
Rental Car Pros
- Gives you freedom for getting around to see Oahu, particularly outside of the urban area of Honolulu. Rather than taking a tour bus around the island, you can stop off as many places as your heart desires rather than sticking to a stringent tour schedule. Anytime I’ve been on a tour bus, there are so many times I’d love to stop the bus to take a photo, but the bus continues on.
- Gives you more privacy as compared to public transportation and tour buses.
- If you are planning several tours, you might save money by renting a car. For example, if you want to take a family of four on the Circle Island Tour, you may end up paying upwards of $200 where as a daily rental car may cost you only $45 or even less.
- Gives you a sense of adventure. When I think back to some of my vacations around the world, I often remember the fun and satisfaction in navigating to a special scenic spot. Sometimes the journey is just as good as the destination.
Rental Car Cons
- Driving in Honolulu is like driving in any other city – there’s busy traffic, one-way streets, multiple lanes, etc. You’ll definitely need a good map and/or a GPS navigation system, and do some route planning before you head out on the road. Navigating can add a bit more stress as compared to just hoping on a tour bus.
- Parking at your hotel may cost a small fortune. Expect to pay an average price of about $25 per day. This website lists the Waikiki hotel parking fees. In general, parking in Honolulu can be a royal pain in the you know what and your wallet. So, be sure to check out this post on cheap Waikiki parking.
- Bear in mind, that gas prices are a bit higher in Hawaii as compared to the US mainland. Just from my experience, I’d estimate that gas costs about 10% higher in Hawaii.
- Using public transport is better for the environment.
How might you get around Oahu to see the sights without a rental car?
- Oahu offers clean, safe bus service with TheBus, which passes at or near many Oahu attractions.
- To get to/from the airport, you can’t take TheBus unless you packed extremely light. See these rules regarding baggage limitations. Shuttle service and cabs are readily available to and from Honolulu (HNL) airport.
- Many packaged tours, luaus and excursions provide transportation either as part of the total cost or for a nominal fee.
I hope this post has helped you make the decision that’s right for you. If you are wondering what I would do, I’ll tell you. I’d rent a car for at least a day.
Some other articles that you might find interesting are:
- Using Google Transit to help you navigate Oahu’s bus system.
- Will you need a rental car on Maui, Kauai, Big Island, etc.
- 7 tips for saving money or renting a car in Hawaii
If you’ve been to Waikiki before, what did you do? What tips and tricks did you learn? Please share your comments.