While Oahu’s public transportation is limited to island-wide bus service, the routes and frequency of buses make it a reliable option, especially in urban Honolulu. Car rentals are favored for the areas near the coasts and for those imagining the wind in their hair as they explore beaches with the top down and boogie boards in the trunk.
Your transportation decisions will depend on where you’re staying and what you want from your time on the island. If you’re based in urban Honolulu, Waikiki or at the Ko Olina resorts, hotel parking costs $16 to $43 a day, though a few hotels do offer it for free. With so much right near your hotel, you might not even get your car out of the garage every day. Many visitors opt to rent a car by the day if they plan to venture beyond Honolulu, and then return it before they have to face the hotel’s sky-high parking fees. Most hotels can arrange a rental car for you, and many providers have satellite offices in Waikiki. Elsewhere around the island parking is typically inexpensive or free.
For those staying farther afield — Windward Oahu, the Leeward Coast or the North Shore — a rental car will make life much easier and more convenient. Remember to reserve the car before you leave home, and you can pick it up at the airport upon arrival. Rates can vary wildly based on season and car availability. The same car that rents for $30 a day right after the December holidays might go for $130 between Christmas and New Year’s.
The Bus, Oahu’s public bus system, offers routes across the island with many convenient options to get to the most popular destinations and beaches. Most routes are wheelchair accessible. Drivers are friendly and helpful, getting you safely aboard and into the wheelchair-only space. The adult fare is $2.75 each way, with a one-day pass for $5.50.
Oahu Transit Services operates a daily paratransit service, TheHandi-Van. It uses wheelchair-accessible vehicles to provide curb-to-curb service to individuals with disabilities for $2.
Ways to save: For those 65 and older, the bus fare drops to $1 each way, or a one-day pass for $2.
Uber and Lyft both offer service, more reliably in urban Honolulu but increasingly available in less-traveled areas. Taxis are prevalent throughout Waikiki, but are harder to get in other spots around the island (particularly farther-flung areas like the North Shore and Kailua). For both car services and taxis, inquire about getting a return ride when arranging your trip.
Biki offers 100 bike stops throughout urban Honolulu, with flexible rates to accommodate those who depend on the bikes to those who just need to get from here to there. Biki bikes have become especially popular with locals getting to work, the beach and elsewhere in Honolulu. The docking stations are in all the right places, making it easy to hop on and hop off without worrying about where to stash the bike.
Bike lanes are available on major thoroughfares, but car traffic still owns the road, so bike with care and caution. In areas like Kailua, exploring the beaches, shops and neighborhoods on two wheels is a fun way to get to know the area, and is particularly popular with Japanese visitors.
With the arrival of bike services, rental bikes are harder to find. Some hotels offer them (and a few, like Surfjack hotel, make bikes available for free), and occasional vendors dot the Waikiki landscape. The best bike rental options are in Kailua, where the Bike Shop (also in Honolulu) offers a range of traditional bikes, while Pedego Electric Bikes can hook you up with a handy two-wheeler that does much of the work for you.
Accessibility is mixed on Oahu. While the streets and sidewalks typically are wheelchair accessible with curb cuts and ramps, breaks and cracks in aging sidewalks can sometimes create trip hazards or make wheelchair navigation more difficult. All of the hotels, museums and public buildings are ADA compliant, with accessibility options that include ramps, elevators and, in some cases, motorized carts. Vacation rental homes may not offer the same options, however, so book with care and ask specific questions about grade, door width, shower and tub access, and related issues of concern.
The North Shore, Leeward Oahu and Windward Oahu are more rural, and access to the beaches varies greatly from spot to spot.
All-terrain wheelchairs (with balloon-like wheels that can navigate sand) and scooters are available at some properties and can be rented through services like Hawaii Wheelchair Rentals and Sales, Hawaiian Islands Medical and others in Honolulu. (Make arrangements before you travel to be sure you get what you want.)
The State of Hawaii Department of Transportation provides an access guide for passengers with disabilities.