How to Get Around and Explore Hawaii

TheBus, Oahu's Public Transportation System

Musashi1600/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 3.0

There are many different ways to get around and explore Hawaii by air, on land or on the water. While some modes of transportation are more than obvious, there may be others that might surprise you. Find the best option for your personal sightseeing and transportation needs with this guide.

Getting From the Airport

Depending on whether you're traveling alone or with a group, taking a shuttle to get to and from the airport may be your cheapest option. Shuttles are much more convenient than regular taxis and can often be less expensive. Some hotels operate their own shuttles, so check with your hotel before you arrive.

While State of Hawaii previously forbade ride-sharing drivers such as Uber from picking up customers at the state-run airports, it is now completely legal as long as you're being picked up at a designated ride-share pick up location. There will be signs leading visitors to the pick up points, but asking an airport attendant is always a good idea as well. Keep in mind that ride-sharing may be less available on smaller islands such as Maui and Kauai. On Oahu, however, both Uber and Left have become very popular.

Hopefully, at some future date, Oahu’s rail system will be completed and allow passengers to travel as far as Ala Moana Center by rail.

Renting a Car

On most islands, visitors rent a car at the airport. It’s the most convenient means of transportation to and from your lodging - especially on the islands with limited public transportation.

Be sure to take advantage of your rental car and drive around the islands, as it's the best way to see the real Hawaii. Too many visitors spend most of their time at their hotels and never get out and explore the island on which they are staying. Make frequent stops and don’t be afraid to talk to the locals.

Riding TheBus and Other Public Transportation

On Oahu take TheBus, Oahu's excellent public transportation system.

TheBus has a ridership of approximately 75.5 million annually on its fleet of 518 buses, providing daily service on 110 routes. There is almost nowhere on the island of Oahu that you cannot get to on TheBus.

For example, many visitors prefer to take the bus to downtown Honolulu, Ala Moana Center or Pearl Harbor rather than use their rental can and have to worry about traffic and parking.

The other main islands, Hawaii Island, Kauai and Maui each have their own somewhat limited public transportation systems.

Waikiki Trolley

On Oahu, you can also take the Waikiki Trolley which makes stops at key places in Honolulu. You can explore the city, Pearl Harbor and/or Waikiki with a 1-, 4- or 7-day hop-on-hop-off tour and see all the top attractions at your own pace.

Step aboard a double-decker bus or open-air trolley to pass the capital city’s best restaurants and shops, historic sites and renowned scenery. Choose from four different routes, marveling at Diamond Head on the Green Line or the beautiful Makapuʻu Point on the Blue Line. You can upgrade your ticket to include all of the lines as well.

Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour

A self-guided walking tour is a great way to explore downtown Honolulu on Oahu, Hanalei on Kauai, Lahaina on Maui or Hilo on the Big Island.

Take a Hike

There are many wonderful hiking trails. You can even hike to the top of Diamond Head on Oahu. 

Fly to Another Island

Take Hawaiian Airlines, 'Ohana by Hawaiian or Mokulele to fly from island to island. There are a number of choices for which inter-island airline to use in Hawaii.

Take an Organized Tour

A day tour to one of the islands with Polynesian Adventure Tours is well worth the money. Airfare and tour bus are included in the price.

Enoa Tours offers one-day circle island tours of Oahu that stop at all the most popular destinations on the island with an experienced tour guide, and Roberts Hawaii offers the same on Maui, Kauai and Big Island.

Take a Helicopter Tour

Take a helicopter to really see some of the out-of-the-way places. You can see Kauai's beautiful Na Pali coast or fly over Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

Take a Ferry

You can take the "Expeditions" ferry from Maui to Lanai.

Take a Cruise

Finally, you should consider a full week cruise on NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line.) You’ll visit four of the main Hawaiian Islands and make stops on each.

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