Hawaii without a car

ozliz

DIS Veteran
Joined
Nov 29, 2013
I’ve been to Oahu and Aulani and plan to take another trip to Aulani combined with some exploration of other parts of Hawaii. As a solo traveller used to driving on the left side of the road I’m not comfortable hiring a car. When I explored Oahu I did the Waikiki / Honolulu area on public transport and took bus tours to other parts of the island. Which other parts of Hawaii can be explored in a similar way?

I was considering the NCL Hawaii cruise that hops around the islands but I’m not sure when I’ll be confident cruising again following the pandemic. I’ve also seen some organised tours that hop to a lot of islands but I’m concerned that they move too quickly to get a good amount of time to soak in the feel of each location.

Hawaii locals or other Hawaii travel enthusiasts - what do you recommend?

EDIT: renting a car is not going to happen so while I’m appreciating all the insight into transport on different islands, it is best to just assume that there will be no driving on my part. If anyone has taken any day tours from resorts in various locations other than Oahu I’d love to hear about them.
 
Last edited:

cgattis

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 1, 2009
I don’t have any advice for your car question as we’re from the US, so we rented a car, and it was very easy driving for us. Understand your discomfort though; I was pretty uncomfortable driving in Japan on the “wrong” side too, even in the rural low-traffic areas.

I have, however, done the NCL cruise (but no excursions—we just rented cars in each port) and can answer questions there. Several others here have as well. Just ask!!
 


travelplanningnerd

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 21, 2020
I can't see how the other islands would lend themselves to public transportation because everything is so spread out. Once you got to your resort, I think you'd be somewhat stuck unless you just went right in the vicinity of your resort area. Or you'd have to do an organized tour for everything - Road to Hana on Maui, Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, etc. and that seems like the opposite of what you're wanting to do.
 
  • nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    Which other parts of Hawaii can be explored in a similar way?
    IMO, none. Waikiki is an urban area with public transportation and trolley service for tourists and people who work in the vicinity. The other islands are more remote with nothing as urban as Waikiki, which is the most visited and populous area in Hawaii I believe.

    I would re-consider renting a car. While I'm sure there would be a learning curve, the other islands outside of Oahu would be a relatively easy place to try it. Many roads are just two lanes, and traffic is much more manageable. We found it so much easier to drive on Maui and Kauai than on Oahu. I've heard the Big Island is also quite easy.

    Otherwise, Uber/Lyft are options if that's something you have access to. On Maui, we've used SuperShuttle to get to our hotel 45 minutes away in Kaanapali. We stayed at the Westin Maui which offered free shuttle service to and from Lahaina (offered to all Starwood properties in Kaanapali). We didn't look into tours, but I would imagine there are organized tours with transportation from the Lahaina/Kaanapali area because its a popular area for tourists to stay.

    Without a car, I would recommend staying in the most popular tourist spots for your best shot at locating organized tours with transportation included. Larger resorts are also more inclined to have a concierge or tour company in the lobby that can assist as well, and may even have shuttle service to popular spots like the Starwood resorts did in Kaanapali. Lastly, I'd recommend using a travel agent. He or she likely works with tour companies that offer organized tours you can book a la carte, and would know where they include transportation from.
     

    VandVsmama

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2011
    I’ve been to Oahu and Aulani and plan to take another trip to Aulani combined with some exploration of other parts of Hawaii. As a solo traveller used to driving on the left side of the road I’m not comfortable hiring a car. When I explored Oahu I did the Waikiki / Honolulu area on public transport and took bus tours to other parts of the island. Which other parts of Hawaii can be explored in a similar way?

    I was considering the NCL Hawaii cruise that hops around the islands but I’m not sure when I’ll be confident cruising again following the pandemic. I’ve also seen some organised tours that hop to a lot of islands but I’m concerned that they move too quickly to get a good amount of time to soak in the feel of each location.

    Hawaii locals or other Hawaii travel enthusiasts - what do you recommend?
    The other islands really don't have great public transportation. Consider Maui as an example. There is no island-wide bus service. In Kaanapali, there's a Kaanapali Trolley which goes the length of Kaanapali (and I think it also might stop at the Lahaina Cannery shops, too?).

    Maui does have a commuter bus service that services various parts of the island, but right now with corona virus, some routes have been temporarily discontinued. Also, the bus service doesn't run very late in the evening. It ends by about 9-9:30 pm. So plan accordingly. There is no service to Hana. Their website is https://www.mauicounty.gov/605/Bus-Service-Information. It's $2 one way or $4 for a day pass.
     

    Primeval Princess

    Momketeer
    Joined
    May 14, 2020
    I recommend car rental. I've been to Maui once & traveled around most of the island, and everyone just used their own cars to get around. I didn't notice any public transport at all, and not even any group tours (although I'm sure some were there without me noticing).

    Even if someone were to recommend a great tour service to you, they might be out of business by the time you are able to vacation in Hawaii again. The island is closed as tight as a drum right now, with all incoming travelers having to quarantine for 14 days. Its government leaders are very cautious, so reopening, when it happens, is going to be a slow process. All tourism business is at a standstill, and many vendors will likely go out of business before this is over. Others will eventually replace them, but it will take time.
     
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    Proud Cheapskate

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Nov 30, 2004
    I rented a car in London and I had such an anxiety attack within a mile of the airport I thought my chest was going to explode. Although my car is a stick shift I had do sit on the wrong side of the car shift with my wrong hand with the upshifts coming towards me rather than away, roundabouts going clockwise rather than counter-clockwise. It was all just too much. That being said, all cars in Hawaii are automatic and I don't really remember any roundabouts on Maui or Oahu. Plus the traffic is not bad at all as long as you avoid Honolulu at rush hour. Unless you're a super nervous driver, I'd go for the rental car. You can come and go as you please without having to wait for scheduled transportation.
     
  • taaren

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 17, 2010
    I'm Maui born and raised, also lived on Oahu for several years in college. The only other non-bus alternative to driving on Oahu is taking cabs everywhere, which gets pricey really fast. That being said, they are plentiful and fast during non-COVID times, partly due to the fact that with several very large military bases on one island, a lot of sailors/soldiers don't have transportation of their own or don't want to wait for their friends to not be working to go places, along with some amount of elderly people that just don't like taking the bus who have the funds to afford them when they want to go somewhere.
    So they take cabs, and the cab companies are used to being busy, respond promptly and professionally. It is an option (it always appalled me how much of their salaries my military friends and some of my local aunties would throw at those companies but they said it was cheaper than maintaining a car considering they'd be around for a few months, when deployed they didn't want to have a car sitting gathering salt).
    On the neighbor islands cabs are not a great option (in my experience they took forever), though Lyft likely will be once this pandemic is over (although the airport rules for rideshare are weird, check airport websites for those, you may have to take a shuttle to your hotel then use Uber/Lyft from there).
     

    abdgeek

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 29, 2012
    I’ve been to Oahu and Aulani and plan to take another trip to Aulani combined with some exploration of other parts of Hawaii. As a solo traveller used to driving on the left side of the road I’m not comfortable hiring a car. When I explored Oahu I did the Waikiki / Honolulu area on public transport and took bus tours to other parts of the island. Which other parts of Hawaii can be explored in a similar way?

    I was considering the NCL Hawaii cruise that hops around the islands but I’m not sure when I’ll be confident cruising again following the pandemic. I’ve also seen some organised tours that hop to a lot of islands but I’m concerned that they move too quickly to get a good amount of time to soak in the feel of each location.

    Hawaii locals or other Hawaii travel enthusiasts - what do you recommend?

    EDIT: renting a car is not going to happen so while I’m appreciating all the insight into transport on different islands, it is best to just assume that there will be no driving on my part. If anyone has taken any day tours from resorts in various locations other than Oahu I’d love to hear about them.
    I understand your concerns. Although I rent a car on each island, a lot of times I take tours so that I don’t have to drive in unfamiliar areas. You have several options for accomplishing what you want. As OP have said, public transit isn’t really an option on the other islands. Below are some things to think of as you plan:

    1) Aulani—As you know, Aulani has excursions that leave from the resort. You just need to check the summary on the website to make sure it includes transportation from Aulani. Because I don’t always rent a car when I go to Aulani, I have easily seen all the sites I wanted using tours that picked up at the resort.

    2) Big Island—You need a car to get around. However, staying in the Kailua-Kona area near or on Ali’i Drive will put you in the heart of things. You can walk to shops and restaurants. Tours will pick up in this area. Some tours also pick up in Waikoloa. This is a huge resort area and everything you need will be there. Taking a Circle Island tour will allow you to see most of the main sites (Volcanoes National Park, Black Sand Beach, Akaka or Rainbow Falls, etc.) The tour takes about 10-12 hours, but is a good way to see the island and what you want to do more in depth. You can also book a private tour which would allow you to pick your itinerary and gives you more time to explore on your own.

    3) Maui—Again having a car is best, but you can Uber. Tours typically pick up in Kihei and Lahaina/Kaanapali Beach areas, so it is possible to see everything by taking a tour. You typically have to provide your own transportation to the marina for the snorkel tours. Mt. Haleakala Sunrise tours and Road to Hana Tours are worth the price for letting someone else do the driving.

    I wouldn’t recommend island hopping as a tour. The flights usually leave around 5am and you are responsible for getting to and from the airport. If you read the fine print, a lot of the tours say the cost is non-refundable if you cancel the tour. It also makes for about a 12-15 hour day.

    If you haven’t already, check Viator.com to see the type of tour options for each island. There are several big tour companies on the islands and you can look at their tours too. To date, there have only been two tours that I’ve done where I wanted more time in a location. They were my tours to Volcanoes National Park (VNP) and Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). For VNP I wanted more time to hike and we didn’t get to see all the islands at PCC even though we were there doing activities for 9-10 hours.

    I hope this helps.
     
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    cgattis

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 1, 2009
    Super informative post, @abdgeek. I think that’s the best I’ve seen on this question. I’d respectfully recommend the Mods make a sticky of this one.
     

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