Once you have arrived on the Hawaiian Islands, it is time for choosing your preferred mode of transportation for your stay. Depending on your plans, there are several options to make your stay enjoyable: rental cars, buses, inter-island flights, bicycle and many more.
On Big Island, by far the most comfortable choice is picking up your rental car upon arrival and then exploring the island at your leisure. Another option is the local bus system called Hele-On Bus. There are also reliable bus systems on the other islands . . . Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Oahu. Further options for exploring the islands are taxis, shuttles and ride-sharing apps.
When you are driving a car in Hawaii, you should know the US/Hawaii driving regulations beforehand and always drive safely and defensively. Hawaiians "take it slow" when driving and generally are pleasant drivers that avoid honking or pushy driving.
Hawaii has a universal seatbelt law that requires all passengers to be buckled up at all times. Failing to buckle up results in a fine. Children under the age of 4 years old have to ride in a child safety seat — and children between the ages of 4 and 8 years old have to sit either in that seat or in a bumper seat. The fine in case of violation is quite high, ranging from 100 to 500 US dollars.
You can rent a car with a valid US driver’s license if you are over 21 years of age. International visitors need a valid driver’s license from their home country. It is best to present an International Driving Permit (IDP) written in English alongside your country license to make matters easier and thus bypass the language barrier.
If you are planning to have an adventure trip, then renting a four-wheel drive — such as a Jeep Wrangler (which, whether 2-door or 4-door, is the only 4WD rental car in Hawaii) — is recommended. With these cars any road conditions can be mastered.
For a classical sightseeing holiday, you can use vehicles from the categories of Compact, Luxury or Convertible cars, depending on your budget and preference. In the beautiful sunny climate of Hawaii, a Convertible is a great way of enjoying the sun and feeling the wind in your hair when driving along the coastline.
Hawaii is also a popular destination for families as it offers ample opportunity for soaking up the sun, playing at the beach and generally having a great time. For a family of up to four, our Standard or Economy cars offer enough room for everyone. For larger families we offer the option of renting a Minivan that offers space for seven people and four bags.
All of the Hawaiian Islands have their own bus system which have a reliable schedule and are generally available for low fares. Basically, if you want to reach beaches and towns, taking the bus is a good option. However, if you want to access hiking trails and more remote locations, or if you want to watch sunrises and sunsets, then taking a rental car is a better idea.
The best bus system is TheBus on Oahu. It operates on a very frequent schedule. The next best bus system is Maui Bus. However, with Maui Bus, you cannot reach every destination on Maui, such as Hana or Haleakala National Park. On the Big Island, Hele-On Bus is available — however, it is not the ideal choice for extensive sightseeing. Nonetheless, with Hele-On Bus, you can reach certain locations such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The Kauai Bus can be used to commute between the main towns, but it does not bring you to such natural wonders as the Na Pali Coast or Waimea Canyon. On Molokai, you can take MEO Bus which covers east and west of Kaunakakai.
Hawaii is an absolute dream destination for bike tours. There are numerous options for guided bike tours on all of the islands. Or, you can find cycling maps online and start your own trip.
When riding a bicycle you also have to be aware of the current laws regarding helmets and handheld-devices. If you are under 16 years of age, wearing a helmet is compulsory. The same goes for motorcycle, and motor scooter, riders under 17 years old.
You can rent bicycles at all holiday resorts. You can get everything from regular bikes to mountain bikes as well as hybrid and electronic models. Bicycles are subject to the same road rules as cars and are not allowed on sidewalks and freeways. You can also take your bike on the buses as they come equipped with front-loading bicycle racks.
If you want to explore more than one island during your trip, you can easily travel from one island to another with the many available inter-island flights. The main inter-island hubs are Honolulu (HNL), Kahului (OGG), Kona (KOA), Hilo (ITO) and Lihue (LIH). You can choose between several airlines that offer inter-island service: Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines and Makani Kai Air.
Hawaiian Airlines offers almost 200 flights per day, mainly connecting Honolulu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, and with fewer options to Molokai and Lanai.
Mokulele Airlines connects Honolulu to the Big Island, Maui and Molokai and also offers charter flights to Lanai.
Makani Kai Air functions as a connection between Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and Molokai.
Helicopter tours are a great way of getting a spectacular view of Hawaii’s natural wonders from above. This way, you can also reach remote areas that are otherwise difficult to access. You can start helicopter tours from a lot of different locations, such as Kona, Hilo or Honolulu.
Many helicopter tours focus on lava-flow formations and volcanoes and often depart from Hilo to go to the Kilauea volcano. It is exciting to fly over the lava-flow formations. All the Hawaiian Islands offer unforgettable scenic vistas. Natural wonders that are breathtaking from above are the waterfalls and the cliffs and the valleys — and the world-famous Napali coastline of Kauai.
If you want a longer tour, where the flight time alone can take up to two hours, a circle island helicopter tour is a great choice.
Inter-island ferry services for automotive vehicles between the Hawaiian Islands do not exist. However, you can get public ferries from Lahaina on Maui to go to the islands of Molokai or Lanai. Another option is to take an inter-island cruise ship between the four biggest Hawaiian Islands that starts from Honolulu. This is operated by Norwegian Cruise Line and the cruise takes seven days.
There are several boat tour companies that offer boat excursions that include other things such as picnics or hikes. Another great activity is a sailing tour, where you can choose between day, night, and early morning tours. Other options are dinner cruises and snorkeling adventures — and whale-watching tours when in-season.
The best island for sailing is Maui. The boat tours on Kauai are also popular — there you can book tours to go snorkeling and watching dolphins and turtles off the Napali Coast.
At some tourist resorts you can rent mopeds and motorcycles. Everyone with a valid driver’s license can drive them. The minimum age for renting a moped is 16 years of age, while for a motorcycle you have to be at least 21 years old. Remember that the speed limit for mopeds is 30 mph. Helmets are not compulsory over the age of 18, but you should wear them as the road conditions are sometimes difficult and rough.
When on Oahu, rent a motorbike for a road trip up to the North Shore. On the North Shore, the waves are bigger. Stop at Mokuleia Beach Park and enjoy a beautiful day in the sun. Guided motorcycle tours are also a great way of exploring the islands and meeting new people at the same time.
On all of the main islands, taxis and other car ride services (such as Uber, Lyft, etc.) are readily available at hotels, resorts and airports.
On Maui, taking a taxi (or Uber, Lyft, etc.) is mainly recommended for shorter distances such as for getting to a restaurant or to the beach. As there are very few curbside taxis (or Uber, Lyft, etc.) waiting in the streets, it is best for you to make a reservation beforehand. On the other islands it is also best to use a taxi (or Uber, Lyft, etc.) mostly for short distances.
On Big Island, there is the option of booking guided taxi (or Uber, Lyft, etc.) tours around the island — however, this is quite expensive. The best alternative to using a taxi (or Uber, Lyft, etc.) is getting a rental car — this is a lot cheaper and also offers you greater freedom to explore.
The beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island are very different from all the other islands’ beaches as Big Island is by far the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands. Big Island has some of the world’s only green sand beaches — as well as black sand beaches and white sand beaches and some very new beaches formed from lava rocks.
Depending on whether you want to spend your holiday on just one island or visiting different islands, choose the modes of transportation that best suit your needs. The flights from island to island are very short — however, sometimes you might need a connecting flight through Honolulu International Airport in Oahu.
Planning your trip to Hawaii is an exciting matter — as Hawaii is the ultimate dream destination for many travelers. The different Hawaiian Islands offer something for everybody — from beautiful beaches to breathtaking volcanic landscapes to rainforests, gardens and hills, they are always worth a visit.