Do You Need a Car In Oahu?

If you’re visiting Oahu, you can get around without a rental car—unless you want to explore the lesser-known parts of the island.
Written by Meaghan Branham
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Visiting the Hawaiian island of Oahu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To get the most out of your visit and explore the outlying areas of the island, you might want to rent a car for at least a couple of days.
The island that’s home to Honolulu and Waikiki is full of beautiful scenery, outdoor adventure, rich culture, and incredible food. If you’re heading to the most-visited island of Hawaii, you don’t need a car to get around—but you might want one to get to some of the more off-the-beaten-path places and experiences.
If you need some help deciding whether or not you need to rent a car in Oahu, we’re here with a handy guide to getting around one of Hawaii’s most popular destinations.

Where to get a rental car in Oahu

There isn’t really a wrong way to see the island of Oahu. You can have a remarkable experience without renting a car: lounging at your resort, hiking on trails like the stunning Manoa Falls, and wandering downtown at your leisure. You also may be able to take advantage of public transportation available, from day tours across the island to the Waikiki Trolley.
But if adventure and efficiency are what you’re after, renting a car is a great idea.
If you decide to go with a rental car, you’ll be happy to know that it’s fairly easy to find them in Oahu. The Hawaii International Airport houses Enterprise, Budget Car Rental, Alamo, and more.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
, and
offer impressive customer loyalty programs, while Alamo and Budget Car Rental offer more in the way of up-front incentives.
When you’re picking out your car, remember that smaller may be better. For larger groups, an SUV might be unavoidable, but a smaller car will save you money in the long run and be easier to park on the streets of the island. Near the beaches especially, parking can be tight and crowded.
Speaking of parking, you’ll want to budget for that as well. Many hotels and resorts charge a parking fee, with some as high as $35 a day. Fees in parking lots and garages can also add up quickly, though they vary based on where you are.
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Do you need rental car insurance?

If you opt for a rental car, you’ll be offered insurance at the rental desk when you pick up your vehicle. But should you take it? It depends on what your current car insurance policy looks like.
If you have a
full-coverage car insurance
policy on your own car, you can likely forgo the coverage offered by the rental company. Your
comprehensive coverage
will extend to the rental vehicle, keeping you covered even while out of state.
If you only have basic
liability insurance
, however, you should take the collision damage waiver (CDW) the rental company offers. Not only does this cover collision damage, but it also can help you out with additional costs like towing charges, administrative fees, and diminished value.

Do you need a car in Oahu?

While you don’t need a car to get around on Oahu, some people prefer to have the freedom allowed by their own set of wheels.
Without a car, your options for exploring will be limited to sights along guided tours, trolley paths, walking distances, and public transportation. This doesn’t mean your trip won’t be great, but you’ll have to plan your itinerary carefully to see everything you want to see. 

Where public transportation can take you

Public transportation in Oahu is some of the best in the nation and you can find your way to some of the island's best spots via one of the public transport options.
Cabs can add up quickly, so consider taking the Waikiki Trolley, which offers three different tours: one covering attractions, one going over historic and cultural sites, and one for shopping and dining. The cost for a 1-day pass for one line is around $25, and you’re free to hop on and off whenever you’d like for the length of your pass.
You can also opt for a day tour like those offered by E Noa Tours or Roberts Hawaii, which can take you around the island, drop you off, pick you up, and give you insight into the historical and cultural relevance of some of Oahu’s popular sights.
The bus system on Oahu, known as TheBus, is also a great option. TheBus has lines that can take you to:
  • KCC Farmers Market
  • Diamond Head Trail 
  • Chinatown
  • Bishop Museum.
  • Kaka'ako Shops & Restaurants, and Downtown
  • Ala Moana Center 
  • Waikiki 
  • Aloha Tower
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
  • Hanauma Bay 
  • Sandy Beach & Sea Life Park
  • Makaha Beach
  • Kailua Beach 
  • Lanikai Beach
  • Turtle Bay Resort
  • Polynesian Cultural Center
A bus pass will only cost you $2.75 per ride or $5.50 for a day pass. Children 5 and under ride free, and youth under the age of 17 only have to pay $1.25 a ride or $2.50 for a day pass. You can find more info about rates and routes on
TheBus website

Where public transportation can’t take you

It’s clear that there is no shortage of things to do on Oahu without a car, but there are a few off-the-beaten-track places that you can’t explore properly unless you have your own ride.
Here are some of the spots where you’ll need a rental car:
  • Dole Pineapple Plantation
  • Windward Oahu 
  • Maunawili Falls Trail Hiking
  • Kaena Point (an SUV might be better for the rougher trails out this way!)
  • Makapu’u Tide Pools
If you’re looking to save money and see the more popular attractions, relying on public transportation is a great choice! But you won’t have the freedom to explore all that Oahu has to offer—from the North Shore to Honolulu—unless you opt for a rental car.
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