Having your own rental car while on vacation in Hawaii gives you a measure of independence and allows you to go exploring off on your own whenever and wherever you like. You will see more and do more if you aren’t at the mercy of your resort the entire time you are here. Hotels love to keep their guests on-property as much as they can, because it is good for business. Sleep there … eat there … swim there … do all your recreation there … ummm … drink there. You get the idea. Every one of those categories brings more revenue to the hotel.

If your vacation plans include time on Kauai, Maui, or the Big Island, we highly recommend that you rent a car. While there are a few tours that will come pick you up at your hotel, on these three islands most tours don’t. With the possible exception of the week of Christmas vacation when rental car prices spike astronomically, we think it is money well spent. Taxi service on these islands is very expensive … just rent a car. Here on our website Adventureinhawaii.com we have great rental car rates with Avis.

Oahu is different. If your vacation plans include time at a hotel in Waikiki, a rental car can actually become an expensive liability. Many Waikiki hotels charge nightly parking rates that can exceed the actual cost per day of renting the car! And then there is the navigation issue. Waikiki is a little like a concrete jungle. Towering hotels and the Ala Wai Canal create a maze of one-way streets, many of which seem to dead-end in parking garages.

Waikiki caters to the convention crowd … many people are here on business or reward trips and their businesses seldom include a rental car in their package. Unlike the other islands, MOST TOURS pick up at the hotels in Waikiki. Sometimes their is a nominal fee … but often it is just included in the rate. Dining, shopping, convenience stores, nightlife … it is all within walking distance of your Waikiki hotel.

Without a rental car you do have the “transportation to/from the airport” to work out, but there are a host of shuttle services that are easily arranged once you arrive at baggage claim. The rates are around $10-15 per person for the trip from HNL to Waikiki, which takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the time of day and downtown traffic.

One other consideration … Oahu has excellent city bus service. That’s another transportation option and it doesn’t only work for downtown Honolulu. You can actually get just about anywhere on the island of Oahu for $2 using this service. Unfortunately this doesn’t work getting to/from the airport … unless you pack light. They aren’t going to let you on the bus with a ton of luggage. That’s what the shuttle services are for.

If you aren’t staying in Waikiki … perhaps you are at one of the Ko’Olina resorts, the Hilton Turtle Bay on the north shore, or maybe a private vacation rental in the Kailua area … well then you should just go ahead and rent a car too. Most tours will not pick you up there, and you don’t have the vast array of shopping and dining choices that you would find within walking distance of the Waikiki hotels.

If you are staying in Waikiki, here is a pretty long list of tours that either include complimentary hotel pickup, or do so for a nominal fee (typically around $10 per person).

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