O’ahu: The land of Jurassic Park, iconic Le’ahi (Diamond Head), and the worst traffic west of L.A.! While you can totally make a trip here work without a rental car, you’ll be glad you rented one if you want to get off your resort or out of Waikiki. But there are a few things to know in advance. Before you head to Hawai’i’s “Gathering Place,” read this!
Let Others In
If you live in a large city or frequently drive in or around New York, L.A., or D.C., you might think something’s “off” when someone just… Lets you go in front of them. It’s bizarre! But that’s the way locals do it all over Hawai’i, even on busy O’ahu, and even in congested Honolulu. Play nice, let others go in front of you when possible, and learn the “shaka” hand signal. (Don’t forget to retire your middle finger while you’re at it.) Drive with aloha!
Know When It’s Rush Hour
You know people in Hawai’i have 9-5 jobs right? They don’t just go surfing every day. You’ll find heavier (but still friendly) traffic in the morning from the 5:00 hour until about the 8:00 hour. In the afternoon, traffic picks up again in the 3:00 hour to the 5:00 hour. It’s not impossible to drive at those times, but it is something to consider if you can be flexible with your timing.
More here: The Best Things to Do in Waikiki
Expect Limited Parking
The island of O’ahu is only so big, and unlike the Island of Hawai’i, it’s not getting any bigger! Parking lots are not that big, even at popular tourist areas, so it’s best to try to arrive early, wherever you want to go. If you do have to park on the street, make sure the shoulder is actually large enough to accommodate your car, and never ever block someone’s driveway or mailbox. The locals are kind, but even they have their limits. Remember, you’re not the only tourist on their island!
Read on: The Ultimate O’ahu Bucket List
If someone honks at you, they’re either a fellow tourist who doesn’t know the Hawai’ian rules of politeness, or it’s a local giving you a short “toot” to thank you for letting them in front of you. Honking in Hawai’i is not supposed to be a form of yelling on the roads, so just don’t honk.
Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking O’ahu
Look Out for Pedestrians
This is equally true of highly trafficked areas and neighborhoods you might be driving through. Always stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, and always look out for pedestrians wherever you may be driving. I’ve even seen a couple of people walking on the H-1, which of course if NOT recommended or legal!
More here: 5 Things You Forgot to Pack for Hawai’i
You May Not Need a Car Every Day
This is one of my favorite money-saving tips for visiting Hawai’i! Many hotels have their own rental car connections, and if you happen to be staying in Waikiki, you’ll have several rental car companies to choose from within walking distance. If you don’t need a car every day, don’t rent one for your whole trip!
No only will you not pay the airport car rental surcharge when you rent outside the airport, you could also avoid overnight parking fees if you rent on non-consecutive days! Only rent a car when you need one, and plan not to when you have a beach day or want to do things within walking distance of your accommodation.
Want more? Get everything you need to plan your Hawai’ian trip of a lifetime on my dedicated Hawai’ian Islands Page!
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