With sun kissed beaches and dramatic vistas, the Honolulu/Waikiki area is among the hottest vacation destinations this summer. But in case you haven’t been watching the news, Honolulu is experiencing a car rental apocalypse. In fact, rental cars are so high, some visitors have resorted to renting U-Haul vehicles to save costs. So, should you pay for an expensive car rental or try a different approach to your transportation needs?
Why A Rental Car Shortage
Like many other industries, the pandemic hit the rental car industry hard, losing up to 90 percent of their business. This drastic drop in revenue forced rental car agencies to sell portions of their inventory, while halting new purchases. When Hawaii and other destinations have begun to loosen travel restrictions, the demand for car rentals exceeded the supply.
Honolulu Car Rental Prices
According to Kayak, the average price of a rental car in Honolulu is a staggering $295 a day. As an example, you can get a Volkswagen Jetta for $1,402 for a three-day rental. The cheapest for the same three-day period was a “Supplier Choice” car for $1,088. The price surge won’t end after summer either. In fact, multiple reports say the car rental shortage may last for another 18 months.
Comparing Travel Site Prices On Rental Cars In Honolulu
While the Kayak search showed an average of $295 a day for a car rental, TripAdvisor was remarkably much lower. So much lower than in two searches, the lowest price for a three-day rental on TripAdvisor was just $471. In a subsequent search on Expedia, the lowest three-day car rental was $438. Please know that rental car prices will fluctuate.
Sixt Rental Car
Early on this travel season, the German-based rental car company Sixt created interest as a car rental option. This was because their cars can be rented via the Lyft app, in a joint partnership. But in the busy summer months, prices have risen due to peak demand. In a quick search of a three-day rental, there were 20 available cars, starting at $177.71 a day.
One company that has been receiving widespread attention as an alternative to renting a car is Turo. Based in San Francisco, Turo is a car sharing business that connects car owners to customers looking to rent a car. Also known as peer-to-peer carsharing, the service has allowed customers to save money on rental cars. But demand for Turo cars has risen, with the lowest available rental going for about $110 per day in Honolulu.
To meet the demand for rental cars, Uber recently launched its own service. Uber Rent may be available later this year in Honolulu.
Rideshares are convenient and widely used across the Honolulu/Waikiki area. Yet, the pandemic also created a shortage of rideshare drivers. This shortage has caused prices to soar up to 40 percent in Honolulu. To give you an example, one couple recently visiting from Reno, Nevada had to pay $120 from the airport to Waikiki. Still, rideshares are in peak demand and can be helpful in getting around the city.
Holoholo: New Rideshare Service
In addition to Uber and Lyft, Holoholo, a local rideshare service began providing rides on the islands of Hawaii. Rides can be booked with Holoholo via the official Android/iOS app or online. The Holoholo website also provides fare estimates to calculate the price of a ride. In a quick search, the lowest one-way fare from the airport to Waikiki was $41.08.
Related: Seattle Without A Rental Car
Getting To & From Honolulu International Airport
Visitors have several ground transportation options to and from Honolulu International Airport. Car rentals from six on-airport and some off-airport agencies are available. There are also rideshares and taxis to transport you to your hotel. More affordable options are explained in more detail below.
Roberts Airport Shuttle Hawaii
The only airport shuttle listed on Honolulu airport’s website is Roberts Airport Shuttle. In business for 80 years, Roberts is a convenient way to get to your Honolulu/Waikiki hotel. The current rates are quite reasonable, starting at $23 for a shared transfer.
Hotels With Free Airport Transportation
There may be some of Honolulu-Waikiki hotels that provide a free airport shuttle service. You can try a search through a reputable travel site or directly with a hotel. When checking with a travel site like TripAdvisor, Kayak etc., please know that information on free hotel shuttles may not be up to date.
Additional Airport Shuttle Services
In addition to Roberts Airport Shuttle, many more companies provide shuttle service to and from the airport. Among those with good ratings from past customers are Aloha Airport Shuttle, Honolulu Airport Transfer and SpeediShuttle.
Honolulu Rail Transit
A light rail system known as Honolulu Authority for Rail Transit (HART) is currently under construction. The system will eventually provide public transportation between West Honolulu and Ala Moana. The $12.4 billion project is expected to open its first section later this year. Eventually, there will be stations at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu Airport and downtown Honolulu.
Honolulu/Waikiki Transportation Options
The least expensive way to get to your hotel is unsurprisingly, by public bus. The City and County of Honolulu has an outstanding transit system simply known as the TheBus. Of the three bus routes that serve the airport, routes 19 and 20 go to Waikiki. The third route, 31 terminates at Kalihi Transit Center, where a connection can be made to Waikiki. Buses run every 30 minutes from the airport and a one-way regular fare is $2.75.
Bus Fare Information
Cash and HOLO cards can be used as bus fare. HOLO cards stores money and can be delivered via mail or at selected locations. Fare for youths is $1.25 while fare for older adults or people with a disability card is $1. Monthly passes and day passes are also available.
Popular Bus Routes
TheBus has 110 routes, with service throughout the island of Oahu. Several bus routes serve Waikiki beach, including routes 2, 8, 13, 14, 19 and 20. To reach Diamond Head, take routes 2 or 23. The latter also serves Sea Life Park while 22 serves Sea Park and Hanauma Bay. Buses also reach North Shore, although connections are required.
Several transportation apps are available to help you get to your destination on public transportation. Two of the best are Rome2Rio and Moovit.
Related: Discover A National Park By Boat
Bus tours are in high demand during the peak summer months and into the fall season. One of the most popular is the Waikiki Trolley, with hop-on, hop-off stops at several top attractions. Three routes are available to places like Waikiki Beach, ‘Iolani Palace and Diamond Head. Each route can be paid for separately or combined on a day pass. Other trolley services like LeaLea and JTB’s Oli Oli are currently out of service.
For those who find public transportation difficult, there are bus tours to cover almost all of Oahu. While public buses go to Pearl Harbor, there are specialized tours from E Noa, Roberts Hawaii and Pearl Harbor Tours. Extensive island tours are available from Royal Star Hawaii, Surf Bus and Hawaii Turtle. In addition to luaus from select hotels, Paradise Cove Luau and Roberts Hawaii may still have reservations. Tours may already be sold out at the popular Polynesian Cultural Center.
A great way to exercise and travel is with one of Honolulu’s rideshare rental bikes. Known as Biki, more than 1,000 bikes are available from 130 Biki bike stations. One-way fare for travel up to 30 minutes is just $4. Additional time beyond 30 minutes is $4.50 for every 30 minutes or fraction thereof. The Biki app allows visitors to store money and a multi-stop pass of 300 minutes is $25.
Biki bikes are non-electric so users will have to peddle without the assistance of a motor. The Biki website offers information on bike safety, rental bike station maps and a system map. Reviews of Biki hasn’t always been positive so it’s recommended to see review sites like Yelp.
Bike Shop Rentals
As a bike friendly city, Honolulu has numerous businesses for tours and rentals. Many are in the heart of Waikiki, near or within walking distance of Kalakaua Avenue. Among the best for standard or e-bikes are Hawaiian Style Rentals and GoGo Rental. Businesses can also offer helmet rentals and suggested bike routes.
Bicycle rentals outnumber tours in Honolulu, with Bike Tour Hawaii the most centrally located, on Ala Wai Boulevard. Bike Tour Hawaii offers tours like Historical Honolulu, Diamond Head Bike to Hike and a Foodie Tour. The business will also resume bike rentals in July. Further away, past Diamond Head, is Bike Hawaii. This shop offers mountain and e-bike tours, hiking tours and more.
Motorcycle rentals can be a great way to get around Honolulu and Waikiki. For example, motorcycles are more fuel efficient than cars and can get through traffic more quickly. But rates can much like renting a car. Cruzin Hawaii has motorcycles, scooters and mopeds that can be rented from four hours or over several days. Chase Hawaii Rentals near Hyatt Regency Waikiki has Hondas and Harleys for rent from nine to 24 hours.
Scooter/Moped Rentals/Segway Tours
Scooter and moped rentals are more affordable than motorcycles and there are more shops to choose from. Among the most popular are Hawaiian Style Rentals, Cruzin Hawaii and Waikiki Moped and Car. Scooters cost from about $65-75 for four hours while mopeds cost about $35 for four hours. The minimum age to rent a scooter is 21 and 18 years of age for mopeds. A security deposit is required for any rental. A few Segway tours are available but are on the expensive side for the budget conscious traveler. For instance, a two-hour Diamond Head tour is $195 from Segway of Hawaii. For couples that’s $400 and for a family a four, $800. Segway of Hawaii has an Intro Tour, but it’s $99 for just 30 minutes.
There aren’t any boat services on Oahu that perform as public transportation. There isn’t a ferry service between islands to and from Oahu either.
Catamaran rides have been very popular this summer, with many sailings already sold out. But some spaces are still available. Among the suggestions are Maita’I Catamaran, Mana Kai and Holokai Catamaran. The most affordable tours tend to sell out more quickly.
Part of Hawaiian culture since the early 1900s, outrigger canoes are a familiar site along Waikiki Beach. Outrigger rides affordable, starting at about $35 for 30 minutes and Waikiki is the only place to catch a ride. Waikiki Beach Services is one of the oldest, with surfing lessons and catamaran rides. Big Wave Dave is slightly higher but has a great customer rating and Faith Surf School might be the best valued.
Popular Boat Tours
Multiple tour operators offer boat tours although some reservations may already be sold out through July. The choice depends upon availability, price and what’s included on a trip. Glass bottom boats are always popular as snorkeling adventures and sailing.
Visitors can rent a boat by the hour or day. But boat rentals are expensive and can cost hundreds of dollars an hour. Getmyboat has a list of boat rentals, as well as vacation rental sites like VRBO and AirBnb.
Private Charter Boats
Charter boats are quite expensive, especially for those trying to save money on a rental car. Some businesses are Tradewind Charters, Captain Bruce and Waikiki Catamaran. Most charters operate out of Basin Harbor or Ala Wai Boat Harbor, largest in Hawaii.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. His other stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University.