driving in hawaii

What to Know About Driving in Oahu

Oahu is one of the most-visited parts of Hawaii. It’s home to Honolulu, which is a major urban area, and around two-thirds of Hawaii’s population resides on Oahu. Oahu is often called “The Gathering Place” and Honolulu is not only an urban area but also the largest city in Hawaii and the state capital. 

Some of the geographic features Hawaii is known for include Waikiki, Diamond Head, and the North Shore.

Oahu is also home to Pearl Harbor, Hanauma, and Kailua Bay. 

While Oahu is beautiful to visit or to live, there are some challenges and things to know, particularly when it comes to driving. Whether you’re learning to drive in Hawaii because you’re moving there or because you’re going to be visiting, the following are helpful tips. 

Renting a Car

If you’re going to be visiting Oahu, you will more than likely want to rent a car. It’s a big island, and there’s a lot to see, but everything is fairly spread out. Some people will use mopeds for day excursions, but they’re not super practical for the most part. 

When you rent a car in Hawaii, you may feel like you need a 4×4, and locals don’t necessarily feel like this is the case. A regular car is fine, and because there can be a lot of traffic and tight parking, you might be happier overall with a smaller vehicle. 

If you are willing to pay the price, ordering a convertible can be a nice option in Oahu, although the weather can change quickly, so keep that in mind. 

While you won’t need a vehicle that’s going to allow for any heavy off-roading, you will need to think about the storage space for your luggage because that will play a role in what vehicle you rent. 

As is the case in most other places, a car rental company is usually going to require you be at least 25 and have a major credit card. If you’re between the ages of 21 and 24, you’ll have to pay a surcharge and sometimes it can cost more than the actual rental fees for the vehicle. 

Driver’s License

When you’re driving in Hawaii, you can use your U.S. license from another state as long as you’re 18 years old. If you’re an international visitor you can also drive with your license from your home country as long as you are at least 18.

If you are renting a car, most companies will take a foreign driver’s license, but sometimes you might have to present an International Driving Permit from your home country. 

Speed Limits

Hawaii has lower speed limits than what many people are used to, but at the same, people do still speed. On some freeways in Hawaii, the speed limits are as low as 50 MPH. 

Traffic in Hawaii and especially Oahu is notoriously bad.

Almost a million people are living in Honolulu for example, and traffic can feel like it brings the city to a complete standstill at rush hour. Try to plan your drive time accordingly. 

There’s frequently road construction going on in Oahu, and if one lane is blocked, it can create huge problems. 

There’s a Laid Back Approach to Driving

The idea of horrible traffic and laid-back driving might not seem like they go hand-in-hand, but in Hawaii they do. If you’re going to drive in Hawaii, plan to take it slow.

The pace of driving matches the pace of life in Oahu and throughout Hawaii. 

It’s an island, and they appreciate their island lifestyle. 

You should also try to maintain the friendly Hawaiian spirit when you’re driving. For example, let people into your lane, and if someone lets you over, give them a wave to tell them thank you. 

Parking In Waikiki

If you’re going to Waikiki along with the traffic, parking can be an issue. 

Parking can be hard to come by and expensive.

If you’re staying in a hotel, check and see if they offer onsite parking and if so, how much it costs. 

Otherwise, try to plan for somewhere near Waikiki where you might be able to park that’s fairly convenient and inexpensive. 

If you’re nervous about driving in Oahu, give yourself a crash course by looking at the map views on Google maps. You can see a little more what to expect on the streets along with the step-by-step directions so you can make mental notes about what you need to do and where.

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Owner and Editor at Week99er
Becky is Content Creator in metro-Detroit. She is also an interior designer, a former adjunct professor, a gluten free foodie, and world traveler. Week99er is a lifestyle site featuring real life reviews of the latest in entertainment, technology, travel destinations and even set visits. Her Youtube channel gives in depth reviews and travel videos. Contact her at [email protected]

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