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Paradise awaits in the Hawaiian islands, but you need a solid plan to explore all that these magical isles have to offer.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: renting a car and using rideshares offer the most flexibility and access to attractions and sights across Hawaii’s diverse islands. Inter-island flights and ferries allow easy transfer between destinations as well.

In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get around Hawaii, including detailed transportation options for inter-island travel as well as exploring Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

We’ll help you decide whether to rent a car, use public transportation, book tours, or rely on other means to maximize your Hawaiian adventure.

Inter-Island Transportation in Hawaii

Flights Between the Islands

When it comes to traveling between the Hawaiian Islands, flying is often the fastest and most convenient option. There are several major airlines that offer regular inter-island flights, including Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, and Island Air.

These flights are fairly short – ranging from 20 minutes to 1 hour between islands – but provide a quick and easy way to island hop without having to take a boat or cruise.

There are direct flights available between all four major islands (Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island), with dozens of options to choose from each day. This makes it easy to customize your inter-island itinerary. One-way flights usually start around $70 per person for economy class tickets.

It’s also possible to include inter-island flights as part of a multi-island vacation package to save money.

Ferries to Connect the Islands

Alongside air travel, Hawaii also offers passenger ferry services between a few of the islands. The main ferry route is between Maui and Lanai, with Expeditions Ferry providing multiple daily crossings.

The ferry ride takes around 45 minutes each way and allows visitors to bring vehicles and transport goods/gear.

There is also a passenger ferry called the Holo Holo that was recently launched between Maui and Molokai. This 50 minute trip runs twice daily and gives travelers access to beaches, hiking trails, and cultural sites on Molokai without flying.

The ferries provide an alternative to air travel and allow visitors to admire Hawaii’s scenic coastlines during the journey.

Cruises for Island Hopping

Taking a multi-day inter-island cruise is a superb way for visitors to Hawaii to sail between the islands while only having to unpack once. These small ship cruises typically have capacities between 100-200 guests and leisurely make their way through the island chain over 6-14 days.

Popular cruise itineraries offered by lines like Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and UnCruise Adventures include trips between the three largest Hawaiian Islands before extending out west to Kauai.

On board, cruisers can dine, relax by the pool, and be treated to luau shows, lei making, and ukulele lessons by native crew members.

When docked in port for the day, island hopping Hawaii cruises then arrange a variety of shore excursions to showcase the best of each destination. This removes the hassle of having to coordinate activities and transfers on your own.

Rates start around $1,800 per person for itineraries through the Aloha State.

Getting Around Oahu

Renting a Car in Oahu

Renting a car is often the most convenient way to explore Oahu. Major rental companies like Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and National have locations at Honolulu International Airport and around the island.

Compact cars typically rent for around $30-50 per day, while jeeps and convertibles cost more.

Consider renting a car for a few days to see popular sites like Pearl Harbor, North Shore beaches, Hanauma Bay, and the eastern side of the island. Just beware that parking can be difficult to find in Waikiki.

Also keep in mind that rental cars cannot go on certain restricted roads including the famous Haiku Stairs.

Using Public Transportation

Oahu has an affordable public bus system called TheBus that services various parts of the island. Single rides are $2.75 while day passes are $5.50. Routes generally run from early morning until late evening. TheBus app or website allows you to plot routes and see schedules.

While the system is extensive, trips can take over an hour as buses make many stops. So factor in lots of extra time. Some visitor favorites include routes to North Shore, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Waikiki Beach, and Pearl Harbor.

Taxis, Shuttles, Limos, and Tours

Taxis are abundant at the airport and around Waikiki, though fares add up quickly at $3 base + $3.10 per mile. Uber and Lyft also service various parts of Oahu. Some hotels may offer free shuttles to nearby attractions like shopping centers.

Limousine companies provide private transportation in luxury vehicles – perfect for special occasions.

Guided group tours allow you to kick back while expert guides show the best of Oahu. From Circle Island tours to Pearl Harbor to luau dinner shows, tours hit up major sights. Prices generally range from $40 to $150+ per person.

More Transportation Tips for Oahu

  • Consider bringing or renting bicycles to explore spots like Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and Kailua Beach. Many hotels offer rentals.
  • Book an exciting helicopter tour for aerial views of Waikiki, Pearl Harbor and the lush mountainous terrain in the island’s interior. These tours last from 30-90 minutes.
  • Try thrill rides like parasailing, jet packs, speed boats, and ziplines. Or for spectacular ocean views, book a catamaran sailing or snorkeling adventure.
  • Walking is a great way to get around Waikiki and downtown Honolulu areas. Just be cautious of traffic when crossing busy streets.

Navigating Maui

Driving in Maui

Driving is one of the most convenient ways to get around the island of Maui. The roads are well-maintained and easy to navigate, with several main highways connecting the popular towns and attractions. Here are some tips for driving in Maui:

  • Get a rental car. Major rental companies like Hertz, Avis, and Budget have locations across Maui. Renting a Jeep or convertible can make for an extra fun drive!
  • Watch out for narrow roads and bridges, especially along the famous Road to Hana. The roads here are winding and scenic but can be tricky for unfamiliar drivers.
  • Leave early to beat the traffic. The roads can get congested during rush hour times in the main towns like Kahului and Kihei.
  • Don’t rely solely on GPS. Some side roads and shortcuts may not show up accurately. Use a physical map as a backup.
  • Fill up on gas when you see a station. Gas stations can be spaced far apart in the rural areas.

By following these handy tips and taking in the gorgeous island scenery, driving yourself around Maui can be an unforgettable experience!

Maui Buses

For an affordable and eco-friendly transportation option, consider taking the bus around Maui. The Maui Bus is a public bus system with over 20 routes connecting many popular destinations. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Multiple bus routes serve the main visitor areas like Lahaina, Ka Ľanapali, Kahului, Wailuku, and Kihei.
  • Buses come equipped with bike and surfboard racks if you want to bring gear along.
  • It’s only $2 per boarding, regardless of distance traveled, with discounts available for multi-day passes.
  • Schedules vary by route but generally buses run from early morning to late evening.
  • The website has full route maps and timetables to plan your trip.

While the bus may take longer than driving yourself, you can sit back and take in the views without having to worry about directions or parking. And it’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint during your Hawaiian vacation!

Tours, Shuttles, and More in Maui

Beyond rental cars and public buses, Maui offers an array of transportation options to help you get around this gorgeous island with ease. These include:

  • Shuttles: Door-to-door shared van shuttles connect the main tourist destinations affordably and efficiently.
  • Tours: Join exciting jeep, van, or bus tours led by knowledgeable local guides to attractions like Haleakala or the Road to Hana, without having to drive yourself.
  • Taxis: Always an option for shorter point-to-point trips and airport transfers. Fares start around $3 plus $3 per mile.
  • Rideshares: Apps like Uber and Lyft operate in busier areas of Maui like Kahului and Wailea.
  • Helicopters: For unique aerial views of volcanoes, waterfalls and more. Tour prices start around $150 per person.

With this range of transportation choices available, getting around Maui can be simple, affordable and full of beautiful scenery along the way!

Exploring Kauai

Renting a Car in Kauai

Renting a car is often the best way to explore Kauai at your own pace. Most major rental companies have locations at the Lihue Airport and in towns across the island. Rental rates average around $45-55 per day for a standard vehicle.

When booking, pay attention to additional fees like taxes, insurance, gas options, etc. Consider a midsize SUV for added comfort and clearance on rugged backroads.

Popular sights around Kauai are spread out, making a car a convenient way to reach key destinations like Waimea Canyon, Koke’e State Park, Hanalei town, and remote beaches. Review road closure updates before your trip as heavy rainfalls can cause temporary closures of routes like Waimea Canyon Drive.

Keep an eye out for free parking lots near beach trails and use caution driving narrow winding coastal roads.

Kauai Bus

The Kauai Bus offers a budget way for explorers without rental cars to navigate between popular towns. Standard one-way adult fares are $2. Frequent routes connect Lihue Airport to locations across the island including Hanalei, Princeville, Kapaa, Poipu, Waimea, and more.

While the bus reaches key destinations, indirect routes and limited schedules may not be ideal for tight itineraries. Visitors staying in less populated areas may also find themselves far from the nearest bus stop.

Review routes and download the bus app prior to relying on buses as your main transportation.

Taxis, Shuttles, and Tours in Kauai

Beyond rental cars and buses, Kauai offers taxis, private shuttles, and group sightseeing tours to transport visitors. Taxis are available around major towns and resort areas but can get pricey for long distances.

Shuttle vans bookable through your hotel make point-to-point airport transfers quick and affordable.

Booking a seat on a guided tour bus lets you sit back while drivers navigate to top attractions. Large tour companies like Polynesian Adventure Tours and Roberts Hawaii offer everything from snorkeling cruises to luau transfers. For a more personalized experience, opt for a small-group tour.

Average prices range widely based on tour length, group size, and inclusions like meals.

Getting Around Hawaii (Big) Island

Driving Yourself Around the Big Island

Renting a car is often the most convenient and flexible way to explore the Big Island. The island has many scenic drives and attractions spread out over its 4,000+ square miles, making a rental car a great way to reach more remote sights.

Major rental car companies like Alamo, Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, and Thrifty have locations at the main airports and towns.

When driving yourself around, be aware that some roads, especially those going up Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, can be steep and winding. Give yourself plenty of time and drive cautiously. Also keep an eye out for tropical downpours, which can reduce visibility.

Public Buses on Hawaii Island

The island does have a public bus system called Hele-On. However, the buses generally stick to the main towns like Kailua-Kona, Hilo, and Waimea and run on limited schedules. So they likely won’t take you directly to more remote attractions around the island.

But the buses can be useful for short trips between towns or to reach some coastal sights. Fares are cheap too, just $2 per ride. If you’ll be staying mostly in the main towns, relying on the handy buses is an affordable option.

Shuttles, Taxis, and Tours on Big Island

Another good option for getting around the Big Island without a rental car is using a private shuttle or taxi service. These can take you directly where you want to go, whether it’s the airport, a hotel, or popular sights around the island.

You can also book specialized small-group tours to attractions like Volcanoes National Park, coffee plantations, or beaches. These tours provide informative guides and transport in comfortable vans or buses.

Companies like Roberts Hawaii, Hilo Commuter, MazExp, and Hawaiian Lava Tours offer shuttles, taxis and excellent sightseeing tours perfect for getting around.

Conclusion

With inter-island flights, ferries, cruises, cars, buses, shuttles, tours, taxis, and more transportation options, getting around Hawaii is convenient and opens the door to all these magical islands have to offer.

By planning ahead with the information here on the best ways to travel both between and within the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable Hawaiian vacation full of paradise, adventure, and aloha!

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