Paradise by Bus: Getting Around Oahu

The sun and sand on Lanikai Beach.

My wife and I have challenged ourselves to always use local mass transit to get around every destination we visit on vacation. We recently traveled to the Hawaiian island of Oahu and we had no problems meeting that commitment; from getting to and from the airport and the condo we stayed in, to visiting some of the most beautiful spots on the island using the Oahu bus system. One day we took the bus from the condo in the Ala Moana area to Kailua where we spent the day hiking up Pill Box and then soaking up the sun and sand on Lanikai Beach. Another day we took it to the bottom of Diamond Head to start our 7am trek to the top. We also took the bus to Manoa where we hiked through the Lyon Arboretum and then Manoa Falls. Another time we took it to Hanauma Bay and Halona Blowhole Lookout. On our next visit, we plan to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center and the North Shore to Makaha…..the island is our mass transit oyster!

The Magic Bus

Using Google Maps is essential to having a great experience on the system. You can easily plan ahead, as it gives you a point-to-point itinerary for how to get from one place to another, including transfers and all upcoming stops, and fairly precise timing along the whole journey. On the bus itself, the next stop shows on a rolling display towards the front of the bus so you have time to pull the chord to alert the driver you wish to stop. We saved a boatload of money by not taking an Uber or renting a car (about $676 total for a week for an economy car, without gas) and instead used “The Bus” to get everywhere. Day passes for adults are $7.50 and you can use them everywhere, at any time, between 6am to 10pm for most routes, and 24/7
for 2 major routes. A hard plastic transit card ( Holo ) can be purchased at any ABC store on the island at the price of $2. You can add funds for any amount online. We spent $105 on the bus for the week, so we saved $571 at a bare minimum, because with renting a car, you still pay for gasoline, and parking in most areas.

There are 351 total buses on the island, with 17 all-electric, and 42 hybrids. The plan is to have another 38 all-electric by 2024. 

When riding the Oahu bus system, be sure to bring a wind breaker or light jacket. For some reason, the air conditioners on-board are on full blast on every bus. Other than that, enjoy the scenery and get around the island and experience everything Oahu has to offer outside of Waikiki.

Oahu sunset.