The Island Commute - Navigating Oahu's Transportation Landscape

When it comes to commuting on Oahu, there's more than meets the eye. Whether you like living mid-city or prefer to be out in the country, you have to know how you’re going to get from place to place. Oahu offers a complex transportation network that spans both urban density and remote beauty. In this blog post, we break down some of the costs and practicalities of getting around this island paradise.

Planning how to get around once you live here is an important part of the moving process. What transportation methods best suit you depends on your needs - are you going to live alone, or will you be driving your kids to school? Will you work at home or need to commute to the office?

Cars driving down a hill in Hawaii

As different answers apply to different situations, this guide runs through the various costs and considerations of the most popular transportation options for residents of Oahu.

Private Vehicle Ownership

While owning a private vehicle offers the convenience of personal mobility, it also brings a few unique challenges when it comes to getting them here and maintaining them.

To start, if you already fully own one or more cars on the mainland then shipping them here might seem like the obvious answer. There are a few things to keep in mind though, including necessary maintenance checks, documentation requirements, and guidelines on how to secure or remove accessories and personal items - and that’s all before you ship it. If you bought the car with a loan, you’ll need to obtain permission from the loan originator before you ship it.

The next step would be getting it from the mainland to Hawaii - which can vary widely depending on your starting location. Shipping from the west coast is relatively easy compared to shipping from Texas or New York, for example.

Ship being unloaded

It costs roughly $1,500-3,000 per vehicle to ship it to Hawaii, depending on how involved in the process you are, the location you’re coming from, and the vehicle in question. The vehicle can only contain certain items during shipping - infant car seats, a spare tire, car jack, floor mats, and a set of jumper cables - and the gas tank needs to be a quarter full or less due to safety regulations.

Once a vehicle has arrived, weatherproofing and maintaining it are important. The salty air blowing in off the ocean and constant sunlight can cause damage to the interior and corrosion to the exterior. It sounds scary, but protecting your car isn’t hard - it mostly involves being proactive. Get your car washed and waxed often and buy a car cover for when the vehicle isn’t in use or in the garage.

Gas, Registration, & Parking Costs

As of this writing in January 2024, the average gas price in Hawaii is about $4.681 per gallon. On Oahu, gas at my local station is $4.539/Gal for Regular, $4.739/Gal for Plus, and $4.989/Gal for Super Premium. This is about comparable to California’s gas prices, but a good deal higher than somewhere like Washington or Texas. Even though the island of Oahu isn’t that large, you can still end up spending a lot of time in your vehicle so it’s important to be aware.

Gas Prices On Oahu in January 2024

If you’re planning on parking your car in Honolulu regularly, be aware that parking spaces are often more compact than the mainland and parking fees can build up quickly. There are a variety of resources out there to help find parking spaces in Honolulu, such as Parkopedia.

Hawaii vehicle registration cost tends to be fairly high too - a light truck can easily be $450 or more annually. The cost depends on the county you’re in and the weight of the vehicle. In Oahu, it’s calculated based on a few factors that you can learn about here.

Some that move here choose to switch to a one-vehicle household to help cut transportation costs.


Commute times are a major factor that many people overlook. Oahu has a few major choke points in its road system that can greatly delay traffic across the island during peak hours in the morning and evening, when workers head into the city.

A bridge with a harbor in the background

The best way to beat traffic is to choose a home based on the distance you most regularly need to travel. A 30-minute drive to school might not seem bad on paper - but that’s two hours of driving out of every school day.

In some situations, private vehicle ownership is likely your best bet due to the sheer convenience of it. If you’re planning to move to a prestigious neighborhood outside of Honolulu, such as to Kahala, Lanikai Kailua, or Koko Kai, but still need to commute to the city regularly, for example.

Owning a car isn’t the only way to get around Oahu, however.

Other Options

If you prefer a home closer to the urban core, Ala Moana, Kakaako, or the Diamond Head Area can vastly reduce the need for a private vehicle. In areas like these three, walking, biking, and public transportation can get you most places you need to go and renting the occasional car can get you the rest of the way.

Car rental costs vary depending on the time of year though and can rocket in price when the island is busy. TheBus is another option, Honolulu’s public bus system. It routes throughout the island, with plenty of stops within Honolulu itself. Taxis, Uber, and Lyft are all services that need no further explanation and are available throughout Urban Honolulu.


The public bus on the island of Oahu is called TheBus, and has routes throughout Oahu with options for many of the most popular destinations and beaches.

A bus in the middle of the street with greenery all around

Adult fare is $3.00 per person, with a maximum cap of $7.50 per day. When the cap has been reached, there are no additional payments required for the rest of the day. A monthly pass is $80. Most routes are wheelchair friendly and have fees capped at lower prices for those with valid Disability Cards. Further pricing information can be found here.

Oahu also has a public transit service known as TheHandi-Van, with wheelchair-accessible vehicles to provide curb-to-curb service for $2.25 per one-way passenger trip.

Biki Bikes

For short distance travel in Urban Honolulu, the Biki Bike service offers a healthy way to get around.

Biki Bike Station with large building in background

You purchase a subscription or a duration of usage through the website or mobile app, then gain access to bikes at 130 Biki Stations located throughout Urban Honolulu. It has several subscription tiers, offering plans for both locals and visitors.

The visitor plans range from $4.50 to $30 one-time payments, while the Kama’aina plans range from $15 per month to $25 per month or $25 for 300 minutes of usage (within a one year period). This is the perfect option for people that want to keep it healthy while they move about in the area from downtown Honolulu to Diamond Head.

Honolulu Rail

The Honolulu Area Rapid Transit project is a long-running construction project in Honolulu that began in 2006. It aims to establish a railway between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center with multiple stops in between, easing traffic congestion throughout Honolulu. The following graphic shows the railway broken into four segments.

Map of the Honolulu Area Rapid Transit construction progress

The Honolulu Rail Project has been on and off since 2006. Current estimates indicate that Segment 2 should finish construction work on the four stations, Makalapa, Lelepaua, Āhua, and Kahauiki, by the end of Q1 2024.

Car Rentals and Rideshare

If you don’t anticipate longer distance travel from your new home much, abstaining from car ownership and sticking to rentals for long trips is a good way to cut down on costs. The exact cost for rentals will always depend on location and time of year, so it’s best to plan ahead. Rent the car well ahead of the date that you’ll need it, especially if you have special requirements.

Guys resting on cars

Taxi cabs, Uber, and Lyft are all options within Urban Honolulu, but it gets harder to find rides the further out you get.

Wrapping Up

It’s important to properly estimate the cost of living in Hawaii before you move, and that includes transportation costs - both in time and in money. After all, who wants to move to paradise only to spend 10 hours per week commuting?

That’s why you should pick out the neighborhood where you want to live as early as possible in the process. To help narrow it down, check out our fun interactive quiz for neighborhoods that fit your lifestyle.

When you’re finished with that, check out our guide to Moving To Hawaii here!

If you’re ready to take the next step and request a consultation, reach out at 1-(808) 698-6100 or fill out the form below and we'll get back to you as quick as we can.

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