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Honolulu is the capital and the largest city of the state in Hawaii, and it is the center of the state’s government, transportation and commerce. Honolulu means “sheltered harbor” and it serves as an important center for military defense with several bases, including Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickam Air Force Base. With all of this going on, Honolulu is a fast-paced city, and the amount of traffic on the roads at peak times will attest to that. All the same, Honolulu also has the laid-back atmosphere of a tropical island, and with proper planning getting around the city can be an equally relaxing experience.

By Car

To get around Honolulu by car, you should first know a little bit about the various districts people talk about when they say “Honolulu.” Honolulu extends inland from the southeast shore of Oahu, east of Pearl Harbor to Makapuʻu Point and incorporates many neighborhoods and districts. Some of the bigger geographical designations are:

  • Downtown is the heart of the city, home to the state capital, museums, the harbor and the commercial center of the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Waikiki is the tourist center of Hawaii with white sand beaches, crowds of surfers and sunbathers, and high rise hotels.
  • Manoa-Makiki is an area in the foothills north of downtown, home to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the Koolau Mountains which are behind the city.
  • Eastern Honolulu is a residential area that extends to the very southeastern corner of the island and is home to rocky shorelines, scenic beaches and snorkeling.
  • Western Honolulu is another residential area, home to the Honolulu International Airport, the Bishop Museum and the military memorials of Pearl Harbor.


Unlike many cities on the U.S. mainland, Honolulu is not laid out in a compass point grid. Instead, its street system conforms in large part to the shorelines, valleys, and ridges of the island. The key to navigating the city is to know the major arteries, island terminology and local landmarks. Because it is difficult to tell the difference between north and south on an island, directions are given in terms of local landmarks. The most common terms that you will hear are:

  • Mauka (MOW-kah) means toward the mountains, which are situated on the northern part of the island.
  • Makai (mah-KAI) means toward the sea, which is south.
  • Ewa (Ee-vaah) is a town on the southwest shore of the island and is used to mean west.
  • Diamond Head refers to the landmark crater on the southeast shore and is used to mean east.


Most streets in Honolulu run Ewa-Diamond Head which roughly means east-west. There are two main highways in Honolulu: Nimitz Highway (Hawaii 92), which runs from Pearl Harbor past Honolulu International Airport to downtown Honolulu and then to Waikiki. Interstate H-1 runs mauka, or north, of downtown and runs the entire length of the island’s south shore.

In Central Honolulu, the two main streets are King Street and Beretania Street. Both are one way and run through downtown Honolulu. King Street runs Ewa- Diamond Head and Beretania Street runs Diamond Head to Ewa. Based on the terminology you would think that these streets run west and east respectively, but because the streets form an S curve through downtown their designations are north and south respectively. Ala Moana Boulevard is a key route leading out of Waikiki to downtown Honolulu. When Ala Moana Boulevard passes Honolulu harbor it becomes Nimitz Highway and runs past the Honolulu International Airport and beyond. Kapiolani Boulevard is a tree-lined major thoroughfare connecting east-central Honolulu, with the Waikiki district and points east with downtown Honolulu.

Traffic in Honolulu is a persistent problem. With a million people living in a small space and only a few main routes serving the major populated areas, a single traffic incident has the potential to induce gridlock across the entire island. In fact, Honolulu is ranked among the worst cities in the nation for traffic. Normal weekday rush hour in Honolulu is 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. going toward downtown and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. going away from downtown. Traffic is less heavy during the summer and over the holidays when the University of Hawaii at Manoa is not in session. The further out you drive the less traffic you will encounter.

To avoid this gridlock, try to schedule activities such as shopping and appointments at times that allow you to avoid the worst traffic. Some employers may also allow you to adjust your schedule to avoid the worst of traffic – or avoid traffic altogether by working at home.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is another great way to beat the traffic grind. The next few sections of this chapter will detail the many public transportation options in Honolulu. To calculate your commuting costs by car versus using public transportation go to,
. Enter the requested information, click on calculate and you get your annual commuting cost.

By Bus

Honolulu is ranked fourth in per capita use of mass transit in the United States. TheBus,, is a public transportation service in the city and county of Honolulu with a ridership of approximately 71.7 million per year. Part of the reason there is such a high volume of riders is that free school buses are not available to the majority of Honolulu’s students, so many use city buses instead. TheBus has a fleet of 531 buses and operates 107 routes that serve Honolulu and outlying areas. Hawaii celebrates unique state holidays that affect the bus schedule, so you may want to check for these on TheBus Web site.

TheBus fares for an adult are $2.25 per trip, a monthly pass is $50, or an annual pass is $550. For more information about adult fares go to Youths are passengers 17 and under and high school students up to age 19. Teenage passengers who are not attending high school do not qualify for youth fare. The youth fares are $1 per trip, a monthly pass is $25, or an annual pass is $275. For more information about youth fares go to TheBus SeniorCard allows those 65 and older to buy tickets at a reduced fare. A SeniorCard is $10, and cash fare with a SeniorCard or a valid U.S. Medicare card is $1. A Monthly Pass Sticker for those with a SeniorCard is $5, and an annual pass is $30. For more information about senior fares, go to www.thebus/faare/seniorfare.asp. People with disabilities can also get special rates using the TheBus Disability Pass. Getting one of these requires a medical certification or U.S. Medicare Card, plus $10. Its holders can ride TheBus for $1, or purchase a Monthly Pass Sticker for $5 that allows for regular local and express service for the month. Other special fares allow those with disabilities unlimited rides for $30 a year. For more information about fares for disabled people, go to

The Discovery Pass allows for unlimited rides over four consecutive days. The U-Pass is a reduced-price pass available to students at participating colleges. Cost and valid dates vary depending on the semester and college for which the pass is purchased. For more information, go to Transfers are free with a cash fare. It is important to note that drivers don’t carry cash so you need to have the exact change.

Park & Ride lots allow bus patrons to leave their cars and ride the bus. These lots are a great option for people who want to avoid as much traffic as possible. You will find quite a few of these lots throughout Honolulu, including;

  • Hawaii-Kai 134 parking spaces
  • Miliani 176 parking spaces
  • Royal Kunia 149 parking spaces
  • Wahiawa 50 parking spaces and
  • Haleiwa 20 parking spaces.


For information on timetables and schedules, go to or call 808-848-5555.

The Handy-Van

The Handy-Van is a public transit service for people with disabilities who are unable to use the bus service. With an annual ridership of 850,000, and a fleet of 166, the van service is available Monday through Sunday from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Twenty-four hour service is located in limited areas. For more information, go to
. Passengers are picked up and dropped off at the closest curbside point. The fare is $2 for a one way trip. A personal approach is taken when determining a person’s eligibility. Trained Mobility Coordinators conduct an in person interview. For more information, go to, or call 808-538-0033.

By Bike

Bicycling is another way to beat the traffic – and get some exercise while you’re doing it. The City & County of Honolulu has adopted a plan,, to make its streets friendlier to bicyclists. Plans include adding more dedicated bicycle paths and improving safety conditions for cyclists. Currently, all buses are equipped with bike racks.

All bicycles with 20” or larger wheels are required to be registered in the city and the county of Honolulu. There is a one-time fee of $15 and a fee of $5 when transferring ownership of a bicycle. For information about bike registration, go to

By Taxi

Taxis are locally regulated, so the fares will be same regardless of the company you choose. Taxis are generally found waiting at area businesses, tourist attractions and the airport. Because they are conveniently located there is no need to hail a cab. If there’s no cab where you need it, you can also just call for one. For more information about Taxi service in Honolulu, go to

By Air

The Honolulu International Airport is located five miles northwest of downtown Honolulu and 10 miles from Waikiki Beach. Located on 4,520 acres, it is one of the busiest airports in the world. A staggering 20 million people travel through the airport each year. The airport has four active runways, one of which is the Reef Runway. The Reef Runway is the world’s first major runway built offshore. This runway is designated as an alternate landing site for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration space shuttle program in association with Hickam Air Force Base, which shares Honolulu International Airport.

Airlines that service the Honolulu International Airport are:


If you are traveling internationally, you need to arrive two hours prior to your departure time. If you are traveling on an interisland flight you need to arrive 90 minutes prior to your departure time. And if you need to park your car or return a rental car, add 30 minutes to your arrival time.

In addition to several security checkpoints, there is an extensive list of prohibited items. For a complete list of prohibited items, go to Also on this Web site, you can find information about travelers who have disabilities, traveling with children and more. It is recommended that you call the airport at 808-836-6411 or check out the airport Web site, for security updates, before your flight.


There are several options for parking at Honolulu International airport:

  • International Parking Garage, 1,800 spaces
  • Overseas Parking Garage, 1,570 spaces
  • Interisland Parking Garage, 1,787 spaces
  • Commuter Parking Lot, 434 spaces
  • Economy Parking Lot, for travelers who leave their vehicles for 2 or more days


Parking rates for the International Parking Garage, Overseas Parking Garage, Interisland Parking Garage and Commuter Parking Lot are: free for the first 15 minutes, $1 if you exit between 15 and 30 minutes after entry, and $2 for the second half hour, and $2 per hour after that. The maximum fee per 24 hours is $13. It’s important to note that if you lose your parking ticket, the minimum for a 24-period hour of time is $13.00. Motorcycle parking is available at $1 for 2 hours and a $5 maximum per day or $50 monthly. Monthly parking is available in the Interisland Parking Garage for $300 a month. Valet parking is available at $20 a day. Parking rates for the Economy Parking Lot are $10 per 24 hours or fraction thereof with a minimum of $20. There is a 30-day maximum time limit on parking unless prior arrangements have been made by calling The AMPCO System Parking at 808-861-1260.

Picking up Passengers

There are two cell phone waiting areas available to make it convenient for those picking up arriving passengers. When your passengers have retrieved their luggage and are waiting at the curb, they can call you on your cell phone and you may proceed directly to curbside pickup. This will keep you from having to drive around and around the terminal while waiting for them. The Cell Phone Waiting area operates on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a maximum waiting time of 60 minutes, the driver must stay inside their vehicle while waiting, unattended vehicles will be cited and towed and no commercial vehicles are allowed.

Rental Cars and Taxis

Rental cars are available through these providers:

  • Avis, 800-331-1212 or TTY/TDD 800-331-2323,
  • Budget, 800-527-0700 or TYY/TDD 800-826-5510,
  • Dollar, 800-800-3665 or TTY 800-232-3301,
  • Enterprise, 800-261-7331 or TTY 866-534-9270,
  • Hertz, 800-654-3131 (domestic information), 800-654-3001 (international information) or TDD 800 654 2280,
  • National, 877-222-9058 or TDD 877-328-6323,


AMPCO Express manages the Airport’s Open Taxi System at Honolulu International Airport. This system was created so taxi drivers from all taxi companies would be able to pick up people at the airport. The fare from the airport to Waikiki during non rush hour periods is approximately $35-$40, with a maximum of four passengers, plus a charge of 35 cents per bag.

The Airport Waikiki Express provides transportation from the airport to any hotel in Waikiki. The service operates every 20 to 25 minutes from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. From 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., the service runs every hour. Passenger fees for an adult are $9 for one way and $15 for a round trip. Children 3 and younger ride for free. For more information call 808-831-1555 or go to


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