Best Way to Get from Honolulu Airport to Your Hotel

You’re days away from your trip to paradise and fully intend to have the time of your life. You’ve booked the right accommodations and have already planned for a few activities. You know how important preparation is to a successful vacation, which is why you also want to know what your options are when it comes to airport transportation. More importantly, you demand to know which is the best for you and your party, no matter where on Oahu you need to get to. Below is a breakdown of all alternatives, along with our recommendations.

6 Ways to Get from Honolulu International Airport to Your Hotel, Resort, or Vacation Rental and Which Option You Should Choose

Option 1: Shared Shuttle Service

This was once the most common form of transport from HNL to Waikiki hotels. Not so much anymore. For one, visitors no longer relish the idea of being loaded into a small space with dozens of sweaty strangers. You just did that on your flight, but airplanes use state-of-the-art filtration systems to sanitize the air. Ground transport shuttles do not. In addition, it’s simply not convenient. Even if you’re the first off the plane and first to grab your luggage from the carousel, you still have to wait for all other passengers to gather their belongings, go to the restroom, and check-in with the shared shuttle personnel. That eats up about 30-minutes. But it gets worse. Once boarded and en route, you must wait for fellow passengers to get off at their respective hotels until the driver reaches yours. Unless your hotel is the first on the itinerary (it never is) you will lose another 20 or 30-minutes (maybe more). That’s an hour of your time in paradise completely wasted (not in a good way). Perhaps more importantly, it’s not as cost efficient as it seems. Shared shuttles charge a per person rate, which ranges between $15-18 per person to Waikiki. If you have two or more people in your party, cost efficiency is no longer a benefit. Lastly, most shared shuttles only operate from HNL to Waikiki. Those staying in on the North Shore or on the windward side (even Ko Olina) are without a shared shuttle option.

Recommendation: Not as convenient or efficient as it seems. Skip it.

Option 2: Ride Share

Uber and Lyft both operate out of HNL. The pick up zones are located on the second level center median outside Lobby 5 and on the second floor median outside Lobbies 2 and 8. View map:

Best Way to Get from Honolulu Airport to Hotel

Ride share pickups are a little inconvenient when you have a lot of luggage to drag along from baggage claim, as the pickup zone is not outside of the terminal as it with with shuttles and private transfers (see below). On that note, a standard Uber/Lyft can indeed be an issue if you have a lot of luggage and two (or more) in your party. In such cases you will require an UberXL or Lyft XL to manage it all. This increases the cost significantly, especially during peak periods. Finding a ride share to take you to the further reaches of the island can also be an issue during certain times of the day. Need to get to Turtle Bay Resort or a North Shore vacation rental after an evening flight? You’ll have no such luck with your ride share app. Uber and Lyft are great for getting around the island during your stay, but they have their limitations when it comes to getting from HNL to your hotel.

Recommendation: Good for solo visitors without much luggage.

Option 3: Traditional Taxi

What is this, 1983? Traditional airport taxis on the island or often unkempt, unreliable, unprofessional, and the metered-fares are out of control.

Recommendation: Don’t do it.

Option 4: Car Rental

Car rentals have become an issue on Oahu. The island’s vehicle shortages of 2021 forced rate averages as high as $700/day. Those rates will eventually come back down to reasonable levels, but demand for car rentals from Honolulu Airport has been, is, and will always be high. Even if you’ve pre-booked, you’re looking at an extra 45-minutes to an hour at HNL. You have to wait for a shuttle to take you from baggage claim to the rental provider, then you must wait in line, fill-out the paperwork, secure your vehicle, and set the GPS before making your way to the hotel.

Recommendation: Save the car rental for after you’ve checked in to your hotel.

Option 5: Public Transit

Unless you only have carry-on bags you’re out of luck. Honolulu’s public transportation system, aka “The Bus”, does not allow luggage on-board. But even if you’re traveling light with nothing more than a backpack, The Bus is far from convenient. There is a minimum of 33 stops between the airport and Waikiki Beach hotels. During daytime you can expect to stop at every single one of them as local commuters and visitors alike use the #20 to get to/from work and play. On average (during prime flight arrival times) it will take you an hour and fifteen minutes to get from HNL to a hotel in Waikiki. Heading to Ko Olina, the North Shore, or the windward side? Tack on an additional hour. Then there’s the fact that the #20 is frequented by some very questionable characters that have no idea what soap is. Sure, it’s just $2.75 to ride (no transfers), but you absolutely get what you pay for.

Recommendation: Run for your life.

Option 6: Direct, Private, Flat Rate Transfer Service

A direct and private shuttle from the airport sounds expensive, doesn’t it? On the mainland it often is. We’ve done the LAX to Huntington Beach private shuttle many times and have paid well over $100 (plus tip) for 40-minutes on the 405. Fortunately, this is not the case for HNL transfers to Oahu’s resort communities. Direct and private transfers offer an affordable flat rate for entire parties up to four, with a small charge for additional persons. The flat rate includes luggage, with additional charges for oversize items such as surfboards. Among these private transfer services, there is one that shines brightest – Honolulu Airport Transfer. Not only are they efficient, their drivers are professional, courteous, and their fleet of minivans are spacious, clean, air-conditioned, and comfortable. Better yet, they have the most affordable rates on the island. A ride from HNL to Waikiki for instance, is just $35 for your entire party! But even if you’re heading all the way to the North Shore you won’t find a more cost-efficient rate. We, our Ohana, friends, and followers have all used their direct and flat-rate service numerous times and have never been disappointed. Call 1-800-929-1219 or message them on Facebook to book.

Recommendation: Best option for all visitors!

Do you have any questions about the above recommendations? Message us on Facebook – we’re happy to provide some added intel!


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