Using TheBus in Honolulu

by Gray Cargill on September 19, 2012

Post image for Using TheBus in Honolulu

I have a confession to make: I don’t really enjoy driving. I do it at home, because it’s the fastest way to get to and from work, but it’s also stressful. In case you hadn’t noticed, a lot of people who drive suck at it.

Every day during my 8-mile round-trip commute to and from work (which ridiculously takes about 15 minutes each way because it’s rush hour) I see drivers running red lights, cutting others off in traffic, straddling the line between lanes, driving too slow, driving too fast, making u-turns where they shouldn’t be, putting on makeup while they’re driving, and pulling a dozen other boneheaded moves that make me yell “WTF are you doing???” They can’t hear me, of course, because my windows are always up, but honestly, you’d be shocked at the language that comes out of my mouth when I’m behind the wheel of a car. All because other drivers aggravate me.

When I’m on vacation, I try to avoid stress as much as possible. I don’t need to be confronted with situations that cause my blood pressure to rise. Vacation is supposed to be relaxing, after all. So I like to travel to destinations where I can rely on my own two feet and public transportation. Let someone else deal with the boneheads in traffic.


Diamond Head Bus Stop

Diamond Head Bus Stop

When I was planning my trip to Honolulu, I really debated whether or not I might actually need to rent a car. I wouldn’t need it while in Waikiki Beach or downtown Honolulu, of course. But I wanted to visit outlying areas of Oahu, too, like the North Shore and the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Dole Plantation, and of course, Pearl Harbor. There is a great public transportation system on Oahu, but the idea of riding a public bus around the island over the course of an entire day sounded exhausting to me.

As it turned out, after doing some research, I realized I didn’t need to rent a car–or take the public bus to the other side of the island. When I booked the Aqua Palms Resort, they included a link to SpeediShuttle for transportation to and from the airport, which I booked for a little less than $30.  (They were terrific, by the way.) Then I was able to hit a lot of my Oahu “must-sees” in one day (Dole Plantation, North Shore Beaches, Polynesian Cultural Center, and Byodo-In Temple)–by booking a Circle Island Tour for only a small amount of money over what it would have cost to rent a car for the day. The amount of stress avoided: Priceless.

But what really made the choice of not renting a car in Honolulu easier was the ability to get to so many places on my “to-do” list via TheBus, which is the public bus system for the island of Oahu. It is the easiest bus system I have ever used. How so?

  • The website has information about which buses service which major tourist attractions, which makes planning your trip easy.
  • At every bus stop, there’s a sign listing which routes are serviced at that stop.
  • The buses, of course, are all numbered with the lighted signs on the front indicating route and direction (so as long as you’re paying attention, you won’t get on the wrong one).
  • And once you’re on the bus, each stop is preceded by an announcement of which stop it is and what attractions are nearby.

Honestly, it couldn’t have been more convenient.

TheBus Stop Sign

TheBus Stop Sign

I especially want to laud that last point, about the announcements. For those of you who don’t regularly take public buses, here’s how they work: In order to signal the bus to stop, there’s usually a pull string or a tape along the window that you push.

But when you’re riding the bus for the first time in a strange city, how are you supposed to know where your stop is? You may know you need to get off at “the corner of Whatsit Street and X Avenue”, but how are you supposed to know where the corner of Whatsit Street and X Avenue is? You’ve never been there before! So the announcements before the stops (“Next stop: Whatsit Street and X Avenue”) are super useful. (Sadly, not all buses in all cities do this.)

TheBus fare is $2.50 each way, exact change only. (If you need a transfer, ask for it when you board the bus.) I recommend going to the nearest ABC Store (there’s one on practically every corner in Waikiki) and buying a 4-day pass for $25. (I didn’t use $25 worth of it, but I’d rather not have to worry about having exact change on me when it comes time to board a bus.)

Where did I get to go on TheBus?

  • I caught the #23 bus (Hawaii Kai-Sea Life Park) in front of the US Army Museum (I had been in that area for breakfast) and took it to Diamond Head (bus stop: Makapu’u Avenue and 18th Avenue). I took the #22 (Waikiki Beach and Hotels) back.
  • I caught the #42 bus (Ewa Beach) to Pearl Harbor (the stop was right next to my hotel–handy!) and back. It took about an hour each way.
  • The same #42 bus took me to Downtown Honolulu (bus stop: King and Punchbowl) one day, where I walked to Iolani Palace and the Supreme Court Building (Ali’iolani Hale). After wandering around Downtown Honolulu for awhile, I caught the B-Country Express bus back to Waikiki.

So if you, too, prefer to avoid the stress of driving in a strange place on vacation, know that you can visit Oahu and not rent a car. Just hop on TheBus and enjoy the view out the window.


Lisa @chickybus September 26, 2012 at 10:01 am

This is really useful information–good to know. I fantasize about a trip to Hawaii and will keep this in mind as an option!

Do you think it might be worth renting a car on another island–one that has more wide open space? Just wondering….

Gray September 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hawaii is a great place to fantasize about, Lisa. 🙂 Yes, from what I’ve heard the other islands are great to explore, too, but you need a car to do so. Molokai, Kauai or Lanai might be more your speed than one of the more populated (read: touristy) islands, if I read your question right.

Gray September 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

No, I have not been on a bus in Bermuda, Tracy. Sounds like there’s a great story in there though….

Jeff @ GoTravelzing September 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I am with you on using public transport while traveling. I use it when possible in the U.S, which is not often. In Europe I do not even consider driving a car because you can get almost anywhere on the trains and buses.

Are you really complaining about a 15 minute commute? 🙂

Gray September 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm

LOL, yes, Jeff I am! This is Vermont, after all. We’re not supposed to have traffic. 🙂 I hear you on the US vs. Europe and public transport. I am totally jealous of Europeans’ access to great public transportation. I wish we had invested in that infrastructure instead of cars and roads and dependence on oil….

Tracy Antonioli September 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm

“But when you’re riding the bus for the first time in a strange city, how are you supposed to know where your stop is? You may know you need to get off at “the corner of Whatsit Street and X Avenue”, but how are you supposed to know where the corner of Whatsit Street and X Avenue is?”

EXACTLY! I struggled with that in San Francisco. Here’s what I ended up doing–I used my iPhone’s gps app and input the location and then followed the little dot on the map until I was somewhere near where I thought I needed to be. And then I got off at the next stop. It worked wonders!

I also laughed at your ‘relaxing’ take on taking the bus. You’ve clearly never been on a bus in Bermuda! I actually have a post drafted about that experience, and let me tell you–it is NOT relaxing! Ha!

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