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With so many beautiful places to explore, it can be a challenge to decide which of the best things to do in Oahu you will add to your itinerary. During your visit, you might want to snorkel alongside the fish at Hanauma Bay, learn about the state’s history at Iolani Palace, watch the sunrise at the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail, and so much more. To get around the island in order to be able to pass by all the locations you want, it's a good idea to rent a car. Before you go ahead and do that, however, you might want to think about some factors that might impact your decision. Here’s what you should consider:
You should plan your drives carefully
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You will want to see much of Oahu island as much as possible — from its gorgeous beaches like Waikiki and Lanikai Beach to cities like the state capital Honolulu. Booking an Oahu rental car even before you fly out to Hawaii can help you save time and will allow you to create an itinerary ahead of time. You can drive around the island in one day, but if you want to explore particular areas more thoroughly, stop and visit beaches, or enjoy a meal, you should budget for at least four hours of driving time, given that the island is 44 miles long and 30 miles across.
If you’re the type of traveler who likes to plan things out, renting a car can help fill up your agenda and make coordinating your routes easier, especially if you want to visit the North Shore and back. It pays to also know which locations you want to see before you head to Oahu, so you can easily pick out the best routes by car.
You can adjust your budget accordingly
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Prices have risen all over the world, and Hawaii is no exception. Grocery prices rocketed up to 12% during the past year, and though inflation has been cooling, some items like meat and eggs are still pricier than usual for Oahu shoppers. When traveling around Oahu, you will likely be spending a lot of money not just on food but for souvenirs, dining out, lodging, and more. Because of this, you might be concerned about the costs of a rental car and how it will impact your budget. However, traveling by rental car is a cost-effective way to get around the island, compared to going on tours or constantly using ride-hailing apps, allowing you to save time as well.
It’s also important to consider the rental fee, insurance costs, and gas for the car, which might add some strain to your budget. It depends on how you plan your trip, whether you want to visit many spots or stick to one general area. In the latter’s case, a rental car could be an added cost despite its convenience.
It's best to keep your location in mind
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Renting a car is not as simple as just choosing the first option you see, but it also depends greatly on where you stay. If you’re staying at a beachside hotel or resort in Oahu, you’re most likely only going to use a car if you want to drive to restaurants, shops, or other excursions. If you’re staying in a vacation rental further away from the beach, you’re likely going to need a bigger car to pack all your beach gear and more, which you’ll probably be bringing with you almost everywhere. A bigger car will cost more to rent, so you’ll want to go with an option that fits everyone but still has some trunk space.
If you’re worried about space in the car, our post “Packing for Vacation: Tips and Tricks” has some hacks for making sure your packing is efficient. Whether before, during, or after, your trip, always make a list beforehand and pack your stuff strategically, making sure you’re keeping it light and simple so you can enjoy touring Kualoa Ranch or go on the Diamond Head hike with everything you need and no fuss.