Mommy Needs A Mai Tai

Last Updated on July 1, 2024 by Florabeth Coble

A graphic that reads "How to get around Oahu with Kids" overlayed on a photo of a colorful Trolley in Waikiki, Oahu.

Let me guess – you just spent a ridiculous amount of money on plane tickets to Oahu. Congratulations! This vacation is happening! Now what? 

Navigating Oahu with kids can be an adventure in itself. But first, we need to figure out how you’re going to get around.

I’m a Hawaii travel planner and mom raising two kids on the island of Maui. We visit Oahu as often as possible! We’ve rented cars, waited for buses, hopped on trolleys, requested Ubers, and rented bicycles. You name it, we’ve done it.

So, do you really need to rent a car when visiting Oahu with kids? Yes, I do recommend it for many families. But keep reading because Oahu is the easiest Hawaiian island to visit without a car, and it really depends on the kind of vacation you want to have.

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Pros and Cons of Renting a Car on Oahu

A dad putting shoes on a kid's foot as the young boy has a snack in the back of truck bed in Oahu, Hawaii.

Renting a car will give you the most freedom and flexibility with kids. As a mom, you already know to expect the unexpected. Did “someone” forget the children’s Tylenol at home? Charger for the iPad not working (gasp)? A rental car whispers softly into your ear, “hop in, mama. I got you.”

While Oahu isn’t that big (44 miles long and 30 miles wide), it’s diverse. Renting a car allows you to stay at a resort in busy Waikiki, explore North Shore Oahu’s laid-back vibe, and discover some of the best kid-friendly restaurants on Oahu along the way.

On the flip side, traffic in Honolulu can be a headache, and parking near popular attractions can be tricky. Rental car fees (and those darn hotel parking fees) can add up. This is especially true during summer and winter, which are Hawaii’s busy seasons.

If your only plan is to kick back by the resort pool with a mai tai in hand (no shade, sounds divine), you probably don’t need a car. 

If you’re hoping to lay lazily by the pool for most of your vacation but still want to explore some of Oahu’s diverse regions, combine and map out excursions in advance so you only have to rent a car for a day or two. This is doable on Oahu because car rental companies are located at the Honolulu Airport (HNL) and in various locations around Waikiki.

We almost always find our best deals through Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They work with all major rental companies and require no prepayment or cancellation fee. They also allow an extra driver and reduced young driver fees, which is hard to come by.

Inside Tip: Most Hawaii locals drive Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks. Consider renting one to avoid visitor-targeted break-ins. As a bonus, a truck can make transporting surfboards, and frequent snack breaks much more convenient. Our family loves a good truck bed picnic!

Airport Shuttles

A toddler standing on the beach in Waikiki with a plumeria flower lei around his neck.

If you’re not renting a car, one of the first things you’ll need to sort out is how you’ll get from Oahu’s airport to your hotel. The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) isn’t in any popular resort areas and will likely require a 20-45 minute drive to your new home away from home.

First, check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service from the airport. If they don’t, you have many options.

I highly recommend this private transfer service, which includes a lei greeting at the airport. This is the perfect start to any Hawaii vacation! A lei is a garland worn around the neck, representing Aloha and Hawaiian hospitality. I always appreciate it when someone meets us in the airport after a long flight to help with luggage and give local recommendations.

If you’re cool with a more low-key, shared shuttle service, the most popular companies on Oahu are Speedi Shuttle, Roberts Hawaii, and the Hele Hele Shuttle. All three provide service to hotels around the island, including Aulani Disney Resort.

Public Transportation

A large, double-decker Waikiki Trolley full of passengers in Waikiki, Oahu.

Oahu has the best public transportation system of all the Hawaiian Islands. Although using public transit can take much longer, it can also save you a lot of money in rental car fees. 

The Bus

Oahu’s Bus System, adorably named TheBus, can be a great option for budget-conscious families. It provides an impressive number of routes covering most of the island.

You can buy a reloadable HOLO Card online (also available at certain local retailers) or wait to purchase a single-ride ticket from the bus driver when you board. Just be sure you have the exact fare on hand because they don’t provide change. 

Adult Fare: $3.00

Youth (6-17 years): $1.50

Children (5 and under): Free (must be accompanied by a paying passenger)

Check current bus routes to align with your planned activities and destinations. Remember that buses can get crowded and may not always run on schedule.

Waikiki Trolley

If you’re staying in Waikiki and looking to explore without the hassle of driving, the Waikiki Trolley offers a fun alternative with kids. This open-air option provides multiple line passes for one, four, or seven days. The best part is that you can hop on and off as often as you please. 

My six-year-old and I rode the Waikiki Trolley around for an entire day once. We loved getting on and off at various Waikiki locations, and the time we spent together was one of the highlights of our trip!

Watch a video of our experience on the Waikiki Trolley on the Mommy Needs A Mai Tai Instagram Page.

The Waikiki Trolley offers four routes to cover Oahu’s top visitor attractions.

Blue Line – This is the coastal route with stops at the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Sea Life Park, and Rainbow Drive-In. 

Red Line – Waikiki Trolley’s historical route stops at the Honolulu Museum of Art, Iolani Palace, Chinatown, and Downtown Honolulu. 

Pink Line – Experience all of Waikiki’s “greatest hits,” including the Hilton Hawaiian Hotel (the lagoon here is one of the best kid-friendly beaches on Oahu), Marugame Udon, and the Ala Moana Shopping Center. 

Green Line – Waikiki Trolley’s newest line stops at Diamond Head, Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Shopping Plaza, and the KCC Farmer’s Market (open only on Saturdays). 

Inside Tip: If you’re doing this for fun, choose the pink line because it’s only $5.50 for children and adults. Wait for the double-decker trolley to empty at busy stops like Ala Moana Shopping Center and head to the top for amazing views of this famous Honolulu neighborhood!

Tickets are not sold on the trolley. You can purchase them in advance here

Related: Searching for the best things to do on Oahu with kids? I’ve got you covered.


The newest member of the trolley scene is HiBus, a smaller-scale transportation service with colorful trolleys that you’ll likely see cruising around Honolulu.

While HiBus offers many of the same popular Waikiki Trolley stops, it has a more community-minded approach, with a line dedicated to more practical shopping locations like Walmart, Whole Foods, and Longs Drugs.

We still prefer using the Waikiki Trolley to hop around Waikiki as tourists, mainly because we get a kick out of sitting on the upper deck. However, this is a great alternative that might be better suited for your family’s needs. 

HiBus tickets must be purchased in advance.


The Handi-Van is designed to assist individuals with disabilities who cannot use the regular fixed-route bus service. These vehicles are equipped to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

To ride TheHandi-Van, you must apply in advance and meet all eligibility requirements. Contact TheHandi-Van Eligibility Center at (808) 538-0033 for more information.

Skyline Rail (TBD)

Skyline is an ambitious rapid transit system currently under construction across Oahu. The system is partially operational, and the second phase is expected to be completed sometime in 2025. 

Keep Skyline on your radar because it will soon connect key areas across Oahu, such as HNL airport, Kapolei, Pearl Harbor, and downtown Honolulu.

Car/Ride-Sharing Apps

Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are widely available on Oahu. These options can be great for a quick ride to/from a nearby destination. However, they typically aren’t the best option for getting across the island because the fees can add up quickly. The same goes for taxis.

Turo is also available, and there’s a lot of buzz around Hui, Oahu’s new car-sharing app. Hui offers a tech-forward solution to car rentals, allowing you to book a vehicle with your smartphone and unlock it within seconds. Hui lets you rent by the hour, day, or week, but this service is round-trip only, and your car must be returned to the same location. 

The one complaint I hear about Hui is its hefty late fees (150% of the original rate + a possible inconvenience fee), even if you’re only running a few minutes behind. However, their strict enforcement ensures rentals are returned on time and available for the next reservation.

Many Hui locations are a short walk from Waikiki’s famous hotels, making this an enticing option if your hotel charges hefty overnight parking fees (many are $40/night or higher).  Gas, insurance, and roadside assistance are all included with your reservation.

With all car/ride-sharing apps, consider factors like safety and the possibility of inconsistent availability, especially if you’re traveling with young children.

Biking and Walking

A man looking at directions on his phone while he is stopped and standing while on a Biki Bicycle Rental in Waikiki.

Places like Waikiki are pedestrian-friendly and easy to navigate on foot and with a stroller if traveling a short distance. 

There are also several bike paths on Oahu. If biking is up your alley, I highly recommend spending a day on wheels with your family in Waikiki! Biki Bike, Honolulu’s Bike Share program, makes purchasing a subscription and grabbing a bike from one of their 130 stations (Honolulu and Waikiki only) easy-peasy.

Shuttle Services and Tours

A mom and young son smiling while riding on a tour bus in Oahu.

Many hotels provide shuttle services to/from the airport. Some hotels also provide transportation to popular attractions, so be sure to do your research beforehand.

You can compare the best family-friendly hotels on Oahu here

Additionally, organized tours often include transportation. I almost always purchase attraction tickets through Viator because I trust them. This is especially true if the tour includes transportation. It’s an easy way to learn from a local on the way, AND I don’t have to stress about parking or traffic.

For example, this is one of the best family-friendly luaus on Oahu. However, it’s located about 45 minutes from Waikiki. Considering the complimentary mai tais provided, I’d book the ride.

Scooters and Mopeds

A moped can be a fun way to explore Oahu, but if you plan to cruise around with a kid on the back, think again.

Per Hawaii Law, Mopeds (50cc) are single-operating vehicles only, meaning it’s illegal to ride with a passenger. You must also have a valid driver’s license and be 18 years old to operate one. 

Hawaiian Style Rentals in Waikiki provides an interesting three-wheeled alternative. The Scoot Coupe is the only moped-like vehicle in Hawaii that legally allows one underage passenger to ride alongside you.

You can rent a Scoot Coupe for a few hours or a full day. Your reservation includes lessons, locks, and safety gear. Kids must be at least seven to ride along.

TheBus, Oahu's public transit system, with a sign that reads "Waikiki Beach and Hotels."

Choosing the Best Transportation Option for Your Family

How you decide to get around Oahu with kids depends greatly on your family’s style, travel plans, and children’s ages. 

If you’re traveling with babies and toddlers, consider if you’ll need to make it back to your hotel quickly for a late-morning nap. Is it possible for them to nap in a rental car on the way to your next destination? And, as hard as these things can be to predict, be sure to factor in things like jet lag and time zones!

Other considerations are budget, length of your stay, and location. Flexibility and convenience are key factors; what works for one family might not for another.

By planning ahead, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip around Oahu with your family. Aloha, and happy exploring!

Related: Wondering what to pack for your family’s trip to Oahu? Check out my “Mom Thought of Everything” Hawaii Packing Guide!

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Picture of Aloha, I'm Florabeth Coble

Aloha, I'm Florabeth Coble

Most people call me Flo. I'm a busy mama raising two young boys in Hawaii. We share our adventures, travel tips, itineraries, and honest reviews so that you can plan your own family-friendly trip to Hawaii.