Need a Lift? In and Around Honolulu, It's Never a Problem

Reed Travel Features

HONOLULU -- Clients checking into Waikiki hotels for the first time are faced with a bewildering array of ways to get around.

They probably will pick up a handful of free visitor publications on the street and brochures at a hotel's activities desk.

In newspaper ads, they will see schedules for an increasing number of shuttle services to attractions.

Sea Life Park, Waimea Falls Park and tourist-oriented shopping centers such as Aloha Tower Marketplace, Hilo Hattie and Maui Divers Jewelry Design Center have shuttles, for example.

Whether plans include a dinner-cruise off Waikiki, a west Oahu luau or windsurfing on the windward coast, transportation likely is included.

On the neighbor islands, probably 90% of visitors rent cars, but Honolulu means city driving, and with free or inexpensive transportation available, many visitors here prefer to leave the driving to others.

Urban Honolulu extends for more than 30 miles, squeezed between mountains and sea, with a freeway as the major artery.

Waikiki is nine miles from Honolulu Airport, and in between is downtown.

On an average day, Waikiki, with 86% of Oahu's 36,000 rooms, houses more than 65,000 visitors.

A constant flow of motorcoaches, minibuses and vans call at hotels and disperse visitors throughout the island.

Companies such as E Noa Tours and Polynesian Adventure offer sightseeing.

Big sellers are a city tour combined with Pearl Harbor's Arizona Memorial; a 90-mile Oahu Circle Island, and the Polynesian Cultural Center, located 38 miles from Waikiki on the north shore.

Downtown attractions include the historic district, the waterfront and Chinatown.

To get from Waikiki to downtown, visitors can take Oahu's islandwide bus system (Routes 19 and 20).

There also is the Waikiki Trolley, sister company to E Noa Tours, which stops at most downtown attractions and others farther west.

Oahu's bus system, operated by Oahu Transit Services, a private company, is subsidized by the city.

Called TheBus, its $1 fare (50 cents for students) includes transfers to intersecting routes.

Clients should note that exact fare is needed when boarding.

Many routes, including those going around the island, begin at Hawaii's largest shopping complex, Ala Moana Center, across the Ala Wai Canal from Waikiki.

Visitors can circle the island for $1, with the trip through the central plain and down the windward coast taking four hours.

According to Oahu Transit Services, 30,000 visitors a day -- 12% of total ridership -- use TheBus, many to get around Waikiki.

Last summer, OTS introduced the Oahu Discovery Passport, a visitor pass sold at ABC Stores' more than 30 Waikiki outlets.

The $10 pass is for four consecutive days.

E Noa Corp.'s Waikiki Trolley departs Waikiki's Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center every 15 minutes between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

The route provides a two-hour, narrated, roundtrip excursion, the Old Town Honolulu Tour.

A $17 all-day pass grants unlimited on-off privileges.

Downtown stops include the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Iolani Palace, Hawaii Maritime Center (next to Aloha Tower Marketplace), Chinatown and Foster Botanical Garden.

Stops west of downtown are the Hilo Hattie and Dole Cannery retail outlets as well as the final stop, Bishop Museum (the State Museum of Natural and Cultural History).

Last summer, three shopping attractions within a mile of each other started a free trolley shuttle.

They are the harbor's 2-year-old Aloha Tower Marketplace, with more than 100 stores and restaurants; Hilo Hattie, specializing in Hawaii-made products, and Dole Cannery, with brand-name outlets.

The shuttle operates every 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Both Hilo Hattie and Aloha Tower Marketplace have Waikiki shuttles.

Hilo Hattie's free bus transportation operates from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, with pickups every 30 minutes at nine Waikiki hotels.

Aloha Tower Marketplace has a trolley shuttle from Waikiki, picking up every 20 minutes at 10 locations and charging a $2 one-way fare.

Earlier this fall, Hilo Hattie started a free shuttle service from its outlet to Maui Divers Jewelry Design Center, near Ala Moana Center.

The shuttle operates from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At Maui Divers, visitors can watch coral and other jewelry being made and can return on Maui Divers' minibus shuttle to Waikiki.

Ala Moana Center started its own Waikiki bus shuttle early this year, charging $2 each way.

Oahu's most popular attraction, the Arizona Memorial, 14 miles from Waikiki, gets 1.5 million visitors a year.

It can be reached on a sightseeing tour, by private shuttle from Waikiki ($3 one way) or by the No. 22 bus.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is included in tours, and it can arrange roundtrip transportation for $15.

Several major attractions can be reached only by city bus or taxi.

Getting to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater means changing buses and having quite a walk uphill.

To reduce congestion at the facility, tour vehicles were limited several years ago to driving through without stopping.

East Oahu's Hanauma Bay, a marine preserve and Oahu's most popular snorkeling spot, is another attraction with limited access, aimed at reducing overcrowding.

Tour operators cannot drop off passengers, and taxis are limited to one dropoff a day.

Oahu Transit has an hourly bus service to the bay from Waikiki, and several firms are licensed to take small snorkeling tours there.

Visitors can get recorded bus information, including how to get to 80 specific attractions, beaches, museums and scenic locations, by calling (808) 296-1818 and entering 8287.

For further information on the Waikiki Trolley, contact E Noa at (808) 593-8073.

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