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How to Drive on Island Time

Published: February 18, 2022

There are lots of great reasons for wanting to rent a car during your stay on Oahu. With your own set of wheels, you can explore the island on your own time. With stunning scenery at every turn, it’s a great place to rediscover the joy of a good joy ride. And with tons of charming roadside cafés and locally grown shops, having a car can help get you off the beaten path and into an aloha state of mind. But the car culture in Hawaii is miles away from that on the mainland. Below are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind anytime you get behind the wheel of a car here.

Don’t Confuse Miles for Minutes

In some parts of the world, wide highways and open roads mean that if something is 15 miles away, it’ll take you roughly 15 minutes to get there. Hawaiian roads are not on a grid. So in place of wide open highways, expect winding backstreets, slow speed limits and, often, traffic too. It’s always a good idea to give yourself more time than your navigation app predicts to get to where you’re going.

Get Ready to See Some Roadwork

No matter what time of year you visit, you’re bound to run into some roadwork somewhere along the way. And if you happen to hit one of our potholes, you’ll see why the consistent repairs are so important. When you see a crew along the side of the road, take a deep breath, turn on a good song and do your best to enjoy the journey. On Oahu, roadwork is practically a way of life.

Be Prepared to Pay for Parking

At Pacific Marina Inn, your reservation includes parking for one vehicle at no additional charge—but free parking isn’t a given on Oahu. If you’re lucky, you might find a free space near the Waikiki Shell or stumble upon an open meter on a Sunday. But, chances are, that luck won’t always last. So it’s a good idea to keep a collection of coins or a credit card handy

Lay Off the Horn

Unless it’s absolutely necessary, Hawaiians don’t honk—so you shouldn’t either. It’s perfectly acceptable to be frustrated with another driver for cutting you off, but it’s not culturally acceptable to send a cacophony of minor tones blaring through an otherwise peaceful environment. If you really need to get someone’s attention, you can think about quickly flash your high beams. But consider your car’s horn for emergency use only.

Driving on Oahu may take some time (and some patience) to get used to. But once you do, the sweeping vistas—like the bird’s-eye view of the east side you get along Interstate H-3—and the hidden gems you’ll find along the way will turn your drive time into a pretty great time too.

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