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Road Trip: Honolulu by the Hour Via GreenCar Hawaii

by Ron CoganApril 8, 2013
Rental cars are a great way to take in the sights and sounds of Hawaii. Here’s an idea if you only need a ride for a short adventure that’s too far to walk, but doesn’t warrant a full-day car rental.

Getting around Hawaii is a study in diversity. Hang around the islands and you’ll see folks moving about on trolleys and buses, in cabs, rental cars, scooters, and of course on foot. We prefer staying planted at the Hilton Hawaiian Village with its array of interesting sites, nightlife, and of course its desirable stretch of Waikiki Beach. Walks to downtown Waikiki are a must to experience the vibrant activities there.

After arrival at Honolulu International Airport and a requisite lei greeting, there are plenty of choices available for getting to Waikiki and elsewhere on the island. Popular options include cabs and town cars or shared rides aboard courtesy vehicles from some hotels, on-demand SpeediShuttle, and the island-wide TheBus service.

What about rental cars? Not really on our radar unless a day trip to the North Shore is on the agenda. Typical of others, we’ve rented cars when visiting in the past, but the car was parked more than it was used. Still, what about those interesting places in the guidebook that call to you…those farther than a pleasant walk but not really distant enough to warrant the cost and hassle of a conventional rental car?

That line of thought spelled opportunity for Justin MacNaughton and Warren Doi, founders of GreenCar Hawaii, a by-the-hour ‘green’ car share service on Kauai and Oahu. Choices vary by location but include the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, hybrids, and efficient gasoline models. Our plans on this trip included visiting Honolulu’s Chinatown and hiking the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, with a trailhead some 15 miles from our Hilton Hawaiian Village base.

Since GreenCar Hawaii had a rental outlet at the nearby Doubletree Alana Hotel, we walked over to the Doubletree to pick up a Nissan LEAF there. We figured...if we're going to travel with a light eco footprint, why not go zero emission with a popular electric car?

The process of renting a vehicle from GreenCar Hawaii is simple and can be done online, by phone, or through a kiosk at the hotel. If the reservation was made ahead of time, a credit card is swiped at the kiosk as a reservation identifier, details for the car-share rental are shown, and a reservation check-in is printed out. Present this to the hotel’s valet parking and the car is brought up by an attendant, no different than if you were a guest at the hotel with a car in valet parking.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is greencar-hawaii.jpgWe knew the drill with electric cars and made sure our travels wouldn’t take us farther than the LEAF’s available range. All told, our plotted routes would consume about 60 miles so we were good to go. Those wishing to go farther than the range of the rental LEAFs can opt to charge up at numerous 240 volt Level II chargers on the island or at a handful of available fast chargers.

Picking up our LEAF from the valet, we headed out on city streets and then H1 East and HI-72 East toward the Makapu’u Point State Wayside, where visitors park their cars before heading out on the hike. The half-hour, 15 mile drive was pleasant and uneventful, the LEAF performing as expected with plenty of power and a comfortable ride.

The guidebook described the hike as ‘easy and breezy’ along a two mile paved trail. While short and do-able, it’s also a bit steep at times and warm as well as breezy. The bonus: It's good exercise and the views are unbeatable. Reaching the summit provides a great view of the Makapu’u lighthouse and two small islands nearby – Manana and Kaohikaipu. We've hiked Diamond head before and recommend this as a nice follow-up after that trek up the famous dormant volcano. Following our hike was a drive to Honolulu’s Chinatown and a quick visit to Hilo Hattie’s for souvenirs to bring back home.

Returning the LEAF to the Doubletree Alana Hotel was simple, with a swipe of a credit card at the kiosk identifying our rental details, processing the $15 per hour charge for our four hour rental, and printing out a receipt. Keys were handed over to valet parking and we were off on a walk to Cheeseburger Waikiki for loco moco and then back to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Easy breezy, as they say.