Honolulu Traffic – Is It Really That Bad?

Let’s quickly talk about the Honolulu traffic. Honolulu, and most parts of Oahu, often make the not-so-glamorous “Worst Traffic in the US” lists. We like to be known for our beaches, beautiful weather, but no one ever wants to be on the “Worst of” list, right?

So let’s just break this down a bit. Yes, undeniably there is traffic in Honolulu and many parts of Oahu. However, Honolulu is a city of 400,000 people (with the Honolulu County approximately at 900,000), unlike New York that has over 8,000,000 residents. When we make a list about bad traffic, it’s not really fair to clump Honolulu and NY together. Traveling from one end of Honolulu to the other, will be nothing like doing the same in NY. In fact, each neighborhood and each street, has its own individual story to tell. Some experience congestion, some don’t. Also, traffic is heaviest island wide during rush hours, but you can easily zip around Honolulu or to different sides of Oahu during the day or in the evening. Most of the time there are cars on the road, but everyone is moving at the set speed limit, with no slow downs.

Tourists will play a role in traffic in some areas of Oahu, but not all rent cars while staying in Waikiki. So while we may see a lot of people visiting, they are not always the ones occupying the roads. In fact, on most days, Waikiki is pretty easy to drive through.

Waikiki Aerial

Location and Honolulu Traffic

Location plays a big role in how we experience Honolulu traffic and view traffic on Oahu in general. Residents that live in Kakaako condos, Makiki, or a houses in Monoa, for example, and work Downtown Honolulu, will rarely experience true traffic. Yes, just like in any city, there will be morning road congestion, but never a crazy commute.

True traffic, the one we have a reason to complain about, is when you’re sitting on a highway for 1-2 hours traveling to and from work at 0-40MPH. A 30 minute slower city commute, is not anything to complain about. In fact, many people just choose to walk, bike, Biki Bike, or use scooters to get to work and other places.

Travelling from a beautiful Hawaii Kai to Downtown Honolulu, will take a little longer in the morning or after work hours. Yes, it can be a crawl, but again, the distances are relatively short. So while this may feel like a drag to us Island peeps, some people from larger cities would laugh, and take this scenic commute over theirs on any day.

Kalanianaole Highway

Learn Traffic Patterns

Knowing that Honolulu traffic is heavy, and Oahu roads and highways are packed during rush hours, it is important to get to know true travels times, and if possible, choose where you would like to live to minimize time in the car, or to even avoid it altogether. For example, someone who lives in a house in Ewa Beach or Kapolei, on the West side of Oahu, and works in Downtown Honolulu– YES, they are stuck in major traffic daily. However, someone else who lives in Ewa Beach, but works in the city of Kapolei, will have a very short and relatively easy daily commute.

Traveling in the opposite direction to morning and afternoon commuters, also aids in saving time spent in the car.

That’s why when you see Honolulu or Oahu on the “Worst Traffic in the US” list, take that information with a grain of salt. The lists are fun to look at, and the information is definitely true to some extent, but not all people in these cities experience traffic the same way.

Ala Moana Blvd

Making Hard Choices

When cities have heavy traffic, residents sometimes have to make a choice on where to live. Just liking a location because it’s pretty, or the house has an extra bedroom, isn’t always the best option. Moving into a smaller home or a condo closer to work, while still keeping things affordable, may be an answer. It may be less space to live in, but it might mean more beach time, in lieu of time spent in the car.

Of course, many people on Oahu and other cities ultimately have no choice, and unfortunately, do experience traffic daily. There is not a perfect city or a solution. However, it is totally possible to avoid most of the congestion with the right planning and possible compromises, whether on location, price, or size of the residence.

It Always Comes Back to Location

When purchasing a home on Oahu, or a condo in Honolulu, pay close attention to the size, quality, view, and all the wants and needs that you may have for a property, but also pay close attention to the Honolulu traffic patterns. Choosing the right location to live in, is and always will be an important factor in the home buying process on Oahu.

For questions, or information on Honolulu Real Estate, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kinga Mills RA, RS-75728

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About the Author

Kinga Mills

Kinga Mills is a REALTOR Associate, Forbes Global Properties, Luxury Portfolio Affiliate, & Military Relocation Professional with Hawai'i Life. I adore Hawaii, its people, and the natural beauty that surrounds me. I live on Oahu. It's a pretty incredible place to call home. There is a little bit of everything here. From pristine beaches and quiet neighborhoods to the trendiest of restaurants in the urban Honolulu. I simply love Oahu and the variety it offers. My real estate career allows me to enjoy the Island life, and to work with some amazing people. With over a decade of experience and hundreds of closed sales, I provide my clients with expert buying and selling advice. My goal for clients is to enjoy the process, while my team and I handle the details. As a member of the Hawaii Life Military Specialized Team, I regularly provide real estate assistance to active-duty military personnel who are PCSing to Hawaii, to the mainland, or overseas. For the Luxury Real Real Estate buyers and sellers, I am affiliated with Luxury Portfolio International and Forbes Global Properties. These exclusive affiliations extend an even greater reach, exposure, and effectiveness within the global luxury marketplace. In my time off, I love walking along the beach, enjoying meals out on the town, and taking family vacations. Sign up for my Oahu Hawaii Life blog updates and follow my journey. You can also find me on HGTV "Hawaii Life" Season 14. I look forward to helping in making your Hawaii Life real estate dreams happen! You can email me at or via phone at (808) 722-3985.

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