Driving In Hawaii 2023

Driving In Hawaii 2023 | “The Worst State”

In a recent well-publicized study of the best and worst states for driving, WalletHub said that Hawaii has nailed it and is dead last. They called it the “Worst State.” But is it true that Hawaii is really the worst? If you’ve driven in Hawaii recently, here’s your chance to see what it’s all about and if you choose, vent about issues driving here.

Among the problems cited by Wallet Hub were the average gas prices, still hovering around $5/gallon in the islands, tragic congestion, and road quality, among other things. What wasn’t covered in the survey were things like the percentage of confrontational drivers you’ll meet. Hawaii is ranked 39/50 as having among the nicest drivers by Forbes. How many times have you been able to merge into traffic, not get honked at, or are given a shaka sign of aloha? It happens here all the time.

Sure, gas prices are higher in Hawaii for a variety of reasons. Also, given the distance and expenses associated with selling anything in Hawaii, the islands will typically have the highest gas prices. At the other end of that scale sits Texas, where gas can be had for about one-half the price found in Hawaii.

What Wallethub missed.

If you compare the quality of driving in Hawaii and most other places, we’d say that Hawaii ranks more favorably than WalletHub suggested. If you want to take it to an extreme and perhaps even include the scenery, that moves Hawaii to the very top.

Then there are different studies. And, on the good side, Hawaii scored well in auto safety, which looked at accidents, tickets, seatbelts, and car theft. There Hawaii came in #6 in the nation. That study from Bankrate also showed different results than WalletHub, ranking Hawaii 12 out of the 50 states in terms of the best states for drivers. It also listed Hawaii as #3 in the safest driving category.

We have our gripes about Hawaii driving.

Some of the roads in Hawaii are just dismal, with upkeep virtually nonexistent. Think of the road to Kokee State Park on Kauai, for example. It is a complete embarrassment and is dangerous and unacceptable, presenting the obvious question of why it doesn’t get fixed.

Traffic isn’t good in Hawaii, either. Whether in Honolulu rush hour, which is up there among the worst, or Maui and, for example, the drive between Kahului and Kaanapali. Or on Kauai, the drive through the it-takes-forever Kapaa corridor.

Hawaii driving hints for visitors.

The resurgence of travel to Hawaii brought incredible traffic onto our roads, and the rate of serious accidents went up, according to the State DOT. This calls for patience and smart thinking. It’s always the right time to take extra care when driving on your Hawaii vacation. And now that’s even more true than ever.

Pay attention and respect all road rules, especially if you are driving in Hawaii for the first time. Be extra cautious at intersections. Avoid passing because you may not always see oncoming traffic on our curvy, two-lane roads paired with easily distracting roadway conditions. If someone does decide to pass you, be mindful of their actions and look for potential issues. This ties into number one below. Please slow down, enjoy your vacation, and get home safe so you can return again.

  1. Slow down, go with the flow, stay safe, and keep your vacation money in your pocket. Speeding is a significant problem and one of 3 major factors associated with accidents in Hawaii. If it helps you to keep speed in check, know the speed limit, and remember that speed detection by police is widespread, and tickets for violations of traffic laws are frequent and expensive. Visitors have commented to us about the huge fines they’ve incurred.
  2. You may be tired of hearing this, but don’t make U-Turns on Hawaii highways, become distracted by the beauty or stop suddenly for photo opportunities. On a personal note, visitors are still regularly making unsafe U-Turns. When a visitor car pulls off to the right, we anticipate that a sudden U-Turn may be coming. Often it is.
  3. Forget the horn. We use car horns to say hello to people and not to complain. Let people in; it’s our way, and we love it.
  4. Rain makes for limited visibility, ground fog, and slippery roads. Hydroplaning here’s a big problem, and fast rains can come from nowhere. With our weather far more unpredictable than on the mainland, you sometimes just need to pull over to be safe in major downpours.
  5. Watch for Hawaii weather, flood advisories, and potholes. NOAA weather is a good place to start for forecasts and advisories. Driving during flooding in Hawaii is something you don’t want to experience. Potholes in Hawaii can be virtually invisible and serious, and they can cause significant damage to your car. Be mindful.
  6. Avoid rush-hour traffic in Honolulu and on the neighbor islands between 6:00 AM to 8:30 AM and 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM. It’s always “mo betta” to spend your time sitting on the beach than in traffic.
  7. Plan your route in advance. Remember that driving between points on our island roads takes longer. And check Maps before starting. We can’t tell you how often we didn’t arrive at our destination as planned due to highway closures due to an accident or roadwork.
  8. Crossing the highway is dangerous if you’re not at a crosswalk. Also, motorists use caution and be watchful of pedestrians. Look ahead one city block, or a quarter-mile on rural roads, for potential problems.
  9. Road shoulders in Hawaii are often soft and deep and sometimes non-existent; avoid them whenever possible. That’s even more so during inclement weather. Avoid getting towed. You can’t imagine how many times we see visitors getting stuck. Jeff has also had to be towed away so that it can happen to anyone.
  10. Learn the meaning of “makai” (towards the ocean) and “mauka” (towards the mountain) when receiving directions. We often use landmarks and mileposts rather than street names or highway numbers to give directions between points. Especially outside Honolulu.

Hawaii Department of Transportation Dep. Director Ed Sniffen said he wants to “start talking about how we can save people’s lives by doing something as easy as following the law… Regarding speed; he added that “the faster the vehicle involved in a collision is traveling, the less likely it is that the person hit will survive. Nine out of 10 people hit by a car at 20 MPH will live — double the speed to 40 MPH, and only 1 out of 10 will survive.”

While visitors and rental cars are just one cause of problems driving in the Hawaiian Islands, there’s no doubt they too play a significant role. Buckle up and never text while driving are basic but true messages. But just as critical is to realize that while our quaint roads may seem country-like to those visiting from big cities, they can quickly turn deadly, as we’ve witnessed personally entirely too often.

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42 thoughts on “Driving In Hawaii 2023 | “The Worst State””

    1. Hi Melissa.

      Thanks for letting us know. We’re checking on it now, and you should be able to subscribe shortly.


  1. I moved to Maui 7 months ago. No one here uses turn signals. Never seen anything like it. It’s like they are allergic to them. Also, so many drive super slow in left lane causing massive backups and refuse to get over. Terrible driving ovetlal and I lived in Southern Cali cor years and thought I’d seen it all.

  2. Driving on the big island has turned into a nightmare since thousands of tourists moved here. In 10 years I hardly ever saw road rage. It is now a daily, even multiple occurances a day. They go 15 miles under speed limit and when I go to pass, they speed up and 2 times tried to run me off other side. They don’t know how to drive our curvy hwys and are constantly going off the side. I moved from the mainland to get away from the traffic and road rage…in two years it has taken over our beautiful big island. It is the main topic locals talk about. An accident on Hwy 11 will shut it down for hours. We used to it happening a couple times a year. Now it’s regular. Not the big island I moved to. We no have infrastructure to handle all this traff

  3. Driving on Maui problems are usually result of large city
    drivers from certain parts of the Mainland, sorry l will not name

  4. I’m also seeing a lot of comments about “You’ll get there eventually”, but when you work down-island because all the jobs cram there, but work up-island and have children to pick up by 5:30PM, and still have to do homework, serve dinner, etc., then get to work the next morning after dropping the kids off to school by 8AM, that attitude isn’t really an option. Not meaning being inconsiderate on the road is right, but being inconsiderate can really mess someone else’s entire family’s day up.

  5. We were just there for Christmas.
    Cannot comment on congestion.
    However, the paved roads are “Ace” compared to Vancouver BC. Might as well be driving on a hard compacted logging road.

  6. Q: Anyone heard of any improvement between Lihue and Ka’paa??? The road beyond the airport is terribly congested – all the time. Just asking???

  7. I’ve lived in Hawai’i for 10 years. The problem with most things here, including driving, stems from more of a social issue. People here generally lack self-awareness and are rude, compared to anywhere else I’ve been. I really notice it every time I visit any other state, country, or territory. There’s the whole reputation for throwing shakas and having some strong communal sense of being in things together, including traffic, which sure, does exist for a few people, but the reputation is overall undeserved. People throw shakas after cutting others off when failing to yield before known merge-lanes come, most people don’t use turn signals because turn signals seem to just signal other drivers to speed up and not let anyone over, etc.

    1. I disagree. Sure, it is annoying because people seem to have a near-religious aversion to using their turn signals, and maybe the attitude toward traffic rules in general is a little lax, like most things here, which is part of the culture, but it is very rare that I see anything like road rage or even rudeness on the roads. Yes, the guy in the lifted Tacoma is probably going to break the alternating merge rule when he gets to it, but you know he’s going to so go ahead and let him. Any time I see bad driving it is far more likely to be someone with bad driving habits than someone being a jerk. YMMV.

  8. 10 recommendations for visitors. ?!?!

    I have one for the locals:

    Quit voting in the same corrupt politicians that give you the worst roads, schools taxes, house prices, property crime, business environment and more.

    Hawaii has had one party rule now for close to 70 years and it shows.

    Mexico has better roads and traffic than Hawaii.

    1. That reminds me– what happened to the monorail to nowhere? Talk about the Hawaiian people being taken for a ride. Millions of dollars over budget. Did it ever get completed?

        1. Thank you for your response, Frank. It made me chuckle. I haven’t been able to be in HI in a few years. I remember the rail construction getting to Pearl City +, and then heard about the purchase of 1 or 2 trains. So if no one thought of the logistics (horrible) of actually bringing it into Honolulu, where everyone works, it’s just a billion dollar park and ride/shuttle to a bus stop?


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