You won't have a lot of time to get to the North Shore..if there isn't much traffic..maybe 60 minutes or less....
Pearl Harbor by car might be about 10 minutes and/or then if you go the other direction ..Downtown and Chinatown are about 15/20 minutes from the Airport..Waikiki is about 25/30 minutes by car.. In the Bus..it is a whole lot more time cause of ALL the stops they make......
We decided to not be cheep-os on this trip to Honolulu, so we rented a convertible Mini Cooper from the Little Hawaii Car Rental Company (http://www.littlehawaiirentals.com). We had a blast! They delivered the car straight to our hotel and then came and picked it up from us before we left for the airport. I could have sworn the car was brand new, but they said it was almost 2 years old! There was no sand anywhere, and it looked like it was straight out of the showroom. We've rented many cars on our trips to Oahu, and we've never had one this clean.
We drove with the top down almost the whole time (don't forget sunscreen on your knees!) and everywhere we went people asked about our rental car. Other tourists even asked if they could take pictures of it! It was easy to park in these narrow spaces they have here, and was so much more fun to drive than the Jeeps and other non-convertible rental cars we've rented in the past.
We brought it back with about half a tank of gas (they're pretty fuel efficient) and the delivery guy filled it up for us and just charged us for the gas! Unbelievable service, great price, and the best car we've ever rented on Oahu.
I tried to rent some cheapo car but they gave me a free upgrade to a Jeep Wrangler. I am very glad that they did. The Jeep I rented made my trip so much more enjoyable. It was convertible so I was able to drive around with the top down and enjoy the excellent weather and the stars at night.
It also had 4-wheel drive and that helped me to go all over the island without worrying about getting stuck. But the best of all, many locals like to drive off road, borderline street illegal, trucks and Jeeps. If you want to be the envy of the locals you can certainly make a good impression with a Jeep.
One of the more memorable interactions I had on my trip was while driving. I was at an intersection when another Jeep, nearly identical to mine, drove past in the other direction. The driver was certainly of the local variety but he gave me a nod in approval of the vehicle I was driving.
If you're in Hawaii for a few days, rent a convertible. There's something about the freedom of driving with the top down and the wind in your hair that makes you feel like you're experiencing the REAL Hawaii. For one day we drove around the entire island -It's a lot longer than you think. But it's so much better than being carted around in an air conditioned tour bus.
Hey, you're in paradise, right? Do yourself a favor and spring for a convertible. All the rental car agencies have them and if you're lucky you may be able to get a free or cheap upgrade. They are usually in demand but if you go during a slow time, you just may get a deal. Yes, it does rain almost every day in Hawaii but it's usually for only a short period. I can almost guarantee that you'll be able to drive around with the top down at least once a day.
At the very least get a car with a sunroof!
I don't think you'll need to rent a car to get around Honolulu because of the very good bus system, but if you want the peace and quiet of the beautiful beaches on the coast, I recomend renting a car. We rented from a local place Tradewinds ($26/day) and we were very pleased. I am not sure how that price compares to the rest of the rental companies.
Buses are useful only between Waikiki and Downtown. It's a total waste of money to go to Oahu and not be able to drive up and down the island... it's very big and you might want to explore it by yourself at your own pace.
People seem to be against renting cars (I discussed this in the forum at the time when I joined VT, about Hawaii, San Francisco, etc.), but this is a place where a car will diversify the landscape and enrich your day like almost nowhere else.
Rent a special car. They have many places who rent out Ferrarri, Lamborgini's and Porche's. Its expensive, but why not try to be 'playboy for a day'. I did.... This is from Paradise rent a car in Waikiki. We rented a Corvette.
By Airplan. I think its about 5 our flight from the mainland (California).
Getting around the Island, I guess its best to do it the American way; by car. Why dont do like us; rent a vette! It was kind of expensive, but fun (USD 400 - 24 hrs, all inclusive). If you can manage with an ordinary car they had offers like USD 120 for a Mustang convertible for 3 days. I think you will be charged extra for insurance and milage.
If you're staying in Waikiki, I recommend hiring a car for 1 day and doing a self-tour around the island. I couldn't afford to hire a car, so took a tour instead. It was alright, but of course I was dying to stay longer some places, dying to skip other places and dying to stop some places the bus totally bypassed...
Taking TheBus around the island probably would have sent me crazy, it takes way too long for me :)
Flying business or first would be preferable to the 'cattle class'! It is a long flight.....if you have frequent flyer bonuses....USE THEM!!!
Driving can be a pain during rush hours, but it gives you the most freedom! For sure, rent a convertible! You will be so happy that you did!!
Rent the car of your dreams for a day. Great place to cruise around in a convertable or a Jeep Wrangler.