The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Hawaiian Islands

dave poore
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Hawaiian Islands

Thumbs up or thumbs down to sticking your thumb out roadside in Hawaii?

Flashback to the ‘70s, and I’d say that hitchhiking would be the next best thing to catching the bus. There might have been laws against it (like there are today), but rarely were they enforced. And you’d see more than just hippies with their thumbs out; like most everywhere else at the time, hitchhiking became a way for cheap and quick commute. For travelers, it’s how they met the locals and discovered places not listed in guidebooks.

Is this hitchhiker in front of Ehukai Beach Park (Oahu’s North Shore) breaking the law? Read on for the answer.

This mindset, however, has since changed. People tend to take the laws (read on for specifics) more seriously, including police because of the increase in crime over the years. Sadly, it wasn’t uncommon to read about a hitchhiker left battered on the side of the road or robbed of their belongings; more and more people have decided not to take the gamble. Plus, with public transportation expanding, there’s no longer the need to thumb a ride.

And while The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reiterates rule number one (know where your towel’s at), the simple truth for any hitchhiker is, know the law. Hawaii law prohibits people from standing in, walking along or occupying a portion of a highway “for the purpose of soliciting a ride, employment, business, or contributions from the occupant of any vehicle.”

However, the law does offer some leeway for counties wanting to help hitchhikers, with the phrasing: “Except as otherwise provided by county ordinance.” That’s where it can get confusing. I couldn’t seem to find any solid answers online as to what the exact laws for each county were, so I did a little more digging and called the county police departments. Here’s what I found:

Big Island County – ILLEGAL

Kauai County (Kauai & Niihau) – ILLEGAL

Maui County (Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai & Molokai) – LEGAL, anywhere along a roadway

Honolulu County – LEGAL, but only at bus stops or “in any open area where there are no official bus stops within a reasonable distance,” as written in the county law. Turns out, the guy in the photo above isn’t breaking any laws. He did his research and knows to stand near a bus stop.

The Kauai police officer I spoke with said the fine for breaking the law may vary from county to county, but because it’s a misdemeanor offense, the fine would be no more than $100. Neither the law nor the fine, however, has stopped some from hitchhiking today. You’ll see a handful of them but not as many as before.

And regardless of whether it’s legal or not, hitchhiking is always a risk. My best advice would be to make use of the public transportation, which has been expanding on every island, or call Hawaii Aloha Travel if you’re looking for an affordable rental car.


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