Venturing out on a Honolulu layover--should I risk it?
June 16, 2015 5:22 PM   Subscribe

In a couple of weeks I'll have a layover on a flight to DFW via Sydney. Given the amount of time available and having to go through immigration/customs on arrival, is it feasible for me to do a little sightseeing in Honolulu?

If the flights run on schedule I should arrive at 12:10 pm from Sydney. The DFW flight leaves at 5:40 pm. I was hoping this would be enough time to dash into town and visit the Beatrice Bishop museum. People who have experience with this, do you think the timeline is feasible? Or should I play it safe and stay in the airport?
posted by orrnyereg to Travel & Transportation around Honolulu, HI (9 answers total)
It's doable but would be pretty tight. You need to allow about 45 mins to an hour each way for the bus to and from town. My wife and I had a similar layover last year arriving at 12.15pm with our onward flight at 6.15pm and we ventured to Waikiki for lunch and a walk around. We didn't have time for much else before we had to head back. We also didn't have to deal with customs as we were arriving from San Francisco and only flying onward to Kauai so depending on what time you arrive and how long customs takes, you may have to make a judgement call.
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:36 PM on June 16, 2015

Are you American? Since this'll be your first stop entering the US, I'm pretty sure you'll have to go through immigration. About 10 years ago, as a non-American, it took me 3 hours to go through immigration in Honolulu. I've never had to wait that long before and I nearly missed my connecting flight. (That was without secondary inspection or anything, that's just how long the line took.) Obviously it's possible things have changed in 10 years.
posted by loulou718 at 5:38 PM on June 16, 2015

I would stay in the terminal. Nothing moves fast in Hawaii.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 5:41 PM on June 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

I wouldn't risk it. You could *probably* make it, but it will be very stressful.
posted by tealcake at 6:29 PM on June 16, 2015

Australian who has been through Honolulu many times. In the past there was no choice, we were held in a transit lounge and did not go through immigration.

More recently (still a fair few years ago now - maybe 5?) we had to go through immigration, officially enter the US and then turn around and go straight back through security again. Instead of spending our boring layover wandering around aimlessly we spent it standing in a queue which was even worse but managed to fill up most of the approx 3 hours we had to kill. The process also gave us collective mental breakdowns because we'd gone back in time just enough to now be in the day before the day we left, which made filling out the visa waiver form kind of traumatising since you were signing something that shouldn't be possible.

I would strongly disuade you from leaving the terminal, I don't think that's nearly enough time.
posted by kitten magic at 6:29 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't do it. Traffic is bad here, and you can get stuck in a jam even at random times.

There's not much at the airport; it might be worthwhile to splurge on an airline lounge and relax in comfort. They're not the best, but they are comfortable & beat hanging out in the main terminal.
posted by kanewai at 6:31 PM on June 16, 2015

Although I should add: you might want to wait to see how customs goes before buying a pass (I think you can buy them at the desk). Customs is hit or miss in Honolulu; it's usually been fast for me, but can get bogged down when one of the big jets from Japan lands.
posted by kanewai at 6:33 PM on June 16, 2015

You may well have to go through immigration and customs in Honolulu whether you leave the airport or not, as it will be your first point of entry to the US and the flight to DFW should be a domestic flight. If this is the case, you could see how much time you have after clearing customs and decide whether it's enough then.
posted by zachlipton at 7:01 PM on June 16, 2015

You will definitely go through customs in Hawaii. All flights from foreign countries go through customs in the US, unlike the rest of the world. There is no way to 'stay out of the US' on a flight that lands in the US. Once your through customs you will be outside all security at the airport just like if you had just driven up in a car.

Typically at this point you would recheck any bags and go through the regular security line to enter the terminal like anybody else. But there is nothing stopping you from wandering off into town for a while. I've never been to Hawaii so I have no idea if you have actually got time to go into town.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:49 PM on June 16, 2015

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