Hawaii Driver's License

I was recently “awarded” my Hawaii driver's license after 2 failed attempts (3rd time’s the charm, right?), but I’m not ashamed about it.

I strongly believe that the outcome of a road test depends hugely on luck. So be prepared for anything to happen: jaywalking high school students (and a freaked out examiner who thought I was going to run them over), a car parked in the middle of the road, and an ambulance behind you.

Jittery nerves + unexpected elements = 2 failed road tests.

The examiner’s personality/vibes also makes a difference. My last examiner was very gentle and spoke with a soothing voice, and she put me at ease almost immediately.

There are two parts to getting your Hawaii driver's license: the instruction permit and the road test.

Instruction Permit

You’ll need a US Social Security Number for this, so find out from your school how to apply for one. You’ll also need to bring your passport with an attached I-94 card (or you might consider applying for a Hawaii State ID).

It costs $2 to take the test and $5 for the Instruction Permit, which looks and functions like a Hawaii driver's license. The difference is, you're required to have a licensed "chaperone" with you at all times when you're behind the wheel until you are awarded your license. The permit is valid for one year from time of issue; however, you’re allowed to renew it every year for $5 until you pass the road test.

You can walk in to any driver licensing station on Oahu to take the written test, but the location closest to town is the Kalihi-Kapalama station on Dillingham Boulevard (contact information listed below).

Your best bet is to go in the mornings since they stop registration for testing at 2pm, and it can get pretty busy, so if you’re planning another appointment afterward, allow plenty of time for waiting (to take the test, to pay, to make your permit etc) and traveling (especially if by bus).

Regardless if you’ve been driving for 2 years or 5 years, I suggest you pick up a copy of the Hawaii Driver’s Manual to study and do the “quiz” at the end. Sure, some are “common sense” questions, but laws and regulations may differ.

Out of the 30 questions on the test, you’re allowed only 6 mistakes.

If you don’t pass you’ll have to wait a week to take the test again.

You can buy the manual for $5 at most bookstores, or download an electronic version (but I think it’s a lot easier to read a physical book).

Road Test

You can schedule a road test online but you may have to wait at least 3 weeks in advance, or you may decide to walk in and take a number.

Walking in may sound like a better choice but expect to wait a long time (sometimes the line forms before the office even opens for the day!), or worse yet, you may be turned away because the quota for walk-in road tests for the day is up.

The number of road tests per day depends on the number of examiners available that day, and scheduled tests have priority. At my last test which was scheduled at 2pm, I chatted briefly with someone who had been waiting since noon and he was still waiting when I left with my new Hawaii driver's license.

The station doesn't provide a vehicle for you to test in; you'll have to be accompanied by someone who has a Hawaii driver's license and is at least 21 years old, and owns his/her car. In other words, you can't borrow someone's car and have somebody else drive you to your road test.

The objective is to get penalized with as few points as possible, and the maximum you’re allowed is 15 points.

You may think that’s a big window, but some mistakes cost 5 points each. The test sheet can look misleading as you’re driving and stealing a peek; I had only 2 markings and thought I did very well, until I learned each offense was 5 points! For those who don't like parallel parking, practice, practice and practice!

If you don't pass the road test, you'll have to wait at least a week before you can take it again.

There are 5 locations you can take the road test, but the closest one in town is again the Kalihi-Kapalama station, also known as City Square. You may hear opinions on which location is easiest, but I stand by my earlier observation that it all boils down to luck, and practice of course.

I’ve taken road tests at Kapolei and City Square, and I admit I had reservations of City Square at first, because of its reputation of strict examiners, low passing rate and heavy traffic, but I’ll say this: knowledge is half the battle – hire a driving instructor!

The road test costs $8 and the Hawaii driver's license costs $24, and it is good for 8 years, unless you’re under 25 years old, in which case the license costs $12 and is good for 4 years.

Don't feel bad (or let anyone make you feel bad!) if you don't pass the first time. Driving is a serious responsibility and should not be rushed, and there's nothing to be ashamed of. :)

Before heading down, call the Kalihi-Kapalama station first to make sure they're open and you have all the right documents needed.
Address: 1199 Dillingham Boulevard
Information: (808) 532-7730
Road Test Information: (808) 832-4117
Hours: Monday through Friday 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (except holidays)
Get TheBus directions from your apartment to this location via Google.

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