Mar 192017

Transporting one’s self across either Key West or Maui has many an option.  In this post I’ll explore the many ways one can do said transporting, not including an actual transporter, but some more down to earth options.  Shall we begin?

Let’s start with Key West.

As islands go Key West is not very big.  Roughly 2 miles from top to bottom at it’s widest point, and 4 miles east to west.  Unless you have knee/leg/foot issues or are just a fat lazy slob like me, walking around Key West is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get from point A to point 2.  The island is flat, has many a sidewalk and pathway, and as long as you don’t attempt to cross any street you are perfectly safe.  Seriously, drivers will aim for you should you dare to cross some of the more heavily used roads like N. and S. Roosevelt.  I’ve actually had drivers speed up when they saw me crossing, resulting in a few exchanges deriding their ancestry and sexual preferences.  It still amazes me how drivers think they have the right to kill or injure somebody simply for trying to cross a street, as opposed to just slowing the fuck down.

Anyways, walking is pretty easy.  I once did a lap around the entire island just for fun and the entire walk, basically at a reasonable steady pace, took about 5 hours with the occasional stop.  When I was living out on Stock Island and had my fill of bike wrecks, I did a lot of walking and wore out more than a few pairs of shoes.  It was quite enjoyable especially when walking along the water but inland also as you get to see more up close the little nooks and crannies of the island.

There are some downsides.  In summer it gets very hot and the pavement will burn your feet.  (Keep this in mind if you are walking your dog around.  If you see a dog dancing, skipping, or otherwise trying to keep it’s feet off the sidewalk, chances are it’s too hot for the poor animal.  Get them to some grass or shade or something cooler fast.)  A good pair of walking shoes comes in real handy.  Wear light, comfortable clothes and keep some water close by.  Be on the lookout for bicycles, dog walkers, skaters, skateboards, those who can’t put their damn phones away for 5 minutes, and urban outdoorsmen.  If you are female, I hate to say, avoid walking alone, and at night.  Avoid some of the more seedy looking neighborhoods and back alleys.  Key West is not the safest place sometimes.

If walking is not your style, consider a bicycle.  The island has a pretty decent bike path system and there are plans to improve it.  Bike rentals are everywhere and there are plenty of bike shops should you chose to purchase one.  There are bike racks all over the island for keeping your ride safe and yes, bike thefts do occur, so invest in a lock and use it.

As for bike styles, a single speed with coaster brakes will work fine if you don’t want to get too fancy.  But beware in some spots, especially on N. and S. Roosevelt, the winds come predominately from the east and can really make riding against said wind difficult.  A multi speed is more better then.  Something with more bigger tires is good for the sand and running over all the garbage.

The downside of biking on Key West for starters, the Keys have the highest bike fatality rate in the country.  With so many bikes competing with vehicles and their asshole drivers, accidents abound.   The other issue is rust.  Most bikes don’t have top quality components and with all the salt from the ocean, even the best models will show corrosion very quickly.  I used to buy cheap bikes for less than $100 and ride them until the rust was too much, then leave them for the urban outdoorsmen.  If I got more than 6 months out of a bike I was doing good.  It sounds expensive but it still came out cheaper than buying some fancy ride for $500 or more.  Plus, nobody steals a rusty, old bike.  Bicycles remain one of the easiest ways to get around Key West despite the downsides.  All indications are the city recognizes this fact and are doing things to improve bike safety.

The next option for island transportation is public transportation, or as we call it, the bus.

I’ve become a believer in the local bus system.  I used it extensively in Key West and do so out here in Maui as well.  In Key West, KW Transit is the go to for public transport.  They have 4 bus routes which cover Key West and Stock Island plus 2 more routes which go all the way to Marathon.  The rides are cheap, starting as little as $0.50 for us old fogies, monthly passes are available, the busses are comfortable, clean, way too much air conditioning, and can accommodate anyone with disabilities.  Go to the website and you can view the current schedule and how long it will be until the next bus comes to your stop.  It will also notify you of any delays or special schedules due to the many events on the island.

One can reach most anyplace on the island or within walking distance.  With the exception of a few holidays and a more limited schedule on Sundays, the bus is available most of the time.  The drivers are for the most part, courteous and helpful, with a few minor exceptions.  If one needs to go further than Marathon there is the Dade Monroe Express which goes all the way to Florida City for a couple of dollars, connecting you to the Miami transit but beware, the drivers are some of the nastiest, rudest pieces of shit on the planet.  You don’t dare ask them anything and they will cuss you out in a heartbeat.  I’ve seen them texting on their phones when they are driving.  And rarely are they on time.  Avoid if possible.

The other option if one needs to get to the mainland is Greyhound.  I’ve taken more than a few trips on the dog.  The terminal is at the Key West airport and has two runs everyday coming and going all the way to Miami airport.  Book far enough in advance and it’s $22 for a ride.  The bus is comfy, nice big seats, lots of room for luggage, and even has wifi onboard.

There are plenty of taxi services in Key West.  Figger an average of about $12 from the airport to old town.  Sometimes less if there is a group of people.  Ride shares like Uber are still illegal last time I checked but could change soon.

This leaves the one final option of course which is using a vehicle.

Key West is a royal pain in the ass to drive around on.  The streets are narrow, with lots of pedestrian/bicycle traffic, many distractions, and very little parking.  Nonetheless, people insist on driving there.  The maximum speed limit on the island is 35mph but still, there is always somebody who just has to go more faster.  Keep in mind also, because of the 35mph limit, scooters and mopeds are legal to traverse the streets.  They are hard to see, usually ridden by tourists who have no idea how to ride, and have a nasty habit of staying in blind spots or darting out from side streets at inopportune times.

Fuel in Key West is more expensive than the mainland and there are not many places to get any repair work done.  Like bicycles, vehicles are prone to excessive corrosion and will rust out quickly.

As mentioned, parking is at a premium and expensive.  There is a local permit one can get, allowing parking at certain designated streets but beyond those, the paid lots are about the only option and enforcement of the parking laws is vigorous.  The shopping centers do have free parking of course but nothing is allowed overnight, otherwise you might get to do business with the most hated people on the island.

If you do insist on driving down to Key West, check with your accommodations to see if they have parking available.  Most do to some extent and your best option is when you get there, park the vehicle and leave it until you are ready to leave.  It’s just too much hassle to drive around with so many more better options available.

So, walking, bikes, public transportation, driving, how do these options compare on Maui?  Let’s take a look…

Unlike Key West, Maui is much more bigger.  It’s also a lot less flatter going from sea level up 10,000 feet on Haleakala.  The lower regions are also hilly and in some places downright dangerous because of cliffs, rock slides, and the occasional flash flood.  So, getting around is a tad bit different.

Walking is doable for the most part, depending on where one is residing.  There are plenty of sidewalks and paths, and a lot of hiking trails going into tropical jungles, up steep mountains, and along the coast.  If hiking is your thing, Maui can be very enjoyable.  For just walking around, again depends on where you are located and where you want to go.

In Kihei, where I have been staying, there is a main street called South Kihei Rd.  It follows the shoreline and runs the length of the city through many a residential, shopping, and resort area.  There are sidewalks on both sides and easy access to the many parks along the beaches.  It’s a fairly easy walk and I have done about 4 miles one way from my place so far.  Other parts of the island, particularly in the towns there are similar sidewalks and paths for walking around.  One real nice touch, there are frequent crosswalks, marked with lighted signs.  Tap the button on said sign, the lights flash, and the vehicles stop.  It’s really amazing how it works.  I still have a hard time getting used to having the right of way to cross a street after so many years of dodging assholes in Key West.  But here in Hawaii, and it’s drilled into anyone taking a drivers test, the pedestrian has the right of way.

Like Key West, it can get pretty hot here in Maui, so the same suggestions apply for footwear and clothing.  I am not sure about how safe it is to walk around some neighborhoods or at night out here but I have no doubt there are some places one would be more better to avoid.  If I happen to find such a place and live to tell about it, I will let you know.

Bicycles are all over Maui.  The island is a lot more health conscious and environmentally aware than Key West so many people pedal around.  It is possible, if you have the nerve, to ride all the way around the island following the coastline.  Some places, like the Road to Hana you are truly tempting fate but for the most part there are tons of good riding trails and pathways.  Many of the streets also have well marked bike only lanes and for the most part, Maui seems relatively safe to ride.

Given the terrain out here, which is hilly, a multi speed bike is a more better option.  I do see the occasional single speed but they are too much work for someone like me.  Mountain bikes are very popular with more than a few trails going down the mountains.  And despite the proximity to the ocean, corrosion does not seem quite as bad, although if it’s possible, store your bike in the shade as the sun can be pretty brutal on it.

There are plenty of bike shops on the island who do rentals, sales, and repairs.  You can go cheap, as I used to do in Key West or really fancy if your budget allows.  Most places have bike racks and the busses also have racks on the front to carry a couple bikes.

One thing Hawaii does, which is actually a pretty good idea, is to require all bikes to be registered with the state.  It’s not a big deal, just $15, but the money goes to promote bike safety, maintain bike lanes, and provides a bit of a data base in case a bike is stolen.  The idea of a bike license may rub some the wrong way but the positives outweigh the negatives, so long as the costs don’t get out of hand.  Key West and the Keys would do well to follow this example.

Next up is the bus system and after 7 months on the island, I’ve found Maui bus to be one of the best deals on the island.  $25 for the monthly senior pass and I use at least $60 or better (at $2 a ride regular price) every month.  It’s a helluva bargain for getting around.  The Maui bus system pretty much covers all the main towns on the island centering at the mall in Kahului.  The busses pretty much run on time, 7 days a week, everyday.  The busses are very comfy and like the ones in Key West, have ac and bike racks.  The drivers are very courteous and willing to answer any questions you might have concerning a stop or connecting to another route.  Passes can be bought directly from the driver and if you just need a ride for the day, go for the $4 day pass.

Best view ever from a bus stop.

Some of the routes also have the prettiest bus stops you will ever see.  I usually go early just so I can sit and watch the beach and ocean from the stop.  Even seen a few whales off shore.  Really, I cannot say enough good stuff about the Maui bus system.  It makes getting around to the main parts of the island more easy and cheap.

One thing you will want to get if you are riding the bus on Maui, and for some bus services in other cities, is an app called TransLoc.  It’s free and available for all phone systems.  What the app does is use your gps location on your phone to hook into the local bus system.  From there you can see all the routes, all the stops, when said bus will be at said stop, and schedule accordingly.  You can save favorite routes and stops so you can see at a quick glance when the next bus will be at which ever stop you are interested in.  The app also sends notifications out if a bus is running behind schedule or if an event will affect a route.  It’s an extremely handy little app to have.  Check the website to see if your bus system is included.

There is no Greyhound service out here unless they have figgered a way to make busses float.  Some resorts do have private bus service, mainly going to and from the airport.  I’ve seen some assisted living busses on occasion transporting old folks to and from shopping, doctor visits, etc.

As for taxi service, I have not used it yet so I cannot say anything about it nor the costs.  Ride sharing companies are allowed to do business on Maui but again, can’t say anything as I have not used them either.  If any readers have had any experience with either one, by all means, please share in the comments.

Finally, we get back to driving a vehicle on Maui.  Given the size of the island, and the fact many people live too far from the bus lines or too far to walk or bike to civilization, a vehicle on Maui makes a bit more sense.  There are a few dealerships on the island, rental companies of course, and you can get maintenance and repairs at a variety of spots.

Fuel is expensive in Hawaii, running at least a dollar more per gallon than the mainland.  Costco is the go to place for cheap fuel, where you can get the dollar back.  Electric cars are becoming popular out here and there is push to add charging stations at most parking lots around the state.  From what I have heard, auto insurance is tad bit high out here, but it’s to be expected.  Everything is more expensive in Hawaii.

If you want to ship your vehicle over to Hawaii from the mainland it is quite possible.  But figger around $1200 or better to do so.  You might be more better to sell or leave your vehicle back on the mainland and pick up a Maui cruiser or other vehicle here.  Plus it’s less traffic.

Most people would normally not associate Hawaii with traffic jams but it happens here, a lot.  Especially on Oahu around Honolulu.  It don’t take much to back up traffic out here.  A simple fender bender can close off a road for hours. The Maui police have a habit of closing off both lanes of a road if there is a bad accident.  Sometimes there is no other detour around so you could be stuck until said accident is cleared away.  Bad weather will frequently close a road.  Landslides, downed trees, and flooding happen pretty regularly and after awhile you learn which roads to avoid in bad weather.

Overall, there is an argument to made in favor of owning a vehicle on Maui.  Unlike Key West, it’s more bigger, there are places which are more easily accessible by driving, and getting supplies from the stores to home may simply mean a vehicle is the best option.  Personally, I still have no need for a vehicle out here, but at least I got the drivers license should I decide to do so.

Well, there you have it.  The main options for getting around either Key West or Maui.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few details but given this post is hitting 3000 words by now, I have to either stop or convert the post to an ebook.  Perhaps another time.

I hope I have provided some useful information to anyone contemplating a visit to either of these islands with this post.  Getting around is sometimes not a priority when planning a trip and as you can see, the options are many, and there are good and bad to consider with all said options.  However you plan on getting around the islands, be safe, try not to spend too much money, and don’t go running down any pedestrians crossing the streets.

Capt. Fritter

  2 Responses to “A Tale Of Two Islands – Getting Around…”

  1. I just love these ‘ cool ‘ macho types who wear nothing but a pair of shorts and a sweat band around their head …
    with their bare chest and their poor … usually… BLACK lab DOG running beside them on the concrete on a SHORT leash.
    the dog only has its tongue to cool it down. black absorbs heat like crazy. they don’t even have a chance of getting cool enough.
    it’s like running on top of a stove for them. a vet told me that once. he said nobody ever thinks about that part of it.
    the macho MAN is breathing air at least 6 feet above the concrete’s surface. the dog is at most two feet above the surface.
    their poor dog… given no choice… is burning paws and risking heat stroke. it’s SO RIDICULOUSLY STUPID.
    thank you for mentioning it. it’s very common here in the summer time to see people running in the hottest part of the day with them. and so sad.
    this was a great and informative post.
    HAWAII wins hands down over the keys every time. no comparison in my book. especially the attitudes of the people.

    • Remember too, a big dog has to take 2 to 4 times as many steps to cover the same ground as a human. Little dogs even more.
      C. F.