Having your own Hawaii rental car is undoubtedly the easiest way to get around the Big Island. It is certainly possible to get around without your own car, but a Big Island car rental will give you more freedom and easy access to the island.
Most major rental car companies operate out of both the Kailua-Kona airport (KOA) and the Hilo airport (ITO). All offer unlimited mileage, which you will appreciate (big island, remember?).
Rates tend to be slightly higher for rental cars in Hilo than in Kona. For an additional fee, you can rent a car in Kona and return it to Hilo. Big Island car rental offices can also be found at the Waikoloa resort area along the Kohala Coast.
To avoid spending more money than is absolutely necessary for a Hawaii rental car, we sometimes find it beneficial to utilize one of the local discount Big Island car rental companies rather than booking directly with the larger national brands. You will still be renting from one of the major rental car providers, but usually with a significant savings off the standard rates.
We usually use a company called Aloha Rents . When we book with Aloha they take care of all the arrangements with the rental car company, and they definitely saved us a few bucks. We have been very pleased with our overall experience.
Another option for Hawaii rental car discounts is Discount Hawaii Car Rental, serving both Hilo and Kona.
For cruise ship passengers, you are likely inundated with options for tours and various ways to spend your day in port. No need for a rental car on the Big Island, right?
Well, you definitely don't need a rental car, but again if you want to explore more of the Big Island than a tour will allow, rent a car!
In Hilo, both Dollar and Thrifty offer courtesy shuttle service from the pier. Your only choice in Kona is Dollar. Their office is next to the pier in the King Kamehameha Hotel. Check Discount Cruise Rentals for details or to make a reservation.
Is 4-wheel drive necessary for your Hawaii rental car? Some say it is essential. It really depends on what parts of the Big Island you want to explore. A 4-wheel drive can be a real plus when trying to access some of the more remote Big Island beaches. The problem is that most rental car companies will tell you that certain areas of the island are off limits, even in a 4WD.
If you are planning to rent a four wheel drive vehicle specifically to reach the summit of Mauna Kea or access some of the hard-to-reach areas of the Big Island, be sure you read the fine print. Technically you can drive anywhere you choose, but if you should run into trouble when driving on one of those excluded roads, the rental insurance will be void.
One company that will allow you to legally drive their vehicles to the summit of Mauna Kea is Harper. Their Big Island car rentals include 4-wheel drives, 7 or 15-passenger vans, and even motor homes. In their own words, "the only vehicle company on the island that allows 4 wheel drive rentals to be driven up to the top of Mauna Kea."
Open or closed top? Sure you've always fantasized about cruising with the top down, wind blowing softly through your hair. In our humble opinion, it is definitely not worth the added expense of renting a convertible in Hawaii. On the west side of the Big Island it can get so hot that you may want the top closed with the A/C turned on, while on the east side you might find yourself driving in the rain. And with the wind blowing not only through your hair but through the entire car, you may just lose everything inside the car!
Crazy as it may sound, you can actually rent an RV on the Big Island! We don't recommend it simply because Hawaii lacks the facilities you see on the mainland. But if you yearn to be on the road, a Hawaii camper might be for you.
If you are hungry for a 2-wheeled adventure, a Hawaii bike rental may be for you. Here's what you need to know about bicycle, scooter and motorcycle rentals on the Big Island.
If you are interested in renting a scooter or moped, plan to stay close to town. These things are great for gas mileage, but they are slow and really shouldn't be ridden on the open road. For motorcycle rentals, additional restrictions apply (see below).
Whether you choose a Hawaii rental car or opt to travel lighter by way of a scooter or bicycle, travel safe and enjoy your adventures around our magnificent island!