Planning a Trip to Hawaii? Book Your Rental Car Early!

001If you plan to rent a car on your Hawaii vacation, don’t wait until the last minute to book it. I’ve recently heard of rental car shortages on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. In fact the Kauai Garden Island News says that “Visitors are facing long lines and tough times trying to find available rental cars on Kaua‘i and elsewhere in the state.” This article shares the story of visitors who weren’t able to book a rental car on Kauai, so they came up with a creative idea of renting from U-Haul. They were able to book a large moving van, but when they arrived they found that a light pickup truck was available.

So, what can you do if you find that you can’t get a rental car? Here are some strategies other than U-Haul that will keep you mobile and seeing the island sights.

1. If you cant find a rental car though the big name rental companies like Avis, Hertz, etc., check with the locally operated rental agencies. Here’s a trick to help you find those local rental car agencies. First open a browser for then enter the name of the island you’ll be visiting and click “search maps”. Once the map of the island is displayed, you’ll see a pop out box on the map pointing to the island. In that pop out box, click “search nearby”. Another box will open and in the search nearby field enter something like “rental car” and you’ll find results that include the locally operated companies as well as the big national companies.

2. Use the public bus system. Each island has a fairly decent and inexpensive bus system. The systems aren’t designed with sightseeing as their priority, but when you can’t get a car, they will do the trick to help you get around. Here’s are links to the island bus systems:

Tour Buses at Waimea Canyon Lookout3. Find tour companies that will pick you up from your hotel. Let them do all the driving. Roberts Hawaii and Polynesian Adventures are two of the bigger companies in Hawaii that provide transportation from most hotels on Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island. Other individual tours may provide their own service as well. For example when we took the Mauna Kea stargazing tour and the Big Island sunset sail, those individual tour companies provided the transportation from our resort.

Have you had trouble finding a rental car on Hawaii? What did you do?

  1. That is true. One of our friends’ relative had a hard time renting cars at the last minute, even locally. Thankfully, they were able to get something from Discount Hawaii Car Rental but it was not easy because of the shortage. So good reminder Shiela! Thanks.

  2. U-Haul! LOL! – Yikes! – That’s harsh!

    “Use the public bus system. Each island has a fairly decent and inexpensive bus system.

    Oahu has one of the nation’s best Bus Systems. I highly recommend taking the bus while on Oahu.

    However… I have heard that the Bus system on Kauai, kind of Sucks. I don’t know about the other islands.

  3. @ Maui Blog – Thanks for sharing that story. I had a twitter follower DM me in a panic asking for ideas on getting a rental on Maui. Good to hear that Discount Hawaii Car Rental was able to help, especially as they are an advertiser here.

    @ Dave – yeah, can you imagine touring the islands in one of those big U-Haul vans? That would stink! Oahu’s bus system is very impressive. I’ve heard Maui’s bus system is pretty nice. I believe it’s outsourced to Robers Hawaii. A reader used the Kauai bus and said it worked out well for him. So, maybe it’s not too bad.

  4. On the Big Island you can rent a VW camper van from a company called GB Adventures. I haven’t tried it yet but will one of these days–seems like a nice way to deal with lodging and transportation at the same time.

  5. A good topic, and some great ideas and comments.

    We had friends visit Maui in January that were flying stand-by and scheduled the trip as a last minute idea. They arrived on Saturday and had to wait until Tuesday to get a car. They were able to arrange the shuttle from their resort (Westin) to pick them up at the airport and then back to get the car.

    It was their first time there, and since they stayed in Ka’anapali, they had enough around them for a day or two without wheels. They we’re very impressed with the Maui Bus, although like us, they’re spoiled with the public transit we have in Chicago.

    Moral of the story, last minute getaways are nice, but make sure you cover all the bases early enough.

  6. @ Kanaloa Kona – I’ve heard about those camper vans. They’re very unique, aren’t they? They sound economical and allow you a lot of freedom. If people are considering those, I hope they take special precautions to protect their valuables. In a hotel room, you can leave a purse or laptop computer or camera in a safe, but in one of those vans, you have nowhere to leave those type things.

    @ Kris – Sounds like your friends were able to make the most of their experience. I’m glad to hear that they liked the Maui Bus. When I was taking the Lanai/Maui ferry, I overheard some locals talking about how great the Maui Bus system was. One guy kept going on and on about it. So, it must be pretty nice. You’re moral of the story is right on — just a little planing ahead will solve potential headaches.

  7. We had great luck booking our rental car through Costco -they had competitive rates, and the car we ordered was the car that was waiting for us when we arrived.
    We didn’t use it a whole lot, but it was great for the trips to and from the airport, the Road to Hana, and our venture out to Mama’s Fish House. (that meal made the car worth every penny! Yum!)

  8. Hello! I will definitely be renting a car during my trip – is it worthwhile to rent a convertible? I see on that I can rent one for only $50 more per week. I know that it will be warmer than it is in upstate NY, but is Hawaii convertible friendly?
    Thanks for the info!

    1. Yes, Hawaii’s weather is warm enough for convertibles practically every day of the year. It would be a very rare day that’s not warm enough to take the top down at the “beach-y” elevations.

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