Cruising Hawaii and Renting a Car

Cruise Ship at Nawiliwili
Cruise Ship at Nawiliwili Harbor

I recently received the following question from a reader who’ll be on a cruise around the Hawaiian islands:

We are planning a trip this September to the islands. We will be on a NCL cruise. Do you have any suggestions or pointers about car rentals at the various ports?
Are there shuttles that provide transportation to the car rentals from the ports?
Is there anything to do within walking distance of the ports?
The ports are…
Kahului, Hilo, Kona, and Nawiliwili

Thanks in advance for any info

You can rent cars at each port, though some ports have more options than others. The cruise ship ports that are near airports have the most options – those would be:

  • Kahului, Maui with airport code OGG
  • Hilo, Big Island with airport code ITO
  • Nawiliwili, Kauai with airport code LIH
  • Honolulu Harbor, Oahu with airport code HNL

Other ports may not have as many options, but you can still find convenient locations for renting a car. The ports that are not in close proximity to an airport are:

Rental car shuttle buses are available at the major Hawaii ports. You might want to consider getting ahead of the crowd and hoping into a cab as I mentioned in this timesaver tip.

I definitely recommend reserving a rental car well before your cruise. Rental cars can be scarce in Hawaii, as I’ve previously reported. Plus some of the ports will have a limited inventory.

One rental car discounter that I’ve personally used is They have a webpage specifically dedicated for Hawaii cruise ship passengers with their negotiated rates. You can see that page here.

Now that we’ve gotten the logistics of renting a car covered, let’s look at Colleen’s other question — “Is there anything to do within walking distance of the ports?” That is a very good question and the answer is that there’s not much to do at the ports except for shopping. In some locations, there’s not really even much shopping. My advice is to get out and see Hawaii’s natural beauty. I’ve written a series on posts on what to see and do with only one day on each Hawaiian island that’s useful for cruisers to adapt to their interests and available time.

Do you have additional advice to help Colleen and other Hawaii cruisers with their rental car planning?

  1. Don’t leave any sugary drinks in your car overnight or you’ll discover a nice bug infestation. 🙂

  2. We read the No Worries Hawaii guidebook while on our cruise and made all our decisions for one day outings ahead of time. It had great driving directions, better than the ones in our rental car magazine.

  3. If they haven’t already done so, have them visit and check out the Hawaii boards. So much great information from fellow cruisers, and all kinds of helpful tips.

  4. When we took our cruise. We rented a car at every port.We paid for overnight parking at ports($10-15 per night) for the overnight ports so we could hop in car the next morning and go.Plus we signed up for each rental cars reward program and filled in all our info before hand online so when we got to rental car location lots of times they have a shorter line for their members that have stuff already to go 🙂

  5. Where to park a rental car over night at Kahului port, as they do t allow parking inside the port? And Maui mall says no overnight parking

    1. We don’t know of a public parking place that allows overnight parking except for Kahului airport. The airport would not be very convenient as it’s a couple miles or so from the cruise port, but it’s doable with a shuttle or cab ride.

      You might want to consider creating two separate car reservations. Turn the car in at the end of the day. Not sure if that would be more helpful or not, but it’s an option to consider.

  6. How do you get from the port to the rental car location at Kahului? Do they offer free shuttles?

    1. They used to supply shuttle service, but I’m not sure if that’s changed or not. The cruise port in Kahului is only about 2.5 miles from the main airport on Maui, where all the rental car companies are. So, if they don’t offer shuttle service, it would be a quick cab ride to the rental car companies. The folks at Hawaii Discount Car Rental should be able to give you up to date info on shuttle service options. Here’s the link to their site Note that they have toll free number that you can call with questions. Their phone numbers are listed at the top of their website.

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