Island Travels: Do You Need to Use Car Rentals in Hawaii?

Congrats! You're planning a trip to the beautiful state of Hawaii. You're probably fantasizing about the beaches, luaus, and volcanoes, but have you considered how you're going to visit all these sites?

You've also probably started to add up the cost of your trip. From the hotel, flight, and excursions, do you really need to spend money on car rentals in Hawaii?

Whether you should rent a car or not for your vacation in Hawaii depends on what island you visit and your priorities. Continue reading to learn the perks of renting a car, areas you might not need a rental car, and transportation alternatives.

Perks of Renting a Car While in Hawaii

The biggest perk of renting a car during your Hawaiian vacation? Flexibility. With your own car, your schedule is more flexible as well as your itinerary. 

Want to stop and get shaved ice on the way home from the beach? This executive (and important) decision can happen in a rental car, but it can't happen if you're a passenger on a shuttle bus or public transportation.

With your own car, you can decide when you want to leave, and you can pack up as much gear as you can fit. Not to mention, Hawaii has so much to offer, and sometimes you need to explore the roads yourself.

Areas You Will Need to Rent a Car

A lot of Hawaii is more accessible when you have a rental car. If you are going to any of these places, strongly consider getting a rental vehicle (spoiler alert: it's basically all the islands except Oahu).

Big Island 

The Big Island is called the Big Island for a reason. Rainforest, beaches, volcanoes span from the Kailua-Kona coast over to the Hilo side of the Island. One of the best ways to take in all the island has to offer is to drive the perimeter to see the coastline and the different ecosystems. 

Plus, there are so many beautiful hikes and sandy beaches worth leaving your resort for.


While Maui is touristy, the airport is usually almost an hour away from where you're staying. A rental car might be a great investment alone, for the ability to grab snacks and wander the Island after your flight. 


Kauai, the Garden Island, is broken up into the North Shore, South Shore, West Side, and East Side, aka the Coconut Coast. The easiest and best way to go sightseeing around the island is with a rental car.

Areas Where You Don’t Need a Car

Oahu is one of the islands where you can get away with not renting a car. Especially if you've never visited before, a lot of the attractions that are probably on your list are concentrated in the Honolulu area. Honolulu has the most public transportation options out of all the islands, and we'll touch more on this later.

No matter what island you are on, if you're planning on just laying by the pool, relaxing at the hotel spa, and going to a luau held at the resort, then you can get away with not renting a car. If there is one day you want to venture out, there are alternatives to rental cars you might consider.

Alternatives to Car Rentals on the Island

Though renting a car adds flexibility to your vacation, you might not want to deal with parking fees and rental car insurance. Here are some alternatives to car rentals when visiting Hawaii.

Public Transportation: The Bus and Trolley

If you are visiting Oahu, you might have already heard of the public transportation options. On the island, especially near touristy areas, are TheBus and the Waikiki Trolley.

The Bus runs all over Honolulu, HI. The local bus service hits all the stops, including downtown Honolulu, Waikiki beach, and Kailua Bay. A day pass is $5.50 for adults.

The Waikiki Trolley is much more catered towered tourists. The trolley stops at attractions like the USS Arizona Memorial, Diamond Head, and the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Pricing depends on the duration of your pass and the line you want to ride.

Rideshare Apps

Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are available in Hawaii, especially in Oahu. However, fees will add up, especially for longer distances.

Hotel Shuttles

A lot of hotels and resorts in Hawaii offer shuttles to the airport and popular destinations on the island. A perk of the hotel shuttles is not having to worry about parking at the hotel or at your destination.

More so, shuttle buses usually stick to a schedule and might only go to certain places on specific days. Not all shuttle services are included in the cost of your stay and some might even charge per person. 

Best Car Rentals in Hawaii

So where can you find a car rental in Hawaii

Our rental car finder tool shows you options from multiple brands, including Dollar, Hertz, Sixt, and Thrifty. You can sort by price and by car type.

Before reserving a rental car, research the market so that you have the best deal. In some cases, bundling your flight and car might save you some money, but that's not always true. 

For the best deal, book as advance as you can and look for multiple-day rental packages.

Should You Rent a Car For Your Next Hawaiian Vacation?

Short answer: yes, you should rent a car during your next vacation in Hawaii. Car rentals in Hawaii allow for flexibility and for more adventure. While you can vacation on a budget, a rental car is not one of the corners you should cut. 

Don't spend your vacation regretting not reserving a rental car. Make your next trip unforgettable. 

Want more travel tips for your Hawaiian vacation? Check out the rest of our site! We have guides to all of the Hawaiian Islands, so we got you covered!

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