Renting a car for your visit to Hawaii is now more challenging than ever - not to mention more expensive. Even on the relatively small island of Kauai, this can seem like a fatal obstacle to your vacation dreams. You simply have to have a rental car.

While certainly a smart option, you’d be surprised how many visitors opt to go without one and even more astonished at how action-packed and overall successful those visits can still be. Here is your ultimate guide to having a killer vacation on Kauai without a rental car.

— article continued below —

2024 Hawaii
Visitor Guides

Visiting Hawaii soon?

Grab Your Copy!

~ Detailed maps, insider tips, and more starting at only $9.95! ~

Choose Your Resort Carefully

This may seem an obvious first step, but it is nevertheless very important to mention right out of the gate. The more centralized your resort, the easier it will be to find things to do without having to drive.

Kauai is the least populous and least visited of the four main Hawaiian Islands; it isn’t exactly Manhattan. The term “centralized” has to be stretched a little here. That being said, the most popular area for tourists and the most equipped for short-distance activities is Poipu Beach on the south shore.

If you plan to be car-less, aiming to stay somewhere in or near Poipu Beach is definitely a wise move. It isn’t your only option, however. The North Shore is more widely regarded as the best place to be on the island, even though it is somewhat less popular from a statistical standpoint. There is also the eastern side of the island, which most notably contains the county seat of Lihue (where your plane will land).


Consider Using Alternative Transportation

Believe it or not, there are other ways to get around the island than by car.

You can rent bicycles, including e-bikes. This is a great move for traveling a few miles one way or another, and as even the most casual imagination should instantly reveal, it is also spectacularly good fun. You may even find you can bypass traffic and save time or access certain places that are hard or even impossible to reach by car.

Another option is the bus. The Kauai Bus runs 7 days a week and can take you to almost any place along the island’s south, east, and northern shores. The western side of the island, with its dense forest preserves, canyons, and national parks is not on the bus route - but for any other destination too far to get to without four wheels, this is a workable option that is profoundly more affordable than renting a car.

Lastly, you can rent mopeds. Of course, this won’t work for every group, but if everyone in your group is willing and able (and has a standard driver’s license), it’s some of the best fun you can have on the island while getting from A to B surprisingly fast.

Go To The Beach

Though you may be more limited in terms of exploring up and down the coastline, one thing you’re still very likely to be able to do without any vehicle at all is go to the beach.

In general, Hawaiian resorts tend to be beachfront or within walking distance of the beach. This is especially true on Kauai, where there is essentially one highway running around the coast and upon which sit most of the resorts.

Lounging in the warm sand, dipping your toes in the tropical waters, and soaking up the world-renowned sunshine is almost certainly the most essential activity one seeks when visiting Hawaii. Your lack of a car will do little to obstruct it.

Visit Kauai Culinary Market

Live music. Fresh local produce. Local chefs showcasing their talents. A wine and beer garden! The Kauai Culinary Market is an excellent, centrally located destination that is designed for those on foot. It is open every Wednesday from 3:30 PM to 6 PM and is a great place for visitors of all ages.

In the somewhat likely event you’re staying in Poipu, this should be fairly easy to get to even without a car to take you there.

Book A Tour with Hotel Pickup

This can admittedly be harder to find on Kauai than on more popular islands like Oahu and Maui, but it’s still absolutely worth checking if tours offer hotel pickup. Most are instinctively wary of this feature because of the added bulk to the price tag; but don’t forget how much money you’re saving by not renting a car.

Visiting Kauai without a car won’t be as convenient as visiting with, but it is still quite worth doing and can even present some unique new opportunities to have fun while getting around.

Recommended Hawaii Tours
Terms of Use & Disclosures

By using this website, you agree to our terms and conditions found on our Disclaimer of Warranty and Limitation of Liability page. If you do not agree, please do not use the site. We earn small commissions from some travel partners, which helps us maintain the site. For example, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. These links are at no extra cost to you. Mahalo!