Car Rental

Renting a car is a necessity on the Big Island. There are nearly 500 miles of sealed roads on this island, and plenty of high-profile attractions scattered across an area bigger than that of all the other Hawaiian islands combined.

Car rental Big Island Hawaii is available on both sides of the island, but most of the locally owned agencies are located around Kailua-Kona. These include standard car rental agencies, but the list goes on to include specialty firms that rent out RVs, camper vans, motorcycles and luxury cars.

One important consideration is the need for a 4WD vehicle. Only a few agencies offer these, so the price is comparatively high, but having a 4WD vehicle opens up some high-profile corners of the island that are otherwise unavailable to standard vehicles. These include the summit of Mauna Kea and the remote beaches of Waipio Valley or Green Sands Beach. Dozens of other “secret” beaches on the Big Island are only accessible with 4WD.

Standard rentals are highly affordable due to thick competition, but there are a few caveats. When scanning your Big Island map, you’ll notice a convenient shortcut between Kailua-Kona and Hilo and passing between the peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. This is the “Saddle Road”, and driving on it is a breach of contract for most rental agencies. This route doesn’t actually save drivers any time, and it’s only worth driving on if you’re heading up Mauna Kea.

Finally, gas prices are high across the Big Island but especially on the Kona side. On this side of the island, the only real discounts are at the Costco (members only) near Kona Airport.

These are the most prominent car-rental depots on the Big Island:

Airport pick-ups

  • Hilo International Airport has rental desks for Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National and Thrifty. 
  • Kona International Airport has the same roster of rental companies with the addition of Enterprise. However, Enterprise only has a desk in the airport while the cars are located in Kailua-Kona town.

Kona depots

  • Harper Car and Truck Rentals is the only place on the island with an extensive selection of 4WD vehicles. The company also has one of the only rental agreements that allows customers to drive on the Saddle Road.
  • Big Island Exotic Car Rentals is the best premium rental agency. They offer Maseratis, Mercedes, Jaguars, Lamborghinis and Porches.
  • Hawaii Harley Rental offers genuine Harleys for touring the Big Islands Belt Highway.
  • Island RV coordinates group camping trips and also rents out RVs for private use in the beaches and parks of the Big Island. Tel: (808) 334-0464
  • Affordable Rent-A-Car is a small family owned operation in Kailua-Kona that also offers street-legal scooters for use in town. Tel: (808) 329-7766

Hilo depots

  • Happy Campers Hawaii offers (mostly VW) pop-up camper vans. They’ll drop off and pick up vans for free anywhere in the Hilo area.

Lloyds’ Auto                   is a small company on Holomua Street in Hilo.

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