Visiting the Big Island Without a Car

Recently, friends of mine visited the Big Island of Hawaii. Naturally, I tried to help them plan their vacation - I offered tips on where to go, what hotel to stay at, and overall tried to steer them towards the website for all of their vacation planning needs.

Unfortunately, I must have forgotten to mention that they would need a rental car (but, who goes on vacation without renting a car?)… Well, these friends arrived at Kona Keahole Airport without any plans for a car and then simply took a (very expensive) taxi to their hotel in Kailua-Kona town and began their vacation. Later on I did find out why they did this — although they had never been to the Big Island, they had previously visited Oahu many times and were impressed with the robust public transportation system that exists there (namely the public bus) — they thought the Big Island 1.) was smaller with attractions closer together and 2.) there was good public transportation. Wrong on both counts.

So, for the first several days all they did was venture a short walking distance from the Royal Kona Resort hotel on Alii Drive — never even making it to the Kohala area beaches or Kahaluu Beach Park, or Captain Cook or South Kona — because they did not have a vehicle. They remarked to me later, “There are no beaches on the Big Island!” - and I thought to myself, what a strange thing to say (until I realized they never even made it to the beach!) Eventually, for the last few days of their trip, they rented a car and drove to the Volcanoes National Park, Hilo, and then up the Hamakua Coast and back up over to Kona - probably the best part of their trip.

So, the moral of the story is - RENT A CAR on the Big Island. There is so much more to do and see and everything is so spread out compared to the other (smaller) islands. Rent a car (and pack some comfortable walking shoes) and you will be able to access all of the islands splendid attractions.

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  1. Dr. Donald B. MacGowan says:

    Um…not to put too fine a point on it, but there IS public transportation o the Big Island, it’s fairly robust considering how rural Hawaii Island is…and the best part is, it’s FREE.

    Go to: for schedules and information (did I mention it’s free?).

    I cannot imagine anyone not grasping that The Big Island is bigger than Oahu (which seems obvious to even the most causal observer…HINT: BIG Island) but rather than pointing out the need for a car, it points out the need for at least a LITTLE pre-trip planning-why spend all the money to GET there and to STAY there and then not avail yourself of all the things that ARE there?

  2. says:


    You would be surprised how many people do not fully grasp the full size and scope of the “Big” Island. As far as the bus goes, the Hele On does offer limited routes in some areas, but by far does not compare to the fully developed public trans system on Oahu.

    Bottom Line: rent a car and discover the Big Island.

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