Do You Need a Rental Car in Kauai?


Kauai is one of the best Hawaiian islands to visit, as it includes lush forests, stunning beaches, and a true taste of authentic Hawaiian life. However, with all those parks, waterfalls, and beaches, figuring out how you want to get around this island may feel like you’re entering uncharted territory. 

You don’t need a rental car in Kauai, but getting one is highly recommended. Kauai features many natural attractions, and getting from one to the other can be time-consuming if you do not have a rental car. You won’t be able to do or see as much if you do not have a vehicle on this island.

In this article, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about renting a car in Kauai. I’ll let you know all the pros and cons of renting a car and tell you about the availability of ridesharing on the island. I’ll also discuss the other options for transportation and give you some recommendations on how to get around on The Garden Island. 

The Pros and Cons of Getting a Rental Car in Kauai

For most people, getting a rental car is the best option when traveling in Kauai. 

There is one main highway encircling most of Kauai, and it only takes about two hours to make it from one end to the other by car. However, there’s a lot to see on this island, and most people prefer to travel the highway by car to escape the tourist spots and explore the state parks, smaller towns, local shops, and small restaurants. 

However, despite the relaxation and freedom of having a rental car in Kauai, there are some downsides. So, let’s weigh out all the pros and cons together: 

The Pros of Renting a Car in Kauai

  • You will have the freedom to visit any spot you want. 
  • You can set your own itinerary – or choose not to set one at all!
  • You can venture out to find better deals on authentic Hawaiian food. 
  • You can visit natural areas, points of interest, and hiking spots far from your hotel.
  • You can see more things since you won’t have to wait for shuttles or taxis. 
  • Rain won’t stop you from getting where you want to go. 
  • You can bring clothing, cameras, and other essentials without hauling a backpack. 
  • Some other travel services such as shuttles are more expensive than renting a car. 

The Cons of Renting a Car in Kauai

  • Rental cars are in high demand on Kauai, and you’ll need to book early to get a vehicle. 
  • The prices can be steep if you don’t book ahead. 
  • If you plan to drink alcohol, you must arrange alternative transportation. If you’re traveling in a group, you can choose a designated driver, but they won’t be able to drink alcohol with the rest of the people in the group.
  • Having a rental car may be unnecessary if you plan to spend your time at a resort or on tours. 
  • Rental cars aren’t practical if you don’t have much time to see the island. 

How Much Does It Cost To Rent a Car in Kauai?

It usually costs $71 to $140 to rent a car in Kauai, depending on the months you visit. Car rental prices are the highest in July and August and are at their lowest in January.

These numbers represent the averages, but you might find some outliers if you find a great deal or wait too long to book your vehicle. 

In addition, it’s worth noting that car rentals are most expensive when you get them from the airport in Kauai. So, to save money, find a car rental location in town or at a resort. 

Tips for Getting a Rental Car in Kauai

If you want to get the most out of your travels on Kauai, you might want to use some of these tips before you reserve a vehicle: 

  • Book as early as you possibly can. The car rental market in Kauai is booming, thanks to all the benefits I listed above. Cars get snatched up instantly, and prices increase the closer you get to your vacation date. So, one of the first things you should book when staying in Kauai is your rental car if you want to get the lowest prices and most availability. 
  • Choose a vehicle that fits your needs. Although Kauai is well-known for its rugged landscape, you don’t necessarily need an off-road vehicle to get around, even if you plan on visiting one of the State Parks. The highway in Kauai moves slowly, and it’s well maintained, so just go with a car that you will be comfortable in during your stay. 
  • Only book a vehicle for the days you want to drive. If you want to save money on your rental vehicle, consider your itinerary and see if you can limit your driving days. For example, you could skip renting a car on your first day if you plan to relax and check out the hotel and the surrounding beaches. Then, rent a car for the days you want to travel beyond the resort areas and return it when you’re done. 

Can You Get Uber or Lyft Rides on Kauai?

You can get Uber or Lyft rides on Kauai, but the number of drivers on the island is limited. You may have to wait over an hour for a driver, and even then, you aren’t guaranteed a ride.

While Uber and Lyft have drivers on Kauai, there are very few. During my trip, only two drivers were active on either app when I needed a ride, and even then, they were so busy that it was impossible to schedule a pickup. 

If you want a full run-down of the ridesharing situation on this island, you may want to read my article, Is There Uber or Lyft in Kauai?

Alternatives to Renting a Car in Kauai

While I highly recommend renting a vehicle during your stay in Kauai, there are many other ways to get around the island. While they may not be as fast, convenient, or comfortable as a rental vehicle, they are still there if you can’t get a car or don’t want to drive. 

So, let’s explore all of the other transportation options on Kauai: 

  • Kauai Bus. The Kauai Bus is the cheapest way to get around Kauai. They offer routes circling the coast, and you can get to most places (or thereabouts) via the bus. Fares are very inexpensive, and it only costs a dollar per ride or $5 for a day pass. The downside is that you must wait for your ride, and buses travel slowly. So, be prepared to take your time when you opt to take the bus here. 
  • Shuttles. While Kauai has plenty of airport shuttles, shuttles to other locations are scarce and often expensive. Shuttle rides from services like Kauai Island Shuttle can cost from $40 to $150 for 1-4 people, which would have covered the cost of a rental car. However, there are some exceptional services that are free or available for a reasonable price.
  • Bike and Scooter Rentals. There are plenty of bike and scooter rental services available in Kauai. Although you can’t get as far as you would with a bus or rental car when you’re on a bike, renting a bike can be a fun way to get around in the town you are staying in while also packing in some exercise. 

You can read this article (How To Get Around Kauai Without a Car (Complete Guide)) on how to get around Kauai without a car for more information on other modes of transportation on the island.

Conclusion

Renting a car during your stay in Kauai will give you the freedom to explore the island on your own terms, so I highly recommend it. However, you’ll need to book well in advance to get a vehicle since rentals are in high demand on Kauai. 

However, if you don’t plan to stay long or only have a couple of places you want to go, there are plenty of other transportation options. Shuttles range from very pricey to absolutely free, bikes and scooters are available for rent, and the bus is affordable and has a vast range of routes.

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