For visitors to Kauai, a rental car is the best way to see the beautiful island, from Waimea Canyon on one end to Ke’e Beach on the other end and everything in between. There are so many things to see and do on Kauai and they are spread out over the entire island.
A main highway connects most of the island. From the airport, a trip on the main road heads either towards Poipu, Hanapepe, and Waimea, or north towards Kapaa, Princeville, Hanalei, and beyond.
Renting a vehicle on Kauai is easy and most all rentals take place at the Lihue Airport. When you step out of the baggage claim area in the airport you will see the shuttles to the various rental companies which are actually right around the corner.
It’s recommended that you make your car rental reservation before your trip to Kauai, as there have been reported shortages during peak seasons. Rental car companies at the Lihue Airport include Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, Payless, and Thrifty car rentals.
There are several options to save money on your Kauai car rental. Discount Hawaii Car Rental is a popular option that we always use, and they really do save you money. We have rented everything from Jeeps, Mini-Vans, and midsize SUVs with all the major car rental companies and Discount Hawaii Car Rental has always gotten us the best price with them. Read our Discount Hawaii Car Rental review to learn more.
Travel booking sites such as Kayak can search hundreds of travel sites at once to find the best car rental deals. Costco members can often find nice rental car deals at the major car rental companies. Rent-A-Wreck Kauai is another option, but you get what you pay for.
Turo is a relatively new service, sort of like Airbnb, where you rent cars from locals. One of the drawbacks of Turo is that you may not have the extensive support provided by traditional car rental companies in the event of a vehicle breakdown. Plus, the car rental prices at Turo don’t seem to be much cheaper than the regular car rental companies.
Popular car rentals on Kauai include Jeeps and convertibles. Be sure to note your license plate as it’s common to get back to a parking lot and find several identical vehicles (all rentals like yours). We recommend Jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles. We’ve seen more than a few small cars mightily struggling in muddy parking lots at trailheads and beaches.
Please note that driving on Kauai is a little different than driving in the states and elsewhere. Kauai drivers are generally very courteous, reflecting the island’s relaxed lifestyle. With that said, it’s easy to speed in outlying areas on the main highway. Watch for vehicles pulling onto the main highway as this has been a source of a number of Kauai traffic accidents.
Also note that rental car companies generally have a “no off road” clause in the fine print. If you find yourself stuck on a dirt road, for example the dirt road to Polihale Beach, you will want to call a wrecker instead of the rental company.
The entire island of Kauai is an attraction and the best way to experience it is with the top pulled down or the windows rolled down. But beware with a convertible. Showers can pop up at a moment’s notice anywhere on Kauai. We’ve seen more than a few tourists caught in a rain shower furiously trying to put the top back on the vehicle in driving rain.
One option we don’t recommend is Hertz.
This is the one rental car company in Lihue we do not recommend. We reserved a Toyota 4Runner (or similar vehicle) from Hertz for extended family visiting the island. We received a crossover Dodge Journey (compact SUV) instead.
We addressed the issue with Hertz Lihue representatives at the time of pickup and were told the Journey was similar and in the same class as the 4Runner and they could not help us further. A Dodge Journey is described by Dodge as a crossover compact SUV starting at around $21000. A Toyota 4Runner is a full-size SUV starting at around $34,000.