Almost everyone who comes to Hawaii rents a car. It's the easiest way to get around the islands, especially if you're staying anywhere but Waikiki. All the big companies - Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty - rent cars on all the major Hawaiian Islands.
You Probably Don't Need That Extra Insurance
The cost of renting a car in Hawaii is pretty reasonable compared to most vacation areas in rest of the United States. I cringe, however, when I hear the person ahead of me electing to take out the collision waiver and/or liability insurance.
If you own a car chances are pretty good that your own automobile insurance will cover your rental car in Hawaii. Check with your auto insurance company. Why pay $15 a day for 14 days for a collision deductible waiver when your own policy only has a $500 deductible?
Many credit card companies also provide insurance for car rentals while on vacation. Be sure to bring your insurance ID card if you decline the rental-car company's optional insurance.
Join a Frequent Renter Program and Save Time
If you don't belong to one of the main rental car company frequent rental programs, my advice is to join one well in advance of your Hawaii trip.
I'm a member of Budget's Fastbreak program which with its RapidRez provision enables me to keep my preferences on file which allows me to reserve a car online in a matter of seconds. Then, when I get to Hawaii, I don't have to wait in line for my car like the dozens of others folks who arrive on the same flight. I go to a special agent and am usually in and out of the car rental location within 10 minutes.
Be sure to take a copy of the free local maps that each car rental company makes available to visitors. The maps are excellent and will help you find your way around the islands.
Staying in Waikiki? You May Not Need a Car
If you're staying in Waikiki and plan to spend most of your time in Waikiki or downtown Honolulu, you may not need a rental car for your entire stay. Most places in Waikiki are within easy walking distance. TheBus, O'ahu's public transportation system is great and cheap. It's no problem to catch a bus downtown.
If you want to visit the North Shore or somewhere else on the island, there are numerous rental car agencies right in Waikiki where you can rent a car for a day or two.
A Word of Caution
A word of caution - do not leave valuables in your car. While violent crime is low in Hawaii, the theft rate is high. Parked cars are easy targets for thieves especially at beach parks and even such high traffic areas as the parking lot at the USS Arizona Memorial.
Don't think that things are safe just because they're locked in the trunk either. Locals know how to identify rental cars. It's pretty easy to do, but for security reasons I won't tell you the secret.
A Courtesy Tip
A courtesy tip - use your horn only in an emergency. Honking your horn for any other reason is considered the height of rudeness in Hawaii. It's a sure way to show folks that you're not from the islands. Pedestrians have the right of way, so be patient and be polite. You may want to check out our feature on Things Not to Do in Hawaii.
More Articles in this Series
Part 3 - Cheap Eats in Hawaii
Part 8 - Free in Hawaii