The island of Hawaii has gotten its nickname for a reason: the Big Island is almost twice as big as all other Hawaiian Islands combined. If you want to be in control of your own transport and are short on time, there is only one viable option to navigate around the Big Island: renting a car. If you have plenty of time and want to avoid (renting) a car, you can also use the public bus service.
An alternative to using a rental car or the bus is to fly into the Kona airport (KOA) or Hilo airport (ITO) and use taxi’s, the ride share taxi program or rent a bike to get around town. Using a taxi for getting around the Island is very expensive but guided tours are a cheaper alternative. However this will take away a great deal of flexibility from your schedule and result in a less action-packed vacation that would be possible with your own (motorized) transport.
Free Public Transport
The cheapest but most time consuming way to get around the Big Island is the public bus (Hele-on-Bus). It will get you almost everywhere where you want to be, but transit times are long and infrequent. The Hele-on bus is meant to accommodate workers on the Big Island without a car to get to and from work, and consequently most of the bus departure times are early in the morning and late in the afternoon. More information and Hele-On bus schedules
Shared ride taxi program
In the Hilo and Kona area it is possible to use a flexible shared ride taxi program for as little as $2 per ride. Note that Travel is limited to 9 miles with the shared taxi ride program.
Taxi coupons have to be ordered ahead by mail in quantities of 5 or 15 coupons, and a copy of your ID is required. See the shared taxi ride information page of Hawai’i county for more information.
Rent a car
Renting a car is a good investment to make if you want to get the most out of your time on Hawaii, and the Big Island especially. Public transport here (see above) is not as efficient as on O’ahu, and some of the best Big Island attractions are far away and difficult to get to without your own transport.
In addition, most rental car agencies forbid taking their cars to some places (such as the summit of Mauna Kea for stargazing or to Green Sand Beach). Check out our Rent-a-Car guide for the best deals and good tips on choosing the rental car that fits your expectations.