The public transport system on the Big Island is called the “Hele-on bus”. This bus can get you around the whole of the island and using it is cheap. However, the bus schedule is not optmized for sightseeing, and using the bus to get around the island can be time consuming.
On this page we introduce the following topics, and give you resources for further research:
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- The bus price and schedule
- Taking the bus from the airports
- The (dis)advantages of taking the bus
- The shared ride (taxi) program
If the bus and shared rides seem like to much of a hassle to you, have a look at our car-rental-tips for the Big Island
How much does the Hele-On bus cost?
Currently riding the Hele-on bus is free (last checked: 2023 from source). This is part of an experiment that may end in 2023/2024, in which case the price probably reverts to the previous $2/ride.
If you are taking a big backpack or a suitcase onto the bus that does not fit under your seat you might be charged for another seat by the driver. You can also take a bicycle on the bus (actually, you put it on a rack in front of the bus), but this will also cost you an additional $2.00.
Buy your tickets online
It has recently become possible to buy tickets for the Hele-On using a mobile app. To do so, download the Token Transit app and search for Hele-On.
Hele-on bus schedule + trip planner
The schedules of the bus system on the Big Island are not ideal for tourism. Rather they are made to make commuting to and from work for locals possible. This means that most routes are only served early in the day and after work. You can check the schedules and maps of the hele-on-bus here.
You can also use the mooveit app to plan your trip with the Hele-On bus. You can try out the trip planner here.
Hawaii Bus Plus, the app for Hele-On Bus
While there is no official app for the Hele-on bus, one of our local university students designed an app that works like most public transport apps you are used to. This means e.g. that you are able to find the bus routes nearest to your location and see when the bus will arrive. It also supports directions (navigate from point A to B, even across multiple bus routes) and shows the location of HIBIKE Bikeshare locations.
The app is available as part of a monthly subscription that costs less than a one-way trip on the bus, find out more on the Hawaii Bus Plus website.
With the bus to Hilo and Kona from the Airport
It is possible to take the bus from the Hilo airport and the Kona airport. However, the bus has a few scheduled stops at the airports and we recommend you plan well ahead if you choose to take the bus from (and to) the airport.
You can find up-to-date information on the hele-on bus airport service on the hele-on website.
When to choose the Hele-on bus
the largest advantage of taking the bus is the price. The disadvantages are the limited range which is restricted to the more populated places, and the limited schedule.
Taking a trip with the hele-on bus is sure to introduce you to a whole bunch of colorful local residents, and will add local flavor to your trip that few other tourists will taste.
Summarizing, if you are in no hurry or have little money to spare the hele-on bus is a viable option for your transport. Be prepared though to walk (quite a bit) to and from bus stations, and pack something warm!
Shared ride taxi program in Hilo
In the Hilo 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, which is pretty restrictive if you have tourism on your mind.
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 Hawaiʻi county for more information.
No shared ride taxi service is available in Kona at the moment. When in need of such transport, please use the normal (more expensive) taxi services in Kona and surroundings.