Once you decide which island to visit, the next step is deciding where to stay. After that, most people start to think about what they will do and how they will get there, bringing up the logistics of transportation.
Do I need a car? Can I take the bus? Is a bike a reasonable option? How should I get from the airport to my hotel? These are all commonly asked questions, but since every traveler’s situation is different, the answer is never the same.
Whether or not it’s “worth it” for you to rent a car, or whether you can consider alternative forms of transportation, like the bus or a bike, depends on your specific circumstances and a variety of factors. This article will help you weigh your options and make the best decision.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Is a rental car needed on Kauaʻi?
- Is there public transportation on Kauai?
- What other transport options are there on Kauaʻi?
- North Shore Shuttle and Parking Information
- Līhuʻe Airport shuttle options
- More resources for getting around Kauai
Below is a rundown of all the transportation options on Kauaʻi for you to consider, including rental cars, shuttles, public transportation, and helpful tips and resources.
Is a Rental Car Needed on Kauaʻi?
The biggest question most visitors wrestle with is whether or not to rent a car when visiting Kauaʻi. Rental cars aren’t cheap, and many find themselves wondering how much they will actually use it, especially if the beach is in walking distance.
If you find yourself wondering if you need a rental car for your trip to Kauaʻi, here are some tips and things to consider:
Tips for renting a car on Kauaʻi:
- Be honest about your day-to-day plans. Each visitor’s need for a car varies. If you see yourself exploring the different towns and destinations, beach hopping, or hiking Kauaʻi’s many trails, then a rental car is necessary to see and do everything efficiently. However, if you see yourself beach bumming it in Poʻipū most days, then you may find you can access everything you need via walking or ride share.
- It’s not necessarily all or nothing. Those left thinking that they may adventure some days and hang around the beach/hotel on others should recognize that renting a car doesn’t have to be all or nothing; that is, you can simply rent a car on the days you need it (as opposed to the entire length of your stay). This will save you money and prevent you from feeling guilty if your rental car just sits there.
- Book your rental car online. It’s always nice to interact with a human, but in this case, maybe not. Most rental car companies offer the best rates online. If you call and ask for a rate, some companies will take the opportunity to upsell you. If you are going to call, always check online to see what the rates are beforehand.
- Take a look at third-party sites. Third-party vendors like Discount Hawai‘i Car Rental and Expedia can help aggregate the many car-rental options and help you find the lowest rates.
- Make use of free cancellation policies. If you see a free cancellation policy, take advantage! This gives you the freedom to book the car but not pay until you pick it up, offering full flexibility.
- Don’t forget about parking costs. If your hotel charges for parking, that will be an added cost to your car rental.
Is there public transportation on Kauaʻi?
Kauaʻi Bus (Public transport)
Kauaʻi has a public bus that can get you between the major destinations on the island. Considering the island only has one main road, Kauaʻi is particularly easy to navigate via public transportation, and it is a very affordable way to get around. However, there are drawbacks to using the bus. Here’s everything you need to know:
- The Kauaʻi Bus is cheap. An all-day bus pass on Kauaʻi costs $5.00, or $2.00 per ride.
- The schedule and routes are all available online. You can check them out here.
- The bus is for “no rush” travelers. As with most bus systems, the Kauaʻi Bus makes many stops, increasing the travel time between destinations and reducing your freedom to explore areas not on the route. For example, taking the bus from Līhuʻe to Hanalei will be about an hour and a half, whereas it would be less than an hour in a car. If you’re not in a rush, though, it can be very economical.
- The bus is useful in and around Poʻipū/Kōloa. If you are staying in Poʻipū/Kōloa and just looking to bounce around town, the Kauaʻi Bus is a great option with its in-town route.
What other transportation options are there on Kauaʻi?
Here are other ways to get around on Kauaʻi.
Taxis and rideshare apps, like Uber and Lyft, are available on Kauaʻi.
Generally, taxis are more expensive. This should surprise no one. Unless you are desperate and can’t get a ride otherwise (or have an unlimited budget), there’s no reason to choose a taxi.
Uber and Lyft are good bets. These companies will offer you the best price, and have reasonable availability in the hub towns, like Hanalei, Kapaʻa, Līhuʻe, and Poʻipū.
If you’re wanting something to cruise around town or go to and from the beach, a bike rental can be an affordable and fun option. Many of Kauaʻi’s hubs, like Kapaʻa and Poʻipū, are perfect for biking (the former has a multi-mile beach path!).
Almost all of the beach towns offer bike rentals, including beach cruisers, multi-speed commuters, and electronic bikes. Rentals are either hourly, daily, or weekly. There are many bike rental places to consider, so we recommend calling around for the best rates, which fluctuate based on the time of year and demand. Kauaʻi Beach Bike Rentals, for example, rents beach cruisers for $15 for two hours or $120 a week.
Scooters and mopeds are an option on Kauaʻi, with the main difference being that mopeds typically require a motorcycle license while scooters (30mph max speed) only require a driver’s license. They are fun to drive, and very convenient when it comes to finding a parking space. They aren’t cheap, however: You can expect prices for scooters to be around $100 a day. Discounts are available for longer (weekly) rentals. A scooter rental at Kauaʻi Mopeds, for example, costs $110 for a day, or $455 for a week. As there are many scooter rental places, we recommend hunting around for the best deal.
North Shore Shuttle and Parking Information
In response to growing traffic issues on the north shore of Kauaʻi – that is, the area between Hanalei town and Hāʻena State Park – Kauaʻi launched a north shore shuttle system and a wave of new parking restrictions in the summer of 2019. Here’s what you need to know:
- The shuttle runs between Hanalei town and Hāʻena State Park, with stops in between. There are several pickup times per day at the Waipa park and ride, and several stops between Hanalei and Hāʻena State Park. You can view the route map here.
- Reservations are required in advance, and no refunds are given. You can reserve your spot up to 30 days in advance via the shuttle’s website, gohaena.com. The cost is $35 for adults (16+), $25 for ages 4-15, and kids under three are free. A shuttle ticket is roundtrip and includes entrance to Hāʻena State Park.
- Self-driving/parking also requires reservations. If you don’t want to take the shuttle, you can still drive along the north shore. However, public parking has been drastically reduced, with only about 100 spots available per day at Hāʻena State Park. Parking along the road/shoulder is no longer allowed and is now strictly enforced. Those wanting to drive can reserve a parking spot here; they are highly competitive and often sell out immediately. The parking spots are also limited to certain time segments, with a morning, afternoon, and evening slot. Each slot costs $10. You can read more information about parking on the north shore here.
Confused? So where we! See our explainer article on the how and why of the North shore shuttle here.
Airport shuttles (to and from Līhuʻe airport)
Taxis and ride share options from the airport are the most direct options for those without a rental car, but they can often be expensive. Don’t forget that there are shared airport shuttles on Kauaʻi that can get you from the airport to your hotel for a reasonable price. We recommend the following two companies:
- Robert’s Hawaiʻi offers shared roundtrip shuttle service between the airport and your hotel. One way rates for a shared shuttle start at $20 for hotels in Līhuʻe and Kapaʻa, $46 for Poʻipū, and $71 for Hanalei and Princeville. You can read more about pricing here.
- Speedi Shuttle offers a similar but slightly cheaper deal, with one-way rates starting at $14 for hotels in Līhuʻe and Kapaʻa, $27 for Poʻipū, and $48 for Hanalei and Princeville.
Getting Around Kauaʻi Website
Looking for more tips of the trade? We recommend browsing the Getting Around Kauaʻi website for more information about transportation options on Kauaʻi, including walking guides for different areas of the island.