Big Island Hawaii has substantially more open roads than the more densely populated and smaller Oahu, where the state capital Honolulu is found, and this might suggest that Hilo is the sort of place where a rental car is automatically going to be the best option.
We think this is certainly the case if you are flying into Kona on the western side of the island, where most of the major Big Island Hawaii resorts are located. In the case of Hilo, it is still possible to travel around to various different locations using the local bus services, and these include buses which will drop you off at the Volcanoes National Park and allow for a day’s walking before returning to Hilo later on in the afternoon. However, you will still be at the mercy of these local bus schedules, and for travelling further around the island, you might well have to make several changes, as the buses tend to operate around various different sectors of the island, rather than making complete loops.
Having said this, there are still only a limited number of driving roads even on Hawaii Island, so if you get a rental car for the entire length of your stay, it might well be unused for most of it. As with anywhere, whether this is a problem or not is going to depend on the daily car hire rate you are paying, and whether that also includes other extras.
- For a bit of flexiblity – Hilo may be one place where you don’t strictly nered to rent a car, but it’s still useful, especially for a small group.
- At least parking at your hotel is unlikely to be a problem, but if you are travelling reasonably light anyway, it might be worth looking at just getting a car for one or two days, and then using local buses and taxis for the other days. Naturally, it goes without saying that a lot of activities in Hawaii are based around the coastline, and if you have direct access to a beach from where you are staying, a hire car becomes even less useful.
- Unllike other islands in Hawaii, you can get around Big Island by bus, but only if you start your trip in Hilo, rather than Kona.
Do you need a car in Hilo? Verdict – no