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North America > United States > Hilo

See: Why rent a car in Hilo ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Hilo?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Hilo?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Hilo car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Hilo with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Hilo? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Hilo, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Please note that is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Hilo is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Hilo? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Hilo between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 8/10

Non car score:2/10

Balance: 7

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -


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.

Why? Visiting Hilo using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Hilo ?

  • 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.

Why not? Visiting Hilo without a car

Why don't you need a car in Hilo ?

  • Unllike most other islands in Hawaii, you can get around Big Island by bus, but only if you start your trip, and base yourself, in Hilo, rather than Kona.

Ratings: How does Hilo compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Hilo? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Hilo, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Hilo? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Hilo (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Hilo? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Hilo airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Hilo car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 6

2019 - 7

2021 - 7

Average score - 7




Do you or don't you need a car in Hilo ?

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