Kauai Car Rental

Kauai Car Rentals

Navigating Paradise: Important Information About Your Kauai Car Rental


Discount Kauai Car Rental

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Kauai, known as the “Garden Isle,” is a lush and picturesque Hawaiian island that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, adventure and relaxation. To truly explore all that this tropical paradise has to offer, renting a car is truly the best choice. There are really no good alternatives to renting a car on Kauai. The Kauai Bus, for example, has only nine routes and is mostly geared to where local residents need to go. (Plus, as of August 2023, bus service on Sundays has been temporarily suspended due to staffing shortages.) Moreover, ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are spotty at best and can be expensive. Taxis, also, can be expensive for traveling to far flung spots throughout the island. In this article, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of Kauai car rentals, helping you to make informed decisions for an unforgettable Kauai experience.

Why Rent a Car on Kauai?

From Ke’e Beach to the Kalalau Lookout, see everything Kauai has to offer with a Kauai car rental!

Kauai is relatively small, but its diverse activities and attractions are spread out around the island. Renting a car provides you the freedom to explore every corner of the island at your own pace. Whether you want to chase waterfalls, hike through lush tropical jungles or lounge on pristine beaches, having a car ensures you can do it all. Also, having your own vehicle means you can travel comfortably with all your gear, including beach essentials, hiking equipment and food. No need to worry about bus schedules or costly taxi fares – just hop in your car and go.

Current Car Rental Situation

Kauai Car Rental Line

With some travelers pivoting to Kauai from Maui due to the recent tragedy on the island, and Kauai experiencing increased demand due to a general uptick in travel and also its discovery as a premier travel destination thanks to Instagram etc., car rental companies on Kauai are struggling to keep up with demand. A statewide labor shortage is also exacerbating the situation, contributing to longer-than-normal waits at some car rental companies during peak times. As a result, customer service is also often lacking. For some, renting a car on Kauai may be the most frustrating aspect of a Kauai trip. We encourage you to read the rest of this article for tips on how to maximize your Kauai car rental experience and to avoid some of the frustrations.

Choosing the Right Car Rental Company

Kauai boasts more than a few car rental companies, including both major chains and local businesses. In the last several years, local car companies and even private individuals have entered the Kauai car rental market due to demand.

Car Rental Companies at Lihue Airport

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Thrifty

NOTE: The major car rental companies are actually owned by just three companies: Avis includes Budget; Enterprise includes Alamo and National; Hertz includes Dollar and Thrifty.

Best Major Car Rental Companies Ranked

The following three car rental companies owned by Enterprise (Enterprise, National and Alamo) rank significantly higher in customer satisfaction. All three companies have notably better reviews and feedback than other car rental companies on Kauai. The Hertz and Avis companies rank significantly lower in customer wait times and customer service. Though no rental car company is perfect, we recommend selecting Enterprise, Alamo and National for your Kauai car rental.

  1. Enterprise
  2. National
  3. Alamo

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Alternative Car Rental Companies

With some traditional car rental companies on Kauai struggling to meet demand and expectations, the shortcomings have led to the development of more than a few car rental alternatives on Kauai.

Here’s what to consider when selecting the right rental car for your trip:

Price: Prices can vary significantly between companies and vehicle types. Be sure to compare rates and look for any discounts or promotions. Consider using a service such as Kayak, Travelocity or Discount Hawaii Car Rental to aid in your search. If you are a Costco member, check their car rental prices as well.

Vehicle Type: Consider the size of your party and your travel plans. While a compact car may be sufficient for a couple, larger groups or those with an abundance luggage and gear should opt for an SUV.

TIP: Our recommendation is to get a larger vehicle or an SUV for Kauai as you may feel safer while driving on the island. The majority of the driving on Kauai will be on two lane highways, with many cars pulling out in front of you over the course of your trip. While drivers are generally more courteous on Kauai than on the Mainland, a larger car feels safer than a smaller car in our experience driving on the island.

TIP: One of the best ways to experience Kauai is with the top down in a convertible. However, just remember it can rain at a moment’s notice on Kauai so be ready to put the top back up if renting a convertible or soft-top Jeep. Also, never leave the top down if away from the vehicle.

Insurance Coverage: Review the insurance options offered by the rental companies. (Due to a lack of customer service at some companies as mentioned above, it may be a good idea to get extended coverage to avoid any hassles that could arise in the event of an accident.)

Pick-Up/Drop-Off Locations: Check the pick-up and drop-off locations and hours of operation. Most major car rental companies operate out of Lihue Airport. However, a few car rental services are not located at the airport.

Additional Fees: Be aware of any additional fees, such as extra driver fees, fuel policies or late return charges.

Reviews: Check online reviews of car rental companies that you are considering using. Just know that all the major car rental companies will have some negative reviews, but a few, such as Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty (all owned by Hertz), will probably have more negative reviews per our experiences.

Tips for Renting a Car on Kauai

Book in Advance: Kauai is a popular tourist destination, so it’s wise to book your car rental well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.

Kauai Car Rental Photo
Take photos of your vehicle before and after your car rental.

Inspect the Vehicle: Before driving off, thoroughly inspect the rental car for any pre-existing damage, and be sure to document it with photos. Take photos (or a video) of all sides (and also the inside) of the vehicle. Also take photos/videos when turning in your vehicle, including the fuel gauge. Photo proof can be important if a disagreement with the car rental company arises, and can be instrumental if you decide to post a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

GPS or Navigation Apps: While some rental cars on Kauai come equipped with GPS, it’s a good idea to download offline maps or navigation apps to ensure you can find your way around the island, even in areas with limited cell service. (There are some spots on the island that may not have cell service, including in the Waimea Canyon/Kokee State Park area and the far North Shore past Hanalei.)

Respect the Environment: Kauai is known for its natural beauty, so practice responsible tourism by staying on designated roads and respecting local wildlife and ecosystems.

— IMPORTANT NOTE: Most car rental companies prohibit driving car rentals on dirt roads. That prohibition includes the road to Polihale Beach, Loop Road past the Keahua Arboretum and the Mohihi-Camp 10 Road in Kokee State Park that provides access to several hiking trails in the area. (As listed above, the company diff. offers Jeeps that can be used on dirt roads and beaches.)

Fill Up Before Returning (AND SAVE THE RECEIPT): Be sure to fill up the tank before returning the car to avoid refueling charges (unless you prepaid).

— IMPORTANT NOTE: We emphasize “and save the receipt” above because we have received reliable feedback that some car rental companies are unscrupulously charging for a full fill-up after vehicle turn in even if the vehicle was returned with a full tank. The fine print on some car rental contracts reads: “The vehicle must be filled-up within one hour of turn-in and within 10 miles of the car rental return location and a receipt for the fill-up must be produced.”

Kauai Car Rentals
This line at a major car rental company at the Lihue Airport in August 2023 stretched around the building with over an hour wait.

Be Ready to Wait to Get Your Rental Car: A severe worker shortage on Kauai is affecting all industries, including the labor-intensive car rental industry. While in many cases you should be able to get your rental car within 10-20 minutes after arriving at the car rental place, in more than a few cases there have been waits of up to two hours or more due to these staffing shortages. Whether there are not enough people at the front desk, or not enough workers to clean turned-in cars for reuse, such waits are becoming more common. Though we are hoping that you do not experience such delays, we recommend leaving some flexibility on your travel itinerary just in case.

TIP: If you are a member of a car rental company you may be eligible to use a service such as Budget’s Fastbreak that will have your vehicle ready when you arrive. Inquire with your car rental company to see if you are eligible and if that service is available at the Lihue Airport.

Kauai Car Rentals
A shuttle takes visitors from the terminal to the car rental companies which are located at the airport less than five minutes away. There are separate shuttles for each of the companies. The shuttle pavilion is located within easy walking distance across from the terminal.

TIP: The major car rental companies are located at the airport, and a free shuttle ride of less than five minutes will take you to the rental company. The shuttle pavilion is located across the street from the terminal. To save time, have someone in your party wait for the luggage and send someone (the driver) in advance on the shuttle to rent the vehicle. Additionally, sit by the exit on the shuttle so that you can be the first one off the shuttle and the first one in the door to the car rental facility.


Exploring the stunning attributes of Kauai is an adventure of a lifetime, and renting a car is your ticket to experiencing all this island has to offer. Just remember to plan ahead, choose the right car rental company and drive responsibly to make the most of your Kauai getaway.