Hawaii - Hotel, car rental and inter-island flight advice
May 31, 2005 1:13 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are leaving from Ottawa to Honolulu in 10 days for 10 days. Should we book the hotels, car rentals and inter-island flights in advance or can we get away with doing it when we get there?

We kind of just want to play it by ear and not end up paying through the nose for things. Neither of us have been there and we want the flexibility of being able to go where we choose instead of rigidly planning our trip.

How free-spirited can we be? Will we have trouble getting inter-island flights/car rentals/hotels when we get there or should we book before we leave? Also, should we get medical/travel insurance?
posted by KathyK to Travel & Transportation around Honolulu, HI (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I was able to get a rental car last summer with no trouble at all. We walked down the street from the hotel and went into a small rental place and got a jeep-like car for 7 days for a much lower price than what Avis/Budget were offering.
I am very glad I'd booked the hotel room in advance though. Ours was full (we tried to change rooms and couldnt), and I wouldnt have wanted to be stuck without.
posted by darsh at 1:49 PM on May 31, 2005

darsh has got it--the last thing you want to do when you land is have to figure out a hotel to stay at. Line something up for at least the first couple of nights, and then you can wing it more from there, like other islands, etc. Everything else, you can pretty much arrange when you get there (even inter-island flights).

The only hitch in renting a car is where you're going to be staying. If you're staying in Waikiki, then no problem at all--there'll be a ton of places within walking distance. If you're staying someplace more remote, or more suburban, then you've at least got to take a bus into Waikiki.

(Before you commit to a car for 10 whole days, though, consider moped rental, too. You'll want a car to do longer-range exploring, like the North Shore, but you could almost certainly make do for a stretch of a few days with just a moped or a bike rental.)

Finally, if you're inclined to camp out, that's a great way to explore Hawaii on the cheap. My wife and I both used to live there, but when we went back on our honeymoon, we just took tents, sleeping bags and a rental car, and camped around the Big Island. Some of the campsites require reservations, but others are available on a daily basis.
posted by LairBob at 1:58 PM on May 31, 2005

If you are the cycling-types, buy a couple bikes when you get there and donate them to a charity when you leave.
posted by mischief at 2:05 PM on May 31, 2005

On our honeymoon two years ago, we did rental cars and accomodations ahead of time but did flights while we were there. That worked out pretty well for us although we did spend a bit more time in the airports than we really wanted. While you are there, if you can call day or two before to get inter-island flights that would certainly help matters. Nothing is worse than getting to the airport and finding out that you have to wait 3 hours to catch a flight. Rental car places were pretty plentiful on the Big Island, Oahu, and Kauai. I however heard that you can run into problems if you don't book in advance and say show up on the Big Island during the Ironman.

One other thing to note on the Big Island and rental cars: If you want to be a stickler to your rental agreement from one of the big companies, parts of the island will be off limits to you: South Pointe, the Saddle Road (which includes the Observatories on top of the Volcanos) and the road down to the gorgeous Wai'po Valley (which is a staggering 25% descent).
posted by mmascolino at 2:26 PM on May 31, 2005

I went to Hawai'i a couple years ago. I booked my first hotel (I went Island hopping) and my first car rental before I got there. Once there I did all my itinerary planning from the islands. Before hopping from Maui to Kauai I talked to the hotel manager and she set me up with Kamaaina (locals get discounts, sometimes steep ones, for vacationing on other islands) rates for my hotel and car rental. I did the same thing travelling from Kauai to Hawai'i as well.

I only stayed at small locally owned establishments though, so your mileage may vary.
posted by substrate at 2:58 PM on May 31, 2005

Best answer: Regardless of when you rent, I highly recommend a convertable. They cost a little bit more, but given the fact that this is a special (and presumably rare) trip, it'll be worth it.
posted by alms at 3:28 PM on May 31, 2005

One other thing to note on the Big Island and rental cars: If you want to be a stickler to your rental agreement from one of the big companies, parts of the island will be off limits to you: South Pointe, the Saddle Road (which includes the Observatories on top of the Volcanos) and the road down to the gorgeous Wai'po Valley (which is a staggering 25% descent).

Not sure why the South Point would be off-limits — I rented with Alamo recently, and the only clause in the rental agreement regarding roads you can drive on is "Surfaced roads only." The road down to the South Point is pretty crappily paved, but it *is* paved.

As for doing the Summit Road... Um. Yeah. You *can* make it up there without four-wheel drive, driving a rented Chevy Cavalier and barely maintaining traction at times. Purely hypothetically, of course.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:07 PM on May 31, 2005

I don't visit here, I just live here, but IMHO, make arrangements ahead of time. Rental agencies have been known to run out of cars. (Well, good cars.) And especially when it comes to interisland flights, the shorter the notice, the higher the price.

Sadly, the days of spontaneous, $80 island hopping trips (which I used to do when I was in college) are long gone. The difference between buying a ticket to the neighbor islands a month in advance versus a day in advance can be easily 100 percent. And it's a pity, because now, you could pay $200 for a 40 minute flight, after wasting twice that long in the airports at either end.

BTW, I know a lot of folks rent cars on the Big Island with a smirk and hit Saddle Road anyway. But if you run off said road (which is only 'paved' under the most generous definition of the road -- you have to drive down the center of it, basically, blind curves and hills and all) and end up totalling your nice Grand Cherokee, prepare to be royally screwed.

Oh! And if you need any local help while out here, drop me a line.
posted by pzarquon at 5:25 PM on May 31, 2005

Expedia.ca saved me a bunch of bucks when I planned for a trip a couple of months ago from Vancouver to NYC. I have no financial interest of any kind in the company, but I was enchanted by the little extras that they threw in when I booked my flight and hotel with them. My shuttle from the airport to the hotel (and back) was included at no extra charge, there were deep discounts on activities that I wanted to do and had planned for ahead of time. Easy to use, and saved me lots of canuckbucks.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:39 PM on May 31, 2005

Johnny Assay: I was renting with National and that was in the clause. I definitely agree with you that it wasn't a big deal as long as you drove slowly to South Pointe but the road was very crappy.

Not a whole lot to see there but since you will probably be driving by if you want to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which I recommend, then it is a minor detour. Breathtakingly steep cliffs, wind swept land and some super creepy nopise made by windmills.
posted by mmascolino at 7:05 PM on May 31, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your help! We are now looking to book two nights in Honolulu near Waikiki when we first get there and will look for a convertible or jeep-like rental on both islands.

Thanks for the offer, Ryan, I will probably contact you with some further questions. Thanks again!
posted by KathyK at 10:29 AM on June 1, 2005

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