Car rental in Maui?
March 30, 2016 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I've just booked a trip for three to Maui. We're staying near the Kaanapali Beach, but would like to explore the forests and volcanoes and all the groovy nature stuff. Should I rent a small car to get around, or is there fairly reliable public transport? Renting a car isn't that expensive, but hotel does have parking fees, and I'm not sure how hard it is to find parking around the island.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet to Travel & Transportation around Maui, HI (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been there once. I rented a car, and I can't really imagine not doing so.
posted by larrybob at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Parking was no problem. I rented an Outback, which was great for driving up the volcano in the rain.
posted by w0mbat at 11:39 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Parking is generally pretty easy. I don't think there's very good public transit on Maui, so you probably want to rent a car.
posted by cruelfood at 11:41 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Definitely definitely rent a car. We never had any problems with parking at all. However, if you're nervous drivers, do your research about the roads you're planning to use -- the Hana Highway is gorgeous but it is also TERRIFYING to drive on in places. (I was there for about a week in 2007, and we did a lot of nature stuff.)

I'd also recommend getting a trail/hiking guide of some kind, there are a lot of trails that are difficult to spot from the road unless you know where to look, but extremely rewarding to hike along.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:41 AM on March 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

You definitely need to rent a car. Parking isn't a problem in most places. One tip: If you visit downtown Lahaina, park at The Outlets of Maui, then buy some stuff at the ABC Store next to the parking lot entrance and ask them to validate your parking. ABC Stores are like convenience stores that also sell souvenirs, so you'll definitely find something you want. (I was in Kaanapali just a few weeks ago, so feel free to MeFiMail me if you have any other questions.)
posted by neushoorn at 11:50 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm a really twitchy driver, but my husband is a stoic. I, for example, cannot even open my eyes on that one California highway with the cliffs and the drop off and the panic and tears. Thanks for the heads up on checking roads.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:50 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, you must rent a car IMHO. I think most of the major hotels have car rental desks right in them, so if you're only planning to need a car for a small part of your trip, it may make sense to just rent one for the day there. But FWIW we always rent a car for our entire visit to Maui, and we're always glad to ahve the freedom to come and go whenever we want.
posted by primethyme at 11:57 AM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you are a really twitchy driver do not try to drive the road to Hana, it will make you cry. You will be fine in Haleakala though which has fewer scary drop offs.
Good advice above.
Hikes are pretty easy to locate via Yelp, surprisingly. People often put photos and describe where the trailheads are located.
posted by zdravo at 12:09 PM on March 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Some car rental agencies won't let you take their cars on the full Hana Highway, and they'll give you a map of the "forbidden" sections. My group drove them anyway and they were terrifying (and I was the passenger!).

It's a beautiful drive, but you might want to come to an agreement with your husband that you can turn around at any point during the drive.
posted by homodachi at 12:28 PM on March 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

The other thing about the road to Hana is that it is really long: I think it took 4-5 hrs to get to the end. It's very twisty and you can't go (and really shouldn't) go fast; there are also bridges that only allow 1 car at a time. We spent the night in Hana then drove the rest of the way around the next day (up to Haleakala). You could do the whole thing but it would be a long day!

But yes, even if you don't want to go to Hana it is worth renting a car.
posted by maryrussell at 12:55 PM on March 30, 2016

Seconding do not do the road to Hana if you are at all squeamish or prone to motion sickness. One of my sons married a local girl from Maui, the wedding was there and we stayed at the Kaanapali Beach hotel which was lovely, and my new daughter in law knew all the local places to go including a beautiful nature reserve and lavender farm high in the hills. Two other sons and a girlfriend did the drive to Hana, they are fearless and not prone to motion sickness. Husband and I stayed at the beach that day. We knew what to expect and that I could not do it. One son also did a bike ride that started at dawn down a volcano and enjoyed that a lot, but he is an experienced biker.
posted by mermayd at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maui has a public bus system, but it's mostly used for shopping within one area or for commuters (like from upcountry on the volcano down to Kahului.) It has luggage restrictions (one suitcase OR bag per passenger, IIRC). It's slow, and if you take it from the airport in Kahului you will have to walk all the way out of the airport area first. Honestly, if you were to just go to your hotel and stay there and go nowhere else, it might be worth it (or get an Uber/taxi for your journey there and back) but other than that you will want to rent a car. I don't think you want to spend your Maui vacation waiting for the bus. There are tour operators that will take you to Hana and up the volcano, but that means you're on their schedule, their stops, and you're enjoying Maui with lots of other people. Also you probably won't save any money, either.

If you plan on doing any grocery shopping, do it in Kahului as the area you're in is even more expensive- another reason to rent a car.

I strongly suggest a copy of Maui Revealed to get a good idea of hikes, the Hana highway, where/what to eat if you're on a budget, and suggestions for activities (i.e. which boats are great for snorkeling and which are ripoffs, which beaches are great, etc.). They don't have all the restaurants or hotels, but they have a pretty good sampling.

If you do get to Hana, this is my favorite hike on the whole island. You get a bamboo forest, waterfalls, and some great views in about 2 hours with not much elevation gain.

Planning to do the Haleakala sunrise? Bring WARM CLOTHING. It's quite cold, and even in the middle of the day it can get quite nippy up there - it's almost 2 miles above sea level.
posted by barchan at 3:05 PM on March 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm kind of surprised by people saying the Hana highway is difficult. Tedious and winding, yeah, but if you're willing to poke along and take those blind curves really slowly, it seemed fine to me.

The Kahekili highway, on the other hand, is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:23 PM on March 30, 2016

There's a lot to do on Maui without driving the Hana highway. It all (or much of it) does require a car though. Rent one, it's worth it. Enjoy!

And yes - if you do go up to see the sunrise on Haleakala - it is unbelievably cold up there! Bring all of your layers, or grab the blankets from your condo or something. It's nuts how cold it is.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:10 AM on March 31, 2016

Went there in October and hired a car, wouldn't recommend doing it any other way.

Regarding the road to Hana, I would recommend staying overnight in Hana. There isn't much to do when you get there, but it means you can take your time and you won't have to turn around halfway to get back before it gets dark.

In addition, the next morning you can visit the pools at O'Heo, Wailua Falls and Hamoa Beach before heading back via lunch at Chow's at 5200 Hana Hwy.

I would echo that the Hana highway is perfectly fine as long as you do it in daylight. The roads are narrow in places (often at bridges) but you tend to drive slowly anyway as you'll want to stop frequently. I don't remember anywhere on the route where there wasn't a barrier between you and the edge of the cliff.

Do it. Everybody I've spoken to after my holiday has said "did you do the road to Hana?" so you'll constantly feel saddened if you haven't done that.
posted by mr_silver at 1:12 PM on March 31, 2016

I like the Revealed books and if you have an iPhone or Android, get the Maui Revealed app version (but download it while you are still at home on wifi). The apps work even if you are out of cell range (pre-loaded map which finds its position with GPS.) You can touch a location on the map and it will list nearby features. There is one app per island.
posted by larrybob at 12:35 PM on April 6, 2016

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