Most of the big planes fly first to Honolulu and then you get an internal flight to Kauai. The flight to the Lihue Airport (LIH) doesn’t last more than 25’ and you can choose between Hawaiian, Aloha and Go! Airlines. It was nice to see airplanes with guitars on the wings (pic 1) and the air-hostess dressed in shorts and sandals :) Check out the windows before landing, you will see the green island lying in front of you (pic 2 isnt good but you get the feeling).
Lihue Airport was opened in 1950, it is a small airport with not many shops and part of it is open air! A small Starbucks will provide you with coffee and I saw a restaurant also (closed in the morning). During the day (9.00-11.30 and 18.30-21.00) there are some small bands playing live Hawaiian music!! (pic 3)
Hopefully (for the locals) Lihue Airport doesn’t have big landing corridor (it is only 1981 meters long) so they can’t serve big planes which means less tourists per year which means they will keep this paradise like it is now (Oahu lost the chance many years before). It is located just 2km north of Lihue city at the east side of the island which means you will be in the middle of most of the distances to everywhere in the island if you rent a car here. The car rentals are located just across the street from baggage claim. If you choose a helicopter tour (pic 4) this will be your base of arrival too but there is another much smaller airport at Princeville.
There’s only one big road that connects all sides of the island (doing a semicircle actually as west side doesn’t have a road) which means in rush hours there is traffic, especially between Lihue and Kapa’a where local police gives one extra line depending where the big flow goes (in the morning they give priority to the those who go into Lihue for work). From the other side you wont enjoy much of the island without the car because there’s limited public system and taxis are way to expensive for long distances.
Lihue aiport is at the east side which is pretty central to the main highway so if your hotel is at this side you will have both (North and Side) sides at the same distance. West side of the island doesn’t have roads anyway.
Here are your options:
1)The hotels usually have a shuttle service to the airport so only in case you plan to relax in a luxury resort don’t rent a car.
2)There supposed to be some local buses along the main road but we barely saw 1 or 2 of them all the days we were there!
And they stop only in some bigger towns.
3)There are also some taxis that will costs way too much… You can take taxi tours too around the island, you won’t pay less than renting a car but you won’t have to worry about directions etc
4)hitch-hiking is a good option if you are really on budget. It is legal in Kauai and usually someone will get you from one town to the next.
5)Kauai is a natural paradise but you will need to rent car if you really want to get around…
…So rent a car upon your arrival at Lihue airport. It’s better to book in advance to get some great offers they have from time to time. In high season some cars aren’t available so booking in advance will help you with this too. You can choose between many companies (Alamo, Dollar, Herz, Nationalcars etc) most of them have similar prices (about $50 per day for a compact car but you can also rent convertible, SUV etc). All of them have their desks opposite the baggage claim area and usually they get you with a small shuttle to the cars area. We had booked a compact car (which is the economy class in USA) but there wasn’t any of them available so we upgraded for free to a bigger one. In case they ask you if you are interested for an upgrade just say no, they ask you because they will give it to you anyway. For free of course, unless you say yes ;) Don’t forget to put full insurance too
Gas is pricey in Kauai ($3.40 per gallon on October 2009) with many gas stations along the main highway (the further away you drive the more expensive they get, Princeville Chevron has the highest price in the island). You can see a list of the stations and gas prices here:
The speed limits are usually low and everyone respects the law so it will be very easy to drive around (the roads are in good shape too).
Our Kauai package included a rental car, the cheapest available, what in US is called a "compact car". Before we left a friend advised us to upgrade to a convertible if possible, because in his words "Hawai has the perfect weather for a convertible". The upgrade was $10/day and since Cris had just got his Christmas bonus we went for it. It was really fun driving in a convertible (I've never done it before). It wasn't so fun for our friends who were riding in the back; at least not until we realized we have to keep the windows up. Kauai truly had the perfect weather.
Nearly every visitor to Kauai drives around in a rental car. The roads are good shape and it is easy to find your way around.
The best way to make sure that there is a car available when you arrive is to book ahead.
There are not enough autos to go around, especially at high season.
You really need to rent a car on Kauai. Any kind of car will do - the cheapest little subcompact will handle almost all of the roads. There is very little public transportation, and there is so much to see and do on Kauai that you are cheating yourself if you do not get a car.
Although there is limited bus service available on Kauai, you will need a rental car to take best advantage of the multitude of sightseeing opportunities. We put almost 500 miles on our car in six days, and still didn't have time to explore every road that beckoned us.
Kauai has a population of less than 60,000 people, and draws an average of about 80,000 visitors per month, so a very large percentage of automobiles you see on the road will be rentals. Several international rental companies have outlets at the Lihue airport. Expect prices for car rentals and for gasoline to be about 40% higher than those you will find on the U.S. mainland.
Although Lihue Airport (LIH) sees an occasional United Airlines long-haul flight from the mainland, most people arrive on the island via Honolulu on one of the more frequent short hops offered by either Hawaiian Airlines or Aloha Airlines. The oceanfront airport is on Ahukini Road, just 1.5 miles from Lihue, the capital of Kauai.
There is also a small airport in Princeville, Kauai, which offers commuter service to and from Honolulu via Island Air. Private planes and helicopter tours of the island use both airports.
Airline Telephone Numbers:
Aloha Airlines: 1-866-493-0850
Hawaiian Airlines: 1-800-882-8811
United Airlines: 1-800-864-8331
PLEASE: Understand the "rules" of the road on Kauai before getting behind the wheel.
#1) On the one-lane bridges: FIrst come, first serve - and usually the proper thing is to allow 4-5 cars cross and if you are #6 and see others on the other side waiting to cross and a pile of cars behind you: STOP and wait your turn to cross once you see the traffic coming from the other side stop for you.
#2) As we say; "Dis ain't the mainland - SLOW DOWN!!!" -- at the same time: If you are having a leisurely drive and wanting to soak it all in: PULL OVER and allow traffic to pass you, and then continue on your leisurely dirve and ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!
#3) BE SAFE. And remember: Street laws apply regardless of the fact that you are on vacation. Obey the speed limits & street signs - and PLEASE: wear your seatbelts --- and finally: Don't drink and drive....
If you come to Kauai with a plan of just staying at a resort by the beach and not planning on going around the island at all, you don't need to rent a car. Most resorts have a free shuttle service to and from the airport.
But if you plan to see the whole island which I highly recommend, you need to rent a car. If you can and it fits your budget, try to get an SUV. If you do rent, make sure to reserve it as far in advance as you can especially during the holidays. It can get really expensive. When we were there we were lucky enough to reserve an SUV a month in advance for $68/day because when we got there, the daily rate went up to $199. Also, I suggest, you get the full coverage insurance. Apparently break-ins are very common in the island. As far as gasoline, there are a lot of gasoline stations around the island and the prices are not far from what we pay in the mainland.
Van Rentals: Kauai Center for Independent Living (KCIL): 808-245-4034 Lift Equipped Van Rentals with (must take driver): 50/hour per person or $100 per person up to 4 hours or $180 per person full day up to 8 hours.
Public Transportation: It costs $1.00 to ride The Kauai Bus from point to point. All buses are lift equipped on Kauai. Paratransit is available within 24 hours of notice M-F, call The Kauai Bus Transportation Agency to make bus arrangements and for bus schedule information.
Parking Placards: Visitors who have accessible parking placards from their respective states should bring them to Kauai. It can be difficult to get a temporary accessible parking placards once you are here. Bring your placard!
Portable Ramps: On Kauai there are no car rental agencies who have lift equipped vehicles. Gammie Home Care (8098-632-2333) (gammie.com)
rents portable ramps. Some people rent a van and use a portable ramp to access the back seat, in some vans the entire middle seat can be removed to accommodate people who use motorized wheelchairs. Ask if an entire seat can be removed when you are talking with the car rental agencies.
There is a bus system on the Island of Kauai, but it wasn't until probably the second day before I even saw one on the road. These bus' are not the usual, more like a cube van than your regular transit bus. If you really want to explore the hidden area's on your own time, I'd go with the car rental rather than transit. I never did see one of these bus' up in the Waimea Canyon, and that area is a must see, or should be tops on anyones list.
For two full weeks of rental on my Chrysler from: Dollar Rent a Car, out of Lahue airport, it cost me - $890.00. All the other lower priced rental companies where fresh out.
If you want to get the most out of your trip, you should rent transportation to get around the island. Depending on what you want to see, depends on what kind of transportation you should get. We have rented sedans, convertables, and 4wd's. Converatbles are wonderful for riding around the island, but if you would like to get off the beaten path, I would suggest a 4wd. And if you want the best of both worlds, rent a jeep :-)! If you book in advance before you arrive on the island you can usually catch a special rate. Check around before you commit. National is our favorite place to rent from.
Renting a car is an absolute must when visiting Kauai. There are taxis, but rumor is the prices are out of the roof, like many other things in Kauai. The ultimate tourist car is a Jeep -- when you are coming from a cold climate like Chicago, it was liberating to drive around with the top down, the wind blowing in your hair. The 4WD came in handy too, on the dirt roads. The alamo guy who convinced us to upgrade said it would make our trip, and it definitely did. We were much happier than we would have been had we gone with our original Chevy Aveo.
If you need to gas up your rental vehicle in Kaua'i, the Shell gas station on the right side of Highway 56 traveling north from Lihue in Wailua almost always has the best prices. As of August, 2006, prices were holding steady at $3.50/gallon. Yikes!!! Refer to the website below for a great daily chart of best gas prices on the island.
Renting a car is an absolute necessity!! You'll definitely want the freedom to be able to go explore the island. It's small, but there is quite a lot to see.
We rented a Jeep, and swear it's the only way to go. We were able to see a lot of beautiful places off the main roads that other cars just couldn't have made it out to (plus its convertible!). You're technically not supposed to take them off-roading, but I think that they kind of expect it....
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It was a great place, good location. However, Kauai Coast Resort business practice is desired to be...more