If you’re planning a trip to Maui, you’ve probably booked your airfare, your accommodations… but what about a car? Do you need a rental car in Maui? If you’re having a hard time deciding whether it’s worth the cost or not, keep on reading to find out exactly what kind of travelers absolutely need to have a rental car on Maui—and which ones do not.
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If you want the TLDR—for most travelers, renting a car in Maui is going to be 100% worth it, given that Maui is HUGE, its attractions are quite spread out, and you probably didn’t fly all the way here to not explore this incredible island. Plus, how are you ever going to drive the iconic Road to Hana without a rental car?
On the other hand, if you just plan on relaxing at a resort the whole time (no shame, friend!), then there’s probably no need to incur the cost of a rental car—plus the other associated expenses, like paying for resort or valet parking and gas.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the pros and cons of renting a car in Maui—and some tips and tricks to save on costs if you decide that renting a car is for you.
Let’s get into it!
The Benefits of Renting A Car in Maui
So why is a rental car almost always worth the price on Maui?
You’ll have total freedom and flexibility.
The best part of renting a car on Maui is that you’ll be able to dictate exactly where you go, whenever you want to.
Wanna hit a beach for sunrise? You can totally do that. Wanna sleep in and hit up sunset at Haleakala, instead? You can totally do that, too—and spend as long as you want stargazing afterwards.
On the other hand, if you’re relying on tours or public transit to get around, you’re beholden to someone else’s schedule—and is that what you want while you’re on vacation?
You won’t have to depend on expensive rideshare or tour guides.
Beyond being able to choose whatever itinerary you want if you have a rental car, you won’t have to rely on tours to get to popular attractions and expensive rideshare or taxis to get to everything else, like restaurants or shops.
Tours can get REAL pricey, real fast and, without a rental car, you may even need to figure out transportation to get to your tour in the first place. For example, most of the best Maui whale watching tours or snorkeling excursions leave directly from Lahaina Harbor (without hotel pickup), so you’ll need to figure out a way to get there by yourself anyway.
Which brings us to rideshare and taxis—Maui is not densely populated, so rideshares and taxis can be kind of hard to come by and are mega EXPENSIVE, even to go short distances. Add in the fact that Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island and relying on rideshares and taxis alone can REALLY rack up.
Maui is big.
Clocking in at 727 square miles, Maui is HUGE, and most of its popular attractions are scattered across the island.
For example, if you’re staying in Lahaina, it’ll take about an hour and 20 minutes to drive from your accommodations to the summit at Haleakala National Park, where the popular Pā Ka‘oao and Sliding Sands trail are located, AND cost you around $125 for ride share—one-way—if you can even find one.
So if you’re hoping to have a jam-packed itinerary while you’re here, having a rental car will help you squeeze in as much as possible in your limited amount of time in this paradise.
You’ll get to participate in activities you otherwise wouldn’t.
Out of all of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is unique in that a road trip is literally one of the most popular things to do here—driving along the famous Road to Hana.
Routinely voted as the most beautiful road trip on the planet, it’s kind of a must on any Maui bucketlist—and while you can find Road to Hana tours, having your own car and being able to stop at allll the waterfalls, beaches, and fruit stands you want along the way is kind of a part of the experience.
Why Renting a Car on Maui Might Not Be For You
So what kind of traveler doesn’t need to rent a car while they’re visiting Maui?
You wanna be on resort time.
Listen, if you’re headed to Maui to do nothing more than sun yourself on the beach by your resort and sip Mai Tais by the pool (you do you, friend!), there’s really not a need to have a car.
Most bougie resorts offer shuttles to and from the airport and if not, a one-time rideshare cost to your accommodations will definitely be worth it. Plus, if you do have a rental car, most resorts charge a parking fee–for example, the Grand Wailea Resort charges a $65 per day parking fee. There’s really no need to rack up the cost of a rental car PLUS parking fees for it to mainly sit and go unused.
You’re on a budget.
Listen, I’m not going to beat around the bush, friends- renting a car in Maui is expensive. The average cost of renting a car is about $80-90 per day, which can soar up to $200 per day during the peak travel times, like the Christmas holidays (but keep reading for my Maui budget rental tips below). Add in gas and accommodation parking fees (if your hotel charges for this) and you can be looking at a pretty steep bill.
While getting around by public transit would, well, kinda suck and limit where you can go on the island (and when), it would definitely be easier on the wallet. While its routes and pickup times are fairly limited, the Maui bus system only costs $2 one-way or $4 for a daily pass.
You prefer to go on tours.
If you’re planning on primarily hanging out at your hotel and going on a few guided tours around the islands, you’ll probably be provided most of the transportation you’ll need. Since most tours will take you to and from your hotel when visiting the main attractions, you probably don’t need to waste your money on a rental car as well.
While tours can be kind of pricey, this route might be an excellent option if you’re nervous about driving on some of Maui’s windy roads, like the aforementioned Road to Hana, which has 617 turns and 46 nail-biting one-way bridges. Instead, you could sit back and let someone else sit in the driver’s seat (quite literally) on a guided tour, like on this small Road to Hana group tour or this tour with just 12 guests.
Do You Need A Rental Car in Maui?
As mentioned above, it’s probably going to make sense for most travelers to get a rental car while they’re in Maui.
But if you’re still trying to figure out if it’s right for you, I’d:
1. Pick where you want to stay on the island. Some of the most popular locations are the historic town of Lahaina, on the northwestern side of the island, or Wailea/Kihei, with a more resort-y feel, on the southwestern side. Be sure to make note of whether your hotel has parking fees or not!
2. Make an itinerary for your stay (psssst… we have a complete Maui itinerary so you don’t have to do any of the homework!) and map out the places you want to stop at on Google Maps each day.
3. For each day, figure out whether you can walk, take public transit, go on a guided tour, or need to get rideshare between each destination.
- For any destinations you’ll need to ride the bus or take a rideshare to, try to estimate the total cost to get around for the day. If you’ll need to get an Uber or Lyft to get from one point to another, you can actually plug in your starting and ending points in either of the apps and get an approximate cost of your ride.
- For finding tours in Maui, I love using Viator, which is basically a big ol’ tour aggregator. You can find any kind of Maui tours you’re looking for here, from the best luaus to snorkeling with sea turtles. Remember to double check, though, if you’ll need to meet the tour group anywhere and include any of those expenses in your transportation expenses.
Add up the total cost for each of the days to see how much it would be to get around without a car.
4. Check how much renting a car would be. I like to use aggregator sites, like Discover Cars, where you can easily compare all of your options. I also love using Discover Cars, because, unlike some aggregator sites, the displayed prices always include any mandatory fees and prices so there’s no surprises when you show up to pick up your rental (which is SO annoying!).
You’ll also need to budget for gas to get around the island and any kind of hotel or valet parking, if necessary.
5. Compare the costs of renting a car versus not. Remember to factor in the convenience and freedom you’ll have when renting a car—and I’m sure you’ll find your answer!
Tips for Saving Money on Rental Cars on Maui
Book waaaaaay in advance.
For my last trip to Maui in January, I booked our rental car about 8 months in advance and snagged a deal for a rental car that was only about $60 a day. When I got closer to our date, I checked back in on prices—and saw that they had more than doubled! Booking in advance, for the win!
That being said, I’d recommend making a reservation through a site with free cancellation (like my beloved Discover Cars) and checking prices on cars often, so you can rebook if you find a better deal. For our recent trip to the Big Island, I stupidly made a nonrefundable reservation on a car that I thought was a helluva deal, which later wound up dropping almost $150 for that same time period. Doh!
Kind of a no-brainer, but you’ll be able to compare prices much more efficiently than if you go the old-school method of calling companies. Plus online reservations are usually much easier to cancel if you find a better deal elsewhere.
Only reserve a car for part of the time.
If you plan on hanging out at your hotel for a couple of days or plan on going on a tour or two, arrange your itinerary so that you only need to rent a car for a portion of the time that you’re there.
And bonus–renting a car from a location other than the airport (like close to your hotel in Lahaina or Kihei) is usually way cheaper than picking it up from the airport itself.
Visit during off-season.
When demand soars, so does pricing! The peak season to visit Maui is from late December through April and June through August—so if you visit during the off-peak times (May and September are usually pretty awesome!), you’ll likely save some cash.
Prioritize finding a hotel that doesn’t have paid parking.
Okay, so this isn’t really a tip for the rental car itself, but why spend at least $20 a day for parking at your accommodations if you don’t have to?
For example, in the Lahaina/Kaanapali area, there’s free parking at:
- Napili Sunset Beachfront Resort: This resort has been voted as one of the best beachfront hotels on the planet by Frommer’s, located on a stunning crescent-shaped bay.
- Plantation Inn: A romantic bed-and-breakfast in a plantation-style building, with luxurious amenities like rain showers and a cozy hot tub to relax in in the evening. Plus, they serve up a delicious gourmet breakfast every morning on its stunning open-air lanai.
Or in the Kihei/Wailea area, you’ll find free parking at:
- Fairmont Kea Lani: This is one of the most luxurious resorts on Maui, with a state-of-the-art spa, three pools (including one with a swim-up bar), and direct access to the gorgeous Polo Beach. Given its level of bougieness, valet parking is, of course, available, but complimentary self-parking is included in the resort fee.
- Maui Coast Hotel: If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, the Maui Coast Hotel is an excellent option. Located just a block from the beach, you’ll find everything you need here, from an onsite restaurant and pool to bicycle rentals.
Frequently Asked Questions about Getting a Rental Car in Maui
Do you need high clearance, 4WD, or any other kind of special vehicle to drive around Maui?
Unless you’re planning on going way off-the-beaten path (like the rugged Highway 31 on the southern side of the island), you can get by just fine in any passenger sedan, given that the roads are almost always paved and well-maintained. Even if you do plan on going off-roading, be sure to read the fine print of your rental agreement—there are reaaaaallly limited rental car companies that allow you to drive on unpaved surfaces.
My only hot tip for what kind of rental car is to get one with a working horn—we found out our rental car on Maui had a broken horn while driving the mildly terrifying one-way bridges on the Road to Hana, which is not the ideal time to discover that! You might also want to check out whether there’s a spare tire and the tools to change it—our car was somehow missing those as well!
Are there any cheaper alternatives besides getting a rental car in Maui?
You could look into renting a moped or scooter while you’re in Maui, which may save you a bit of money (they usually run about $60-$70 a day). The aptly-named Maui Moped and Scooter Rental has stellar reviews and runs between $65-$130 a day for a bike rental.
Scooters are awesome because you basically get to feel like you’re part of Maui’s incredible landscape and typically have way better gas mileage than a standard vehicle. On the flipside, you’ll have minimal protection from Maui’s unpredictable weather, they’re not great for transporting anything bigger than a backpack (y’know, like… luggage), and they don’t have the same safety mechanisms as a car does.
You can also check out Turo, which is kind of like Airbnb for cars, where locals lend you out their vehicles for a rate that’s usually a bit cheaper than rental cars. To be honest, I’ve read horror stories of owners scamming renters through Turo and haven’t personally used this service, but something to consider if renting a car is outside of your budget.
So, do you need a rental car in Maui? Yes, probably—but the adventures it’ll enable you to have on this incredible island are 100% worth it! Do you have any questions about renting a car in Maui? Let me know in the comments below!
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