Getting around Maui: Should you rent a car?

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The short answer is yes, you should consider renting a car in Maui. It may seem like Maui is a small island where taxis and Ubers abound and locations are close to each other, but the opposite is true. The main Maui airport is located in Kahului, in the heart of the Valley Isle. Most visitors stay in Wailea (South Maui) and Lahaina (West Maui) , approximately 15 to 30 miles away, longer if you stay up near Kapalua.

5 Reasons Why Renting a Car is Important When Visiting Maui:

1. Attractions Are All over the Island

If you are a vacationer that likes to visit attractions and plan activities, you'll be more comfortable having a car rental. Considering the Road to Hana or a drive upcountry Maui to Haleakala National Park? If you don't want to drive yourself, these options are only available through a tour company, which is a great way to visit . A cab or ride-share is not available for Haleakala or the Road to Hana. It is more economical to rent a car. Want to visit Paia town on the North Shore for shopping and dinner? Having your own vehicle will ensure you can plan your days without needing to focus on reserving a ride last minute. It is truly the most convenient way to see Maui and maximize your time.

2. Ride-Share Availability

Uber and Lyft are both services available on Maui. Although Uber is more popular, that doesn't mean a driver will be free when you need a ride. Unlike big cities, Maui doesn't have an overabundance of drivers. Many locals who drive for ride-share companies have other jobs. They don't exclusively drive tourists around and may only be available at night after their day jobs are finished. For example, on Thanksgiving this year, 10 drivers were out around noon and most of them preferred airport pick-ups because they could make more money. Bret, an Uber driver who lives in Lahaina, is often the only driver out past 10PM. He'll drive till 1AM most nights and up to 3PM on Fridays and Saturdays. When he picks up passengers from a location, he'll see the same people waiting for a ride an hour later when he makes his way back. His suggestion is to reserve a ride ahead of time and not to stay out much later than 10PM if you can help it.

Turo is also available on Maui. When Covid shut down the island, a lot of the car rentals were shipped back to the mainland US. Residents bought cars specifically for Turo. However, since tourism opened back up the rental vehicle inventory has steadily climbed back up and the rates are similar to commercial car rental companies. It's always a good idea to check all of your options, especially if you’re looking for something more unique. 

3. Taxi Services Are Rare

Maui's Kahului airport is not teeming with taxi cabs waiting to pick-up tourists and take them to their hotels. If you would like to take a cab, you'll need to reserve one ahead of time. The County of Maui sets the Maui taxi rates. It is $3.50 for the initial drop and .30 cents per 1/10 of a mile. $6.00 for the mile and $3.00 for each mile thereafter. Wait time is .30 cents a minute.

4. Maui Bus Service is Cheap but Inconvenient

Other articles will tell you to get a bus pass for $4.00 (daily rate) and take public transportation around the island. This may seem like an easy way to get around, but it is a huge waste of time. There are two locations to buy passes: One is in Kahului at the Maui County Business Resource Center and the other is in Lahaina at the Wharf Cinema Center Management Office. The bus is not quick to get around from one part of the island to another. All of the buses stop at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului where transfers are made. If you're traveling from Lahaina to Paia, you'll need to transfer at the mall both ways. If you plan to ride the bus in the same general area, this may be a good option for you. However, it will take a lot longer to travel.

5. Planning Your Budget in Advance

Renting a car ensures you have your budget put together before you arrive in Maui. When looking for a cheap car rental, be sure to take taxes and fees into consideration, as well as:

  • Car type, as a Jeep Wrangler is typically more expensive than a small compact car
  • Car insurance
  • If you want to add an additional driver. 
  • Credit card fees

To ensure the best rate, reserve your car as early as possible and keep checking to make sure you have the best daily rate possible.

If you plan to stay at a large resort with a shuttle and have no desire to drive around Maui, a rental car may not be needed. However, more adventurous visitors who enjoy activities, and want the freedom to roam, really do need a car to ensure the best possible vacation experience. Once you know where you'll be staying and how you want your vacation to go, the answer to "do I need a rental car" will be answered for you. 

Did you enjoy your vacation without a car? Tell us your tips and tricks!

Julia Wurst