On a family trip to Kauai in 2019, you woke up on the first morning in your comfy resort and sauntered down to the rental desk to book a car. You had many choices but opted for the bright green Jeep for the duration of your vacation. At $75 per day it was a bit of a splurge over the $49.95 Kia, but you wanted something fun for your week-long adventure. It did not disappoint.

Flash forward! Today, conversely, the Kia will cost you more like $250 per day (if there is even one available) and never mind the Jeep: That’s going to set you back closer to $400 per day — and we’ve seen them inch up towards $800.00. And if you wait until your arrival to choose, they‘ll be out of wheels and you’ll be out of luck, as cars are booking up two to three months in advance these days. Ten-speed bike, anyone?

So what happened? Why has the price of renting a car on the Garden Isle skyrocketed? Why has the supply plummeted? (And why didn’t you think to pack your most comfy walking shoes?)

Wheels of Fortune

Last year, Hawaii mandated a bevy of steep travel restrictions to keep residents safe during the pandemic, and as a result the number of visitors to Kauai shrunk dramatically. The car rental companies had so few customers they were forced to start selling off their fleets just to stay a float. Now that vaccinations are on the rise and restrictions are easing up, more and more travelers are happily flocking back to the island — but there are simply not enough rental cars to meet demand. (Note: Before you decide to skip the islands this year, this crisis is afoot in various destinations across the mainland, as well.)

Auto Correct

So what is a prudent traveler to do? What are the alternatives? The concierge team at Koloa Landing Resort on Kauai’s sunny South Shore have some smart and creative recommendations for their guests. Here are six of them:

1. Turo.com

Hand holding a phone with a white car in the background - Kauai car rentalBrilliant! Already operating internationally, this so-called “Airbnb for cars” allows people to rent their personal vehicles to the public. After a quick search for cars that could be delivered to either Lihue Airport or directly to Koloa Landing Resort during the first week in August, a few options pop up for around $150.00 per day. If the dates are pushed to September, rates get a little lower and vehicles become more plentiful. The cars on offer are as varied as the people who offer them. Everything from Hyundais to Jeeps to Teslas — even a yellow Maserati.

2. Roberts Hawaii

Roberts Hawaii has temporarily suspended their guided bus tours of Kauai’s top sights like Waimea Canyon and the Fern Grotto, but they continue to provide expert airport service to Koloa Landing Resort and other properties. Enjoy KLR’s exclusive lower rates with Roberts Hawaii from Lihue Airport to the resort and back. Reservations are required so call (808) 539-9400 or visit RobertsHawaii.com. 

3. Non-national Rentals

Because the usual go-to brands like Avis, Enterprise or Budget are way overbooked and way overpriced for the time being, travelers should check out non-national or online rental services such as Travel-hawaii.com, RentaWreckKauai.com or CarsInKauai.com, where you may be more likely to find real deals on wheels.

4. Taxis, Shuttles & Limo Services

Multiple taxi companies and shuttle or limo services proliferate on Kauai with drivers ready to take you most anywhere you need to go across the island. Book online or ask your hotel to book for you. These driver-for-hire services can prove a little pricey, so be sure to inquire about rates. Many resorts offer in-house shuttle services, as well, but timing one to go just where you want can be tricky. 

5. Ridesharing Apps

Though Ubers and Lyfts certainly exist on Kauai, they are not plentiful so are in extremely high demand. A brand new door-to-door service to check out on Kauai is called Holoholo. Go to RideHoloholo.com for the latest. Will this newcomer send island ridesharing into overdrive?

6. Accommodation Choice

Koloa Landing Resort accommodationsSometimes everything you need is right within reach. In fact, driving can almost be a buzzkill while you’re soaking up lazy hazy days in paradise. If you choose a resort like Koloa Landing in Poipu, you don’t need a car to enjoy an unforgettable vacation. Why go anywhere with amenities like celebrity-chef dining, a world-class spa, ocean views, sports galore, a fitness-center-with-a-view and USA Today’s “Best Pool in America” complete with the coolest cabanas in town. It is also close to a variety of fun, useful and easily walkable destinations like the beaches, shopping and a vast array of restaurants. Check out these five fun places to walk to from Koloa Landing — just for starters!

Don’t let the rental car crisis put the brakes on your well-earned rest and relaxation. With a little internet ingenuity and some help from your resort you can enjoy the island just as much as ever — and maybe even see it anew. Koloa Landing Resort is ready when you are!

Erica Karlin — Koloa Landing Resort