Getting Around Hawaii - The Big Island
The best way to get around Hawaii's Big Island is by car. The island is simply too large to affordably and conveniently navigate without one. You can pick up a rental car at either the Kona International Airport (KOA) or the Hilo International Airport (ITO), or if you want to let go of some serious cash, you could take a taxi from the terminal to your hotel. Once near your lodging, you might be able to get around town on the island bus system, just keep in mind that its schedule is not always convenient for tourists.
Many travelers who visit the Big Island have a connecting flight from O'ahu's Honolulu International Airport (HNL), from which you'll fly into Hilo airport on the eastern side. Kona airport near the west side will probably be more convenient if you're staying by the Kona or Kohala coast.
You'll find a set of wheels is practically a necessity on the Big Island. As you can see from the map on our top attractions page, the best sites are spread out along all the coasts. And the bus service, though available, does not make regular stops at tourist sites. You can rent a car at either airport and through some of the hotels. Splurge for four-wheel drive – you'll be thankful you did on the roughest roads – and keep in mind some rental agencies will want you to avoid Saddle Road, a narrow, winding shortcut that takes you from Kona to Hilo.
Taxis are expensive on Hawaii's Big Island, even by tourist standards. In fact, the meter starts at $3. Coincidentally, flagging one doesn't seem to be that much of an option, anyway. The best spot to find them is around the airports; otherwise, your hotel will assist you in calling for one. However, the ride-hailing service Uber also operates on Big Island.
You might find the bus is a frugal option if you don't want to venture too far from your hotel. Still, some bus routes are only serviced Monday through Friday. The bus rate is $2 (cash only), but there's a $1 fee for large bags. Kids ages 4 and younger ride for free.
Helicopter tours are a great way to see the sights; but this is obviously an extravagant splurge and not a viable means of transportation. Many people like to look out over the island's active volcanoes (ask to head to Kilauea, in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park), but valley tours through the Kohala or Hamakua coasts are also pretty scenic.
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