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4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

Ontario, Canada
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4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

We are planning a 4 night stopover in Kona and will be staying at probably the Keauhou Beach Resort, the Royal Kona Resort, or the Courtyard (not decided yet). Instead of renting a car, We had planned to just get a taxi to/from the airport and take a couple of day tours from our hotel (one day for the volcano stuff and one day for the observatory). On our third day we will be happy to just hang out at our hotel.

Does that sound reasonable to do without renting a car, or are we really better off renting a car anyway? Since we are just there for a few days, we are looking to keep things simple and would rather just enjoy the scenery while someone else worries about the driving. (Not to mention that we would like to save the extra cost of the rental and parking.) But, I am hearing that almost everyone rents a car there and that taxis may be more expensive and less convenient than we'd hoped. (It's our first time to Hawaii and we're not sure what to expect.)

Any comments/advice would be appreciated!

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1. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

Yikes....Yes ,definitely rent a vehicle.The Big Island is not somewhere you want to be without a car.There is a reason most everyone rents a car.

Can you share more details about your trip.? You phrase your visit to the Big Island...as a "stopover". Is it perhaps a rest stop enroute from Asia perhaps?

An organized Mauna Kea summit tour is a wise decision.....but generally leaves in the afternoon in order to include the Sunset......so you would have a morning free.

I wouldn't be caught dead on a "Daytour" of VNP on a tour bus. Self tour is best....however the problem lies in your brief length of stay on the island and your desire to see both sides. It is an extremely BIG island.

The hotels you name hold little appeal.....perhaps the Courtyard...if those are the only choices.Will budget allow for something in South Kohala? Mauna Lani, Fairmont, Hapuna perhaps.

I would try not to let parking fees factor into any decision making process regarding the car.Those parking charges are a very small portion of a Hawaiian vacation.

The rental car rate would likely come in way less expensive than all the Taxis, VNP tour etc.

Big Island, Hawaii
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2. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

If you must stay in Kailua Kona, definitely stay at the Courtyard. Bear in mind all the nice beaches are up north in South Kohala. The Hapuna Prince is a similar price point to the Kailua Kona hotels and is on a nice beach, and is minutes away from other nice beaches. Kailua Kona is almost an hour away.

Either way, yes, you need a car. The taxi fare alone to and from the airport would probably pay for more than half the cost of a 5 day rental. Whether you stay in Kona or the Kohala Coast the best snorkeling will require a car. Or are you not ocean/beach/snorkeling people? In that case I'd consider staying on the east side the entire short stay.

I strongly encourage you to at least overnight in Volcano. It's a very long day trip from Kona or Kohala and all of the lava viewing opportunities are at night. If you're coming from or going to another island, fly into Hilo and out of Kona or vice versa. I wouldn't take a bus tour to VNP either, that would be a shame.

Island of Hawaii...
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3. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

If the circle tour is a small van or SUV tour as by Hawaii Forest & Trail or Volcano Discovery, those are great but do cost. Big bus tour by Polynesian Adventures, Jacks, Roberts, thumbs down.

Royal Kona Resort-- take off your list.

All good questions and thoughts from Wanderlust. Would like to hear your big picture that the stopover fits in to.

Ontario, Canada
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4. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

Wow, thanks for the quick and helpful replies everyone! This is just a quick stopover on our way to Australia, which is why we only have a few days. And yes, we are interested in ocean scenery and snorkelling. We are experienced travellers, but completely clueless about Hawaii, obviously.

So, I'm definitely getting the message that we should in fact rent a car :-) We had been looking at hotels in/near Kona on the assumption that we weren't getting a car and would be using taxis, but I will now have a look at the hotels in the other suggested areas! (I was not thrilled with the reviews of any of our Kona options anyway, since our budget doesn't allow for the Four Seasons, unfortunately :-)

Big Island, Hawaii
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5. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

Is there a reason why the Big Island? Not that I don't love my island but there are better options for short stays, better beach accessibility, like Maui for instance. But if flying into KOA it is, yes I'd look at the Kohala Coast for beach and snorkel time (although what time of year will it be?).

Chicagoland
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6. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

Now I am curious. Are you flying to Australia nonstop from KOA?

You don't have enough time to do both west shore and the volcano.

When is this trip scheduled?

Island of Hawaii...
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7. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

The taxi from and to the airport will cost you more than a rental car for four days. Is your stop over in Kailua-Kona? I didn't know we had direct flights from here to Australia! :)

Ontario, Canada
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8. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

We are flying out of Kona to Australia, but not direct - we have to go via Honolulu. We could have done the stopover in Honolulu instead but we chose Kona because our top priority for Hawaii is the volcano stuff. We're not really interested in Waikiki or the other big beaches. (I'm sure they're beautiful, but that's just not what we're looking for from this particular trip.) We're also not interested in shopping and we're not too picky about restaurants. Our top priority is the volcano, then snorkelling and the observatory. (Actually, even the observatory isn't a "must do" - we thought it sounded cool, but if we hear that we should just spend two full days at VNP instead, that's an option.) We will be going in late October.

Island of Hawaii...
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9. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

When you say volcano, do you understand that you may well be unable to see any fresh lava? Many people think it is a given, and that is what really interests them, rather than the geological record of eruptions and a gas plume with a red glow at night.

Second, why are you flying into KOA? For a short visit centered on VNP, the practical thing is fly HNL into ITO.

Edited: 8:30 pm, August 10, 2012
Big Island, Hawaii
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10. Re: 4 night stopover in Kona - do we need to rent a car?

Well, if you're interested in snorkeling, you could fly into Kona and stay a couple of nights in Kona or the Kohala Coast for that and then drive to Volcano and spend two nights there and fly out of HIlo to HNL for your AUS flight. But as KK says, make sure you know what to expect with VNP. Things change all the time but right now there's no flowing lava that's readily accessible. A helicopter tour is the best way to see red lava, and you can do that from the Kohala Coast.