Getting Around the Big Island

Unveiling the Big Island: Your Ultimate Guide to Transportation 🚗🚎🚁

Exploring the vast and diverse terrain of the Big Island is a dream come true for many travelers. But with so many transportation options available, it can be overwhelming to plan your itinerary. That’s why we’ve put together this easy travel guide, complete with tips and strategies for navigating the island’s roads, public transportation, and tour options.

Whether you prefer to rent a car and hit the open road, take in the scenery from a guided tour, or hop on a bus for an economical sightseeing adventure, we’ll help you make the most of your time on the Big Island.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Big Island offers a variety of transportation options, including car rentals, public transportation, and tours
  • Exploring the island by car is a popular choice, with many scenic drives to choose from
  • Public transportation can be a budget-friendly option for sightseeing
  • There are many tour options available, including guided tours, helicopter tours, and boat tours
  • Budget-conscious travelers can save money by taking advantage of affordable transportation options and money-saving tips

Transportation Options on the Big Island

When it comes to getting around the Big Island, visitors have several transportation options to choose from. Whether you prefer self-guided exploration or want to sit back and relax while someone else takes the wheel, there’s a transportation option that will fit your needs and budget.

Car Rentals

Renting a car is a popular choice for visitors to the Big Island, offering the freedom to explore the island at your own pace and on your own schedule. Rental cars are available at several locations around the island, including at both major airports and in popular tourist areas.

Before renting a car, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the island’s roadways, which can be narrow and winding in some areas. You’ll also need to obtain a valid driver’s license and purchase adequate insurance coverage.

Must-visit scenic drives include the Kohala Coast and Hamakua Coast, both of which offer stunning views of the island’s rugged coastline and lush interior.

Public Transportation

For budget-conscious travelers, public transportation is a viable option on the Big Island. The Hele-On Bus system operates on a fixed schedule and serves many popular tourist destinations, including Hilo, Kona, and Volcano National Park.

It’s important to note that the bus system may not be the most convenient option for every traveler, as some routes are infrequent and may require transfers. However, it can be a cost-effective way to get around the island if you’re willing to plan ahead and be flexible.

Tour Options

For those who prefer a guided experience, several tour options are available on the Big Island. From helicopter tours to boat excursions to guided hikes, there’s a tour option for every interest and budget.

One popular tour option is the Circle Island Tour, which offers a comprehensive overview of the island’s top attractions, including waterfalls, beaches, and historical sites.

It’s important to research tour operators and read reviews before booking a tour to ensure you choose a reputable company that offers a quality experience.

Big Island transportation options

In Conclusion

Whether you prefer to explore the Big Island by car, take advantage of public transportation, or book a guided tour, there’s a transportation option that will fit your needs and budget. By taking the time to research your options and plan ahead, you can make the most of your time on the island and experience all that it has to offer.

Exploring the Big Island by Car

Exploring the Big Island by car is an excellent way to take in all the natural beauty and attractions the island has to offer. One of the biggest advantages of renting a car is the freedom and flexibility it provides, allowing you to travel at your own pace and visit places that may not be easily accessible by public transportation.

If you plan on renting a car, be sure to make a reservation in advance, especially during peak travel times. Most major car rental companies have locations on the island, including at the Kona International Airport and Hilo International Airport. You will need a valid driver’s license and a credit card to rent a car.

The Big Island’s roads are generally well-maintained, but be aware that some areas may be steep, narrow, or winding. It is important to familiarize yourself with the local traffic laws and road signs. In Hawaii, talking on a mobile phone while driving is prohibited, and the use of handheld electronic devices is illegal. Make sure to buckle up, and always drive defensively.

When choosing a rental car, consider your travel plans and the size of your group. If you plan on doing a lot of driving or have a large group, a larger vehicle may be more comfortable. However, keep in mind that larger vehicles may be more expensive to rent and may be more difficult to park in some areas.

Some of the must-visit scenic drives on the Big Island include the Saddle Road, which cuts through the heart of the island and offers stunning views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and the Hamakua Coast, which features lush rainforests, waterfalls, and beautiful scenic overlooks. Be aware that some areas of the island may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle, so be sure to check with your rental car company before venturing off the beaten path.

Exploring the Big Island by car

Tip: Keep in mind that gas stations are not as plentiful on the Big Island as they are on the mainland, so it’s a good idea to fill up whenever you see a gas station.

Public Transportation on the Big Island

While renting a car is the most popular transportation option on the Big Island, it is not the only way to get around. Public transportation is a budget-friendly alternative that allows visitors to explore the island without the added expense of a rental car.

The Hele-On bus system is the primary public transportation option on the Big Island, serving both urban and rural areas. The system operates seven days a week and offers multiple routes, including those that run between Hilo and Kona. Visitors can easily access popular attractions and destinations using the Hele-On bus, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea Observatory, and Kona International Airport.

RouteDeparture TimeArrival TimeFare
Hilo to Kona7:00 am10:45 am$2.00 one way
Kona to Hilo5:30 am8:55 am$2.00 one way

It is important to note that the Hele-On bus system may not be the most efficient way to get around the island, as routes and schedules can be limited. Plan ahead and allow for extra travel time when using public transportation.

Public transportation on the Big Island

Another public transportation option is the free Kona Trolley, which operates in the Kailua-Kona area and stops at popular attractions, shopping centers, and beaches. The trolley operates daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, making it a convenient and cost-effective way to explore the Kona coast.

For visitors who prefer a more personalized experience, private shuttle services and taxis are available on the Big Island. These options may be more expensive than public transportation, but they offer greater flexibility and convenience for sightseeing and exploring.

Overall, public transportation is a viable option for getting around the Big Island on a budget. It may require more planning and patience than renting a car, but it offers a unique perspective of the island and its culture.

Big Island Tour Options

If you’re looking to explore the Big Island but prefer not to drive yourself, there are plenty of tour options to choose from. Whether you’re interested in a guided tour, helicopter tour, or boat tour, there’s something for everyone.

Guided Tours: Guided tours are a great way to explore the island’s top attractions and learn about the local culture and history. Many guided tours include transportation, so you don’t need to worry about getting around. Some popular guided tours include the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park tour, Akaka Falls tour, and the Historic Kailua Village tour.

Helicopter Tours: For a unique and breathtaking view of the island, consider a helicopter tour. This is a great way to see the island’s natural beauty from a different perspective, including majestic waterfalls, active volcanoes, and stunning coastline. Some popular helicopter tour operators on the Big Island include Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and Paradise Helicopters.

Boat Tours: If you’re interested in exploring the island’s marine life, consider a boat tour. There are plenty of options for snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply enjoying the view from a catamaran. Some popular boat tour companies include Body Glove Hawaii and Fair Wind Cruises.

Big Island Tour

Keep in mind that tour prices can vary depending on the duration, itinerary, and level of luxury. It’s important to do your research and compare prices to find the best option for your budget and interests.

Getting Around the Big Island on a Budget

Traveling to the Big Island on a budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on exploring everything this beautiful destination has to offer. With a little bit of planning, you can experience all of the island’s unique attractions and sights without breaking the bank. Here are some tips for getting around the Big Island on a budget:

  • Look for car rental deals: Renting a car can be one of the more expensive options for getting around the Big Island, but it doesn’t have to be. Check for deals and discounts on car rental websites, and consider renting from a location away from the airport for potentially lower prices.
  • Take advantage of public transportation: Public transportation options, such as buses and shuttles, can be an affordable way to get around the island. Look for day passes and discounts, and plan your itinerary accordingly to maximize your use of the service.
  • Book tours in advance: If you’re interested in taking a tour of the Big Island, booking in advance can often save you money. Many tour companies offer discounts for early booking, so be sure to research and book before you arrive.
  • Bring your own gear: If you plan on exploring the island’s beaches, waterfalls, or hiking trails, consider bringing your own gear to save money on rentals. Bringing your own snorkel gear, hiking boots, or beach umbrella can add up to significant savings over time.
  • Research free activities: There are plenty of free activities and sights to see on the Big Island, so be sure to research and plan accordingly. Check out free hiking trails, public beaches, and cultural events to experience the island’s unique culture without spending a dime.
  • Shop local: When it comes to dining and souvenir shopping, consider supporting local businesses rather than opting for touristy options. Not only will you often find more authentic experiences, but you can often save money on meals and souvenirs.

By following these tips, you can experience the best of the Big Island without breaking the bank.

Big Island beach


Getting around the Big Island may seem daunting at first, but with the right tips and information, it can be a breeze. By exploring the various transportation options available, you can find the best way to see all that the island has to offer while maximizing your time and budget. Whether you choose to rent a car, ride public transportation, or take a tour, be sure to plan ahead and make the most of your visit.

Remember to take advantage of the island’s scenic drives and unique attractions, and don’t forget to explore on foot as well. With a little planning and preparation, your Big Island adventure is sure to be unforgettable.

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