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Best Car Rentals At Kona Airport on Big Island

Kona International Airport

Upon arriving at the Kona International Airport, you might be surprised at just how small the entire complex feels. There is an almost regional airport feel and appearance to Kona that matches the tropical vibe of the Big Island. 

Although it was a bit of a different experience for us when we landed as it didn’t have too many signs for where to go when you first walk down the airplane stairs outside. It can be a bit confusing at first trying to figure out where to go.  

Still, Kona International Airport has all of the services of any modern airport, and this extends to partnerships with all of the major car rental companies. This includes Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and National, among a few others. All of the names you are familiar with and similar vehicle inventory and policies as you can find anywhere in the other mainland states. 

If you want to make your life easier when you visit The Island of Hawaii, renting a car is the only way to go. You get the ability to get around quickly and on your own schedule, so when you make plans you won’t be worried about transportation. We certainly didn’t regret renting one, as it made planning things to do so much simpler. 

Car rental at Kona Airport (Big Island)

Check out our reviews on the major car rental companies at the Kona Airport on the Island of Hawaii. We break down their inventory, policies, as well as any bonuses to renting from one over another. One thing I recommend is booking with Discount Hawaii Car Rental. They compare all the top companies and provide an easy way to choose the best or cheapest car rentals without any hidden fees.

It’s what we used and we were happy with how smooth the process was and the price they gave us was exactly what we had to pay.

1. Enterprise

Enterprise operates a counter at the Kona International Airport in the dedicated car rental lot just outside the terminal. You can easily get here by taking the shuttle bus labeled Enterprise/National and following the signs once you arrive to get to the Enterprise building.

With Enterprise, travelers get access to a complete inventory of vehicles to choose from no matter your style. There are economy and standard-size sedans that are great on mileage but not that big on space. 

You can find mid-sized sedans, crossovers, and SUVs that give you a lot more room with decent mileage if you’re bringing family along. If you are looking for a way to splurge, you can even rent a full-size SUV or a pickup truck.

As with most Enterprise locations in the continental U.S., unlimited mileage is included with every rental, so you can explore the furthest spots on the Big Island without worrying about the distance. It’s especially useful if you’re traveling from Kona to Hilo like we did or if your Big Island resort isn’t too close to the airport. Although the Hilo International Airport does exist, we didn’t find that many international flights landing there.

You can pick up additional insurance coverage with additional liability protection, which covers above and beyond what your regular car insurance does. 

2. Budget

For our vacation on Big Island, we chose to go with Budget as they offered the cheapest airport car rental for our dates, and we booked it with Discount Hawaii Car Rental (read our review about them). We selected the mystery car option, and we were surprised with a Chevrolet Camaro. We also used Discount Hawaii Car Rental for our rental in Honolulu and Lihue.

After you get your baggage and walk out of the Kona terminal, head to the shuttle service stops just outside the airport and be on the lookout for the bus marked Budget. The budget shuttle service shares it with Avis, so the vehicle will have both the Avis and Budget name on it. 

The car selection at Budget in Kona is fantastic and rivals any inventory on the mainland. You can get a compact car, SUV, and truck. They have it all. If you want to have a rugged, off-road capable ride, you can rent a Jeep Wrangler specifically. 

I recommend this for those who want to explore the more rugged parts of the Big Island. Unlimited mileage is included, and there are discounts for rentals over 3 days and first-time renters.

If you want to make your experience with Budget even easier, look into their Fastbreak service. This allows you to priority check in with a kiosk, and when you return your rental you can simply record your mileage and fuel level and drop it off at the drop box and be on your way. 

We had to wait about an hour to pick up our rental car since we arrived right when other flights had arrived. Kami was able to drive it as well even though it was under my name, and we were covered for liabilities since spouses drive for free. 

Budget Car Rental on Big Island

3. Avis

The Avis location at Kona International Airport works in conjunction with Budget, so you get there with the same shuttle. The two brands have teamed up at this location to provide essentially the same rental car experience.

The entire fleet of both companies is combined to provide one massive inventory pool to rent from. You also get the same great rates at both companies as well as substantial discounts. If you’re lucky enough to be staying on the Big Island for a while, you can also get a discount on long-term rentals.

Since the weather on the Big Island is perfect nearly year-round, perhaps treat yourself to one of their Jeep Wranglers or convertibles. Hit the wide-open roads in a Mustang with the top down and really take in the whole experience.

The Avis rewards program can help you get the best rates possible and access to additional member-only discounts and complimentary upgrades if you’re already rented from them before. You may even be eligible for a bonus rental day. It’s a great idea to join this program for Budget too since the two brands play ball together.

Avis Car Rental on Big Island

4. Alamo

Same as the other places, you need to look for a shuttle labeled Alamo that can give you a ride to their building.

Enjoy unlimited miles with your choice of vehicle, from a midsize car like a Toyota Corolla, a full-size like a Chevy Malibu, or a premium SUV like the enormous Chevy Suburban. I think unlimited miles should be a requirement for any traveler that comes to Hawaii. At one point, we had to drive almost an hour and a half into Kailua Kona to go on a manta ray snorkeling tour, so without having this benefit we’re not sure if we had been able to drive that far.

Take full advantage of the climate in paradise with a convertible such as the Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro depending on what is available. We had a Chevy Camaro and didn’t have any issues driving around to any places on the island. 

If you’re not picky, choose the You Click We Pick option for one of the lowest advertised rates. Once you arrive, Alamo will select a vehicle for you and you’ll be on your way. This is what we did with Budget, and we still got a decent car for the lowest price possible. 

There are discounts for weekly rentals and a substantial price cut if you pay in advance. On average this can save you north of 5%, and the rental process is no different. You are required to register a credit card upon arrival but this is industry standard.

5. National

National shares the same rental shuttle bus as Enterprise, so look out for both of these names when waiting at the shuttle stops in front of the airport. 

No surprises at National, with an awesome selection of the best modern cars. You’re sure to get an efficient compact SUV or van. What is different about National is all of the add-on services you can get for your rental. If they make sense for your trip, you can add on loss damage waiver, roadside assistance PLUS, and additional liability protection.

In the event that anything should happen to your rental that your traditional car insurance doesn’t cover, it might be worth having these extra safeguards in place. Big Island is a relatively safe place, and chances anyone will do anything to your car are low but it’s never a bad idea to be on the safe side. 

Join National’s Emerald Club to get exclusive member benefits like bypassing the rental counter, which may be recommended if you don’t want to wait. As more flights come into the Kona Airport, the wait lines for these rental places can be quite a while. You can also earn rewards for use on future rentals when you sign up.

What Is Driving Like On Big Island?

The driving on Big Island is relatively smooth. There are very few potholes, and traffic isn’t a huge issue. The only time you need to be extremely careful is when driving at night.

Driving on Big Island

There are no street lamps to minimize light pollution, which is good but does make it harder to drive. One thing you’ll notice when driving on the roads and highways is the many memorials on the side of the road. Let that serve as a warning about driving carefully, and I would highly advise you to avoid driving at night if possible.

When we did the Manta Ray tour, we had to drive from Kona all the way to Hilo late at night, and it was far from the easiest thing to do. Many cars will turn their high-beam headlights on and often make it hard for you to see. We would turn them on at times but would turn them off whenever we saw another car approaching. Apart from that, the roads are often safe to travel during the day, and most people drive with care.

There are street signs everywhere, so it’s easy to tell where you are most of the time. Google Maps has just about every place and area covered. I don’t think we ever get lost and getting around was pretty simple. 

Big Island Road Views

One thing I enjoyed about driving on this island is that there is beautiful scenery everywhere. You can see everything from the beautiful ocean to the gorgeous mountains in the background. Just don’t get too distracted!

Since we also visited Kauai on our Hawaii vacation, you can check out this guide for Kauai car rentals for the Lihue airport.

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