Hawaii wants you to stop using U-Hauls as rental cars

Jun 9, 2021

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As travel continues to come back, there’s a rental car shortage in many popular destinations — including the state of Hawaii. According to the state’s Tourism Authority, “Hawaii’s rental car fleet decreased 40% during the pandemic.” Now that more people are booking trips to the islands again, that’s resulted in a shortage of cars and soaring prices.

Of course, that also means travelers have resorted to some …unique… methods of getting around. Some travelers have rented U-Haul vans or trucks from home improvement stores like Home Depot as a stop-gap, but clearly, that’s not an ideal solution.

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Now, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has added more resources to its website for those who need to arrange ground transportation. Travelers are urged to book rental cars as early as possible to increase the chances of having a car upon arrival and are given a warning that the “Hawai‘i Tourism Authority does not condone visitors renting moving trucks and vans for leisure purposes.”

It’s a fair request — moving trucks and vans are harder to drive, which can be dangerous on many of the winding, cliffside roads you have to take to get to some of Hawaii’s most popular spots. Plus, Hawaii residents need to be able to use U-Hauls and other moving vehicles for their intended purposes.

Instead, the tourism authority has teamed up with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Hawaii Department of Transportation, the governor’s office, and local county governments to provide resources for alternate methods of transportation on each island. Additionally, travelers are reminded to check with their hotel or resort for shuttle and tour services when possible.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority website)

Recommended alternatives include public transportation, taxi services, shuttles, ride-share services and bicycle rentals.

The resources are helpful, and I honestly wish I would have had access to the lists of taxi and shuttle services while I was in Hawaii back in December. I was fortunate to have a rental car (this was before the shortage hit full force), but I might have opted for a tour service to check out certain areas of Maui. Plus, it should save anyone some time trying to research reputable businesses to use during a trip.

Related: Hawaii outlines full reopening plans, including dropping all travel and capacity restrictions

Another alternative listed across the islands is Holoholo, a locally-owned ride-share company. Did you know Hawaii had its own ride-share service? I didn’t either. And with Uber prices soaring and Lyft availability sometimes spotty, it’s a welcome third option for getting around when you don’t have a rental car (or simply don’t want to drive).

Holoholo partners with organizations in the communities it serves to promote programs to “help our keiki (children) and their ‘ohana’ (families), adults getting through adverse environments, the ‘kūpuna’ (elderly), and the arts.” And the company offers a Green service that matches riders with eco-friendly vehicles to reduce carbon emissions by at least 25%. Next time I’m in Hawaii, I will definitely be trying out Holoholo instead of going with Uber or Lyft. 

Exploring Lanai's Garden of the Gods
(Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is also supporting two development programs (one in Kauai and one in Maui) to add additional shuttle services that will give tourists even more options for getting around those islands. This won’t necessarily help you on a trip booked for next month, but it is a move toward long-term transportation solutions on the islands.

Personal cars are typically the easiest way to get around, but with a rental car shortage and high prices, it may not always be an option. And while renting U-Hauls and other moving vehicles is an alternative that other travelers have found useful in the interim, it’s understandable that destinations would want to avoid travelers using those types of rentals for leisure purposes — they are generally harder to drive, typically have higher emissions and are needed for local residents and business owners.

While we all wait for the rental car shortage to pass, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is hoping visitors to the Aloha State will choose one of the alternate modes of transportation listed on its website when rental cars are unavailable. Not only are they safer alternatives, but you can also support local Hawaii businesses (such as Holoholo) that provide a more eco-friendly service.

Featured image by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy. 

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