Hawaii is OPEN! Yay. Now you can finally (and safely) take that much anticipated and well deserved family vacation. Before you sink your toes into the sand, read on for 2021 Maui rental car and vacation planning tips.
You’ve figured out the COVID testing and paperwork needed to avoid quarantine on arrival. You found a great deal on flights and the perfect vacation rental near the beach. The family can’t wait to snorkel at Molokini crater and brave the road to Hana. There are so many great activities for all ages and endless sights to be seen. But when you check the Maui rental car websites, they are all SOLD OUT! You finally find one available but it costs about the same as the Maui vacation rental for a week. That likely was not in the budget and this is the scenario facing many island visitors as tourism picks up again after the closures of 2020.
The Effects of 2020
Last Spring the Maui tourism industry came to an abrupt halt. Around 60% of the island’s residents were laid off from their jobs in the visitor industry. With the world told to ‘stay home’, typically busy beaches and roads suddenly went quiet. Fields of Maui rental car fleets surrounded the airport. One article provided a visual interpretation of ‘enough Maui rental cars to line bumper to bumper from the airport to Kaanapali and back with two more miles to spare’. That is almost half of the entire island of roadways and some serious topless jeep and selfie stick congestion.
While the stress of an unknown pandemic rattled the state of Hawaii just as the rest of the world, the year did bring some unexpected benefits to the islands. For the first time in recent history, Molokini crater could be seen without tour boats lining the inside of its horseshoe shape that provides idyllic snorkeling conditions and a haven for sea life. The ocean and the land had time to breathe and to flourish without the noise, pollution and traffic that inevitably comes with a thriving visitor industry. Residents enjoyed the privacy to explore their own island and led many to examine their own impact on the environment.
Fast forward to Spring 2021 and the gates are back open. Thousands of visitors arrive at the Kahului airport each day, excited to soak in some much needed vitamin D and ready to explore in paradise. For many, the uncertainty of the travel industry put Maui vacation planning on hold until close to take off time and therein lies our current transportation challenge.
Renting a Car on Maui
Maui rental car companies lowered inventories by thousands and are now booked out well in advance. Prices have increased with demand, blowing vacation budgets and leading some travelers to rent anything with wheels to reach their sightseeing goals. U Haul trucks and ‘sling shots’ are some of the more unusual forms of transportation for visitors. So what are some of the alternatives to hiring a vehicle through the Maui rental car companies?
- The worlds largest car sharing marketplace can be found through Turo.com. Many local residents rent out their own vehicles at a daily or weekly rate through the site.
- Ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft both operate on the island but it may take a while to find a driver.
- Taxi’s await visitors at the arrival area of the airport or can be booked in advance.
- Some resorts offer shuttle services to and from the airport. Once at the resort, island tours can be booked through the concierge to popular destinations such as Haleakala and Hana. Many activity companies will pick you up and drop you off. Work with a Maui activities specialist to arrange activities with transportation in advance of your trip. This will reduce the time spent on logistics and ensure that your Maui itinerary is full of fun adventures.
- There is a public bus system on Maui but it only allows one medium sized suitcase per passenger. This may be an option once checked into your hotel or vacation rental, to visit the surrounding beaches and towns.
- Scooters are available for rent in the towns of Kihei and Lahaina. These are a fun way to zip around the tourist strips of S Kihei Rd and Front St but not ideal for long distance destinations.
- Electric bikes or beach cruisers are another fun way to get around town.
- For transport to dining, shopping and beaches in the Wailea and Kihei areas, check out Turtle Tracks. This open air shuttle is just $3 per person and can be called by text or just throw them a shaka for pickup!
Plan ALL Activities and Dining in Advance
The convertible mustang comes in many colors and goes fast, literally and figuratively! But Maui rental cars or alternative transportation is not the only aspect of a Maui vacation that should be given some forethought. With many restaurants and activities operating at reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements, we are seeing SOLD OUT signs displayed much more than usual.
Dining reservations can be made in advance through the Open Table app. Beach rentals, snorkel gear and activities should be reserved before arrival. This will reduce any stress of tracking down vacay necessities or wasting money on purchasing items that cannot be carried home. A bit of advanced planning also helps to build anticipation during the vacation count down!