Hanalei Bay Beach, Kauai Hanalei Bay Beach – Image courtesy of www.hawaiitopten.com

How to get around Kauai

The best way to get around Kauai is by hire car, bicycle, public bus or taxi.

A well-maintained public highway provides access to most of the island; and free parking is widely available. A frequent bus service links all the major towns, with a limited service operating on weekends.

Hiring a bike is a good option if you're staying in one location. Resorts often provide complimentary shuttle buses to nearby destinations.

Transport options in Kauai

Slow, courteous driving is the rule on Kauai. Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. Speed limits are posted and enforced. If you're stopped for speeding, expect a ticket, as police rarely just give warnings.

Kauai remains very rural, with only one coastal highway connecting all the major destinations. The main hazards are narrow, winding and occassional steep roads. Watch out for livestock and wildlife, as well as unpaved and potholed roads.

Turning right on red is allowed (unless a sign prohibits it), but island drivers often wait for the green light. At four-way stop signs, cars proceed in order of arrival. If two cars arrive simultaneously, the one on the right has the right of way. When in doubt, politely wave the other driver ahead.

Downhill traffic must yield to uphill traffic where there is no sign. For one-lane-bridge crossings, one direction of traffic usually has the right of way while the other must obey the posted yield sign.

Texting on a mobile phone while driving is illegal. Talking on a mobile phone is only allowed for adult drivers (age 18 and over) who use a hands-free device.

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious criminal offense. It's illegal to carry open containers of alcohol (even if they're empty) inside a car. Unless the containers are still sealed and have never been opened, store them in the trunk instead.

The use of seat belts is required for the driver and all passengers, even those riding in the back seat. Child safety seats are mandatory for children aged three and younger. Those aged four to seven must ride in a booster or child safety seat, unless they weigh over 80lbs, in which case they must be secured by a lap-only belt in the back seat.

Car hire: Hiring a car often costs more on Kauai than on the other major Hawaiian Islands. Rental rates generally include unlimited mileage. To minimize costs, compare car-hire agencies and/or use a local hire company. These local firms, generally hire out older vehicles, but can be had for US$20 to US$25 per day.

Major international car-hire companies have booths at Lihuʻe Airport, with free shuttle buses running to off-airport parking lots nearby.

Locally owned car and motorcycle hire agencies include Kauai Car & Scooter Rental and Kauaʻi Harley-Davidson both located in Lihuʻe, while Rent a Car Kauai, is based in Kapaʻa on the Eastside; both offer free airport pickups and drop-offs.

It's best to book a hire car in advance, as cars may be sold out during peak travel times and arriving without a reservation usually means paying a higher rate with limited availability.

If you plan to off-road you'll need to hire a 4WD, such as a Jeep Wrangler, otherwise you may get hit with a penalty should you get stuck and need towed from a beach or dirt road.

Regular cars are often prohibited by contract from traveling on dirt roads and that may limit your opportunities for exploring. That said, most roads are passable by regular car, if you take it slowly.

For motorcycle rentals, the go-to place is Kauaʻi Harley-Davidson, which has a 20-bike fleet in Puhi, just outside Lihuʻe. For mopeds, try Kauai Car & Scooter Rental.

US citizens with a driver's license from another state can legally drive in Hawaii if they are at least 18 years old; international visitors require a valid driver's license issued by their home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Most hire companies require that you be at least 25 years old, possess a valid driver's license and have a major credit card, not a debit or check card. However, a few major companies will rent to drivers between the ages of 21 and 24, typically for an underage surcharge of around US$30 per day.

The minimum age for renting a moped is 16 years old; for a motorcycle it's 21 years old. You'll need to produce a valid driver's licence issued by your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Mopeds may not be driven at speeds above 50kph (30mph). Helmets are not legally required for anyone 18 years or older, but rental agencies often provide them for free.

Taxi: Taxis are readily available at the airport. Most taxi companies operate islandwide, but they don’t cruise for passengers. It's usually quicker to call a taxi company that's closer to your location.

Taxi companies on Kauai, include Akiko’s Taxi, Kauai Taxi and Pono Taxi, all based in Lihuʻe; and North Shore Cab, based in Kilauea; and South Shore Cab, based in Poʻipu.

Taxis are metered and charge $3.10 at flag fall, plus 30¢ per additional 0.1 miles or up to 45 seconds of waiting; surcharges may apply for luggage, surfboards, wheelchairs and bicycles.

Tip: For directions, refer to highways by common name, not by number; and makai means ‘toward the ocean’ while mauka means ‘toward the mountain.’

Bicycle: Cycling is an excellent way to explore Kauai, but you need to be aware of the often heavy traffic and narrow road shoulders. The best bike ride on the island is down the winding road of Waimea Canyon.

That said, cycling is a convenient way of getting around beach resorts, and the Eastside has a recreational paved bicycle path running through Kapaʻa. Bicycles are available for hire in Waipouli, Kapaʻa, Poʻipu and Hanalei.

Tourist resort areas and specialty bicycle shops rent beach cruisers, hybrid models and occasionally high-end road and mountain bikes. Rental rates average US$20 to US$40 per day (easily double that for high-tech road or mountain bikes).

Bicycles are required to follow the same rules of the road as cars but are prohibited from freeways and sidewalks. State law requires all cyclists under the age of 16 to wear helmets.

For more bicycling information, including downloadable cycling maps, check the Hawaii Department of Transportation website (http://hidot.hawaii.gov/highways/).

Bus: Kauai Bus offers a frequent hourly service on weekdays in towns along the major highway, with limited services on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Check the website for where to buy monthly passes (US$40). Schedules are available online.

Routes run islandwide, but don't visit the Na Pali Coast Wilderness, Waimea Canyon or Kokeʻe State Parks.

Buses are air-conditioned and equipped with bicycle racks and wheelchair ramps. Note: drivers don’t give change, surfboards (except for boogie boards), oversized backpacks and luggage aren't allowed on board, stops are marked but might be hard to spot and route schedules do not include a map.

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Latest update: How to get around Kauai: 13 June, 2020

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